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Inside Report: German Media Coverage of the United States

(Now available: German Translation / Deutsche Übersetzung - special thanks to Paul of NBS)

(The following text is a final exam paper authored by Ray D. for a graduate level class on media and politics taken in Spring of 2006. It contains excerpts from actual interviews conducted with top members of the German media as well as outside experts on the German media scene. Particularly shocking are admissions by top German journalists that self-censorship took place to a significant degree in the run-up to the Iraq war at the very highest levels of both state-sponsored and private media. The paper offers a comprehensive look at many of the problems with media coverage of the United States today:)

Introduction

The international media research institute Media Tenor has released several studies over the past few years with one common finding: Rising anti-Americanism in German media.[1] A 2005 study concluded that German television broadcasters had been continually casting “US-American protagonists and institutions” in a negative light since 2002.[2] Another 2004 study on German-American divisions over Iraq concluded: “Especially German TV broadcasters worked less as news reporters and instead came across as part of ‘their’ government.” The same study found that in the run-up to the Iraq war, German media “barely drew a distinction between democracy and dictatorship in their news coverage.” Another study concluded: “While there were more opposing voices, such as the FAZ, available to the German readers than in its neighbor France, the media generally jumped on the popular, anti-war band-wagon.” [3]

The German media’s coverage of the United States was also discussed at length at a 2004 conference hosted by the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS). The participants concluded that German media “overwhelmingly backed the Schroeder government’s position” in the months prior to the Iraq war. Panel members also debated whether influential segments of the German media tend towards anti-Americanism. Considering decades of robust German-American ties through the much of the Cold War and beyond, the implications were troubling. But recently, a slew of contentious issues and conflicting interests, including the Iraq war, have served to widen the transatlantic divide. Several AICGS panelists discussed the recent rift and concluded that, “while the media is part of the problem, they are not the source or instigator.” In private interviews, however, numerous German journalists and media observers expressed a far more candid view of the German media’s role in shaping perceptions of the United States. Some spoke openly of pandering to anti-American populism, pressure from above to exclude certain viewpoints, lack of expertise and access, and pervasive bias. What follows is a summary of those interviews and the major themes addressed.

Ideological Media: Tradition or Problem?

Professor and State Department Foreign Service Officer Richard Schmierer served two four-year tours at the United States Embassy in Germany from 1992 to 1996 as Press Attaché and from 2000 to 2004 as Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs. During his second tour, transatlantic relations cooled considerably and media coverage of the United States became noticeably more critical. When asked whether he thought anti-Americanism was a problem in German media, Schmierer diplomatically replied that the charge of anti-Americanism was “too broad.” He emphasized that German media, “are professional and world class,” and have a long tradition of reporting from a particular viewpoint. Generally speaking, Schmierer felt that some German media reflect, “a certain European point of view that sees elements of the U.S. and certain administrations as not having the worldview they share.” Cornel Faltin, the Washington, DC Bureau Chief for Springer Publishing, also pointed out that, “there are different papers for different readers. On the one hand you have TAZ (Tageszeitung – left-wing daily) and on the other you have Die Welt (conservative daily). That’s freedom of press.”

Others, including ZDF Bureau Chief and Correspondent Eberhard Piltz, felt that ideology was a major impediment to quality coverage of the United States. Piltz spoke of “prejudice” and described it as “an intellectual arrogance that thinks that the American way of life, feeling, taste and thinking is inferior and not authentic.” He complained that many journalists see “the U.S. through an ideological lens,” and that “most of them grew up with the leftist, socialist dream and now they look for scapegoats.” Stern magazine correspondent Michael Streck agreed with Piltz’s statement and worried “that populism goes over the line quite often.” Deutsche Welle Bureau Chief for North and South America Ruediger Lentz also expressed deep concern that “populist” ideology and views often “resonate the public mood” when it came to coverage of the United States.

Iraq: Views Suppressed

Ideology is clearly a serious problem in some corners of the German media. All too often, particularly in reporting on foreign affairs, viewpoints that go against popular sentiment are not given a fair hearing. Additionally, most of the journalists interviewed worried that bias negatively influenced reporting. One of the most troubling aspects of the interviews was the assertion, made by at least three of the interviewees, that journalists were pressured, or knew of colleagues who were pressured, not to run certain stories in the run-up to the Iraq war. Eberhard Piltz related that he “had to fight with the desk people (the editors) to tell and get in why the war was coming” and added that he "had a hard time telling the stories." Martin Wagner of Bayerische Rundfunk radio broadcasting said that he had not personally been pressured, but that “more than a couple colleagues,” experienced a “tendency especially in the run-up to the Iraq war,” not to run stories explaining the Bush administration’s position for fear of upsetting readers. Wagner claimed that the pressure on colleagues came from “above” from “owners.” Professor Schmierer observed that: “In the run-up to Iraq, media were put under strictures to limit the opposing side because readers and viewers might become incensed and the media were afraid to alienate or lose audience.” He summarized the situation this way: “Things got emotional.”

Stories in their Suitcases and “Leitmedien

Cornel Faltin put it best: “Some colleagues already have stories in their suitcases.” In Faltin’s view, some correspondents working in the United States are influenced by pre-existing views. One interviewee stated anonymously that many journalists come to the U.S. “with preconceived bias.” Eberhard Piltz concluded that, “they tend to look at America with their European, German eyes.” He added that, "stories that make Bush look bad were requested all the time." According to Piltz, one would only have to "wait by the phone for the editors." Piltz also stated that the editors were those who "went in the streets and cried for Ho Chi Minh" at an earlier time and many still viewed the United States as "the spoiler of their dreams." Piltz was of the opinion that Spiegel and Stern magazines were in the forefront of "Bush bashing" and cautioned that it was often difficult to separate "Bush-bashing from anti-Americanism." He described anti-Americanism as a "larger phenomenon" that reaches back to at least 1917.

Another factor that has contributed to “predetermined” reporting is the excessive reliance on so-called “Leitmedien” or leading media. Martin Wagner explained that many “editors at quality papers read The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Der Spiegel and have stories and ideas all ready before the day starts.” This game of follow-the-leader reduces the number of issues that actually reach the German news consumer. Wagner stressed that many examples of good journalism were ignored because they did not relate to “hot” topics. The problem is compounded by what Cornel Faltin identified as, “too much entertainment” reporting. Uwe Schmitt agreed that media was “too celebrity oriented.” The result is limited coverage of substantive issues.

Monolithic Views, Pet Issues, and Clichés

Medien Tenor studies conducted over the past few years clearly indicate an increase in critical, negative reporting on the United States. German media have “picked out only the negative (issues) and forgotten the others,” according to Ruediger Lentz. Lentz suggested that too many Germans see America in a “monolithic way” and have a stereotypical image of a “bad, ugly American.” He lamented that German media “don’t follow up on the open and heated debate in the U.S. and the divisions.” Eberhard Piltz agreed that, “the criticism in the U.S.A. doesn’t fit into some Germans’ picture of the bad or ugly America.” David Kaspar, the founder of the German-American blog Davids Medienkritik, pointed to an excessive interest in the negative and sensational as a source of bias: “They search for problems and even if there weren’t any they would invent them.” Kaspar opined that positive stories, such as low unemployment levels in the United States, are often ignored.

A frequent complaint expressed by interviewees was that German media inadequately convey the complexity and internal divisions that make up American society. Professor Schmierer emphasized that it is important for Germans to understand “America’s position, values and approach” as well as the country’s “unique circumstances.” He felt that German media “did not generally give that level of depth.” Uwe Schmitt argued that, “high quality papers do get nuance,” but added that, “there are pet issues” that some media dwell on. Cornel Faltin acknowledged the presence of pet issues, but felt that it was a “periodical thing” and that “certain issues” evoked more interest at times than others. One interviewee stated anonymously that the media “don’t make an honest effort to explain the American mind” and don’t “explain why people supported Iraq.” He worried that the media regularly “feed stereotypes.”

Two Media Tenor reports from 2004 spoke of a view of America clouded by clichés. One offered a fitting quote from author Friedrich Mielke[4]: “Today the Americans and Germans are again allowing themselves to be seduced by clichés. For many Germans, America is the land of predatory capitalism, striving for hegemony, and the arrogance of power.”

Lack of Access, Experience, and Travel

The most universally expressed frustration among journalists interviewed was the lack of access to the United States government. Claus Tigges, the Economics Correspondent for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), referred to German journalists in the United States as “no vote reporters.” When asked how he dealt with the problem, Tigges concluded that German media are often forced to rely on U.S. media and think tanks. Michael Backfisch, Bureau Chief of the financial daily Handelsblatt, agreed that access was “tough” and “networking crucial.” The access problem clearly boils down to a lack of interest and time on the part of U.S. government officials. Because most American politicians are interested in reaching voters, even small domestic newspapers receive more attention than the largest German network. With the end of the Cold War, Germany has become less central to U.S. geopolitical objectives and, as a result, no longer attracts the same level of interest from high-ranking U.S. government officials.

Professor Schmierer also pointed out that some reporters had inadequate knowledge of the United States: “Those who are reporting should have had recent exposure to the U.S.” As an example, Schmierer pointed to ZDF, a major public television network. According to Schmierer, most of the “ZDF staff assigned to foreign affairs had never been to America and an exchange was arranged.” Martin Wagner countered that, “many Germans have been to the U.S.” and added that, “media are often prepared.”

