Reader and commenter Jeff had asked in the comments to this post:
…I’d be curious for your opinion about the relationship between the European people and their media. Do European people hold these anti-American opinions because it’s the main (and sometimes only) perspective their media provide, or are the media simply providing the perspective that the European people are demanding?
I think that my response is a good enough summary of the problem to stand on its own as a post, so here it is in a somewhat edited form:
There is a kind of interaction here, people are used to a steady diet of anti-Americanism, and that serves as the background for what people expect from the media.
You have to keep one fundamental fact in mind: Anti-Americanism isn’t based on envy towards America’s greater wealth and power, rather anti-Americanism is designed to prevent its recipients from feeling envy towards Americans. The American way of life, and doing business, is undoubtedly producing better results than the various European ones, and is undermining the position of the European elites. To limit the damage, they have the media they own, and the public broadcasters they control, put out said propaganda, so that the unwashed masses, as they see us, won’t want to emulate those uncouth Americans.
Conversely, most people know that something is going wrong over here, but have invested so much work in what they own, that they desperately want to hear that all that time and effort has not been in vain. So they are more than willing to hear that American wealth and power comes with an unacceptably high price. This makes them eager consumers of anti-American propaganda, and they will come back for more on a daily basis.
In other words, anti-Americanism and socialism have become the new opiate of the masses, to quote Karl Marx. In a way this is absolutely hilarious, considering that he also had said: ‘History occurs twice, the first time as tragedy, the the second time as farce’ (alright, the quote is a bit streamlined :), for what could be more farcical than present-day Europe.
6 thoughts on “Anti-Americanism in the European media and its causes”
The USSR used to do that with its news coverage of the west, trying to emphasize all the negative things that happened, and all the unrest. They’d cover riots, disasters, political demonstrations, and anything else that might nominally suggest that people in the west were unhappy or unlucky to not be living in the People’s Paradise.
One difference was that the people of the USSR didn’t believe what Pravda told them in that biased coverage.
Europeans are vastly better off than Soviet citizens were, for all the bias European media still has enough of a semblance to credibility, quite unlike the utterly ridiculous Pravda, which didn’t even try. There also are no gulags, we have rule of law, etc, etc. I could go on endlessly why comparisons between the Soviet Union and the European Union simply aren’t valid.
But at least the people of the USSR knew that Pravda was lying to them. What you’re saying is that Europeans, especially Germans, do believe the lies they’re being fed.
Pravda wasn’t even trying to hide the lies, and made a lot of stories up out of thin air, while there still is genuine reporting on most issues in the European media, and instead of outright lies there is strong bias and distortion. It still is propaganda, but much more skillfully hidden.
I also never said that Germans are more susceptible to believing lies, or blatant bias than other Europeans.
To me, Europe has always been about finding the centre and rotating about it. France wants to be the centre and have the rest of the world rotate about it. Britain used to be this way 100 years ago. Germany wants to be the centre of Europe and have the rest of Europe rotate about it.
At present, the United States is at the centre. Europe can sit and rotate on that.
I think you (Ralf) are spot on.
As I argued here, anti-Americanism among the European elite is long-standing, but was masked during the cold war, and is rooted in the defence of the Social-Democratic economic model.
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