Retro-Soviet Europe

Instapundit links to a Davids Medienkritik post about a study of anti-Americanism in European media. Ray observes:

Note that, of those media analyzed, the most US critical media in all Europe were Germany’s two largest, state-sponsored television news broadcasts. Unfortunately, many Germans view these same state media as impartial and unbiased because they are (supposedly) independent of commercial interests.

Is it just me or is Europe starting to give off that old Soviet Union vibe?

Back in the ’70s the Soviet state-controlled press gave the people of the USSR a delusional view about quality of life in the US and the rest of the free world. I see the same kind of beliefs from contemporary Europeans.

For example, in many internet conversations I have had, it seems that many Europeans honestly believe that the lack of universal socialized medicine in the US means that we just leave hordes of poor people to die in the gutter. They seem utterly unaware that the poor and elderly are covered by socialized medicine even if no one else is. Where did they get such a distorted view of America from?

I think we are seeing a milder version of the same dynamic that occurred with the Soviet Union. First, we have socialist states which cannot compete economically with the freer markets of the US. Second, we have an elitist ruling caste which must engender fear of change in order to maintain power. Third, we have a high degree of state control of the media and education. All these factors combine to create both the motive and the methods for fostering irrational anti-Americanism.

If Europe is heading off down the old Soviet path, even a much, much milder version of it, it will not end well for them.

19 thoughts on “Retro-Soviet Europe”

  1. German public broadcasters directly collect the taxes that are paying for them (and the same is true for those of other European countries), and consequently they form a state within the state. Administrative and political inbreeding see to it that the people state television is staffed with resemble the faculty Harvard which pushed out Larry Summers.

    we have socialist states which cannot compete economically with the freer markets of the US

    Europe can compete with America very well, thank you very much. Now it is true that due to overregulation European productivity is lower than the American one, but doesn’t mean that Europe can’t compete with America – rather it leads to European incomes being correspondingly lower than American ones, all other circumstances being equal.

    This is pretty irksome for Europeans, but doesn’t merit comparison to the USSR.

  2. Shannon & Ralf:

    State controlled media is a necessary appendage of collectivist programs. The comparison to the USSR is not necessary, every collectivist system has a dominant state controlled media organ.

    This is required for (at minimum) two reasons: 1) mask the actual results of the system; and 2) mask the results of other systems. Once the socialized program begins its inevitable slide into corruption and abuse of its charges, information control is necessary in order to maintain the status quo.

    In Germany we’ve seen the state pass a critical marker. It is now in the territory of demonizing the competition in order to justify the continuance of the socialist regime.

    The greater the perceived threat from outside influences the more caustic the rhetoric. So, why does the German state-contolled media perceive the US to be a threat? I would argue that their program is on the verge of collapse.


  3. “If Europe is heading off down the old Soviet path, even a much, much milder version of it, it will not end well for them. ”

    They are already on the down slope. The question is whether they can get off of it before they hit bottom.

    Remember that mississippi now has a higher percapita income than Sweeden

  4. “many Germans view these same state media as impartial and unbiased because they are (supposedly) independent of commercial interests”

    And they call Americans simplistic!

  5. The Soviet reaction was a little more complicated than that. They believed the propaganda and disbelieved it in about equal measures. Orwell’s expression “doublethink” was quite accurate. While believing that under capitalism the poor were thrown out on the street as soon as they were too ill to work in whatever hell-hole they had been consigned to by evil capitalists, everyone in the Soviet Union was also utterly convinced that everything in the West was much better. America best of all, but Western Europe pretty good, too. Trying to explain to anyone in the Soviet Union that there was the odd problem or two was met with incredulous stares.

    In other words, in many ways, the West European reaction to their media’s stories about America tend to be a good deal more simplistic than was the reaction in the Soviet Union.

  6. Funny you should mention that:

    Former Soviet Dissident Warns For EU Dictatorship
    From the desk of Paul Belien on Mon, 2006-02-27 21:13

    Vladimir Bukovksy, the 63-year old former Soviet dissident, fears that the European Union is on its way to becoming another Soviet Union. In a speech he delivered in Brussels last week Mr Bukovsky called the EU a “monster” that must be destroyed, the sooner the better, before it develops into a fullfledged totalitarian state.