While it is true that many Germans have been to the United States, it is not necessarily the case that German journalists assigned to cover the world’s only remaining superpower are fully prepared. As in most nations, German media focus primarily on domestic events. International coverage, though relatively extensive in Germany, still suffers from limited budgets and lack of interest. When coupled with the pressures of the twenty-four hour news cycle and the need for ever-shorter sound bites, the impact on the quality of coverage can be stifling. Limited budgets also make it difficult for some journalists to travel outside of Washington, DC or New York. Uwe Schmitt felt that it was “pulling the rug out if you can’t travel” and worried that, “it does influence journalism.” Ruediger Lentz agreed that, “it is a problem getting out” and getting “exposure.” Other journalists, including Michael Backfisch, felt that the focus on Washington was “overloaded” and remarked that journalists often felt compelled to stay in Washington for “scoops” and “new material.”

But not everyone agreed that travel was a problem. Several correspondents insisted that a reasonable balance was possible. Additionally, escaping the Washington “bubble” is hardly a problem unique to German media. The focus on Washington, DC is, however, clearly another factor that influences German coverage of the United States.

Anti-Americanism? Populism, Bush, the 800 Pound Gorilla, and Iraq

There is little doubt that the German media has grown more critical of the United States over the past five years. But there is disagreement as to the causes and implications of this trend.

Since September 11, 2001, German and American leaders have cooperated in Afghanistan but bitterly disagreed over Iraq. Gerhard Schroeder turned opposition to a military confrontation with Saddam Hussein into a winning campaign issue during the 2002 elections, much to the dismay of the Bush administration. Overall, approval of the United States and the Bush administration has fallen significantly in Germany since 2001. The overwhelming majority of Germans opposed the Iraq war and America’s refusal to seek a more multilateral solution. Many Germans dislike President Bush and what they perceive to be his overbearing approach to issues such as the Kyoto Protocol, the International Criminal Court, and Guantanamo Bay. Some worry that America is striving towards world hegemony. Uwe Schmitt remarked that the United States is admired as a “cultural leader,” but is also perceived as an “800 pound gorilla that wants to dominate yet be loved at the same time.”

So is German media coverage of the United States a fundamental source of the transatlantic divide or simply a reflection of larger societal trends? The answer is both. History is an undeniable source of differences. Contemporary observers too often forget the heated disagreements between the United States and West Germany over Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s and over the deployment of nuclear missiles in the 1980s. These disagreements also revolved around the question of military force and American geopolitical dominance. For Germany, the use of military force was taboo for decades following the Second World War. Because of its past, Germany has a far more skeptical view of military action and tends to favor multilateral approaches, even if they are sometimes flawed or ineffective.

Unfortunately, many influential figures in German media, politics and society have undeniably exploited recent transatlantic tensions for political and financial gain. All too often, populism and anti-Americanism have replaced honest, constructive criticism. Take, for example, the following covers from Stern and Der Spiegel, two of Germany’s best-selling, most influential political weeklies:

How America Lied to the World (2004) / Method Wild West (2004)

USA: The Lords of the World (1997) / Blood for Oil (2003) / The Conceited World Power (2003) / Operation Rambo (2003)

Jeff Gedmin, Director of the Aspen Institute in Berlin, relayed this story in an article he wrote in 2004[5]:

“A writer for the German weekly Der Spiegel told me during the Iraq debate not to take offense at the crude anti-American covers of the magazine such as the ugly, bearded, drooling Rambo figure it used to show the typical GI in Iraq. "We're just trying to please our million readers," he explained.”

Then there was also the portrayal of Americans as bloodsucking mosquitoes by IG Metall, Germany’s largest trade union:

US Firms in Germany: The Bloodsuckers (2005)

Some, including German diplomats, have attempted to downplay and deny the problem of anti-Americanism. Others, including some of the journalists interviewed, felt that most of the recent ugliness in German media was attributable to dislike of the Bush administration. Ruediger Lentz put it best when he said that, “it’s not as simple as anti-Bush.” Lentz worried about a vicious cycle or “Teufelskreis” of anti-American media feeding anti-American, populist sentiment. When asked how the cycle could be broken, Lentz offered only this: “To change patterns of behavior is a long process.” It now seems that that process is slowly beginning to move forward. Iraq is no longer as divisive an issue and Gerhard Schroeder has since left office, leaving a more America-friendly Angela Merkel to patch up the wounds. Most observers hope that this difficult period in German-American relations is just another bump in the road of an otherwise healthy relationship. Only time will tell.


Individuals Interviewed:

  • Eberhard Piltz, Bureau Chief and Correspondent, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF) – German state television.
  • Uwe Schmitt, Senior National Correspondent, Die Welt – Daily newspaper.
  • Ruediger Lentz, Bureau Chief and General Manager of Deutsche Welle North and South America – State sponsored international news broadcaster.
  • Michael Streck, Correspondent, Stern magazine – Weekly political illustrated.
  • Martin Wagner, Foreign Corresponent, Bayerischer Rundfunk – Bavarian Radio Broadcasting
  • Claus Tigges, Economics Correspondent, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ)  – Daily newspaper.
  • Cornel Faltin, Bureau Chief, Springer Publishing – Media publishing house.
  • Michael Backfisch, Bureau Chief, Handelsblatt – Daily financial newspaper.
  • Richard Schmierer, State Department Foreign Service Officer and Georgetown University Professor, Press Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Bonn from 1992 to 1996 and Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs at the American Embassy in Berlin, Germany from 2000 to 2004.
  • David Kaspar, Founder and Editor in Chief, Davids Medienkritik – English-language weblog on German media and politics.
Footnotes:

[1] Media Tenor, “Wenn Klischees die Wahrnehmung trüben (When Clichés Cloud Perceptions),” Sep. 2004. At www.medientenor.de (registration required.)

[2] Media Tenor, “Bush hat bei Europas Journalisten einen schweren Stand (Bush Has a Difficult Standing with Europe’s Journalists),” March 2006. At www.medientenor.de (registration required.)

[3] Lehmann, Ingrid A., “Transatlantic Divide over Iraq,” Sep. 2004. At www.medientenor.de (registration required.)

[4] Media Tenor, “Supermacht mit Imageproblem (Super Power with Image Problem),” June 2004. At www.medientenor.de (registration required.)

[5] Gedmin, Jeff, “Mad About Us,” 11 May 2004, The American Spectator. At http://www.spectator.org/dsp_article.asp?art_id=6547

Addendum: Pet issues common in German media coverage of the United States include:
  • Perceived American religiosity.
  • Perceived American obsession with guns and violence.
  • The death penalty.
  • The perceived excess and superficiality of American capitalism and (non)culture (i.e. fat people, the super rich, SUVs, fast-food, M-TV/hip-hop culture, Hollywood, corporate scandals, buy-outs and "excessive" profits.)
  • Perceived social inequality in the United States (i.e. amerikanische Verhaeltnisse, poor Americans are starving and freezing to death or at least struggling with 2-3 jobs and no health insurance while the rich live it up. Perception that America has no social safety net or a woefully inadequate social safety net.)
  • Perceived American unilateralism/exceptionalism (i.e. Iraq, Kyoto, ICC, Guantanamo)
  • Perceived American "hurrah" patriotism or "hyper" patriotism (i.e. flag-waving).
  • Perceived American paranoia/overreaction about terror and obsession with security and the "war" on terror and the perceived willingness of Americans to sacrifice key civil liberties (the Patriot Act has become a favored target) and take extrajudicial actions involving torture, renditions, etc.
  • The perception that the Bush administration controls (or at least dominates) the media and can somehow intimidate media into following the party line. The perceived view that there is a lack of diversity of opinion in US media and that FoxNews, talk radio and blogs are the menacing conservative vanguard of what all US media are becoming or have already become. (i.e. US media are "gleichgeschaltet" or in lock-step.)
  • Anything that casts a negative light on the US military (i.e. Abu Ghraib, trials of US troops, bombings or killings of civilians real or imagined).
  • Anything that casts a negative light on the Bush administration.
  • Iraq is a disaster-quagmire-catastrophe-debacle perhaps unparalleled in human history. Iraq = Vietnam = defeat and humiliation for America, the US military and Bush.
  • The perception of the US as an imperial hegemon out to expand its global power and military-industrial complex while using democracy as a convenient (yet false) excuse to do so. Oil = blood = Halliburton = war.

Reportage: Deutsche Medienberichterstattung über die Vereinigten Staaten

(Der folgende Text ist die Examensarbeit, die von Ray D. für eine Abschlussklasse über Medien und Politik erstellt wurde. Er enthält Auszüge von aktuellen Interviews, die mit Spitzenkräften der deutschen Medien wie auch mit außenstehenden Kennern der deutschen Medienszene geführt wurden. Besonders schockierend ist das Eingeständnis deutscher Top-Journalisten, dass es bei der Vorgeschichte zum Irakkrieg zu einer beträchtlichen Selbstzensur in den höchsten Ebenen sowohl der staatlichen wie auch der privaten Medien kam. Die Arbeit eröffnet so einen umfassenden Blick auf die Probleme auch der heutigen Behandlung der Vereinigten Staaten durch die Medien.)

