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Us and Them -- Europe and the US. And the Media. Sort Of.

by the stormy present Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 08:30:01 AM EST

Spiegel Online asks, can't we all just get along? And answers:  Maybe not.  And maybe it's the media's fault.  Or maybe we're just too different.

The Role of the Media in the Trans-Atlantic Relationship

By Gregor Peter Schmitz and Gerhard Spörl

The trans-Atlantic rift of the past few years has been accentuated, in part, by anti-Americanism and anti-Europeanism in the media when covering "the other side." But although there are real cultural differences, the time has come for both sides to ditch the easy clichés and stereotypes and foster some cultural understanding.

I really, really wanted this to be a better article.  It's an important topic, one we've dealt with (for better or worse) repeatedly here at ET, and one that still hasn't been talked about enough in the mainstream press on either side of the Atlantic.

So I really tried to like this article, but unfortunately I think the authors sort of missed their mark.  At the risk of setting off another trans-Atlantic ET battle, there's much, much, much more after the jump.


You know you're off to a bad start when two out of your first three paragraphs deal with William Kristol.

<shudder>

Apparently one of the authors paid a visit in January of 2003 to Kristol, who they describe (rather admiringly, I think) as a "media-savvy conservative" with "valuable" views.

He had hardly shaken hands and was still ushering us into his office when he blurted out: "I believe that Europe and America are on the verge of the most crucial test in my political memory. There are signs of a rift that I never would have thought possible."

It wasn't long before he was proven right.

Oh, good Lord.  The almight Bill Kristol has "forseen" the future!  Or the, er, present.

"Signs" of a trans-Atlantic rift in January 2003?!  If Kristol was only seeing "signs" at that point, he's blinder than I thought.  And as for being "proven right," well... let's see, I "predict" that there will be a funeral for Boris Yeltsin today.  Oh, look... the pictures on my TV screen of the funeral happening right now prove that I'm right!

Sheesh.

But OK, we'll give them that maybe Kristol was only then realizing the possible impact of the trans-Atlantic rift that he and his fellow neocons were so busy trying to widen for their own political expediency.  ("Good night, our actions have consequences, how was I to have known?")

At the outset, the authors of the Spiegel article state what they claim is their thesis, which is that the mass media on both sides of the Atlantic contributed to the widening of that chasm:

The rift went deep and its effects are still being felt. This was not a spat that could be patched up quickly. The question of what actually happened, who contributed and how still exercises the academic world, the intelligentsia and other observers of transatlantic affairs. Much of the war of words was waged in the media and even orchestrated by it.

But is that really their thesis?  In their conclusion, it's not so clear:

Europeans and Americans live in a different world, see the world differently and therefore also register news differently. Examples of this are how they view risks and threats, as well as the death penalty or ethical questions such as abortion. In cultural terms they are more different than they might like to admit and these days cultural issues are just as important as economic ones. This is an insight propagated by the Neconservatives. When they get it right, they really get it right.

The media did not invent this difference, but simply reflect it.

Oh, make up your minds.  As for the rest, that stuff about the Neocons "really" getting it right....

<speechless>

Throughout, it seems like the authors of the piece touch on important (and true) matters, but they also seem to dance around the more difficult issues, and they repeatedly conflate issues that really are separate phenomena.  The analysis seems rather superficial, which is strange considering how incredibly long the article is.  Despite going on for more than 6,000 words, it often seems like the authors have more to say, and that the stuff they don't quite get to is probably a lot more interesting than the stuff they actually include.

I guess I just kept wishing they'd written a different article.

First, despite their claim to be analyzing both the American and European press, they spend almost all of their time dissecting anti-Europeanism in the US mass media, and relatively little on the reverse.  Fair enough, since America was doing the invading, and the coopting-of-others-to-invade.  I don't think that anybody would argue Britain, France, Spain and Poland would have invaded Iraq on their own.  So I'm not overly concerned about their focus on the US press.

