Apologists for German America bashing were fond of informing us during the last administration that the routine hate mongering in their media was “all about Bush,” and would go away if Obama were elected. Well, soo-prise, soo-prise, Bush is long gone, but America bashing is alive and well in Germany. I will occasionally chronicle some of the more amusing, appalling, and/or egregious examples. Today, Der Spiegel is wringing its hands about prison conditions. Where, you ask? Were they concerned about the routine torture and killing that goes on in China’s jails? Were they upset by the routine police brutality in prospective EU member Turkey? Were they disgusted by the notorious prevalence of torture in Iran’s jails? None of the above! No, as usual, they were striking pious poses about Guantanamo. The headline reads, “Matreatment of Prisoners at Guantanamo Continues.” It seems one of the prisoners’ lawyers was upset by his client’s unpleasant cell conditions.
There’s been little change in the incidence of anti-Americanism in the German media since Obama took office. In fact, it was a great deal more subdued at the end of the Bush Administration than it was back in 1999 under Clinton. As in this case, it often took the form of the classic double standard, so it could be fobbed off as “objective criticism,” that had merely been “reprinted from the New York Times.”
Under Clinton, Spiegel went off the deep end with foaming-at-the-mouth attacks over such cause célèbres as the US Echelon System. There was big dough in promoting anti-American hate in Germany, and the rest of the media soon followed the money trail. Quasi-racist Amerika bashing could be found everywhere, from the sensational tabloid headlines of Stern to the stuffy feuilleton columns of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. International leaders like Tony Blair, who seemed to support us, were berated as “poodles” and “vassals.” Eventually, decent German citizens began pushing back. I will always be grateful to these people. I wish more Americans knew about them. If nothing else, it would show them there’s a lot more to Germany than the Third Reich. Some of them were very articulate, and they condemned the pervasive hate peddling where they could, in blogs and Internet forums. Their only reward was a torrent of abuse from the anti-American zealots.
Finally, a few Americans started to notice the anti-American tirades as well. They were hard to miss. One occasionally had a difficult time finding any news about Germany on Spiegel’s website among the anti-American rants. Eventually, the editors realized that, lucrative as it was, they couldn’t keep up such blatant hate peddling if they wanted to win any more international prizes for “objective journalism.” The allergic reaction in Germany and the US to the “wretched excess” of the last years of Clinton and the first of Bush was growing. The tone of the propaganda became more subdued. Eventually, it took the form we see today. It’s now just a shade of what it was in days gone by.
Still, as today’s zinger shows, the narrative still lives. Spiegel and the rest will occasionally throw out bits of red meat to the America hating crowd. Money talks, anti-American propaganda still pays in Germany, and they don’t want their circulation figures to drop too low. They try to cover their tracks, but, like the racists in the United States, their stench is unmistakable. One can still smell them. I will continue to draw attention to their antics as I see them.