Einführung

Das internationale Medienforschungsinstitut Media Tenor hat in den letzten Jahren mehrere Studien veröffentlicht, die einen gemeinsamen Befund hatten: Wachsenden Antiamerikanismus in deutschen Medien. [1] Eine Studie aus dem Jahre 2005 kam zu dem Schluss, dass deutsche Fernsehsender „US-amerikanische Protagonisten und Institutionen“ seit 2002 in einem negativen Licht darstellten. [2] Eine andere Studie von 2004 über deutsch-amerikanische Meinungsverschiedenheiten über den Irak kam zum Schluss: „Besonders deutsche Fernsehsender arbeiteten weniger als Nachrichtenreporter und erschienen mehr als Teil „ihrer“ Regierung“. Dieselbe Studie fand heraus, dass deutsche Medien vor dem Irakkrieg in ihrer Berichterstattung „kaum einen Unterschied zwischen Demokratien und Diktaturen machten“. Eine andere Studie schloss: “Während den deutschen Leser mehr oppositionelle Stimmen - wie beispielsweise die FAZ - zur Verfügung standen als im benachbarten Frankreich, sprangen die deutschen Medien allgemein auf den populären Anti-Kriegs-Zug auf. [3]

Die Berichterstattung über die Vereinigten Staaten in den deutschen Medien wurde auch ausführlich auf einer vom „American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS)“ im Jahre 2004 ausgerichteten Konferenz diskutiert. Die Teilnehmer kam zum Ergebnis, dass die deutschen Medien in den Monaten vor dem Irakkrieg „mit überwältigender Mehrheit den Standpunkt der Regierung Schröder unterstützten“. Forumsteilnehmer debattierten auch, ob einflussreiche Teile der deutschen Medien zum Antiamerikanismus neigen. Berücksichtigt man die Jahrzehnte starker deutsch-amerikanischer Verbundenheit durch die meiste Zeit des Kalten Krieges und darüber hinaus, waren die Schlussfolgerungen schon beunruhigend. Aber in letzter Zeit hat die schiere Menge umstrittener Fragen und widersprüchlicher Interessen inklusive des Irakkriegs dazu geführt, die transatlantische Kluft noch zu verbreitern. Verschiedene AICGS-Diskussionsrunden diskutierten das derzeitige Zerwürfnis und kamen zum Schluss, dass „während die Medien Teil des Problems sind, sie nicht dessen Quelle oder der Antreiber sind.“ In privaten Gesprächen jedoch äußerten sich zahlreiche deutsche Journalisten und Medienbeobachter weit freimütiger zur Rolle deutscher Medien bei der Gestaltung der Wahrnehmung der Vereinigten Staaten. Einige sprachen offen von der Begünstigung des antiamerikanischen Populismus, Druck von oben um bestimmte Sichtweisen auszuschließen, Mangel an Sachkenntnis und Zugang zu Kontakten, sowie tiefgreifender Voreingenommenheit. Nachfolgend findet sich eine Zusammenfassung dieser Interviews und der dort angesprochenen Hauptthemen.

Ideologische Medien: Tradition oder Problem?

Der Professor und State Department Mitarbeiter Richard Schmierer diente zwei vierjährige Amtszeiten an der Botschaft der Vereinigten Staaten in Deutschland, zunächst von 1992-1996 als Presseattache und von 2000-2004 als Berater für Öffentlichkeitsarbeit. Während seiner zweiten Amtszeit kühlten sich die transatlantischen Beziehungen merklich ab und die Berichterstattung über die Vereinigten Staaten in den Medien wurde spürbar kritischer. Gefragt, ob er dachte, dass Antiamerikanismus für die deutschen Medien ein Problem sei, antwortete Schmierer diplomatisch, dass der Vorwurf des Antiamerikanismus zu umfassend sei. Er hob hervor, dass die deutschen Medien professionell und Weltklasse seien, und dass sie eine lange Tradition darin haben, von einer bestimmten Sichtweise aus zu berichten. Allgemein gesprochen, hatte Schmierer den Eindruck, dass einige deutsche Medien „eine bestimmte europäische Sichtweise“ wiedergeben, „nach der Elemente der US- und anderer Regierungen nicht ihre Sicht der Welt teilen“. Cornel Faltin, der Chef des Washingtoner Springer-Büros, wies auch daraufhin, dass „es unterschiedliche Zeitungen für unterschiedliche Leser gibt. Auf der einen Seite hat man die „TAZ“ (eine linke Tageszeitung) und auf der anderen „Die Welt“ (eine konservative Tageszeitung). Das ist die Pressefreiheit.“

Andere, inkl. dem Chef des ZDF-Büros und Korrespondent Eberhard Piltz, hatten den Eindruck, dass Ideologie ein Haupthindernis für eine Qualitätsberichterstattung über die Vereinigten Staaten war. Piltz sprach von „Vorurteilen“ und beschrieb dies als „eine intellektuelle Arroganz, die denkt, dass der „American way of life“, der Geschmack der Amerikaner und die Art und Weise, wie sie denken oder fühlen, unterlegen und nicht authentisch ist“. Er beklagt, dass viele Journalisten „die USA durch eine ideologische Linse“ sehen und dass die „meisten von ihnen mit einem linken, sozialistischen Traum aufwuchsen und jetzt nach einem Sündenbock suchen.“ Der Korrespondent des STERN, Michael Streck, stimmte Piltzs Äußerung zu und sorgte sich, „dass der Populismus den zulässigen Bereich recht oft überschreitet.“ Der Nord- und Südamerika-Chef der Deutschen Welle, Rüdiger Lentz, drückte auch seine Besorgnis aus, dass „populistische“ Ideologie und Ansichten oft „die öffentliche Stimmung wiedergeben“, wenn es um die Berichterstattung über die Vereinigten Staaten geht.

Irak: Unterdrückte Ansichten

Ideologie ist ganz klar ein ernstes Problem in einigen Bereichen der deutschen Medien. Allzu oft, besonders wenn über außenpolitische Themen berichtet wird, wird Sichtweisen, die dem „Volksempfinden“ entgegengesetzt sind, nicht angemessen Gehör geschenkt. Hinzu kommt, dass die meisten der befragten Journalisten besorgt waren, dass die Berichterstattung durch Voreingenommenheit negativ beeinflusst wird. Eine der beunruhigendsten Aspekte war die Zusicherung von mindestens drei der Befragten, dass Druck auf Journalisten ausgeübt wurde oder dass sie von Kollegen wussten, auf die Druck ausgeübt wurde, bestimmte Artikel in der Zeit vor dem Irakkrieg nicht zu bringen. Eberhard Piltz berichtete, dass er “mit dem Innendienst (den Redakteuren) darum kämpfen mußte, zu erzählen und erklären, warum der Krieg kommen würde“ und fügte hinzu, dass er „eine schwere Zeit hatte, als er diese Geschichten erzählt hat.“ Martin Wagner vom Bayerischen Rundfunk sagte, dass auf ihn persönlich zwar kein Druck ausgeübt wurde, aber dass mehr als nur ein paar Kollegen „besonders am Vorabend des Irakkriegs eine Tendenz“ spürten, besser keine Artikel zu bringen, die den Standpunkt der Bush-Administration erklärten, aus Angst die Leser zu verärgern. Wagner behauptete, dass der Druck von „oben“ von den „Eigentümern“ kam. Professor Schmierer beobachtete, dass „in der Zeit vor dem Irakkrieg die Medien Restriktionen unterworfen wurden, um oppositionelle Ansichten zu beschränken, weil die Leser bzw. Zuschauer sonst erbost sein könnten und die Medien hatten Angst, ihr Publikum zu verprellen oder zu verlieren. Er fasste die Situation so zusammen: „Die Dinge wurden emotional“.

Artikel in den Koffern und “Leitmedien

Cornel Faltin beschrieb es am besten: „Einige Kollegen haben schon Artikel in ihren Koffern.“ Faltins Ansicht nach sind einige der in den Vereinigten Staaten arbeitenden Korrespondenten von bereits vorhandenen Meinungen beeinflusst. Eine Befragte gab anonym zu, dass viele Journalisten bereits mit vorgefaßten Einstellungen in die USA kommen. Eberhard Piltz kam zu dem Schluss, dass „sie dazu neigen, Amerika mit ihren europäischen, deutschen Augen zu sehen.“ Er fügte hinzu, dass „die ganze Zeit Geschichten, in denen Bush schlecht aussah, verlangt wurden.“ Piltz zufolge musste „man nur am Telefon auf den Anruf der Redakteure warten.“ Piltz stellte auch fest, dass die Redakteure diejenigen waren, die in früheren Zeiten „durch die Straßen gelaufen sind und Ho Tschi Minh gerufen haben“ und dass viele die Vereinigten Staaten als denjenigen sahen, der ihre Träume vereitelt hat. Piltz vertrat die Meinung, dass die Magazine SPIEGEL und STERN an vorderster Front des „Bush-Bashing“ standen und warnte, dass es oft schwer sei, „Bush-Bashing vom Antiamerikanismus“ zu trennen. Er beschrieb Antiamerikanismus als ein „größeres Phänomen“, das mindestens bis 1917 zurückgeht.

Ein anderer Faktor, der zu „vorherbestimmter“ Berichterstattung beigetragen hat, ist das exzessive Vertrauen auf die sogenannten „Leitmedien“. Martin Wagner erklärte, dass viele „Redakteure in guten Zeitschriften die „New York Times“, die „Washington Post“ und den SPIEGEL lesen und Artikel oder Ideen fertig haben, bevor der Tag überhaupt angefangen hat.“ Dieses Spiel, dem Leitwolf zu folgen, reduziert die Zahl der Themen, die den deutschen Nachrichtenkonsumenten letztlich erreichen. Wagner hob hervor, dass viele Beispiele guten Journalismus’ ignoriert wurden, weil sie sich nicht auf „heiße“ Themen bezogen. Dieses Problem entsteht durch das, was Cornel Faltin als „zu sehr auf Unterhaltung ausgerichtete“ Berichterstattung identifizierte. Uwe Schmitt stimmt zu, dass die Medien „zu sehr prominentenorientiert“ seien. Das Ergebnis ist die beschränkte Behandlung wesentlicher Themenbereiche.

