German Anti-Americanism Watch: A Tale of Two Articles

I have to laugh in spite of myself when I read two recent Spiegel articles by German “objective journalist” Gregor Peter Schmitz side by side. In the first, entitled “Germans are America Fans Again,” Schmitz cites a Pew Research poll according to which 64% of Germans have a positive attitude towards the US, as opposed to 31% in the last year of the Bush Administration. Obama’s approval rating is an astounding 93%. So far, so good. After all, German America bashers have always told us that negative attitudes there about the US were “all about Bush.”

But wait! The very next day, we find Schmitz busily reinforcing quasi-racist German stereotypes of Americans in a ludicrously biased article about the Gates affair. We don’t have to wait until the end of Schmitz’ latest fairy tale to find out what the “moral” of the story will be. He spoon-feeds it to his readers in the opening section with the unctuous observation that researchers in Gates’ W.E.B. Du Bois Institute have continued to warn us that, “while open racism in the United States is largely taboo, the hidden variety is still the rule.”

Schmitz’ description of how the affair went down is an admirable example of typical Spiegelesque “modification” of reality to fit the narrative. This involves carefully tip-toeing along the borderline between blatant lies and mere “poetic license.” Here is his version:

The policeman asked for identification, Gates looked for it and, perhaps after raising a protest, showed it. The policeman asked more questions, insistently, at which Gates asked for his name and service number. When the officer didn’t answer, Gates asked, “Are you refusing to answer me while you’re a white policeman and I’m a black man?” Things went back and forth, became louder, one word led to the next, and then the reports of what happened diverge. One thing is clear: The policeman arrested Gates in front of his own house for “disorderly conduct,” meaning resistance against state power (Staatsgewalt).

Of course, Schmitz knows that his German readers aren’t likely to read the police report of the affair, which gives an entirely different version of events. An excerpt, written by Officer Crowley, who made the arrest:

As I stood in plain view of this man, later identified as Gates, I asked if he would step out onto the porch and speak with me. He replied, “No, I will not.” He then demanded to know who I was. I told him that I was “Sgt. Crowley from the Cambridge Police” and that I was “investigating a report of a break in progress” at the residence. While I was making this statement, Gates opened the front door and exclaimed, “Why, because I’m a black man in America?” I then asked Gates if there was anyone else in the residence. While yelling, he told me that it was none of my business, and accused me of being a racist police officer.” … Gates then turned on me that I had no idea who I was “messing” with and that I had not heard the last of it.”… Gates again asked for my name, which I began to provide. Gates began to yell over my spoken words by accusing me of being a racist police officer and leveling threats he wasn’t someone to mess with. Gates continued to yell at me. I told Gates that I was leaving the residence and that if he had any other questions regarding the matter, I would speak to him outside the residence… My reason for wanting to leave the residence was that Gates was yelling very loud and the acoustic of the kitchen and foyer were making it difficult for me to transmit pertinent information to ECC or other responding units. His reply was, “ya, I’ll speak with your mama outside.” …as I descended the stairs to the sidewalk, Gates continued to yell at me, accusing me of racial bias and continued to tell me that I had not heard the last of him. Due to the tumultuous manner Gates had exhibited in his residence as well as his continuous tumultuous behavior outside the residence, in view of the public, I warned Gates that he was becoming disorderly. Gates ignored my warning and continued to yell, which drew the attention of both the police officers and citizens, who appeared surprised and alarmed by Gates’ outburst.

And so on. There were many witnesses to the affair, including numerous officers who were not white. None of them has disputed Officer Crowley’s version. Obama obviously realizes it’s accurate, because he’s in full damage control mode, furiously rowing back on his comment “that the Cambridge police acted stupidly,” and inviting Gates and Crowley to the White House for a propaganda photo op. There was definitely racial profiling going on here, but by Gates, not Officer Crowley. Needless to say, Schmitz is still playing dumb. After all, he has to play to the quasi-racist anti-American stereotypes of his newly baptized “pro-American” audience. Continuing with his pious morality play, he lugubriously informs us that,

“This brings back memories that are easily repressed in the Age of Obama: Of black fellow students at Harvard who tell of how security often required them to show identification on the university grounds. Of a female friend in Harvard Law School who came from a simple black family in Philadelphia, and hardly dared to report to classes in the elite university. Of the fact that even in the U Street clubs in Washington the lines in front of the clubs are still often divided according to race – even though almost everyone in the district voted for Obama.”

Coming from a German, this is really enough to choke a camel. I regularly work with talented young black professors who have received government research grants. I know for a fact that they’re favored in getting those grants, because I’ve personally taken part in the selection process. They aren’t chosen over more qualified whites, but they’re invariably given the benefit of the doubt if the competition is close. As for the U Street clubs, I don’t frequent them myself, and suspect the many German tourists one encounters around the Mall don’t get up there very often either. If they did, I strongly suspect they’d find that Schmitz’ yarn is complete bullshit. I challenge him or anyone else to document racial prejudice at the clubs.

Meanwhile, as Schmitz sheds crocodile tears over race relations in the US, things aren’t exactly rosy back home. I’ve personally read the caveat “For Germans Only!” in German classified ads for apartments. I personally know of Russian acquaintances who have called about apartments and been rejected, and then learned that the apartment was available when a native speaker with no accent called the same number. Walk the streets in any large city in Germany and you’ll see plenty of black people. Where are the black university professors in Germany? Where are the black CEO’s in Germany? Where are the influential black politicians in Germany? For that matter, where does one find representatives of Muslim or any other minorities in important positions in Germany, other than in sports or entertainment? How is it that it never occurs to Herr Schmitz’ colleagues to chronicle the pervasive racism in German society, when they’re obviously so concerned about any apparent occurrence of it in America, whether bogus or not? Articles about racism there in the mainstream media are as rare as hen’s teeth.

So you think German anti-Americanism has disappeared in the brave new world of Obama? Dream on!

Author: Helian

I am Doug Drake, and I live in Maryland, not far from Washington, DC. I am a graduate of West Point, and I hold a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the University of Wisconsin. My blog reflects my enduring fascination with human nature and human morality.

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