Besides, the sudden "anti-Europeanism" in the USA was more like a convenient political tool. The most fervent critics of Europe were often neocons, who reserved the same vocabulary for Chirac, de Villepin or Schröder that they used at home to pillory their "liberal" political opponents on the left.

Yes, indeed.

But it seems that they believe there was some kind of similar dynamic happening in Europe, and it would be nice to have a little more detail about the situation there.

Schröder chose to understand that Bush would not make a decision about the war until after September 2002, when federal elections were due to take place. Two men intended to cover one another's backs.

However, events took over in summer 2002. The German Chancellor, staring defeat in the face, discovered a lifeline in anti-Americanism and set out the long-term foreign policy of his country to a crowd of shoppers in a market square in Hesse: there would be no support for a resolution by the UN Security Council favoring war against Iraq. Because a particular dynamic was often apparent in Europe in such situations, a familiar pattern began to emerge: France couldn't leave the moral high ground against America to the Germans.

Hmmm.  So German and French opposition to the war had nothing to do with the actual morality of it, it was just politics.  I see.

Well, in fairness, yes, I think it was partly political, as everything is.  But what I don't see coming out of this piece is a systematic analysis of how politicians and media were driving each other into this spiral, on both sides of the Atlantic.

They also write:

It is not difficult to spot the change in perspective in the pages of "Die Zeit" and "DER SPIEGEL" during the months of estrangement between Europe and America.

But that's it.  No examples.  They just move right along...

Oh, and I love this part.  After reading about America's "easily persuaded public," I found this amusing:

There is no doubt that anti-Americanism in Europe was equally partisan and slogan-based. It can be surprising to see how a thoughtful, intelligent person capable of focusing fully on the complexity of social or international relations can easily fall prey to an unfettered, biased attitude.

For a couple of guys who acknowledge elsewhere in the article that "a certain attitude of cultural superiority is the norm" in European reporting on America... I dunno, I thought it was funny.  Sue me.

At times they contradict themselves:

The [U.S.] media comment pages in particular portray Europe as a disaster swinging back and forth between appeasement and Auschwitz. Is this simply the mobilization of popular opinion among an easily persuaded public? Are the spin-doctors in deadly earnest, or is it all an act?

The spokesmen and spin-doctors of the Iraq conflict probably really did operate in their own little world. At any rate, the burgeoning "anti-Americanism" of the Europeans was certainly matched by "anti-Europeanism" in America. Normally, anti-Europeanism actually only represents a tiny school of thought. If you google the phrase "anti-Europeanism" you will get about 26,000 hits (the corresponding number when you google "anti-Americanism" is over 1.2 million). Americans don't think about Europe often enough to develop strong feelings of antipathy. When they do think about Europe, it is as a destination for a "spring break" or honeymoon, rather than a military, economic or political competitor - a prospect Europe would actually aim for, in economic terms at least.

In quieter times the American media contribute surprisingly little to anti-Europeanism: since the end of the Vietnam War, members of the American media obviously assumed that their audience had lost interest in Europe.

And yet...

There has always been a latent tendency towards "Europe bashing" in the American media.

So the American media typically ignore Europe, except when they bash it.  That may well be true, but the article cites scant evidence, and at any rate it's secondary to what's supposed to be the topic at hand, which is the media's contribution to the widening transatlantic rift over the last six years.

This brings me to a major flaw in the authors' analysis:  They conflate a number of issues, namely bad reporting on European institutions and hostility to multilateralism (which is not unique to America, as any glance at the British press will illustrate) with "anti-Europeanism" of the "freedom fries" variety.

They cite US media references to:

  • "The inability of an angst-ridden Europe to decide on a set of values for itself (or to defend these values)"
  • "lack of interest among the American media in the European Union
  • "skepticism toward Brussles"

As Jerome and others here at ET have repeatedly shown, there are plenty of Euroskeptics in Europe, so it seems rather disingenuous to cite the presence of Euroskeptics in America when discussing the trans-Atlantic rift.  What we're talking about is a mistrust of multilateralism, which is endemic on the right in America, but also a feature of rightwing movements in Europe and elsewhere, and that's much more complicated than simple Europe-bashing for political gain.