Monolithische Ansichten, Lieblingsthemen ("Pet Issues") und Klischees

Media Tenor-Studien, die in den letzten Jahren durchgeführt wurden, deuten klar auf eine Zunahme an kritischer, negativer Berichterstattung über die Vereinigten Staaten hin. Deutsche Medien haben „nur die negativen (Punkte) herausgepickt und die anderen vergessen“, folgt man Rüdiger Lentz. Lentz wies darauf hin, dass viele Deutsche Amerika in einer „monolithischen Weise“ sehen und ein stereotypes Bild eines „schlechten, hässlichen Amerikaners“ haben. Er beklagte, dass die deutschen Medien „nicht der offenen und erhitzten Debatte in den USA und den daraus resultierenden Spaltungen folgen.“ Eberhard Piltz stimmte zu, dass die Kritik in den USA nicht in das Bild mancher Deutscher vom schlechten oder hässlichen Amerika passt.“ David Kaspar, der Gründer des deutsch-amerikanischen Blogs „Davids Medienkritik“, wies auf ein exzessives Interesse an negativem und sensationellem als Quelle der Voreingenommenheit hin. „Sie suchen nach Problemen, und selbst wenn da keine wären, würden sie welche erfinden.“ Kaspar meinte, dass positive Geschichten, wie die niedrigen Arbeitslosenquoten in den USA, oft ignoriert würden.

Eine von den Befragten häufig zum Ausdruck gebrachte Beschwerde war, dass die deutschen Medien einen unzureichenden Eindruck von der Komplexität und den internen Spaltungen wiedergaben, die Amerikas Gesellschaft ausmachen. Professor Schmierer hob hervor, dass es wichtig für die Deutschen ist „Amerikas Standpunkt, Werte und Herangehensweise“ wie auch die „einzigartigen Umstände“ des Landes zu verstehen. Er hatte den Eindruck, dass die Deutschen Medien „grundsätzlich nicht derartige Tiefe bieten.“ Uwe Schmitt meinte zwar, dass „hochwertige Zeitschriften durchaus auch Nuancen zeigen“, fügte aber hinzu, dass „es da Lieblingsthemen gibt“, bei denen einige Medien gerne verweilen. Cornel Faltin bestätigte das Vorhandensein von sogenanten „pet issues“ oder Lieblingsthemen, hatte aber den Eindruck, dass das eine „vorübergehende Sache“ war und dass „bestimmte Themen“ nun mal mehr Interesse hervorriefen als andere. Ein Befragter stellte anonym fest, dass die Medien „keine ernsthafte Anstrengung unternehmen, die amerikanische Denkweise zu erklären“ und nicht „erklären, warum Menschen den Irakkrieg unterstützten.“ Er war besorgt, dass die Medien regelmäßig „Stereotype bestätigen“.

Zwei Media Tenor-Berichte von 2004 sprachen von einer durch Klischees getrübten Sicht auf Amerika. Einer brachte ein passendes Zitat des Autors Friedrich Mielke [4]: Heute erlauben sich die Amerikaner und die Deutschen wieder, von Klischees verführt zu werden. Für viele Deutsche ist Amerika das nach Hegemonie strebende Land des Raubtierkapitalismus und der Arroganz der Macht.“

Mangel an Kontakten, Erfahrung und Reisen

Die am meisten zum Ausdruck gebrachte allgemeine Frustration unter den befragten Journalisten war der Mangel am Zugang zur Regierung der Vereinigten Staaten. Claus Tigges, der Wirtschaftskorrespondent der „Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung“, beschrieb die deutschen Journalisten in den Vereinigten Staaten als „Reporter ohne Stimmrecht.“ Gefragt, wie er mit dem Problem umginge, kam Tigges zu dem Schluss, dass deutsche Medien oft gezwungen seien, sich auf US-Medien und Think Tanks zu verlassen. Michael Backfisch, Büroleiter der täglich erscheinenden Wirtschaftszeitung „Handelsblatt“, stimmte zu, dass der Zugang zu Kontakten „schwierig“ waren und „Networking wesentlich.“ Das Zugangsproblem lässt sich ganz klar auf den Mangel an Interesse und Zeit seitens Offizieller der der US-Regierung zurückführen. Weil die meisten amerikanischen Politiker daran interessiert sind Wähler zu erreichen, bekommen selbst kleine Lokalzeitungen mehr Aufmerksamkeit als das größte deutsche Netzwerk. Mit Ende des Kalten Krieges ist Deutschland für die geopolitischen Ziele der USA weniger zentral geworden und weckt als Ergebnis nicht mehr im selben Maß das Interesse von hochrangigen US-Regierungsoffiziellen.

Professor Schmierer wies auch darauf hin, dass einige Reporter unzureichendes Wissen über die Vereinigten Staaten hatten: „Jene die berichten, sollten auch jüngere Erfahrungen mit den USA haben.“ Als Beispiel nannte Schmierer das ZDF, einer der Hauptfernsehsender. Laut Schmierer waren die meisten der dort mit Außenpolitik befassten Mitarbeiter noch nie in Amerika und ein Austausch wurde durch das State Department organiziert. Martin Wagner erwiderte hingegen, dass „viele Deutsche in den USA waren“ du fügte hinzu, dass „die Medien oft vorbereitet sind.“

Während es sicher wahr ist, dass viele Deutsche bereits in den Vereinigten Staaten waren, ist es nicht notwendigerweise der Fall, dass deutsche Journalisten, die die Aufgabe haben, sich mit der letzten auf der Welt verbliebenen Supermacht zu befassen, vollständig vorbereitet sind. Wie in den meisten Nationen, konzentrieren sich die deutschen Medien hauptsächlich auf heimische Ereignisse. Die Internationale Berichterstattung, obwohl relativ ausführlich in Deutschland, leidet immer noch unter begrenzten Budgets und einem Mangel an Interesse. Kombiniert mit dem Druck eines 24-Stunden-Nachrichtenzyklus und dem Bedarf nach immer kürzeren Tonschnipseln, kann die Wirkung auf die Qualität der Berichterstattung erdrückend sein. Begrenzte Budgets machen es für manche Journalisten auch schwierig, außerhalb von Washington oder New York zu reisen. Uwe Schmitt hatte das Gefühl, dass es einem „den Teppich wegzieht, wenn man nicht reisen kann. Und sorgte sich, dass „das den Journalismus beeinflußt.“ Rüdiger Lentz stimmte zu, dass „es ein Problem ist, rauszukommen“ und sich der Welt da draußen „auszusetzen“. Andere Journalisten, inkl. Michael Backfisch, hatten das Gefühl, dass der Schwerpunkt Washington „überladen“ war und bemerkten, dass Jornalisten sich oft gezwungen fühlten, in Washington zu bleiben, um „Exklusivberichte“ und „neues Material“ zu bekommen.

Aber nicht alle stimmten überein, dass Reisen ein Problem war. Mehrere Korrespondenten bestanden darauf, dass eine vernünftige Balance möglich sei. Außerdem ist die Flucht aus der „Blase“ Washington kaum ein einzigartiges Problem nur für die deutschen Medien. Die Konzentration auf Washington jedoch ist ganz klar ein weiterer Faktor, der die deutsche Berichterstattung über die Vereinigten Staaten beeinflusst.

Antiamerikanismus? Populismus, Bush, der 800-Pfund-Gorilla und Irak

Es gibt wenig Zweifel, dass die deutschen Medien in den letzten fünf Jahren den Vereinigten Staaten gegenüber kritischer geworden sind. Aber es gibt Meinungsverschiedenheiten über den Grund für diesen Trend und die daraus resultierenden Schlussfolgerungen.

Seit dem 11. September 2001 haben deutsche und amerikanische Politiker in Afghanistan kooperiert und sich zugleich über den Irak erbittert gestritten. Gerhard Schröder münzte sehr zum Ärger der Regierung Bush den Widerstand gegenüber einer militärischen Konfrontation mit Saddam Hussein in eine zentrale Wahlkampffrage um, die die Bundestagswahlen von 2002 letztlich gewann. Insgesamt ist die Zustimmung zu den Vereinigten Staaten und der Regierung Bush seit 2001 deutlich gefallen. De überwältigende Mehrheit der Deutschen war gegen den Irakkrieg und Amerikas Weigerung, eine noch multilateralere Lösung zu suchen. Viele Deutsche mochten Präsident Bush nicht und das, was sie als seine überhebliche Herangehensweise zu Fragen wie dem Kyoto-Protokoll, dem Internationalen Gerichtshof oder Guantanamo wahrnahmen. Einige sorgen sich, dass Amerika nach der Hegemonie über die Welt strebt. Uwe Schmit bemerkte, dass die Vereinigten Staaten als „kultureller Führer“ bewundert werden, aber auch als „800-Pfund-Gorilla wahrgenommen, der dominieren und doch gleichzeitig geliebt werden will.“

Ist also die Berichterstattung über die Vereinigten Staaten in den deutschen Medien eine fundamentale Quelle der transatlantischen Spaltung oder einfach nur eine Reflektion größerer gesellschaftlicher Trends? Die Antwort lautet, beides. Geschichte ist eine unleugbare Quelle von Unterschieden. Zeitgenössische Beobachter vergessen zu oft die hitzigen Meinungsverschiedenheiten zwischen den Vereinigten Staaten und Westdeutschland über Vietnam in den 60er- und 70er-Jahren und wegen der Aufstellung von Mittelstreckenraketen in den 80ern. Diese Meinungsverschiedenheiten drehten sich ebenfalls um die Frage militärischer Gewalt und amerikanischer geopolitischer Dominanz. Für Deutschland war die Anwendung militärischer Gewalt in den Jahrzehnten nach dem II. Weltkrieg ein Tabu. Deutschland hat wegen seiner Vergangenheit eine weit skeptischere Sicht militärischer Handlungen und neigt dazu, multilaterale Herangehensweisen vorzuziehen, selbst wenn diese manchmal fehlerhaft oder ineffektiv sind.

