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Positive and Negative News about America in the German Media

While there is a lot of negative media coverage of the United States and some stereotyping of Americans, there are also positive news stories in the German media. Recently the Atlantic Review wrote about a Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) article, which described Americans as the "friendliest nation". On Thursday, this paper had an article about Larry Stewart, who got help from strangers, when he was poor. When he became a millionaire he turned into a Secret Santa. The article is only in the print version of the FAZ, but the FAZ homepage has published a similar article about Secret Santa on November 18th: Geld und Zeit schenken: Anonymer Nikolaus hat Krebs. Google News Search for "Secret Santa" shows that several other German papers wrote about him as well. CNN provides the background in English:
For 26 years, a man known only as Secret Santa has roamed the streets every December quietly giving people money. He started with $5 and $10 bills. As his fortune grew, so did the gifts. In recent years, Secret Santa has been handing out $100 bills, sometimes two or three at a time, to people in thrift stores, diners and parking lots. So far, he's anonymously given out about $1.3 million. It's been a long-held holiday mystery: Who is Secret Santa? But now, weak from chemotherapy and armed with a desire to pass on his belief in random kindness, Secret Santa has decided it's time to reveal his identity.
Anti-Americanism: Davids Medienkritik has published a noteworthy Mission Statement, which includes this quote:
We at Davids 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. (...) It is important to keep in mind that the examples documented on this site do not reflect the entire German media landscape. There are numerous highly professional, relatively unbiased news sources to be had from Berlin to Bavaria. That said: The biased, anti-American media coverage that we document here does reflect a large and influential segment of German media. Most importantly: The type of reporting and coverage that we document on this site is having a significant and detrimental impact on German-American relations and transatlantic understanding.
Ray added an update regarding the comments section:
Sometimes I see comments here from both Germans and Americans that clearly don't reflect the mission of this site. Sometimes the comments are anything but constructive and we have taken a lot of heat over that. Some people are understandably angry and upset at the outrageous behavior of the German media, but some people clearly go too far and start bashing the entire country in an unfair way. It is important to keep things in perspective and not blame an entire country for the actions of a shrill elite. (...) We recognize that nobody is perfect. We ourselves have made poor formulations at times. The key is that we try our best to achieve our mission. This is an ongoing process and we are all human.
I think, David Kaspar and Ray D. have successfully exposed many examples of outrageous Anti-Americanism, but I disagree with most of their generalizing conclusions, because I consider them wrong, exaggerated, or misleading. Many readers of Medienkritik seem to think that nearly all German publications are Anti-American, which is not true. Therefore, I appreciate their new mission statement, which clarifies some issues. Moreover, the Atlantic Review will from time to time summarize in English some articles from the German media that describe the United States or Americans in a positive way. (Any help is appreciated!)
It is great to have a watchblog for Anti-Americanism. Medienkritik, however, also promotes very strongly, conservative opinions, which does not make their watchblog mission credible to many Germans (those who should do something about Anti-Americanism in Germany) and to liberal Americans.
Endnote: Check out Ray D.'s interviews with many Washington correspondents for German newspapers and TV stations.

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2020 on :

Sometimes it is necessary to reevaluate the commitments of the past, how ever hard it might appear. Who wants to be last to praise the emperor's new clothes? Now the majorities in Germany and the U.S.A. happily look forward to the year 2008, to a new democratic US-President, to the end of the disastrous politics of George "Carter" Bush. The best antidote to Anti-Americanism is a Democrat in the White House. That's easy as 1+1, anyway: Phat respect, Ray D. And Merry X-Mas.

Don S on :

Continental Europeans may be happy, and some US Democrats are, but I expect the dominant emotion among most Americans is not overwhelming trust of any batch of politicians - Democrats or Republicans. The Democrats did not earn the ball through good play this time - the Republicans fumbled it through complacency. That doesn't mean I think the Republicans are going right back in in 2008. They could do but I deem it quite unlikely. My feeling is that even if the Democrats are feckless it's going to be 4-6 years before voters memories dull enough to make reversing the majority in the House a significant possibilty, though the Senate is a possibility. If the House Democrats do well and find a positive agenda like the Contract with America it could well be double that. We'll see. I hope for the country's sake that they do a good job..... The Presidential race is another story. The GOP seems to have the strongest candidates except possibly for Obama. The problem is his almost complete lack of experience, as he is 2 years away from being an Illinois state senator. I don't think voters are in a mood to put him in the top job given the security situation. Were we at peace it would be a different situation. I think his best bet is to declare for the Presidency but actually run for Veep, possibly with HRC. If she wins he can serve a 4/8 year apprenticeship. If the ticket loses he should quit the Senate and barnstorm/study for 4 years. Maybe run for Illinois governor if that becomes vacant.

