March 8, 2007
Germany's Anti-American NeurosisBy James Lewis
A neurotic obsession is like a bone stuck in your throat. You can't swallow it and you can't spit it out. That is how the German media are hooked on America. It doesn't look quite sane.
For Americans, the best web guide to the German media is davids medienkritik. (David's media critique).
What you find out on this passionately written site, devoted to fighting anti-American hatred, is that something very weird is going on between the Lowlands and Poland. Something neurotic, in tens of millions of minds. And while we know that you can't always generalize from media madness to ordinary people, we also know that the media swing a huge weight of influence. So when the German Organs of Propaganda go weird and hateful, get ready to worry. Really.
The examples of obsessive anti-Americanism are all over big German news magazines like Spiegel and Stern. For instance,
This is the mainstream press in Germany. In other words, what the American Leftist nutroots make up as paranoid fantasies becomes the dominant narrative in Germany. And their endless refrain is that American soldiers are no better than Nazis.
This is more than just steam-out-of-the-ears dislike of the United States. I mean, if you don't like France or Bosnia, why not ignore those places? Just take your vacations in Hawaii. Judging by Davids medienkritik, the Germans just can't let go of us in their collective minds. They are hooked on anti-Americanism, and they can't turn it off. They can't just stop buying Der Spiegel, with its repetetive anti-American slander campaigns. It's the bone in their throats.
The European media go for the really nutso tales. The most recent headlines shout out that there's a whole new "trend" in America: Apparently our teens are going out at night to kill homeless people. It used to be Elvis and hip-hop, and now it's murdering street people for fun. How's that for nuts? It's like being stalked by some obsessional maniac because your shoes squeak too loud.
That's another oddity. There are things to criticize about every country in the world. Nobody in the United States is completely satisfied, and Americans always look for ways to improve ourselves, to solve problems and make progress. Nobody is happy with our crime rate, but we are always trying to fix it (with considerable success). That's rational.
The German neurosis isn't like that. They're not saying, "we like this about America, but we don't like that." They just keep pushing outrageous slanders that have no basis in reality, and then get übermad about us as moral defectives; the next week they come back and repeat the process. Then they do it again. And again. They can't swallow their anti-American fishbone, and they can't spit it out.
Obviously all this has something to do with Germany's neurotic relationship to its own past. Now in a sane world, you would think that the thirteen years of Nazi tyranny, murder and ruthless aggression would be vigorously repudiated still, as it was during the half-century after World War Two. Every single German Chancellor after you-know-who denounced the Nazis with apparent sincerity. After the first fifty years of doing that, you might think that you could let go and get a life. After all, sane people don't punish the children's children down to the seventieth generation. That's silly. Sane Americans don't blame today's Germans for Hitler. So get over it.
That's the way West Germany seemed to be going for half a century. About as sensible as you might hope, after what happened. But then two things happened. One was the unification of Germany, at the insistence of Ronald Reagan. The unification was generally considered to be a good thing (though not by Margaret Thatcher), and it certainly rewarded civilized West German behavior after WWII.
But it led to strains in the economy and competition between the East and West. And the East Germans had never bothered with de-Nazification. They had been taught that Hitler was bad because he was a capitalist (when of course he was anti-capitalist, anti-Christian, anti-Gay, anti-Black, anti-women's freedom, anti-civilization, and most of all, anti-Semitic). East Germans knew all about hating America, because they had been taught to do it from 1933 onward.
The second off-the-rails event after fifty years was the rise of Gerhard Schroeder. Schroeder was the first chancellor to play the hate-America card outright for political popularity. It worked like a charm; Schroeder blatantly lied about the German economy and still got reelected, by comparing George W. Bush to ... (Yes. Right.) Chancellor Schroeder was the first big demagogue in half a century, and the German media have been stuck on that single obsessive anti-American chord ever since, like some crazed Bach organist whose fingers are superglued to the Devil's Triad. He can't let go. That noisy organ has been blasting at a shrill fortissimo ever since George W. Bush was elected in 2000.
(Schroeder's disgraceful departure didn't change a thing. A few months before he left, his government signed a concessionary contract with the Russian oil monopoly Gazprom, and --- surprise! --- Schroeder was immediately hired by Gazprom at a fat salary. But the appearance of corruption isn't the big story: Rather, it's as if Schroeder drilled a hole in the German post-War psyche, and the electric drill is still going, long after he walked away.)
The German media needs to claim that "Bush = Hitler" to forgive itself for its own past. As a result, they are going in circles like a Schnauser chasing its tail: Stop me before I kill again! The country needs therapy. The new chancellor Angela Merkel is a great deal more decent and sensible than Schroeder; but she doesn't seem to be healing the psychic wound (which might be too much to expect, anyway).
The German neurosis is part and parcel of the most worrisome development in Europe since the Soviets crumbled: the revival of open anti-Semitism. Like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, many Europeans seem to think that Israel is just the Little Satan and America the Big Satan. There is a mad edge to that theme --- far beyond rational criticism --- that is also worrying. It sounds like the same Teutonic Neurosis.
Germans tend to be perfectionists. When I visited Hamburg some years ago, passers-by dutifully pointed out that I had failed to park my rental car with the necessary precision. The police had to be notified. Then, when I happened to wander into the wrong elevator, my fellow passengers simply stared at me in frozen horror. I had violated some sacred taboo.