Unglücklicherweise haben einflussreiche Persönlichkeiten in deutschen Medien, Politik und Gesellschaft unleugbar die jüngsten transatlantischen Spannungen für politische oder finanzielle Vorteile ausgenutzt. Allzu oft haben Populismus und Antiamerikanismus ehrliche, konstruktive Kritik ersetzt. Man nehme nur als Beispiel die folgenden Titelseiten des STERN und des SPIEGEL, zwei von Deutschlands bestverkauften und einflussreichsten politischen Wochenmagazinen:

 

Wie Amerika die Welt belog (2004) / Methode Wild West (2004)

USA: Die Herren der Welt (1997) / Blut für Öl (2003) / Die eingebildete Weltmacht (2003) / Operation Rambo (2003)

Jeff Gedmin, der Direktor des Aspen Institute in Berlin, bezog sich darauf in einem Artikel, den er 2004 schrieb [5]:

Ein Redakteur des deutschen Wochenmagazins DER SPIEGEL bat mich während der Irakdebatte, die grob antiamerikanischen Titelseiten des Magazins wie den hässlichen, bärtigen, geifernden Rambo-Typ, der benutzt wurde um den typischen GI im Irak zu zeigen, nicht persönlich zu nehmen. „Wir versuchen nur, unsere Millionen Leser zufriedenzustellen“ erklärte er.

Dann war da noch die Darstellung von Amerikanern als blutsaugende Moskitos durch die IG Metall, Deutschlands größte Gewerkschaft:

US-Firmen in Deutschland: Die Aussauger (2005)

Einige, inkl. deutscher Diplomaten, haben versucht das Problem des Antiamerikanismus herunterzuspielen und zu leugnen. Andere, inkl. einige der befragten Journalisten, hatten das Gefühl, dass das meiste der jüngsten Hässlichkeiten der Missbilligung der Regierung Bush geschuldet war. Rüdiger Lentz hat es am besten getroffen, als er sagte, dass „es nicht einfach Anti-Bush ist.“ Lentz sorgte sich über einen Teufelskreis der antiamerikanischen Medien, die antiamerikanische, populistische Ressentiments fördern. Gefragt, wie man den Teufelskreis durchbrechen könne, konnte Lentz nur sagen: „Verhaltensmuster zu ändern ist ein langer Prozess.“ Es scheint nun, dass der Prozess langsam beginnt, in Fahrt zu kommen. Irak ist nicht länger so ein entzweiendes Thema und Gerhard Schröder ist nicht mehr im Amt, womit er es der amerikafreundlicheren Angela Merkel überlässt, die Wunden zu flicken. Die meisten Beobachter hoffen, dass diese schwierige Periode deutsch-amerikanischer Beziehungen nur ein weiteres Schlagloch auf der Straße einer ansonsten gesunden Partnerschaft ist. Die Zukunft wird es zeigen.


Befragte Personen:

  • Eberhard Piltz, Büroleiter and Korrespondent, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF) –  deutscher staatlicher Fernsehsender.
  • Uwe Schmitt, Leitender Inlandskorrespondent, Die Welt – Tageszeitung.
  • Ruediger Lentz, Büroleiter und Manager, Deutsche Welle Nord- und Süd-Amerika – staatlich finanzierter internationaler Nachrichtensender.
  • Michael Streck, Korrespondent, Stern – illustriertes politisches Wochenmagazin.
  • Martin Wagner, Auslandskorrespondent, Bayerischer Rundfunk – Bayerischer Radio- und Fernsehsender
  • Claus Tigges, Wirtschaftskorrespondent, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ)  – Tageszeitung.
  • Cornel Faltin, Büroleiter, Springer Publishing – Verlagshaus.
  • Michael Backfisch, Büroleiter, Handelsblatt – tägliche Wirtschaftszeitung.
  • Richard Schmierer, Auslandsmitarbeiter des US-Außenministeriums und Professor an der Georgetown University, Presseattachee der US-Botschaft in Bonn von 1992 bis 1996 und Berater für Öffentlichkeitsarbeit an der Amerikanischen Botschaft in Berlin von 2000 bis 2004.
  • David Kaspar, Gründer und Chefredakteur, Davids Medienkritik – englischsprachiges Weblog über deutsche Medien und Politik.

Fußnoten:

[1] Media Tenor, “Wenn Klischees die Wahrnehmung trüben,” September 2004. Bei www.medientenor.de (Registrierung notwendig.)

[2] Media Tenor, “Bush hat bei Europas Journalisten einen schweren Stand,” März 2006. Bei www.medientenor.de (Registrierung notwendig.)

[3] Lehmann, Ingrid A., “Transatlantic Divide over Iraq,” September 2004. Bei www.medientenor.de (Registrierung notwendig.)

[4] Media Tenor, “Supermacht mit Imageproblem,” Juni 2004. Bei www.medientenor.de (Registrierung notwendig.)

[5] Gedmin, Jeff, “Mad About Us,” 11 May 2004, The American Spectator. Bei http://www.spectator.org/dsp_article.asp?art_id=6547

Anhang: In der deutschen Berichterstattung über die Vereinigten Staaten übliche Lieblingsthemen („pet issues“) beinhalten:

  • Vermeintliche amerikanische Religiösität.
  • Vermeintliche amerikanische Obsession mit Waffen und Gewalt.
  • Die Todesstrafe.
  • Die vermeintliche Übertreibung und Oberflächlichkeit von amerikanischem Kapitalismus und Kultur(losigkeit) (z.B. dicke Menschen, die Superreichen, SUVs, Fast Food,  M-TV/Hip-Hop-Kultur, Hollywood, Firmenskandale, feindliche Übernahmen und "übertriebene" Profite.)
  • Vermeintliche soziale Ungleichheit in den Vereinigten Staaten (z.B. “amerikanische Verhältnisse”, arme Amerikaner hungern und erfrieren oder müssen sich zumindest mit 2-3 Jobs und ohne Krankenversicherung durchschlagen, während es sich die Reichen gut gehen lassen. Wahrnehmung, dass Amerika kein oder höchstens ein unangemessen elendes soziales Netz hat.)
  • Vermeintlicher amerikanischer Unilateralismus/Sonderrolle (z.B. Irak, Kyoto, IGH, Guantanamo).
  • Vermeintlicher amerikanischer Hurrapatriotismus oder Hyperpatriotismus (z.B. Flaggenschwenken).
  • Vermeintliche amerikanische Paranoia/Überreaktion auf den Terror und Obsession mit Sicherheit und dem “Krieg gegen den Terror” sowie die vermeintliche Bereitschaft der Amerikaner, entscheidende Bürgerrechte zu opfern (der „Patriot Act“ wurde eine beliebte Zielscheibe) and außergerichtliche Maßnahmen inkl. Folter, Verschleppungen etc. zu ergreifen.
  • Die Wahrnehmung, dass die Bush Administration die Medien kontrolliert (oder zumindest dominiert) und sie irgendwie einschüchtern kann, damit sie der Parteilinie folgt. Die wahrgenommene Sicht, dass es einen Mangel an unterschiedlichen Meinungen in US-Medien gibt und dass FoxNews, Talk Radio und Blogs die drohende konservative Vorhut dessen sind, was alle US-Medien sein werden oder bereits sind. (z.B. sind US-Medien "gleichgeschaltet" oder „in lock-step“.)
  • Alles was ein negatives Licht auf das US Militär wirft (z.B. Abu Ghraib, Verfahren gegen US-Soldaten, wirkliche oder wahrgenommene Bombardierungen oder Tötungen von Zivilisten).
  • Alles was ein negatives Licht auf die Bush Administration wirft.
  • Irak ist ein Desaster-Schlamassel-Katastrophen-Debakel, welches in der Menschheitsgeschichte möglicherweise seinesgleichen sucht. Irak = Vietnam = Niederlage und Demütigung für Amerika, das US-Militär und Bush.
  • Die Wahrnehmung der USA als imperialen Hegemon, der sich anschickt, seine globale Macht und den militärisch-industriellen Komplex auszudehnen, während er die Demokratie als bequeme (und doch falsche) Entschuldigung dafür benutzt. Öl = Blut = Halliburton = Krieg.

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Comments

Bezeichnend für die Qualität dieses Blogs ist die Auswahl der Quellen dieses Beitrags. Die Masse an realitätsfernen Behauptungen wird durchzogen von Zitaten aus mehr als zweifelhaften Quellen. Es ist eigentlich keine Überraschung für jemanden, der die deutsche Berichterstattung kennt und objektiv analysiert, dass der Blogautor auf solche Quellen wie den medientenor angewiesen ist. Nur so ist es ihm möglich, seine augenscheinlichen Nachweise zu liefern, die für den deutschUNkundigen Leser einen solchen darstellen mögen, für alle denkenden Leser aber ein weiteres Indiz für die Unsachlichkeit auf "Davids Medienkritik" ist.
Einen kritischen Blick auf den Mediatenor wirft der NDR in dem Artikel "Datenmanipulation - Die Kampagnen des Medien Tenor":
http://www3.ndr.de/ndrtv_pages_std/0,3147,OID649962,00.html

Notiz von David: Bezeichnend für die Qualität dieses Kommentars ist die Auswahl der Zitate, mit der gegen die Analyse von Ray argumentiert wird. Die zitierten Mediatenor-Inhalte sind für die Schlußfolgerungen nur als bestätigtende Zusatz-Informationen gedacht. Zentral für die Analyse von Ray sind die Interviews mit deutschen Auslandskorrespondenten, die er selbst in Washington durchführte. Die Ergebnisse dieser Interviews sind für die deutsche Medienlandschaft eine moralische Bankrott-Erklärung. Ich verweise auf die Aussagen von Eberhard Pilz/ZDF, Martin Wagner/Bayerischer Rundfunk, Michael Streck/Stern, und andere.
Die Studie von Ray wird ein Aufheulen aus der linken deutschen Medienecke zur Folge haben - wofür der Kommentar von netkaf ein erstes, ungelenk formuliertes Beispiel ist.

