Published on November 6, 2007
Got something to say?
Share your comments with other journalists
I stumbled across a blog this week called MedienKritik: Politically Incorrect Observations in the German Media by David Kaspar and Ray Drake. It is a blog that intends to act as “…a watchdog site dedicated to the documentation of anti-Americanism in German media and the negative influence it has on Germans’ perceptions of the United States.”
So, hey, I’m American. Why not?
At first, as I paged through MedienKritic, I thought (and I still think) that the basic idea is a good one. The mission statement say:
“…both countries share a great number of values and interests. We at David’s Medienkritik believe that the shared values and interests far outweigh the differences. That said, there is nothing wrong with acknowledging and discussing differences in a constructive manner.”
But then I see it: The inflammatory wording: “Carnegie-Report: Hardline Bush-Hater Presented as ‘Expert,’” the endorsement by Michelle Malkin and a panoply of neo-conservatism, “politically incorrect” views and complex charges of bias on the part of the “left” and “left-wing media.”
It isn’t surprising that a large number of the comments are from American readers.
As I see it, there are two American soldiers in the European psyche. The first is the Second World War soldier, handing out chocolate to kids. The second is the Abu Ghraib soldier, holding a Doberman off a naked prisoner.
The first represents liberation, the second imperialism. Of these images, Medienkritik’s point is that the latter is overrepresented in German media, and it frequently takes issue with German publications like Stern, Der Spiegel and Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
There are, of course, many instances of anti-Americanism throughout the world, especially in Europe, and a large number of them are fallacious.
But then, the Bush administration and its military adventures are not advocated and supported by the left-wing media, nor by the majority of left-wing politicians. Nor is overwhelming evidence of worldwide climate generally disregarded and discredited by the so-called left, nor are inflammatory generalisations about foreign peoples and cultures generally “leftist.” The United States is pursuing a foreign policy that affects the rest of the world, and that policy’s engine is powered, largely, by “right-wing” American media, who use the image of the WWII soldier to mask the actions of the Abu Ghraib soldier.
Take the recent example of Islamo-Fascist Awareness Week, which ran from 22-26 October. It was orchestrated by the Terrorism Awareness Project, and hosted by the right-wing David Horowitz Freedom Center, Ann Coulter, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum and others. The Terrorism Awareness Project’s website featured such titbits as A Student’s Guide to Hosting Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week and the stated aim, “…to confront the two Big Lies of the political left: that George Bush created the war on terror and that Global Warming is a greater danger to Americans than the terrorist threat.”
Following the announcement, a statement was released by Muslim, Jewish and Christian representatives of the Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, who quoted the famous “First they came for…” poem of Pastor Martin Neimoller and said,
“…the real threat of fascism comes from the authoritarian mind-set – in government and in people—that substitutes fear and hate for the complex learning about each other that moves us beyond stereotypes.”
The word “fascism” connects, in the minds of Americans, Islamic terrorists with WWII. The defence of the left is basically to counter that with the Abu Ghraib soldier.
In effect, “We have seen the enemy and he is us.”
American commentator Ann Coulter, mentioned above, is also inextricably tied into this mix. Coulter – who recently referred to Christians as “perfected Jews” – after 9/11, wrote in a column for the conservative National Review Online:
“We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren’t punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That’s war. And this is war.”
Thus we have the semantic of the neoconservative movement. Terrorists are as great a threat as the Nazis.
While it may be tempting to dismiss such commentary as “fringe,” the extent to which the right wing media is linked to the success of the Bush administration should not be underestimated. Neither should questionable right-wing claims of liberal-dominated, anti-American media.
Following the launch of Rupert Murdoch’s new Fox Business Network, (Murdoch’s News Corps also recently purchased the Wall Street Journal), Alternet conducted an interview with economist and New York Times pundit Paul Krugman. Krugman complained of “asymmetrical intimidation” by “movement conservatism” represented by the likes of Fox News, the New York Post and the Washington Times. He claimed that American media actually had a conservative bias.
And there is good reason to suspect the Bush Administration’s collusion. Long before Bush-appointed FEMA employees were accused of faking a new conference, it was revealed that the White House was writing and distributing fake news. The Bush White House has come under fire for setting up “Free Speech Zones” far away from public appearances (but, then, so does the left) and of creating anti-protester manuals in order to prevent protestors from appearing at Bush administration rallies.