(The Spiegel authors also seem at several points to conflate "Europe" with "Germany and France," but that's up to other people to discuss....)

What they also fail to do is allow for ideological (right/left) differences either in Europe or America.  The piece is written as if the left/right divide doesn't exist.

But, um, it clearly does.  To wit:

The erosion of neoconservative and republican power in Washington inevitably led to a toning-down of anti-European aggression in the media.

This was helped by the changes at the top in several European administrations, in particular Gerhard Schröder's replacement by Angela Merkel in Germany.

"helped"

But as I said, the authors do raise a number of important points, notably about the simplistic and stereotype-reinforcing stories that pass for news coverage of "the other side" on both sides of the Atlantic.  Yes, absolutely, we should "ditch the easy clichés and stereotypes and foster some cultural understanding."

They're also right about the alarming decline in foreign coverage in the U.S. press.  But they miss out completely on the implications of that -- an American public that is growing less informed and less aware of not only Europe but the entire world, and at the same time electing leaders who are more inclined to wreak havoc outside U.S. borders.  Instead, they conclude that this is the time for Americans "to return to the good old days of cultural diplomacy as successfully practiced in the Cold War era."  Huh?

(They also ignore the influence of the Internet on the entire debate; honestly, it's impossible to talk about the media's influence anywhere anymore without accounting for the fact that a growing number of people are self selecting their news, and the so-called mainstream media are growing less powerful in driving the political agenda, but that's another article, and another diary.)

What I wish the authors had done was rigorously demonstrate the way politicians and news media on both sides of the ocean were affecting (and driving) the suspicion and hostility that has become too frequent a characteristic of transatlantic debate.  Sadly, I'm not convinced that their long list of anecdotes followed by a series of unrelated conclusions is good enough.

Display:
As a side note, I have to ask:  Is wild understatement a normal feature of German journalism?  Because this made me blink:

Anyone who has ever fallen victim to Bill OReilly will be only too aware that Rupert Murdoch's "Fox News" can be a political channel, although the noise generated here is usually that of tub-thumping patriotism.

"can be a political channel"?!

Uh, how about "is rarely more than a venemous media hit squad for the extreme right"?

Yow.  Maybe we'll never really understand each other.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 07:46:16 AM EST
One of my strongest ongoing impressions living here in Europe for the...oh...almost last 3 years, is the lack of understanding at how bad (in general) the US media has been during the Bush reign of terror...and  the degree that people are shocked when I explain that most of the Americans don't get the real news from the 6 or so media corps. I get news here daily in Switzerland I would be shocked to hear in the US...sadly.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 08:35:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As I've pointed out many times, today's MSM basically deliver an audience for advertisers. That's it. (Perhaps I should exclude state media from this, because the delivery pressures are of a slightly different kind).

This pandering is the same on both sides of the Atlantic. But I think the time of Peak Media has passed i.e. they are in a time of diminishing returns. Ad spends are going down (or rather shifting to, for instance, the Internet, and 'consumer re-education')

Let's see what happens. My guess is that in 10 years time few national newspapers will exist in their present formats, and TV channels will become re-broadcasters of content created independently. Mobile operators are technically called 'carriers' - they provide a delivery system for decentralized content creation (i.e. you and me communicating). The MSM will become carriers, if they want to survive.

In the mobile world, two terms often used are 'push' and 'pull' services. 'Push' means controlled content that invades private space, 'Pull' means the provision of technical capabilities that users decide for themselves how a capability will be utilised.

The current scandal over TV voting in the UK is about Push services that masquerade as Pull services. The company Opera, that provided these services to British TV channels, may actually cause the death of one of them, GMTV, who are now faced with returning 40 million smackers to a duped public. And that neatly illustrates the MSM problem: they can't survive on advertising, so they are bumping their budgets with all kinds of scams that purport to be consumer oriented. They are not. They are yet another example of how many suckers are born each minute.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 09:59:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But it's a management issue, not a creative issue.