@netkaf
Unter den Besuchern und Fans dieses Blogs sind auch viele deutschkundige Leser und die stimmen, wie ich, der Meinung dieses Blogs vollauf zu. Ihr Versuch den Blog als solchen zu diskretitieren mit den Verweis auf, in Ihrer Meinung "zweifelhaften" Quellen ist bezeichned für Ihre realitätsferne. Richtig zweifelhafte Quellen sind anscheinend mehr als genung Beweis für viele Medien in Deutschland um eine voreingestellte Meinung zu Präsentieren. Vielleicht sollten Sie auch bei denen mal diese Kritik vorbringen.
Wenn Sie mit der Meinung die dieser Blog vertritt nicht einverstanden sind, sind Sie gerne dazu aufgefordert dies hier sachlich zu diskutieren.

"Einen kritischen Blick auf den Mediatenor wirft der NDR in dem Artikel "Datenmanipulation - Die Kampagnen des Medien Tenor""

- Überraschung!

@ netkaf,

A sad, (if not predictable) defensive knee-jerk reaction. It seems that some will blindly defend the media establishment no matter what its flaws and no matter what people inside the establishment say. Instead of addressing the actual implications of the sources in this paper, (the majority of which are first hand interviews), all you can do is refer to a smear job carried out on Medien Tenor (one of my few second-hand sources) by a media source (NDR) and author with a clear political agenda.

I think it is time to address what German journalists are actually saying about their own field. This is no longer just about what Davids Medienkritik says, it has become much larger than that. The truth is that most reputable German journalists know that there is a major problem with the way they cover the United States. The truth is that the problems discussed in this paper only represent the tip of a very large iceberg.

I would like to read the interviews in full length at some point of time (after the thesis is published?), either here or as an e-mail. Would that be possible? TIA

It's a well-written paper.

One quote in the first paragraph (about German TV broadcasters coming across as part of 'their' government) bothered me, though. I can easily understand how some reporting could "come across" that way. However, such statements (which are also annoying when they're made about American media) draw attention away from more likely causes of unbalanced reporting.

Real causes, such as personal bias, pandering to public sentiment, and overreliance on sources which share one's own biases, are addressed throughout the rest of the article. I just think that the paper would be more persuasive without the remark that I mentioned.

"Bezeichnend für die Qualität dieses Blogs ist die Auswahl der Quellen dieses Beitrags. Die Masse an realitätsfernen Behauptungen wird durchzogen von Zitaten aus mehr als zweifelhaften Quellen."

Knee jerk reaction is right! Can you please explain to us how direct quotes from major German jounalists who play a major role in determining the content of German media coverage of America are "assertions divorced from reality?" What reality are you living in? Are we to believe that German journalists who discuss their own work first hand are "doubtful sources." Get real! The truth hurts, doesn't it, netcaf?

Extremely telling first reaction. Gradually the lid can not cover anymore the broth of bias and ideology and it starts spilling over. Even some cooks start complaining about the ingredients. How do the owners and enablers react? Get a stronger lid and lock it in place - cover everything up. Of course, meanwhile the pressure keeps mounting and the situation is bound to get even uglier, but who cares... True vision was not the apologists' strength anyway, otherwise they wouldn't be in this situation in the first place.

I have very much respect for the few, but good journalists who have the courage to speak up. This is not about Bush and America anymore, it is about redeeming their profession.

It's always been that way here, hasn't it? I mean with the censorship. If it isn't imposed upon them "from the outside" ("I am a victim" syndrome), the Germans have to censor themselves. It's all quite logical really.

Gibt's den Aufsatz auch auf Deutsch? Solltet ihr einstellen!

I am sorry, but if someone invades an other country for oil, journalist are going to criticize the US aswell as the German people.
This has nothing to with brainwash, or some kind of that stuff. I lived in the US for quite a long time. And to be honest, you should have a look on US media first. Journalist sitting on tanks, screaming "hell, yeah. all the way to baghdad."...
Iraq was the stupidest thing the US has done. There have been many wise presidents in the white house, but G.W. Bush is certainly not one of them.

If you would really analyze German media, you would have noticed that they are making critical remarks on nearly everything. People here, are supposed to think, and form there own opinion.
Sorry, yeah, kinda strange for someone who comes from a country where all media stations are owned by 6 persons, and all only represent there political views.
There is no freedom of speech. Well there is. But if you do, you are risking to be fired.
This is my opinion of your stuff here. Sorry, if I would do a blog on US media, dealing with the same, i couldn't decide what sources to put in, there are simply so many.
Tired, go to bed now. cu

@ Nighty

Well, there are actually already thousands of blogs in the United States dedicated to monitoring and criticizing the US media. As far as US mainstream media go, I would hardly label Ted Turner a raving pro-war neo-con, nor would I characterize most journalists in the US as skewed towards the conservative view. I would say the very opposite is the case and that the existence of so many diverse media outlets in the USA including the internet is concrete proof that your opinion on US media is totally off the mark and rather typical of Europeans who receive a relatively filtered, biased view of the USA through their own media.

Wow, that was... refreshing. I kept reading and I really found it funny :-)

Nighty, my guess is that you were in the US as an Austauschschüler. Is that right?

Nighty,

I'm an American but I can't say I recognize my own country in your comments. They are more of the same biased and narrow views I hear from many of my German colleagues and neighbors every time the subject comes up. Do you not know about the diverse and vibrant media on offer in the USA? Do you mean to imply that Americans do not think for themselves (as opposed to the citizens of the land of Thinkers and Poets?) Americans risk being fired for voicing opposing opinions?!? Brainwashed? Silly.

You may have lived in America but you can’t convince me the German media (or general education level: see PISA results) is any better that of the USA. The fact is, I have lived here for years and still live here NOW. I know many Germans and can tell you they are no more or less enlightened than the average resident of suburban Colorado where my home is.

My father is German and my mother American. In the US I usually described myself as a German-American. Now, after having lived here I can safely say I’m happily just an American. Don’t get my wrong, I can leave any time I want to and will some day. There are many things I love about this country but the longer I live here the more I know I’m an American.

@NightyAlmighty
Lets go through this step by step.
"I am sorry, but if someone invades an other country for oil, journalist are going to criticize the US aswell as the German people."
Dear NightyAlmighty, this blog is not about german medias criticising the Iraq war it is about german media having a biased view about everything that has to do with the US and also presenting a distorted and often even plain false picture of the US.

"This has nothing to with brainwash, or some kind of that stuff. I lived in the US for quite a long time. And to be honest, you should have a look on US media first. Journalist sitting on tanks, screaming "hell, yeah. all the way to baghdad."..."
Hm, could you please tell us in which program you have seen this? And if you really have seen this does this represent the general way that the Iraq war had been presented in the american medias? I don't think so.

"Iraq was the stupidest thing the US has done. There have been many wise presidents in the white house, but G.W. Bush is certainly not one of them. "
Well, if this is your opinion, ok, but what does this have to do with the subject of this blog?

"If you would really analyze German media, you would have noticed that they are making critical remarks on nearly everything."
Right, but not usually when it comes to german foreign politics.

"People here, are supposed to think, and form there own opinion."
No, dear nightymighty, having gone through the whole german school system and witnesing german media every day, I cannot agree to that. Teachers in germany are expecting you to have their own opinion. The same applies to most of the german news commenters. I have witnessed a very sad thing in germany over the years, which is the turning from every news program in germany from a former neutral stance (as it should be) to giving every news they present a kind of spin often with subjectif remarks.

"Sorry, yeah, kinda strange for someone who comes from a country where all media stations are owned by 6 persons, and all only represent there political views."
Yeah right, diversity is for sure a problem in american medias. This coming from someone living in a country where half of all TV channels are belonging to the state and are heavily influenced by the government.

"There is no freedom of speech. Well there is. But if you do, you are risking to be fired."
Sure nightyalmighty, now tug the bed in tight and keep on dreaming about the imperialistic US where every company owner is a leashed dog of the government and will fire any employee who would dare to speak out against the ruling regime.

"This is my opinion of your stuff here. Sorry, if I would do a blog on US media, dealing with the same, i couldn't decide what sources to put in, there are simply so many."

Feel free to do that, a german blog which deals about the unfair and biased treatment of germany in the US media would be interesting thoug quite void of subjects.

"I am sorry, but if someone invades an other country for oil, journalist are going to criticize the US aswell as the German people."

Here we begin to see to what extent you're one of those ideal Germans you mention who "are supposed to think and form their own opinion." To begin, you completely ignore taking issue with the content of the post. That shouldn't surprise anyone. You can't. The German journalists RayD quotes have damned themselves, and their could be no better source when it comes to exposing the extent to which they've been bamboozling the German people when it comes to America. Instead, you regurgitate the first of several German media talking points by rote, in this case, the bogus "blood for oil" canard, demonstrating the extent to which you are really capable of independent critical thought. "Think and form your own opinion," Nighty? Odd, isn't it, that your "independent opinion" is as similar to the simple-minded, thoughtless, homogeneous propaganda slogans of the German media when it comes to the US as so many peas in a pod.

Let's go down the list, shall we? "Blood for oil." Check! "Warmongering American journalists." Check! "No diversity in the American media." Check! "People getting fired for expressing political opinions." Check! If you really lived in the US for a long time, you must have had your eyes firmly closed, your hands over your ears, and been loudly making "Mmmmmm, Mmmmmm" sounds the whole time to drown out the cognitive dissonance. There is simply no comparison between the diversity of the US and German media. The real presence of powerful, alternative voices in the US is obvious to anyone who isn't bitterly determined to conform to a preconceived ideology. The utter lack of such diversity in Germany when it comes to anything relating to the US is equally obvious.