David on :

In his "Mission Statement" Ray D. mentions that he is a US citizen. This is very good news indeed, since it means there is absolutely nothing preventing him from enlisting in the US military and fighting in the Iraq War he loves and celebrates in each post on his Bush-blog. Or does Ray D. lack the courage of his convictions? (I think I know the answer).

RayD on :

@ David That's a pretty ridiculous argument (which is pretty common for you.) So now everyone who supports military intervention anywhere has to sign up to fight in order to be entitled to their opinion? Do you tell that to Germans who support the campaign in Afghanistan? They all need to go join the Bundeswehr? And do you support intervention in Darfur? If you do, you'd better go to the nearest recruiter. By the way: No one on our site loves war. War is a terrible thing (and as Germans we ought to know that.) But, as in German history, sometimes you have to decide between war now or a much larger war later. Sometimes you have to decide whether you can look the other way and just ignore genocidal dictators. You belittle the entire subject by making such statements. By the way, my father volunteered for Vietnam and my Amnerican grandfather for World War II. My sister volunteered and served in Korea. I greatly respect the men and women in uniform and would never support something that put them in harms way if I did not honestly believe was right. @ Jorg "I disagree with most of their generalizing conclusions, because I consider them wrong, exaggerated, or misleading." Some examples? "Many readers of Medienkritik seem to think that nearly all German publications are Anti-American, which is not true." How do you know that Jorg? Have you polled our readers? The comments of a few (the vast majority of our readers do not leave comments) do not necessarily represent the views of the entire audience. "Medienkritik, however, also promotes very strongly, conservative opinions, which does not make their watchblog mission credible to many Germans (those who should do something about Anti-Americanism in Germany) and to liberal Americans." We don't see ourselves as strongly conservative (we are actually quite liberal on certain issues), but you are entitled to your opinion. Jorg, thanks for the links and your thoughts. An honest discussion is what we need.

David on :

It has struck me from the beginning of the Iraq Debacle that nearly all of the biggest advocates of the invasion- from George W. Bush,Cheney, Rove, etc. to their cheerleaders like Limbaugh, Hannity, and Rich Lowry at the National Review - were all physical cowards who did everything they could to avoid combat duty.

Anonymous on :

"Medienkritik" deletes comments from critics, but not anti-German and rasist comments. The bloggers and their commentators form a Bush cheerleading club. It's not a watchblog.

Yank on :

"Medienkritik, however, also promotes very strongly, conservative opinions, which does not make their watchblog mission credible to many Germans (those who should do something about Anti-Americanism in Germany) and to liberal Americans." What strongly conservative opinions? Many liberals support the war in Iraq. Like me. And like Christopher Hitchens and Norm Geras to name two notable ones. So, "many" (leftist) Germans and Americans are so prejudiced they view conservatives as liars? And what THEY have to say would be "credible", eh? Even though these Germans do nothing about the anti-Americanism in Germany.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

@ Ray [i]Some examples?[/i] I gave some examples in previous discussions we had on your blog and other blogs over the last year or so. I might write a comprehensive post about your blog, when I got more time. (Not anytime soon.) [i]"Many readers of Medienkritik seem to think that nearly all German publications are Anti-American, which is not true." How do you know that Jorg? Have you polled our readers? The comments of a few (the vast majority of our readers do not leave comments) do not necessarily represent the views of the entire audience.[/i] I did not make such a claim. I did not say "entire audience". I did not say that x percent of your readers think xyz. [i]We don't see ourselves as strongly conservative (we are actually quite liberal on certain issues), but you are entitled to your opinion.[/i] I might have made a grammatical error or shoudl not have used the comma, when I wrote that Medienkritik "also promotes very strongly, conservative opinions." The word "strongly" was supposed to be a qualifier for "promote" rather than "conservative." Okay, you might take issue with the word "conservative" as well. I did not know a better word. Likewise, Bush is often described as conservative, but he is foreign and fiscal policy certainly is not conservative at all in the traditional sense. Anyway, my point was that being a watchblog of Anti-Americanism and making advocacy for political viewpoints do not go together very well. I appreciate your work on exposing Anti-Americanism. Everytime I link to Medienkritk, I get criticism in several emails. I think, most of your critics are not Anti-American fans of Spiegel etc. Rather they don't like your strong support for the Iraq war and other US policies and your strong criticism of Germany, the SPD, the Greens, Muslims, US Democrats etc. So, when I link to Medienkritik, I get accused of supporting your political views as well, although I just like your work on exposing Anti-American articles. I try to clearly differentiated between your two missions: a) exposing Anti-American articles and b) criticizing liberals/Germans and promoting Republican policies/viewpoints. Most of your critics do not make such a differentiation. If Medienkritik wants to be read by more Germans and be taken seriously by more Germans, then you should not mix being a watchblog and making conservative advocacy. Especially those, who are in the news business, do not like such a mix. If you really want German publications like Spiegel and Stern to be less Anti-American, then you should try to get more German readers rather than even more American readers.