When perfectionists are confronted with an error --- and worse, a great moral failure, like the Nazi period --- they often have a very hard time coping. To make things worse, the media constantly remind people about Hitler --- was he really what he was? (The answer is: Yes). How could it happen?
The biggest message from the ruling elites is that the European Union must take power over all the traditional countries to keep another Holocaust from happening. Hitler serves as a bogeyman to keep the people marching in lockstep toward a Greater Europe. So they have to keep reminding people about those thirteen years of Nazi terror, even fifty years after WWII, spreading generalized guilt like a disease. Unfortunately, the EU is also flagrantly undemocratic, in part because the elites have persuaded themselves that "the ordinary people" are ignorant proto-Nazis, and can't be trusted. (In fact, of course, Hitler demagogued the "alienated proletariat" and also the elites --- the academics, the newspapers, the industrialists, much of the Left and even the Junkers. Elite support was crucial for Hitler.).
By constant application of Politically Correct propaganda, everybody now feels tyrannized and ready to rebel. Tell people not to think about Pink Elephants, and that's all they will think about. That's what PC does: By punishing incorrect speech, it makes all of us think more about the latest taboo. It's the return of the repressed, as Freud called it.
Imagine that your national identity is under constant media attack (which, come to think of it, it is). So if you're a German school child you can't just think about Beethoven and Goethe as your ideal models, because somewhere in the background the political elites are always thinking you're a potential Hitler Jugend kid, just barely managing to keep your arm from shooting out like a bouncing diving board.
That's a strange way to grow up, feeling responsible for crimes committed two generations ago. And you're not allowed to say that was then, and this is now, and we're not going to do that again. Rather, you're constantly told that Germany must give up its national identity in favor of Europe. That's been the elite drumbeat for decades, and they will use any means, fair or foul, to create the new European Empire.
Well, people don't like it. They don't like it in Germany, but they don't like it any other place else either. That's why even the French and the Dutch voted against the superfatted EU Constitution a couple of years ago. But whenever people try to speak up against the Leftist elites, they are automatically suspect as neo-Nazis. That's true in France, in the Netherlands, Belgium, the works. This is not a sane-making culture to grow up in. At some point you have to liberate people from the bloody past --- or they may feel they have to repeat it over and over again, neurotically, until they get it right.
The glorious thing about America is that it allows newcomers to forget the past. You can see Vietnamese children in the United States who really don't know the horrors their parents experienced. The same is true for Germans, Jews, Brits, Irish, and yes, Mexicans and other Hispanics. (Almost all of those countries have big traumas in their past, not to mention corruption and poverty). So in America you can let go of the past and remake yourself. That's how it has been for more than two hundred years. It still is.
Not so in Europe, and particularly not in Germany. The dead past is always hovering, ready to strike. So you're caught in a psychic trap from childhood onward. Demagogues take it upon themselves to play on past horrors to control you. But by their very attempts to impose a Politically Correct reign of terror they are constantly sowing the seeds of rebellion. German anti-Americanism is fed by that perfectionistic oppression. That is why Der Spiegel has to go back and Bash Bush every single week. Because once is not enough. The guilt, the obsession, the fear of losing control, all those rebellious thoughts that keep coming up, they need to be slapped down again. And they never get cured.
Will the European Union allow Germany to drown its identity and leave its neuroses behind? Not as it is presently constituted. Yes, EU pride is a big media theme, celebrating the euro, the EU flag, and all that. But the EU is dominated by the biggest PC control freaks ever seen, and free speech is under constant attack. Elections for the European Parliament mean nothing, because the Parliament has no power. The system is constantly being rigged on behalf of the ruling classes. And like the German media, the EU always has to pretend that it will not become another European Empire, when it shows every sign of morphing into exactly that. Like the Soviet Union, the EU is loudly proclaimed to be the greatest hope for eternal peace on earth --- even as Europe is once again threatened by Islamic aggression. So there is a fundamental mendacity and self-deception about European discourse today.
The dead hand of the past can't be lifted until Europe starts telling the truth. Like a good therapist, Europe will have to allow free thought to be expressed in a safe and secure way. The European Union can be a source of renewal, a way of leaving the troubled past behind. But as long as wild scapegoating is the order of the day --- against America or Israel, or any other convenient target --- Europe will still be caught in its terrible neurosis.
Finally, Europe will have to learn to defend itself --- because part of what ails the continent is a terrible case of hostile-dependence on the United States. That means that Europe will have to decide when to use military force on behalf of civilized values, without falling back into bad old Euro-Imperialism. No more Napoleon, no more Bismarck, no more you-know-who.
A functional defense establishment that allows Europeans to take responsibility over their own security is simple common sense. But that conversation keeps being evaded, as Europe pretends that peace on earth good will toward men is about the break out all over the world, by waving some magical EU wand. Bashing its only defender, the United States, is a truly adolescent evasion. It is high time for Europe to grow up, and to end its long, self-indulgent vacation from reality.
Blaming others won't solve it. Self-aggrandizement and boasting won't do it. Political realism, modesty, and truly free speech could be a step toward healing.
James Lewis blogs at http://www.dangeroustimes.wordpress.com/