    Mr Bukovsky paid a visit to the European Parliament on Thursday at the invitation of Fidesz, the Hungarian Civic Forum. Fidesz, a member of the European Christian Democrat group, had invited the former Soviet dissident over from England, where he lives, on the occasion of this year’s 50th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Uprising. After his morning meeting with the Hungarians, Mr Bukovsky gave an afternoon speech in a Polish restaurant in the Trier straat, opposite the European Parliament, where he spoke at the invitation of the United Kingdom Independence Party, of which he is a patron.
    An interview with Vladimir Bukovsky about the impending EUSSR
    In his speech Mr Bukovsky referred to confidential documents from secret Soviet files which he was allowed to read in 1992. These documents confirm the existence of a “conspiracy” to turn the European Union into a socialist organization.

    Brussels Journal

  7. No Anniversary Analysis?

    Forgive me for trolling off topic, but I hoped you boyz would post to acknowledge, on the third anniversary, the terrific progress so far in Rummy’s War. $400 Billion, 2300+ American lives and counting; is no Chicago-schooler ready to do an objective critique?

    It was heartening to see so many helicopters still in-country this week – as we approach the 31st anniversary of our McNamara’s War Victory at Saigon, er, Ho Chi Minh City. You can never have too many helicopters…

    Seriously, what is the Chicago-school viewpoint after three years?

  8. @Ralf: The German state-run media bear a close resemblance to American “public” radio and television. For some reason, public and charitable institutions are liable to capture by the left. It looks to me like it happens in Germany as well as here. The astonishing thing is that the public would think the media were impartial. Why are they so trusting and uncritical?

    @everybody: Whenever I hear about Europe’s irreversible decline, I can’t help but think of some of the other inevitable events that never occurred. How about when Japan was going to take over the world by paying too much for Rockefeller Plaza? Or when some idiot thought he had seen the future, and thought that it worked?

    Even the Y2K scare shows the fallacy. My IT friends called it the Tom Brokaw Effect: if a technological problem was simple enough to be understood by your average television reporter, it was simple enough for someone with a clue to fix it. Europe has people with a clue. They will find a way to fix it.

  9. Europe’s anti-US feelings were kept somewhat muted during the cold war, esp. Germany’s, although the radicalism of the 60’s and 70’s, the marches and extreme rhetoric against Reagan and various US defense policies during the 80’s, and embarrassment over Bosnia in the 90’s show a very consistent militancy opposed to US policies over an extended period.

    The animosity stems from several sources.

    There is a strong marxist undertone in European society, both in their political parties and labor unions, and these elements continue to repeat the propaganda assertions from the cold war period.

    There is a powerful undercurrent of anti-semitism, both traditional European brand and newly arrived Muslim immigrant type. The US is seen as Isreal’s strongest ally, rightfully so, and hatred of Jews transfers easily to the US.

    Although there are certainly more strands in this yarn than listed here, one more I would like to mention is the strange and inexplicable belief on the part of Europeans that they are somehow more sophisticated politically and diplomatically than the US. This belief was very clearly expressed during the Reagan administration, and is repeated endlessly now about Bush.

    Why a group of countries who have been at war with each other almost continuously for centuries, and were pacified for a few decades only when they were occupied by victorious outside powers;

    who joyously succumbed to several variations of totalitarianism, and marched off singing into two of the most horrific slaughters known to human history, first under a group of imbecile emperors, and then a collection of maniacal dictators;

    and developed as state policies the practices of manufactured famine and genocidal mass murder, resulting in the deaths of millions, operates under this delusion that they are somehow very skilled at governance and diplomacy is a mystery for which any explanation not involving massive doses of hallucenagens seems inadequate.

    Europe is no longer the crossroads of world culture or economics. That locale is now located somewhere in the Asian Pacific, as recent moves by US diplomacy to restructure our relationships with India, China, and other Asian powers well attests.

    In the final analysis, much of the anger of Europeans might be traced to the frustrating realization that they are only marginally important in the affairs of the wrold community.

    Like that Eagles song, there’s a new kid on the block, and they’re still hangin’ on.

  10. Shannon, when I find dogshit on my shoe, as distasteful as it is, I scrape it off right away. With that preamble, I’ll just note that off-topic trolling on my posts leads to immediate deletion. However, of course, you are free to treat the unwanted material as you wish on your own post.