People - even if it's only a minority - will pay for high quality news gathering, documentary making and analysis.

The nurr nurr nurr shiny penny crowd who currently watch phone-in nonsense on TV will happily move to watching 30 second home-made highlights of fatal skateboarding accidents, Iraqi IEDs, and starlets without knickers on LiveLeak.

That won't necessarily cause a problem for advertisers. YouTube is on the case already, and their model is working just fine for them.

As for print - the mistake made by the MSM in the US has been to ban genuine political journalism. That has opened up a niche for sites like dKos (and ET) to fill.

And dKos is already drifting in an old-media direction, with on-staff front pagers, an impressive ad income, and a regular stream of expert editorial content in addition to the user-generated diaries. It's noticeable that some of the best user generated content is co-opted and rewritten for the front page, usually without attribution or acknowledgement.

I can't see dKos ever becoming the same as an old-media outlet. But the template for professional full-time journalism is already there, and we're already seeing dKos splits and spin-offs which replicate the same model for other interest areas.

Whether we're dealing with print media or electronic media is irrelevant. What matters is the degree of centralisation - which is already huge for dKos in blogville - ad spend, and audience reach.

I don't think it's a stretch to expect a dKos video channel based on a similar model within the next five years. As bandwidth increases after that, you're more or less back where you started - maybe with fewer stars and anchors and more popular input, but still aggregated into a relatively number of popular streams and channels that hog significant attention.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 12:50:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Agree. Decentralization v centralization is the key to what is going on. If you want to centralize, you have to advertise. DKos is on the road to MSM, in it's own way.

For entrepreneurs, centralization>audience>investors>growth is the only model they can understand. As we know though, there are many other models if you are seeking rights rather than 'profit'. The Union model is one: you pay subscriptions (as a member) for that organization to represent your views, and to be kept informed. Paid membership hasn't worked very well as a model on the web yet, but I think it is mainly because it has been used to secure loyalty (and thus please advertisers), rather than to 'give' loyalty - that true bottom up cement that holds social structures together.

When large numbers of people realise that making money is not the only creative pursuit in life, then perhaps we might see this thing, that we are using now to communicate, used to bring about change.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 01:18:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 07:49:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wish you were right about MSM evolution. But we should not forget that MSM in industrial phase of human history is used as propaganda tool for mass brain wash of electorate to sell some ideas and projects entertained by elite. Therefore it's likely MSM will survive more or less in present form.  
by FarEasterner on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 12:54:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Propaganda can only flourish where the channels for the dissemination of the narrative are strictly controlled. That is less and less possible today in the W*st, especially.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 01:22:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The mass media in the US has always been a tool of the plutocrats.  From "You provide the pictures, I'll provide the War" Hearst to the yippie-yah-who cheerleading for the Iraqi invasion.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 11:49:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've tried a couple of times to sit down and write the article you are looking for. I doubt we'll see it in anything other than (perhaps) the New York Review of Books or London Review of Books or one of their counterparts.

The subject really requires more depth than the average journalist is prepared to put into, well, anything...

Likewise, it's such a huge topic that this average blogger found it too big to take on. Part of the problem is that there are new wrinkles every day as well...

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 09:53:19 AM EST
It is indeed a huge project.  It would probably be a great topic for an academic to tackle, and I'd be suprised if someone (or more than one someone) wasn't working on it already.  But as you point out, it's a moving target....
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 10:25:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you haven't read this book, I strongly recommend it:

http://www.ericalterman.com/work3.htm

What Liberal Media?

by Eric Alterman

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 10:40:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Media writing this article is as useful as an economist talking about peak oil.

I've spent a good number of hours trying to write an article like this as well.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 12:31:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Once upon a time, the Spiegel was a serious news outlet. Although they have always tended somewhat toward sensationalism in tone, they used to be capable of hard-hitting investigative reporting. They uncovered many of the greatest political scandals in post-war Germany, and their courageous journalism was key to establishing the value of freedom of the press in the infant Bundesrepublik.

<sigh> But that was a long time ago.