RayD on :

@ anonymous: Could you give us examples of racist or anti-German comments? If we missed something, we will erase it. Feel free to email me with that: medienkritik2@hotmail.com @ Jorg, Thanks for your response. I still don't think it is fair to say that "many" of our readers believe all German media are anti-American. I don't think there is any hard evidence to support that. I think most of our readers are smart enough to distinguish the difference and our mission statement makes it even more clear. I appreciate your suggestions. Unfortunately we are only two people with limited time and resources. What would help is if we had more people to help us and money to advertise. Then we could focus more on German and reach more people. For now we will stick with our format. BTW: Do you also criticize bloggers with a far-left position (David comes to mind - although his audience is so small you need a microscope to find it) for being out of the mainstream?

influx on :

Ray, you wrote a couple of weeks ago that your readers shouldn't expect any cover stories on the Politkovskaya murder: "This in a Russia where government-skeptical journalists have an uncanny habit of ending up unemployed and dead. Don't expect to see any sensational covers on that any time soon." You didn't follow up on that claim even though virtually every single newspaper in Germany had a front page headline on Politkovskaya a day or two after you made that statement (I commented on that, but my comment was deleted on your blog because it was "off topic"). Just curious: any thoughts on today's Spiegel cover?

JW-Atlantic Review on :

"I think most of our readers are smart enough to distinguish the difference" Any hard evidence for that? "I appreciate your suggestions. Unfortunately we are only two people with limited time and resources." It would not be more work, but less work: Don't go after US Democrats, radical Islam, the Greens, Schroeder, and general statements about "the German media" etc., but focus only on taking apart Anti-American articles and debunk false/unfair/biased statements as you already do. "Do you also criticize bloggers with a far-left position (David comes to mind - although his audience is so small you need a microscope to find it) for being out of the mainstream?" I do criticize other blogs as well. You call your blog a watchblog and you want the German media to be less Anti-American, thus your mission is different from other blogs. I just wrote that your pretty aggressive political commentary hurts your watchblog mission. [b]It seems to me that your blog is set up to appeal primarily to Americans on the right rather than to Germans, who could actually do something about Anti-Americanism in Germany.[/b] How do you expect to reduce Anti-Americanism that way? Or isn't that your goal?

RayD on :

@ influx, Actually, to be fair, my comment came before the second Polonium 210 murder, which was far more sensational than the Politkovskaya killing. That said: Yes, the German media has covered the Russian murder scandals. But I was specifically stating that I would be surprised to see a cover on the Politkovskaya murder. And, in my own defense, the cover you refer to came out only after the Litvinenko death added to the list of outrageous, high-profile murders. Over all: Spiegel does about one (or maybe two) sensationalist cover(s) on Russia a year. The fact remains that far more negative coverage and covers are focused on the US. It's business as usual, although it is nice to see them actually covering this. @ Jorg, Well, I don't have any polls either, but my feeling is that our readers are pretty bright people. I don't have hard evidence, but from my interaction with them over three years, that is my feeling. (And by the way, you are one of the readers I base that finding on!) Actually, our blog also reaches a sizeable German audience and we do not target a specific nationality or political leaning as I just wrote after the recent election. http://medienkritik.typepad.com/blog/2006/11/election_reacti.html We believe that people need to be directly confronted with what is going on and start to discuss this issue, and our blog has been pretty successful in that mission. We also express our opinion sometimes and I think that it gives us a degree of credibility and honesty about where we are coming from. We don't try to hide or mask our feelings although we do our best to be fair and factual. If we always tried to be totally unopinionated or apolitical it would be a blog without personality and insight and that would likely detract from its value, not increase it. It would also make blogging pretty boring for the both of us. Also, keep in mind that David and I are two different people. We don't always agree on everything. So overall, perhaps we will have to agree to disagree about certain things. I still think we have more in common than not.