  11. Where did they get such a distorted view of America from?

    Everyone likes to point out that the Europeans in general and the Germans in particular really have no choice in their distorted, insulting and unrealistic views of America. After all, they are bombarded with negative and biased coverage from their native media every day.

    Here in the US, the only mention of Germany can usually be found on The History Channel as they endlessly play hour long programs concerning WWII and Hitler’s attempt at world domination. Yet, for some reason, we seem to be smart enough to grasp the fact that the Germans of today aren’t goose stepping murderers just aching for a chance to shovel some Jews in the ovens.

    Ralf likes to point out that Germany is full of realistic, talented people who are forging a bright and positive future. Okay, fair enough. He lives there and I don’t. But I can’t help but wonder where those people are when it comes to providing a realistic picture of their most important ally.

    If such gross distortions are accepted as truth by the majority of the population, then there is something seriously wrong.


  12. jrdroll: “Funny you should mention that:”

    Actually, no, this has little relevance to that Belien piece based on what Bukovsky wrote some years ago and is still saying. Bukovsky’s knowledge of the Soviet Union is unrivalled. His understanding of what is happening in Russia now is superlative. His knowledge of the EU is negligible. He has constructed his theories of comparison out of thin air and documents he saw in Moscow. But if you compare two entities you have to understand both of them. For example, his assertion that the economic community was turned into a political union by Gorbachev and others in the late eighties ignores the entire development of the European Union from WWII onwards. By this time the Single European Act was in place and the treaty that is now known as the Maastricht Treaty was being finalized.

  13. Helen,

    Thanks for the perspective on Bukovsky. He is a very admirable man but no one is right about everything.

    European integration was once considered a bulwark against Soviet expansionism. Institutions, once created, tend to endure, but their rationales evolve.

  14. The common thread is a distrust of the people by the elite, and the belief that a better society can be built according to plan by the elite. Bukovsky is correct in seeing this. If the people of Europe get seriously p****d off, though, the elites can still be swept aside. I think that may also contribute to the institutionalized anti-Americanism. The elites need an external threat as a distraction, and let’s face it, it’s safe. We’re not going to send either suicide bombers or tanks in retaliation.

  15. Nobody can possibly blame Bukovsky for not knowing everything. I get annoyed about people who buy into that rather silly world view without bothering to look beyond.

    As for European (and British) anti-Americanism, I am sorry and, indeed, ashamed to say that it goes beyond the elite. It is firmly lodged in the minds of many people across all sections of society. I find it very hard to understand but there it is.

  16. wrt anti-americanism, I’m American and have alot of spanish and latin-american friends. They are incredibly intimidated by our prosperity and charity and embarrassed by their own countries’ political and economic faults. This is especially true of my wealthy mexican friends who are well aware that in the USA wetbacks live alot better (and are treated better) than they did back in Mexico.

    It’s not easy to swallow the idea that your country sucks, even a little. In that context it’s clear to me that anti-americanism is, to use a popular term, “hating” pure and simple.

    People can say “yeah, the USA is cool, I hope we can improve so we can be cool too” – a mindset which requires humility, wisdom, hope, none of which are in large supply…

    or people can say “The USA is dumb, philistine and evil… and fat too. We are still better than them” – a mindset that allows individuals to indulge their arrogance and assuage their pride.

  17. Shannon…

    I think it’s probably unfair to single out the continental EU media establishments bias vis a vis the US when the average “anglo-sphere” media hack in NYC, LA, or London holds basically similar prejudices and opinions when it comes to “fly over America”. In fact it could be argued that as Germans have been among the most heavily exposed via syndication to the worst of our own home grown self-hating media programming, were it not for the living memory of actual Communist rule, the US would probably be viewed even LESS favorably! Given that so many mainstream US politicians and leaders actively loathe the Republic, and depict life in America in the worst possible light every chance they get, is it so odd to find that confusion and ignorance defines others view of us? Europeans are not immune to rhetoric or yellow journalism, not even European journalists, and without making excuses for the sloth of European fact checkers who should know better, there’s a large difference between cynical soviet style propagandists, and those who trust insincere Americans rather than applying their US skepticism evenly. Europeans might have a high tolerance for statism, but I think we’d be doing them an injustice to depict them on a slippery slope with a return to soviet totalitarianism as the outcome.

    (how strange! I usually take a nativist position!)

Comments are closed.