The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 09:59:08 AM EST
Well, to be fair, I think they deserve some credit for attempting this, and for publishing it.  Unfortunately, they just didn't manage to do it very successfully.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 10:22:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Lemme be more asisine and on-the-mark.

This article is a thinly veiled direct attack by SPIEGEL-now against SPIEGEL-ante.

This article is apparently written by members of the now dominant Atlanticist bunch, who just sit back growelling when SPIEGEL ran articles attacking the Bush admin frontally and praising the Franco-German initiatives in the run-up to the war, from the title article that in practice called for a new peace movement in the autumn of 2002 to the disastrous leak of the strengthened inspections regime plan by the Schröder government.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 11:19:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I wondered if something like that was going on, but not knowing the internal politics of Spiegel, I couldn't be sure.

Why was the one (presumably non-Atlanticist) group dominant then and the Atlanticists now?

But let us imagine, for a moment, the reverse.  I could almost envision some (hypothetical) future Washington Post editorial board cringingly rescinding years' worth of its pro-war editorials (and other rightwing propaganda spewed forth on its editorial pages), were a set of level heads to finally prevail and oust the Bush apologists from their editorial thrones.

<sigh>

It could happen.  Someday.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 12:02:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think a lot of it has to do with the death of Spiegel founder/permanent editor/publisher/owner Rudolf Augstein. As it happens, while I think that in general there has been a lot more anti-Europeanism in the US press than vice versa if we're going to define that as going beyond simple criticism of policy choices and politics to distortion, dealing in stereotypes and caricatures, and snideness, however, Augstein was IMO actually anti-American.
by MarekNYC on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 12:41:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Anti-American? I don't think so, I think he merely had a strategic vision. Where he was degfinitely anti was the Catholic Church.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 05:09:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It was both. I feel he also distorted America in a way characteristic of anti-American European journalism -  presenting it as just the views and attitudes of the Republican base. The rest didn't seem to exist for him. He wasn't always like that, there was a steady evolution over time that I noticed when I went through every damn issue from the first thirty odd years, but it was there by the early seventies and remained.
by MarekNYC on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 05:24:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's not an uncommon point of view - especially with the Republican base.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 07:45:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What do you actually mean when you say anti-americanism? To me the whole expression smacks of "either you are with us or against us" as it is used as a label on opinions ranging from measured criticism to hateful diatrebes.
by Trond Ove on Fri Apr 27th, 2007 at 08:39:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, not that you asked me, but I'd say yes, the phrase gets bandied about a bit more freely than it should, but also yes, "anti-Americanism" does exist.  Not everything that is called "anti-Americanism" qualifies, but just because the label is overused does not mean the concept itself is invalid.

I'd say that when I sat down for dinner with friends & acquaintences in October of 2001 (this was after 9/11, but before the invasion of Afghanistan) and toward the end of the evening a woman at the end of the table said at the top of her lungs, and I quote, "I hate America; I would be perfectly happy to drop a nuclear bomb on America and kill every last one of them," THAT, I would say, qualified as "anti-Americanism."

Other stuff, YMMV.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Apr 27th, 2007 at 01:42:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes but this sort of extreme sentiment is not at all what is meant by anti-americanism in general. I assume there are people that would say the same idiotic thing about China, Russia, France, Iran or Germany. Imagine anti-german as a political characterization. It sounds very 1930s, doesn't it? The fact is that it is only anti-americanism that is a "legitimate" political characterization nowadays.

In fact, the term is used to describe both critics of the US economic system and US foreign policy, either non-American or, more ominously, American.

This is an ideological term that is used to delegitimize any criticism of US policy and hegemony. More often than not anti-imperialism is translated as anti-americanism.

See for example the more notorious "anti-americans": Hugo Chavez (for whatever reason - it doesn't matter), is providing cheap oil for the poor in the States. Yet he is characterized as anti-american, which leads one to wonder what is meant by "american" in this context.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake

by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Fri Apr 27th, 2007 at 02:23:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Stefan Aust, the new chief editor after Augstein, was the boss of SPIEGEL TV before. There were some minor signs of a separate line back then: less precise reporting and with some ominous moments like one reportage about 'immigrant crime' in Hamburg. Then during the run-up of the Iraq war, it caused me some head-scratching when they chose to report about anti-war protests by showing one NPD [German neo-Nazi party for the uninitiated] protest at a US base.