Fuchur on :

@ Ray First, let me say that I like your mission statement very much. I agree with every word of it. This is a good and important mission, and itīs definitely worth the substantial amount time you invest. Yet (you guessed it), hereīs the "but": 1. I cannot help but notice that these are your words, not Davidīs. You have stated repeatedly that you like Germany. I have never seen anything of that kind from David. Iīm serious: Please try and prove me wrong. Try to provide me with one positive statement about Germany that David has made in all these years. Sorry, but I donīt believe in coincidence. If you write a blog mainly about Germany, and yet you donīt manage to say even one positive word about this country in three (or so) years - then there is a reason for this. 2. Letīs for the sake of argument assume that the mission of your blog was to discredit and run down Germany in every way possible, and to portray Germans in the worst way imaginable. Are there any recent posts in your blog that would not fit in with that "mission"? Is there any negative stereotype about Germans that youīve left out? We learn that Germans are cowards, hypocrits, terrorist appeasers, they love to take orders from people in uniform, ... If anythingīs missing, youīll surely find it in the comments (e.g. the usual Nazi slurs). You say you arenīt a German advertising company. Granted. You also claim you arenīt an anti-German hate-blog. Well, I trust you donīt want to be one. And still I have to ask: How would you tell the difference?

RayD on :

@ Fuchur You write: "You also claim you arenīt an anti-German hate-blog. Well, I trust you donīt want to be one. And still I have to ask: How would you tell the difference?" If someone honestly looks at our blog for more than a few seconds and reads the articles and reads the mission statement, it is quite clear to see that we are a media watchdog. And just because David is skeptical of Germany's politics and policies does not mean he hates his land. The opposite is the case.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

When I criticized that you mix watchblog and conservative advocacy (I don't know a better term), you said that just being a watchblog would be boring and some opinions are important. When Fuchur criticized that David only expresses very negative opinions about Germany (and misleading ones, I might add), you responded that Medienkritik is a watchblog. IMHO, you can't have it both ways. If you see yourself as only a watchblog, then I got a point with my criticism. If you see yourself as more than watchblog, then Fuchur got a point with his criticism.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

@ Ray You asked for an example of a misleading post: For example the recent post "Saddam Come Back?" [i]Recently, the LA Times and SPIEGEL ONLINE published pieces entitled "Saddam Come Back!" To make them feel a little better, we decided to post this video:[/i] This gives the impression that Spiegel called for a comeback of Saddam, but Spiegel was just reporting about the despair at the LA Times. You have primarily American readers. I think it is fair to assume that the majority cannot read German. Thus they cannot check for themselves, what Spiegel has actually written.

RayD on :

@ Jorg, So who made a rule that said a watchdog blog cannot also express an opinion or write a commentary sometimes? I just don't share your definition. Also, the "Saddam Come Back" piece is listed as comedy and clearly points to (although does not link to) the LA Times piece which English-speaking readers can understand. Additionally, we simply state that the articles are entitled "Saddam Come Back." We do not state that they actually advocate that. I will a link to the LA Times piece to make this more clear.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

I did not notice that it was filed under comedy. I usually fail to see under what category something is filed. Still, I think by now your readers expect Spiegel to say anything. Even if the realize that the post is filed under comedy, they might consider the video as comedy, but take the Spiegel reference seriously. "...SPIEGEL ONLINE published pieces entitled "Saddam Come Back!" To make them feel a little better,..." To me, "make them feel a little better" suggests that Spiegel calls for a comeback of Saddam (with exclamation mark) or at least would like to see a return of Saddam. What else does "make them feel a little better" mean? "So who made a rule that said a watchdog blog cannot also express an opinion or write a commentary sometimes?" Fine, so you are in Fuchur's territory. I don't know about any such rule. I just think that this mixing is the main reason, why many Germans don't take Medienkritik's exposure of Anti-Americanism seriously. In fact, the average German guy who stumbles across your blog might not realize that Medienkritik is a watchblog for Anti-Americanism, but rather thinks that you are an Anti-German hate blog. Thus, you are not winning that person as a reader. You are missing the chance to get someone to do something about Anti-Americanism. You might have a large number of German readers, but most of your readers are Americans and, as I said above, you are appealing primarily to Americans on the right (and to some neocon Germans) rather than to a wide number of Germans, who care about transatlantic relations and bad and biased journalism. Bildblog attracts some 50,000 readers, who care about bad journalism.

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