Over at David’s Medienkritik – a bilingual blog about the European, mainly German, media – David (or Ray?) writes:
Imagine you are an American correspondent in Germany. You are encouraged by your editors to report only the most extreme, outrageous, strange and dark sides of German society. Your publication chooses to ignore the 97% of issues that bring Germans and Americans together and instead focus on the 3% that most divide the two nations – such as attitudes towards prostitution, social welfare, guns, etc. This seedy sensationalism sells – and that is exactly what your editors are after. For that reason, they also strongly encourage you to write whatever you can on Neo-Nazi violence – not because the issue is genuinely troubling – (and it is) – but because it brings good ratings and reaffirms your readership’s dark stereotypes of the Vaterland.
Beyond that – your editors oblige you to bring stories only on a narrow band of pet issues that they have predetermined are of “interest” to the readership. (In fact, you may have been specially selected for your job because you have a an ideological propensity to dislike Germany and favor stories that make Germany look bad.) When you arrive in Berlin, you discover that Germany isn’t quite the awful place you expected and – because you are a free spirit – the urge is great to report on the many complex aspects of German society. Predictably, however, your editors discourage any independent ideas that might shed a different (you might say balanced) light on things.
The pet issues and big politics are all they want. In particular, the editors want to demonstrate that Germany is a nation infatuated with pornography, cursed by extreme alcoholism and blighted by racist attitudes towards non-Germans…The editors supplement your work by sprinkling-in stories cut-and-pasted from news wires on Germans behaving badly worldwide. You eventually realize that intellectual honesty takes a distant backseat to the pet-issue template devised by your editors…Not surprisingly, the most “self-critical” Germans – those with a particular talent for shamelessly bashing their own nation and people – are held up as heroic dissenters and showered with awards by your publication and others like it.
[Hm. Sort of like how the only Republicans that the Strib paints in a decent light are the ones that vote like DFLers? This is sounding familiar]
Finally – because quite a few other publications share the same general ideology of your own and follow the same pattern of reporting – it is not beyond the pale for your editors to proclaim that you represent the “mainstream” of American media and that you are largely fair and unbiased in reporting on Germany.
It’s a trick question, natch:
Turn the mirror around…
Now let us turn this script around. The above is a reflection of how certain influential segments of German media have operated for years now. The latest Amerika-Korrespondent for Stern magazine – Jan Christoph Wiechmann – offers an excellent example. One of his more recent articles is entitled: “Weapons Trade in the USA: An AR-15 with your Coffee?” The opening paragraph reads:
“In Europe one usually receives a cookie with their coffee. In the USA it is an assault rifle: In the Texan solitude, waitresses with highly teased hair offer the things for sale in weapon shops camouflaged as cafes. Normal daily life in Bush-Country.“
The article paints a picture of daily life in the USA that is neither typical nor normal
Read the whole thing.
(Auf Deutsch, wenn Du willst…)