The economy department also harboured the men of the future, and there is Henryk M. Broder, SPIEGEL's de-facto senior columnist, who let his pro-Israeli views lead him straight to neoconservatism.

The first time they got their line across was when just before the Iraq War started, SPIEGEL printed excerpts from Kenneth Pollack's ridiculous The Threatening Storm.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 04:55:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not Broder that's the change - he's so far out there that it doesn't really matter. More characteristic is someone like Claus Christian Malzahn.
by MarekNYC on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 05:28:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...I just wanted to add a comment on Malzahn, whith a link to when he was discussed on ET.

Regarding Broder, what I meant that he is no more that far out there but a stalwart of the redaction.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 05:40:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
NB, I've never actually bothered to watch any of the Spiegel TV stuff - is it worth it?
by MarekNYC on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 05:30:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not anymore.

They used to have some rather good historical documentaries, and in current reportages, they had a gift to catch revealing moments. But then aggression and narration got dominant, and I quit watching.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 05:35:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, it's an irritating read. I liked this piece though :

British historian Tony Judt has rightly pointed out that Europe and America only became a unit known as the West through the coincidence that was the Second World War.

If you replace "Second World War" with "Cold War" it becomes quite accurate, and proves (again) that the "West" doesn't exist anymore. Thus the lamented widening rift, which is in fact just a return to the normal state of affairs, the Atlantic not having evaporated yet.

Now let's move on and take care of the much more worrying rift appearing within Europe, between the West and the Centre on one side, and the East on the other side.

by balbuz on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 12:10:23 PM EST
This is as dense and irrational as British coverage of France. Truly unbearable prose.

But thank you, TSP, for doing such a great job of summarizing it.

by Matt in NYC on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 12:41:53 PM EST
Here is my contribution to the rift.  I apologize for the foolish arrogance of this administration.  I am appalled by the lack of knowledge of the rest of the world, certainly including Europe by so many in the US.  I was treated with courtesy when in Europe, and love to come here for sensible humanitarian points of view.  One of my buddies is retiring to move to Southern Germany soon, unless the dollar truly tanks, which is quite possible with this bunch of incompetents.  Anyhow, I think we and you have much in common, and I look forward to better days.

"I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, You know I'm a peaceful man...'" Robbie Robertson
by NearlyNormal on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 07:28:59 PM EST
No need to apologise!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 08:25:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Its so embarassing, especially after the wonderful display of compassion that Europe gave on 9/12.  I had a good friend stuck in an European capital due to the grounding of the planes and his hotel wouldn't let him pay, people on the streets that heard him talk offered their condolences and in restaurants the food was free when they found out he was a traveling American.  Those are the things that make this cowardly and arrogant administration so appalling, and more broadly, the ignorant and self-satisfied general population with their "freedom fries" etc so humiliating.  I do apologize, and more importantly, along with many, many others I'm trying to change things and make them better.

"I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, You know I'm a peaceful man...'" Robbie Robertson
by NearlyNormal on Thu Apr 26th, 2007 at 10:00:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I suppose credit is in order for the effort, so credit where due.  It's quite  difficult for Americans to wrap their heads around Europeans and vice versa.  Read all the horseshit people are writing about each other on the BBC site over the causes of anti-Americanism.  (Why, by the way, do the Yanks and Brits seem to have the most difficult time with grammar and spelling over there?)

There are certain segments of Europe that will always see Americans as bloodthirsty, cultureless cowboys, just as there are certain segments of America that will always see Europeans as snooty, bureaucratic do-nothings.

The article was right: The press feeds both, often putting even the least nationalistic folks on both sides on the defensive.  And the politicians are right next to the press, allowing one to feed the other.