Your opinions do not even remotely resemble "critical thought" Nighty. You are simply a carrier of propaganda slogans formulated by others. You couldn't seriously defend a single one of your rote propaganda phrases. "Blood for oil?" Forget about it. Journalists shouting "On to Baghdad" from the top of tanks. Give us one, single example of anything close to it. No diversity in the media compared to Germany? Don't even think about it.

At least you were right in your last sentence, Nighty. You should go back to bed. You probably make more sense when you're talking in your sleep anyway.


@Nighty

Of course, one can criticize American journalists for personal bias, pandering to public sentiment, overreliance on "official" statements and press releases, etc. Lots of people do this! Some of the criticism is richly deserved.

The covers of American magazines are also chosen to appeal to their intended audiences. For example, look at the international covers of the current issue of Newsweek (down the left margin of the linked page).

It's actually pretty easy to make fun of American news media! So what? We're talking about an article which criticizes German news media. The criticism is deserved, and your comments don't really do much to refute the arguments made in the article.

I've been thinking about this issue for a while. I'm going to toss out an idea here. Let me know what you think.

It's becoming apparent to me is that one of the big problems in German-American relations is that the German public, by and large, gets a very distorted view of American from the German media. And even the skeptical German has difficulty finding any other sources of information, from what I've read here over the years, so the tendency is to belive what one is told in the absence of any other evidence.

What if Medienkritik were to become (in addition to what it is now) a source for Germans to get a different perspective on America? Americans like me have been relying for some time on Medienkritik not only for views on German media, but also for info on what goes on in Germany generally. Allow us to return the favor. We know from past comment threads that there are a lot of American topics that Germans are interested in, but can seldom find any good information on. I'm thinking of something like maybe a weekly "What's Going On in America" thread where those of us here who are in the States could write up a few paragraphs each on American happenings of potential international impact, or any other American topic that the readers here are interested in. We could link to news reports from American media that moat Germans aren't aware of, and add some of our own opinions.

What do you think?

Na so pralle ist die Arbeit aber nicht. Wo ist das komplette ding? oder ist dies etwa die viel gepriesen seminararbeit im hauptstudium? eín bißchen düne würde ich sagen, und zudem auch etwas unwissenschaftlich, naja ich kanns verstehen... aber damit so rumzuprahlen ist ne andere sache

They can't react any other way. It's neurotic, this anti-American "Automatismus". They drank it up with their mother's milk, these tired Wahrheiten (truisms)- which were never true in the first place. The bizarre part is the obsessive compulsive aspect of it. The German intellectuals who mindlessly propogate this stuff are often aware of this neurosis themselves but just can’t stop. You know, like a hypochondriac or a robot or an endless loop or something. It's usually truly pitiful and always truly amusing. From a distance, at least.

Is the rest of your "commentary" similarly devoid of substance, joesixpack? This article has the goods on the German journalists who cover America, straight from their own mouths. It is a damning indictment of the way they "inform" the German people. It will remain a damning indictment, regardless of whether in your obviously studied and erudite opinion it is too long or too short, too complete or incomplete, conforms to your ignorant assumptions about what such an American academic paper should look like or not, is too thick or too thin, is worthy of being "rumgeprahlt" or not, or otherwise doesn't meet the stylistic standards you apparently feel all written communications must conform to before you deign to actually demean yourself so much as to actually consider the content. If you have anything germane to say about the substance of the article, joesixpack, by all means, please do so. Otherwise I suggest you boogie on back to your own blog, where you can continue to regale the other geniuses who can appreciate the sublime productions of your obviously superior intellect.

@ joesixpack,

You can criticize us here, but then don't expect us to allow you to advertise your blog in our comments section pal.

hey i was just saying that this paper is a little to short and doesnt really make a point other then the usual "bla bla" we can read on this site here at every time of day. that musn`t be negative, but i find it funny, that it`s kept on top of the page the whole time. it`s not that "herausragend" so that everybody has to read it. i myself study political science in bremen and i can assure you guys that, if this is the final paper, the author would not pass the class... cmon we all have all know ray d has written better stuff before...

and besides that, i am helping you guys here. guess who provided the latest youtube vids of luetgert, weltspiegel and panorama.

doesnt really make a point other then the usual "bla bla" we can read on this site here at every time of day

Top German journalists, not Ray D., are talking about what is quite frankly an unimaginable bias in their profession, and German joe basically says "so what". And joe is a student of political sciences ??? What is joe learning about the vaunted "freedom of press"? I am using scare quotes, because what happens at some levels in German journalism is scary and shameful, by the journalists' own admission.

To those revelations, joe, representative of Germany's future reacts with a yawn. This is just as sad as the admissions of the journalists. A large part of Germany's youth, especially college students, has been radicalized by their professors. Top journalists talk for the first time about what is basically bias, censorship, selective reporting in their profession. For all intents and purposes, this is quite explosive material. However, how many German joes out there have been so heavily sedated that their only reaction is rolling to the other side?

The people who read the journalists' words and are not shaken up by them are lost. Forever. Nothing good can ever be expected from them in important issues.

"To those revelations, joe, representative of Germany's future reacts with a yawn. This is just as sad as the admissions of the journalists."

It is sad. This guy has no clue what he's even looking at. The revelations in the article are dynamite, and he's bogged down trying to prove that its format doesn't conform to that of final exams at the University of Bremen! Of course, I can only base my conclusion on his first comment. I did not deem his second sufficiently "scientific" to justify my looking at it. I also thought it was too thin, and the design around the edges didn't conform to what I consider an acceptable norm.

@ joesixpack

Oh, so you study political science in Bremen. Wow...OK. Well get this: I am a graduate student at Georgetown University in Washington, DC and my professor, who is not exactly a great fan of blogs and works as a chief editor at a major newspaper chain, gave this same paper an A- and I received the same grade for the class.

German media are not alone in misrepresenting facts/truth in order to pander to their audiences. Eason Jordan, formerly of CNN, admitted that CNN
deliberately distorted the truth in Saddam's Iraq, even, occasionally, reading directly from 'reports' provided to them by Saddam's mecia sentinels.

AP, Reuters, and others admit that they are intimidated in Gaza and Lebanon and, therefore, 'report' nothing that is not permitted by THEIR media sentinel's in those places.

It is now demonstrated fact that major news organizations have been gulled with fake photographs, fake mourners, and fake massacres. Do you see any great rush by those media to correct their past errors? Aye, neither do I, so, don't expect German media to do so when they've less exposure, so far, of their own biases.

Medienkritik, for me, is an eye into Germany, just as EU Observer and Brussels Journal provide me a view into other places. David's intent to inform the German public is admirable and I hope he/they continue.

@joesixpack
Oh my god, you are studying at the famous and worldwide known University of Bremen? Ray, throw away that paper if he says it is shitty it mus bes shitty.
That this paper wouldn't get good grades in your university wouldn't suprise me a bit as teachers and profs in germany have a strong tendeny to give grades according to their political agenda. With other words, if something doesn't fit in to their worldview forget about the A or B.

"Oh my god, you are studying at the famous and worldwide known University of Bremen?"

I studied political science for a semester myself in Germany back in the 70's, at the University of Regensburg, to satisfy a non-technical minor requirement for my graduate degree at the University Wisconsin. It was a joke. No numerus clausus, no exams at all the first year, and the first thing the professors told us was that the specialty had no future. It was actually a very pleasant time, and, at least, the experience gave me some insight into the nature of the people who determine the content of the media in Germany today. The walls of the classroom buildings were all covered with big signs and posters, about evenly divided between the Maoist flavor of Communists and the pro-Soviet variety. There was one professor who was ever so slightly to the right of the rest, and he was constantly mercilessly harassed and "schikaniert" by this tolerant and enlightened crew. They were constantly at each others throats, each accusing the other of a lack of ideological purity. One time the Stalinists were outraged to discover that the Maoists had taken all the choice seats on a bus to some demonstration before they could get there, and had buggered off leaving the Stalinists in the dust with their clever signs and posters. It was a political cause celebre for weeks.

ich bin ja schon ein bisschen enttäuscht von euch hier. ich wollte doch lediglich darstellen, dass die arbeit für eine hausarbeit im haupstudium etwas dünne ist. im amerikanischen kontext, als paper an der georgetown university mag sie stimmig sein. aber ich kann mir nicht vorstellen, dass sie den deutschen ansprüchen an eine seminararbeit im hauptstudium genügt. es fehlt eine theoretische einleitung, 5 fußnoten sind ein witz, und die andere seite wurde in keinster weise gewürdigt.
also kein grund chauvinistisch zu werden und über mich herzuziehen weil ich an der uni bremen studiere. was ich nie gemacht habe ist mich für diese uni zu rechtfertigen. aber ihr solltet nicht diegleichen reflexe zeigen wie meine lieblingsklientel an der uni. das abdriften in belustigungen wenn mal jemand anderer meinung ist.
für jeden der jeden tag dmk ansurft ist doch der inhalt der arbeit ein alter hut. kein grund sie jedem unter die nase zu halten. wir waren alle mal stolz auf eine hausarbeit die wir geschrieben haben....
übrigens joesixpack ab dem heutigen tag dipl. politologe
gratulationen nehmen ich auf meinem weblog zu den abstrusen verschwörungstheorien im deutschen fernsehen entgegen

@ joesixpack

This is new and significant in the sense that German journalists are openly discussing and acknowledging these issues. As far as the paper goes, it was limited to about ten pages and the professor required us to rely primarily on first-person interviews as the basis of our work. The five footnotes were actually not even required.

