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German and US Media Coverage of Georgia War is Biased! What a Surprise!

"Georgia crisis sparks Anti-American sentiment in Germany," declares Dialog International:

I know George W. Bush is unpopular in Germany (as he is in the US) but I was unprepared for some of the pro-Putin opinions that have been expressed in the German media and especially in the German blogosphere. There was considerable Schadenfreude on many German fronts that Russia's invasion of Georgian territory was a blow to the foreign policy of the US, and the conflict in Georgia is viewed by some as a proxy war between Russia and the US, with jubilation that Putin has been victorious on all fronts.

Is the German media really supportive of Putin?

Compared to US media that might indeed be the case, because large parts of the US media tend to support poor little Georgia -- one of the first Christian nations, as McCain reminds us -- against the big Russian bear, who ran the communist, evil empire. Okay, the US media is a bit more sophisticated, but many media reports painted a picture of good guys and bad guys:

The liberal US media watch dog FAIR has analyzed the Georgia coverage of US newspapers and TV stations that are much more popular than the German media outlets analyzed by Dialog International. FAIR concludes: "Georgia/Russia Conflict Forced Into Cold War Frame":

Georgia's contribution to the escalation of tensions in the region were not completely ignored by U.S. media, but its aggressive actions were often euphemized, as in AP's reference to "a crackdown by Georgia last week" (8/11/08), and were rarely allowed to interfere with the preferred narrative of Georgia as victim of an expansionist Russia.

I think Spiegel's German press round-up of the icy summit between Merkel and Medvedev says more about popular German media perceptions of Russia than Dialog International's post. If you do not trust Spiegel, then you should take into consideration that this particular press round-up was written by Michael Scott Moore who blogs at Radio Free Mike.

Having said all that, I do think that the German media is biased and I am surprised (and worried) that many Germans are not as concerned about Russia as they should be. 

At the end of the day, it is pointless to debate whether the German or the US media is more biased or whether Georgia is primarily a victim of Russia or a victim of foolish and inexperienced leadership by Saakashvili.

What counts is that the transatlantic alliance is not as united and powerful as it could and should be in its dealings with Russia. For the benefit of both Europe and the US, we should work on overcoming some transatlantic differences concerning Russia.

More dialogue between Americans and Old Europeans as well as more dialogue between the Western and the Eastern EU members is necessary so that we can cooperate more and pursue more effectively our various security interests towards Russia.

That's, of course, neither rocket science nor a new discovery.


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David on :

Interesting [url=]interview with Kai Ehlers[/url] today. Here we learn from an "expert" that Georgia committed genocide in South Ossetia with support of the US. Only the intervention of the Russians ("Schutztruppen") prevented a bigger bloodbath. Seems to be a fairly common viewpoint in Germany.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

David, a) What makes you think this guy is an expert? He seems to be rather some guy making money by helping German companies do business with Russia. b) Where in the interview is he accusing Georgia of genocide? I can't find the word genocide in his answers. The word genocide is only used by the journalist, who talks about Georgia's president accusing Russia of genocide. So, it seems to be the exact opposite of what you write...

Don S on :

Good point, Joerg. There seems to exist a pro-Russian opinion-manufacturing industry in Germany. We don't see it here on AR but I've seen the signs over at your day job at Atlantic Community. That fellow who is always going on about Russia/Putin embodying 'European Values'. Hmmmm, really? ;) The point of all this banging on about European Values and Russia's European soul has two points to it I think. The first is appealing to 'little europeanism', that is the superior virtues of the european over the auslander. In this respect it reminds me of some of our nativists in the US, the ones who have hydrophobia about the illegal immigrants. But the other side of that movement is clear effort to bind Europe to Russia and widen the split with the US (and China, Japan, India, Turkey et al). Thus far it seems to be a largely German phenomena. I see few signs that it's catching on in France or elsewhere, or indeed among most Germans. It's decidedly not working in the UK despite the number of Russians living in London. Probably because Putin's main opposition is settled here, and also because whatever they call the KGB these days are strongly suspected of committing a number of high-profile murders in the Russian community here. Her Majesty's Government do NOT approve! So it isn't limited to Putin's most famous employee, Herr Schroeder. Not that I've heard anything from HIM lately. Perhaps a good thing - what could he say without losing all credibility or the big paycheck. Poor man, what an impossible position he put himself into! Fischer has been a good deal more vocal (and much less in anyone's bag). More interesting as always.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

You are referring to one commenter. But look at the articles we have on the frontpage: [url=][/url] From top to bottom: One Ukrainian author, then a Polish writer, then four American writing on Georgia. So where are the signs of a "pro-Russian opinion-manufacturing industry"?

