The editors of Der Spiegel have never been behindhand when it comes to peddling anti-American hate. Among the first to discover how lucrative it could be in Germany following the demise of Communism, they began publishing quasi-racist diatribes against Amerika that would have made Walter Ulbricht blush. Occasionally their website would be so saturated with such stuff that it was difficult to find any news about Germany. Germans lapped it up. It was a case study in the sort of tribalism their brilliant countryman, Konrad Lorenz, tried to warn them about, but, like the rest of the world, they weren’t listening. One would think that, given their history in the 20th century, they, of all people, might have learned that hatred of outgroups is a bad thing. Apparently all they did learn is that, if you happen to hate Jews, you should keep it under your hat, but open hatred of Americans is OK.
Eventually a few German blogs began pushing back, and increasing numbers of Americans began to notice. The editors realized they couldn’t keep it up without losing “respectability,” even among other journalists. As a result, blatant anti-Americanism in Der Spiegel had become a shadow of its former self by the final years of the Bush Administration. Occasionally it still leaks out around the edges, though. Of course, racists love their stereotypes, and one of Der Spiegel’s all time favorites is that Americans are “prudish.” Trust me, we could all be screwing in the streets, and they would still describe us as “prudish.” Sure enough, the meme turned up again in an article about Masters and Johnson a few days ago. The byline reads, “The prudish Americans were once enlightened by sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson. A biography exposes the shocking life of the couple.”
Of course, the editors of Der Spiegel are nothing if not “professional.” They have a finely tuned sense of nuance, and realize that the level of scorn that Germans expect to find in “objective news” about anything foreign just wouldn’t do in pieces written for non-German audiences. A nice example of the sort of “nuance” I’m talking about turned up in a recent article about the victory of Christine O’Donnell in the Republican Senate primary in Delaware. Here’s the English version, and here’s the German. The biggest “nuance” in the German version was (you guessed it), the care taken to feed German confirmation bias about “American prudishness.” It’s all about this crazy woman who has a hangup with masturbation. According to the byline, “She once called masturbation a sin, and the fight against AIDS a waste of tax money.” The first paragraph continues the meme, throwing in the “Americans are religious nuts” stereotype for good measure;
“According to the Bible, lust is the same thing as adultery. One can’t masturbate without experiencing lust.” Christine O’Donnell fixes her gaze on the camera. She patiently explains the world to the MTV moderator. “There is god-given sexual desire,” she says. However, sex outside of marriage is fundamentally wrong. It violates the sixth commandment.
As Spiegel’s sage German readers shake their heads about the poor, perverted American religious fanatics, they’re fed another helping of the same:
In 1997, Christine O’Donnell said that the government was spending too much money for fighting AIDS. That America was wasting a bundle on pornographic condoms. That cancer was an “Act of God,” but, on the other hand, AIDS was a punishment for individual behavior. That one could eradicate venereal disease within a generation if all Americans kept in mind their Christian values.
Moving right along, Spiegel keeps spanking the monkey:
Masturbation opponent O’Donnell could come up short in the election for Congress.
After winning the primary, she celebrated with as much gusto as she did in her 1996 anti-masturbation campaign.
Got that? You didn’t miss that masturbation thing, did you? Oddly enough, the English version only mentions the unmentionable sin once, and that merely as an afterthought;
The Tea Party movement has won a succession of Republican primaries, with its conservative, anti-establishment candidates. O’Donnell is known for her pro-gun, anti-abortion stance, as well as her belief that masturbation is a sin.
Apparently Spiegel wants to spare the sensitivities of its American readers, who will surely know that masturbation makes you blind and sterile. Other than that, the English version is the soul of non-partisan objectivity. For example, in the above, the Tea Party movement is “conservative.” Later on we learn that it is a “grass roots” movement whose “popularity is widely attributed to dissatisfaction with US President Barack Obama and frustration with the lackluster US economy.” The English version concludes with a selection of similarly bland comments about O’Donnell and the Tea Party movement that have appeared in the German media recently.
The German version adds a little more “context” and “detail.” In the opening section we learn that O’Donnell is not merely “conservative,” but an “arch-conservative,” and the Tea Party movement is an “arch-conservative group.” Predictably, the editors throw in the “extremist” meme, familiar to readers of lefty blogs in the U.S.
In year one after the world economic crisis, there are poisonous political discussions in America about a political drift to the liberal left. The political camps are becoming polarized. Many would say: They are becoming radicalized.
If you happen to be planning a trip to Germany, you’re more than likely to learn firsthand that the home-brewed picture of Amerika that German’s are fed by their media is somewhat different from the “English version.” Either wear Lederhosen and try to blend in, or brace yourself for the attentions of any number of earnest Teutons, who will eagerly do you the favor of explaining your own country to you. As for the editors of Der Spiegel, don’t take it personally. They’re just as “non-partisan” when they’re reporting about events in Germany. No matter that the German economy is booming, unemployment is less than it was before the economic crisis began, and employers are having an increasingly difficult time finding skilled help. They still bitch about Chancellor Angela Merkel as if she were, well, as if she were Barack Obama. After all, she, too, is an “arch conservative.”