Well, well. Hardly a week has gone by since the publisher and editor of Der Spiegel magazine in Germany proclaimed their solemn intention to halt the torrent of neurotic anti-American hate propaganda. But the busy worker bees of Der Spiegel can't be diverted so easily from their normal habits. This week's offering for those who need their anti-American fix is a headline that shouts, Why Many People Desire Sex with Objects and Buildings... and yes, the lady in the pic is fondling New York City's Twin Towers. Why not the Brandenburg Gate? The Eiffel Tower? Notre Dame Cathedral? The Taj Mahal? As Ray D. at David's Media Critique writes
"So much for showing respect to the American friends. It doesn't matter that nearly 3,000 people died in those buildings. Now it is apparently OK to exploit them for tasteless stories on people with sexual perversions.
As David sometimes says: ‘You may throw up now.'"
Something is deeply awry in the German post-Cold War psyche. It has become strangely twisted. Today's xenophobic obsession were not seen in West Germany when the Berlin Wall was still standing, and it would have been censored in the East. Oddly enough, the German neurosis parallels the very weird French obsession with national grandeur, as in French Foreign Minister Domique de Villepin's mad scribblings about a neo-Napoleonic Imperial France. In Russia, Vladimir Putin is falling back on one-man rule, and snarling at the Poles, the Czechs, and the Latvians in the bad old Czarist-Soviet style. It is as if Old Europe is replaying the 19th century, as if it is stuck between rejecting today's realities and rejecting the discredited past, being unable to live with either one.
Cultural historians like Jakob Burckhard suggested that Germany has always been torn between the "civilized" Greco-Roman-Christian past and its "primitive" Nordic tribal legacy. It is hard to believe that, even though it is still a common interpretation of German national conflicts. After 1800 German xenophobia was directed against France, just as French nationalism was aimed against Germany. Germany and France carried on four giant wars over two centuries, from Napoleon to World War Two. But today, in the fantasy world of the European Union, those ancient hatreds are said to be resolved and transcended. Which would be very good if it were true.
So what's going on with uncontrollable anti-Americanism in the European media? If nothing else, it suggests that the old nightmares have not yet faded. Xenophobia is what it is. Only the targets of hatred change. Yesterday it was France, Russia, or England. Today it is America and "Anglosaxonism" (itself an old 19th century racialist label, which now refers to any English-speaking country, including presumably Canada, Barbados and India). But of course the genuine danger is arising from the dissemination of nuclear weapons to radical Islamist powers in the Middle East and Asia.
Let's hope Der Spiegel and its cohort are only suffering from a passing affliction, like a bad cold. If it is not, the running flywheel of intra-European conflict is simply repeating itself, and it could just keep going in one form or another in the future. Maybe that's why Europe needs the bureaucratic imperialism of Brussels. But what good does the EU do if it only treats the rest of the world the way European countries used to treat each other?
The American assumption is generally that human beings naturally thrive on freedom. What if Europe is telling us how afraid it still is of really being free? There are teenagers who lash out at their parents because they are begging to be controlled as they were a few years before as children. They have a hostile-dependent relationship. Is that what Der Spiegel and the European media are madly signalling to us? Are they yearning for the child-like security of the Cold War?