Years ago in when living Zürich I began to doubt the quality of some big-name European universities when we got a couple of recent graduates from the ETH (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule) computer science program that couldn't program their way out of a paper bag. Suddenly my sheepskin from the University of Texas grew in stature with my Swiss bosses. Personally, I thought former student Einstein must have been rolling over in his grave.

Re: Addendum
The following is not meant to judge better or worse or whether the situation is reported fairly, but to point out that some differences do exist and are not only perceived as such.

Perceived American religiosity.
e.g. http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2005-06-06-religion-poll_x.htm?csp=34

Perceived social inequality in the United States ([...] and no health insurance while the rich live it up. Perception that America has no social safety net or a woefully inadequate social safety net.)
Americans w/o health insurance in 2002: 15.2%
Germans w/o health insurance in 2003: ~0.3% (and rising)
http://www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/p60-223.pdf
http://www.ngo-online.de/ganze_nachricht.php?Nr=12125

Why do you ignore in your exam paper what is so obvious: The increase of anti-americanism in Germany in recent years is first and foremost a Bush problem, and only to a much lesser extent a media problem?

@ blue:

How about an unemployment comparison or a look at exploding poverty rates among German children?

Correct me if I misremember, but the evolution of media in post-war Germany is distinctly different from media in the U.S. Specifically, in Germany did not most media begin w/political parties, unions, etc.? In other words, 'independent' was never part of the purpose. And I would think, under the circumstances, objectivity would be subsumed under the 'correct' point of view.

But the complicity of editors and reporters in feeding anti-American swill to eager German readers speaks not to a media problem but to a societal problem.

Why do Germans need this? Denigration of the U.S. and Americans has reached the point of pathology. Do you remember this thread?
The German Diplomat From Hell

During a luncheon at which he and his wife were guests of a diplomat at the German Consulate in NY, Brett Stephens (an editor at WSJ) and his wife were subjected to the tender mercies of their host, to wit;
"The only people who appreciate American foreign policy are poodles." After further bizarre pronouncements, including a lecture on the illegality of the Holocaust under Nazi law, my wife said that she felt unwell. We gathered our things and left."

Personally, I can attest to an encounter with two German women visiting a mall I worked in and being so insulting to the staff of a store, security escorted them off the premises.

Anti-Americanism serves a function for the German psyche. Here, from a long-ago thread, is the always wonderful hans ze beeman on the German cultural psyche.
Nihilism has destroyed firm convictions in many here; Europe's religion is leisure. Many Germans consider President Bush a theocrat when he says "God bless America"; they think: religion in, reason out. Germans have a broken history and cannot rely on their historical identity as Americans can; at the same time, the US sets the trends to which German youth adheres, music, fashion, food, games. I'd say what we experience is not necessary a widening rift - it could also be a kind of collision of the continents, with Germans trying to keep some own identity by denigrating the US. If you do not have a positive historical identity, your only choice is to separate yourself from one - or to create one
(EU anyone?)

If hans is even partly correct, that an absence of positive German identity is a problem, how the hell do you fix that?

@ RayD

Sorry, it was not my intention to paint a picture of Germany viewed through rose tinted glasses. Where have I put Germany above the US? We do have serious problems over here, I considered these to be known. It is still not right to paint all issues as just being "perceived", some have a factual background.

"Why do you ignore in your exam paper what is so obvious: The increase of anti-americanism in Germany in recent years is first and foremost a Bush problem, and only to a much lesser extent a media problem?"

Another genius chimes in. Try reading the archives before you go around spreading propaganda talking points. Anti-Americanism in Germany hasn't increased under Bush. It was a lot more blatant, vicious and in-your-face under Clinton. It's more subdued now, because the hatemongers who peddle it know they're being watched. Try educating yourself before you make a fool of yourself.

@Helian
Another genius chimes in. I dunno Helian, s/he may have a point. I think Bush Derangement Syndrome is a euphimism for penis envy. When the US goes to war, Germany is left looking for its balls and doesn't know whether to feel embarrassed for looking for them or for not finding them.

btw, I've almost finished "One Part Safe". gah.

“It is still not right to paint all issues as just being "perceived", some have a factual background.”
Well, the way I perceive it, an issue can have a factual background, and still be perceived incorrectly. See what I mean? ;-)

Hi Blue, semantics aside, the problem is, living in Germany for seventeen years, I find that too many of my acquaintances here have ridiculous anti-American perceptions. Regarding perceived American religiosity, for example, too many perceive Americans as fanatical fundamentalists, and looking at the German media I think I know one of the reasons for this misconception: The German media portrays Americans too much as fanatical fundamentalists. Of course Americans are more religious than Germans, but so are Italians according to your link. But they aren’t perceived as fanatical fundamentalists in the German media. I wish the German media always reported so matter-of-factly and presenting different viewpoints as in your usatoday link, and that they perceived it simply as a difference in the number of religious people and their religious openness, instead of conveying the more negative perception that Americans are religious fanatics.

Pretty much the same goes for the other pet issues of the German media. Popular anti-American myths are being created and perpetuated. The scarcity of objective reporting in this regard eventually leads to these myths becoming “common knowledge” which no one questions anymore, not even the so called investigative journalists.
Anyway, that’s my perception as a resident of Germany, and I think that’s similar to what Deutsche Welle Bureau Chief for North and South America Ruediger Lentz was referring to, when he “also expressed deep concern that “populist” ideology and views often “resonate the public mood” when it came to coverage of the United States.”

@ blue and Germerican

That is the way I use the word "perceived." Something perceived may or may not have a basis in fact, or it may have a significant, partial or incomplete basis in fact. It is simply the way that people see and feel things, whether true or not.

@ Cue Bickle
“Why do you ignore in your exam paper what is so obvious: The increase of anti-Americanism in Germany in recent years is first and foremost a Bush problem, and only to a much lesser extent a media problem?”

Cue Bickle, why do you ignore in your comment what is so obvious: Ray did not ignore this issue; he addressed it twice in his paper:
“Piltz was of the opinion that Spiegel and Stern magazines were in the forefront of "Bush bashing" and cautioned that it was often difficult to separate "Bush-bashing from anti-Americanism." He described anti-Americanism as a "larger phenomenon" that reaches back to at least 1917.”
“Others, including some of the journalists interviewed, felt that most of the recent ugliness in German media was attributable to dislike of the Bush administration. Ruediger Lentz put it best when he said that, “it’s not as simple as anti-Bush.””

P.S. Normally I disapprove of making fun of names, but you make it hard to resist:
Get out of your cubicle, and Get a clue, Bickle. Because the CueBickle is NotForSale. (click his name)

"btw, I've almost finished "One Part Safe". gah."

Don't worry, be happy! Just think of nuclear winter as a high tech fix for global warming.

@Helian
Just think of nuclear winter as a high tech fix for global warming

Ah. Nordstroms has a yearly sale on mink. I think I shall go for the bracelett cuff but I haven't decided on the neckline.

@blue: There is a backstory that was not in the report you read. The implication obviously is that 15% of the American population has no health insurance because they can't afford it and the country is too uncaring to provide a "safety net" (which we also tend to refer to as a "hammock", since it is frequently abused in that matter). Let's consider a few things: In the U.S., all those age 65 and over are covered by the government Medicare program. That's automatic. So the percentage of people of that age group not having health insurance is precisely 0%. Because this tends to skew the figures of interest, the usual health-insurance polls exclude this age group.

So what you're looking at is the incidence of not having health coverage among people under 65. I'll have to go find the figures again, but as I recall that 15% breaks down approximately into:

10% is young, childless people who voluntarily choose not to buy health insurance. They figure they are young and healthy, so why spend the money on it? Of course, this doesn't take into account the nature of risk, but the fact is a lot of people wait until they turn 30 or have children to pick up health insurance, and they get away with it. This is especially true amount the self-employed young.

5% is people who game and abuse the health-care system. See, it's a law in the U.S. that a hospital emergency room cannot refuse treatment to anyone, regardless of ability to pay. Some people take advantage of this. Instead of going to the doctor, they go to the emergency room with the most trivial of complaints -- "my stomach is upset", "my finger hurts", etc. They know they can't be turned down. When they are asked for payment, they just blow it off. The hospital is stuck with the costs, and they have to take it out of the people who do have insurance and do pay. While the slackers get a free ride, costs go up for everyone else. Plus, it impedes the emergency room's ability to treat actual emergencies. A fair number of these slackers are criminals and illegal immigrants who go to the emergency room so they can avoid revealing their identity.

There is simply no excuse for anyone in the U.S. to not have health coverage. In the state where I live, a poor single parent can acquire insurance for themselves and a child from a state-sponsored program for the equivalent of 20 euros per month. Wal-Mart and Target have both announced new programs whereby anyone will be able to get perscriptions filled from a huge list of generic drugs for the equivalent of about E4.50 a month. The criminals and illegals I mentioned above won't apply for coverage because they would have to reveal their identities, which would get them caught. Their failure to have insurance, their abusing the system and endangering their children, is due entirely to their own malfeasance.

@Germerican "...it was often difficult to separate "Bush-bashing from anti-Americanism..."

Exactly. Ray is trying to prove that there is little difference between Bush-bashing and anti-Americanism. The opposite is true and everyone knows that. If you ask Spanish people what's the problem with the U.S., 15% say it's America in general, but 76% say it's mostly Bush. The Germans: 29% America in general, 65% mostly Bush. The British: 35% America in general, 56% mostly Bush. Canada: 37% America in general, 54% mostly Bush. And so on. (Source). Trying to locate the problem in the media (and the German media at that) doesn't even remotely address this question properly.

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