Don S on :

I didn't mean to say that AC is that industry, only that I had seen some signs there, as well as on the opinion pages of certain german publications - from time to time. It's not mainstream to be sure, but it's there and seems to be having an influence. If only to buttress the argument that Germany need not do anything more in it's role as NATO ally. Then there is Joshka Fischer, who rather thoroughly trashed that idea. He's teaching at Princeton now, and may be the only German politician of any importance who knows the US in any depth. Bravo Joshka, what he wrote yesterday makes most of the points which I've been trying to make for years here. Without my ire, perhaps. All to the good. He's right, BTW, and the argument he lays out is the core of the argument people like myself are making for withdrawing from NATO, although he probably wouldn't agree with my prescription for the problem, which is increasing the share of Central European GDP from the current 1.5% to close to 3%. Which would in turn allow the US to 'build-down' from 3.7% to about 3%, and would ultimately have the effect of gining Europe something like an equal voice in NATO councils.

Omar on :

"That's, of course, neither rocket science nor a new discovery." Hopefully, the cooperation you're talking about doesn't include any rockets at all!

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

:-) I just saw the [u][b][url=]Jon Stewart video[/url][/b][/u] on your blog. Very funny indeed. That's what happens when you are so powerful...

quo vadis on :

Joerg Speaking of framing, it seems that there are a lot of people in Europe and around the world who would like to frame this issue as the the evil US superpower trying to bully an up-and-coming challenger. This is why the US can't operate unilaterally against Russia and why an alliance is so important. Actions by an alliance, especially one that included former Soviet republics and satellites would cast Russia in the role of the oppressive colonial power and make it easier to isolate them politically.

Axel on :

David, the German mainstream media isn't very "supportive" of Putin. Just two examples of relevant German media which are traditionally center to left: SPIEGEL cover from this week - title: "Der gefährliche Nachbar. Wladimir Putin und die Ohnmacht des Westens" (The dangerous neighbour. Wladimir Putin and the powerlessness of the West) with a picture showing Putin and some tanks. ZEIT cover from this week - title: "Die russische Gefahr" (The Russian danger) with a picture showing some Russian soldiers The same goes for the media coverage of all the big newspapers like the FAZ or Süddeutsche. Or take first-class journalist Thomas Roth, Moscow correspondent for the ARD network, who is recently reporting from Georgia. He definitely knows more about the political context than all the German bloggers you mentioned together. I haven't heard anything from him that sounds like a "support" in the last days.

David on :

Good point, Axel. I've been reading too many America-bashing blogs. Still, I haven't seen anything reporting in the German press that compares to [url=]this outstanding article on ethnic cleansing of Georgians[/url].

Joe Noory on :

This only works if you can define the "center of Gravity" of the opinion one arrives at from reporting. It is entirely objective to report on the way the Russian electronic media has presented through all of this - and if reporting [i]that[/i] is concidered a bias of some sort, then more than a few things have been redefined by the word. My reading of the press on both sides of the ocean is that it isn't unanimous one way or another. EDITORIAL OPINION isn't, and that's actually a sign of a healthy "press eco-system" in this matter.

Kyle on :

"What counts is that the transatlantic alliance is not as united and powerful as it could and should be in its dealings with Russia. For the benefit of both Europe and the US, we should work on overcoming some transatlantic differences concerning Russia." This statement may have been true on Monday when both France and Germany were hesitating to join the US's harsh stand against Russia's move, but I think the situation changed yesterday. I had the lucky opportunity to attend yesterday's press conference at NATO HQ in Brussels where I watched Scheffer and Rice speak, and read Koucherner's statement (random cool thing, I practically bumped into him on his way in to speak... he is short!). Anyhow, from my conversations with NATO staff and these presentations, and the official press releases, it appears that France did a complete turn in its policy and came out strongly supporting US objectives at the NATO meeting: creating a NATO-Russia commission and boycotting NATO Russia Council, as well as coming out with harsh rhetoric against Russia. It seems that to pleasant surprise, the transatlantic allies are cooperating even better than most had hoped for on a strong response to Russia. I will write more on this press conference in a full post to come shortly!

joe on :

Kyle This is a typical ploy used by NATO members. That ploy is to talk tough in public but in the actually meeting where a response is developed the talk is much different and many cower. The press conference I am sure was very entertaining but what really mattered was the official position of NATO. NATO punted.

Joe Noory on :

This business of sending two messages, etc., could be salvaged. Don't underestimate the usefulness of diplomatic duplicity. We are, after all dealing with the Russians who signed off on a pullout only to dig in - twice.

Anonymous on :

What the German media is saying about the Russia-Georgia conflict

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