Following the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration wasn’t going to conduct an investigation until it was pressured to do so by the “Jersey Widows,” whose husbands were killed on 9/11. They accomplished this largely through the media, and their story was popularized by the documentary 9/11 Press for Truth. That film was responsible for many of the 9/11 conspiracy stories that appear in German media, and to which Medienkritik takes exception.
When the Jersey Widows protested the 9/11 Commission’s findings, they were criticized by right-wing media pundits Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and, of course, Ann Coulter. Michelle Malkin, who gave Medienkritik her thumbs-up, republished a critique of the Jersey Girls by conservative Dorothy Rabinowitz, headed by a little quip from Malkin stating, “…when was the last time anyone paid attention to the Jersey Girls?” as if a media spotlight would lend legitimacy to the complaints of four aggrieved widows.
Medienkritik had a great post a few years ago, about the difference between European and American perceptions of the word “liberal.” It said, “…‘liberal’ in German is almost the exact opposite of ‘liberal’ in (North-American) English when used in a political sense.” Right on, but then the blog fails to identify why this is.
The word “liberal” has undergone a massive transformation since the age of liberal philosophy, and especially since the 1960’s. The liberal tradition, which gave rise to free markets and limited, representative government, also gave us freedom of the press. Most of the elements of so-called left- and right-wing politics are derived from classical liberalism. It is only recently that the word “liberal,” in the U.S. became a scapegoat word for all that so-called conservatives dislike. The press is, literally, a “liberal” institution, and it should not be surprising that the majority of journalists are “liberal,” philosophically speaking.
“Conservative press” is an oxymoron. If the press is conservative, then it isn’t “the press,” but something else, and you’re free to fill in the blank.
For the record, let me say that Medienkritik is a good blog, well structured and consistent, and worth a read. But Mr. Kaspar and Mr. Drake should be careful about the company they keep, for while there is much truth in the notion that Europeans can be anti-American, there’s still a great deal in America to be “anti” about these days, as there is with much of the world.
Don’t be thrown off by the soldier offering chocolate, because he and the Abu Ghraib guy are one and the same.
Tags: blog, bush administration, europe, germany, left wing media, media, medienkritik, right wing media, united states, us,
- Applications open for health journalism contest offering a US study tour
- Europe’s four biggest operators reportedly in talks to create EU-wide mobile network
- Leveson data protection plans ‘could have chilling effect on journalism’
- Don’t Be Fooled: Use the SMELL Test To Separate Fact from Fiction Online
- Emergency Journalism Toolkit
- DocumentCloud: Analyse, Annotate, Publish.
- GEN News Summit 2013: HACK THE NEWSROOM! Event
- Watch out CNN: New Twitter search capabilities will rule breaking news
- Apple working on cheaper iPhone: Report
- Journalist Richard Ben Cramer dies at 62; wrote about politics, baseball, world affairs
Subscribe to our monthly newsletter
Call for Writers
We’re looking for journalists from around the world to report on journalism and media trends and issues. Bring us original insights into innovations or challenges related to print, online, television, copyright, video and mobile journalism. Queries to email@example.com.
- Can a citizen’s initiative force the EU to formally protect media pluralism?
- A hacker considers one Saudi Arabia telecom’s surveillance pitch
- Last of the hot metal men
- Will Japan’s Fallen New Media Playboy Make a Comeback?
- Journalists Shrug Off President’s Inaugural Insults
- In the Netherlands, Subscribers Pay Per Journalist
- Instagramming the EU
- Dutch App Enables Context Curation
- Something Wiki This Way Comes
- Pope Francis, Shine the Light of Transparency on the Holy See
- Really, simple syndication
- Wikileaks report reveals corruption in Lithuanian newspapers
- Japan earthquake shakes Italian media
- Books that journalists should read: Edwin Black
- Blogskeptics ponder regulation in Europe
- Seven simple writing tips for social news
- Magazine layouts gain popularity with blogs
- New media and social change in the Arab and Muslim world
- Separating journalism and the media
- The public broadcasting license fee and public value