Der Spiegel, anti-Americanism, and the Suck Up

There must have been some serious tutt-tutting in the Spiegel editorial offices over the rabid anti-Americanism on display in its recent coverage of the Opel affair. After all, Spiegel has been trying to project a kinder, gentler image lately, ever since a few Americans noticed that its coverage of the US had deteriorated to something rather akin to racism. Some of it was vile enough to make Julius Streicher blush. People did start noticing, though, and Spiegel had to throttle back on the hate mongering. Lately it has been carefully balancing a policy of maintaining a façade of objectivity with the occasional need to toss red meat to its legions of Amerika hating readers, imperative for keeping the bottom line above sea level. The kid glove treatment became more pronounced after Obama’s inauguration, as, according to the German media narrative, anti-Americanism was “all about Bush,” even though it was actually far more vicious and flagrant in the final years of the Clinton administration than it was in Bush’s final years. Be that as it may, Spiegel Online just published a piece dripping with such unctuous praise of the US, for Spiegel at least, that the disconnect with its usual line is enough to give you whiplash. It’s always had a policy of posting a token pro-American piece once a month or so to “balance things out,” but this was way over the top. Here are a few snippets:

Why our Picture of the USA is False

“Lots of money for child care, few cancer deaths: in comparison to Europe, the USA often ranks better than commonly believed. The historian Peter Baldwin explains why America is the land of bookworms – and why corruption is much worse in France.”

Of course, Teutonic superiority must be vindicated. Ergo, the next paragraph:

“The level of social services in the US is often portrayed as miserable and underdeveloped in comparison to Europe. And that picture is true – if one takes Sweden or Germany (my emphasis) as the standard. However, if one considers social policy in Europe as a whole, things look completely different.”

…and so on, with more reassurances that the US isn’t entirely barbaric after all, and its population is quite erudite to boot. For anyone who’s actually been following the coverage of the US in Spiegel for the last decade, the hypocrisy is enough to choke a horse.

Of course, after all this abject kow-towing, it was necessary to quickly restore “balance” to avoid disorienting Spiegel’s loyal fans. The editors didn’t disappoint, taking the occasion to post one of their regular US “history lessons.” To wit:

Secret Operation Mongoose

(Under a picture of Castro’s unfortunate predecessor) “Fulgencio Batista: The former Cuban president in front of a map of the island nation. With his US-friendly politics, Batista turned the island into an el Dorado for investors, casino barons, and Mafia dons.

Deadly Greetings from Washington

“Tainted handkerchiefs and explosives in cigars: In the early 60’s the CIA tried to kill their worst enemy with methods à la James Bond. The perfidious murder conspiracy against the Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro had the personal approval of the US President – but still failed.”

And so on. You get the picture. Spiegel is hardly the only guilty party. I’ve added some covers from Stern to “restore balance” myself.

I think it unlikely, by the way, that most of the movers and shakers in the German media world really suffer from the crude, quasi-racist anti-Americanism they peddle in their rags. They’re just greedy. They do it because, as Spiegel discovered more than a decade ago, there’s big dough in catering to hatred of the United States. Stern, Focus, and the rest caught on quickly.

Finally, I wish to draw attention to some heroes that most Americans have been blithely unaware of, although they have been fighting thanklessly on our behalf for more than a decade. They are individual Germans, who, motivated only by a sense of common decency and an elementary desire for justice, have met the America haters head on, confronting them on blogs, forums, and wherever they could make their voices heard. Some of them are more articulate in their fight for fairness and against the mindless promotion of hate between peoples than I could ever hope to be. Their reward has been abuse and vilification. There have always been Germans like this, willing to take a firm stand against the national prejudices that afflict every land. I know what it has cost them to stand up for us, and I am deeply grateful to them. The rest of America should be, too.

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