It's been that way since the beginning, yet here we are, almost 231 years after the Declaration, still bitching at each other.  Think of it as a neat little torch we all pass along -- like the Olympics, but with an audience.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 08:01:41 PM EST
Thanks for this excellent diary Stormy, and for bringing this article to our attention.  I have a lot of comments to make, but unfortunately not the time to write them.  But just a few comments, first your comment:
What they also fail to do is allow for ideological (right/left) differences either in Europe or America.  The piece is written as if the left/right divide doesn't exist.
I think you are right on with your comment.  This article, as well as much that I read from Europe about the US, misses this point entirely.

If we really are trying to understand each other better (Europe and US, that is), I would expand on this mistake in the article.  In the US we use some terms that are intentionally pejorative from a political perspective.  Just to pick three examples (and there are many to choose from), communist, socialist and neocon.  I imagine there are people in the US that would claim each of these designations,,,but not many.  Personally I have never known anyone to call himself a communist or a neocon.  I know only a few socialists.  IMO, communist and neocon are terms that intend, in a political sense, to slander the person one is describing--in the context of the US that is.  and for the vast majority, I would argue that in the US (not europe), that socialist is also somewhat perjorative--after all we have one congressman who is a self avowed socialist.

As an American, I have always found it insulting for the Europeans to say (and for some of the left to say) that we Americans are "cows being led to the slaughter" by the neocons, or any other group.  IMO, it's insulting and not supported by the record of our country, either historically or recently.  Sure like any other country we can evaluate the situation based upon what we know at the time, and make wrong decisions, but I just don't think we are the idiots being led around by rings in our nose that we are sometime portrayed to be.

by wchurchill on Thu Apr 26th, 2007 at 02:56:38 AM EST
The emergence of neocon as a nasty name is quite recent, though.  Just a couple of years ago, Chris Matthews said, "We are all neocons now."  Today it's a name to be avoided, not unlike socialist or communist.  (I've known people who considered themselves neocons or communists, but it was isolated to students who were more than a bit too hopped-up on hormones, in my opinion.)  And today Matthews is a fairly frequent basher of the neocons.  The neocons have been isolated largely to Fox and the right-wing editorial pages.

I'm thrilled to see this development, of course, but I don't think the word neocon is quite on par with socialist or communist yet.  At best, it's on par with the word liberal, but even that is quite a stretch.  Give it a few more years, though, and I might rethink my view, assuming the trend continues.  I do think one could score political points by accusing his or her opponent of being a neocon, but it's not a trump card yet.

As to your point on cows being led to slaughter, I generally agree, but I also think Americans were subject to a great deal of irrational behavior based on fear after 9/11.  (It was, in my opinion, understandable to a degree, and I've defended Americans because of that, but I'm absolutely with the Europeans in my belief thhat it was not understandable to the degree that we saw.  It needs to be treated as an important lesson: Rallying around the flag is fine, but it need not include blind faith in the leadership.)  The effect has taken a long time to wear off.  It hadn't quite enough in 2004 to produce a Kerry victory, but it was quite close, and Bush's support collapsed only a few months after the election.

Things seem to be returning to normal.  Here's hopin'.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Apr 26th, 2007 at 02:30:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I'll defend Americans here : we had for the first time voting machines for this election in France. Black boxes, no public software/hardware audits, just "trust us".

Well, if there has been a strong opposition, it has escaped my attention, while the citizen opposition to the machines (rather the way they were setup/used) in Ohio was far stronger.

An argument could be made that the French will more easily blindly trust their government that the Americans theirs.

by balbuz on Fri Apr 27th, 2007 at 11:42:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This too shall pass.  As America falls into third world signifigance the EU is in a far better position to stand up.  Europe has not gone through the Charolette Iserbyt dumbing down syndrome.  The media, as far as I know has not been replaced by a corporate consortium of propagandists.
In five years what "America" does will be very highly irrelevant.
Hell, I was born here, and I'm anti-American.
by Lasthorseman on Fri Apr 27th, 2007 at 04:51:05 PM EST


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