"German Stormtroopers" conquer the Headlines in the USA

[translator's comment: I remember a picture of "Americans" I saw in a foreign magazine. It showed a ragged black wino in the gutter looking up at two unconcerned whites in their dinner clothes as they strode by on the sidewalk.]

Berliner Morgenpost
April 8, 1998

The American media draw a picture of the new states as being ruled by neo-nazis and xenophobes

By Friedemann Diederichs

BM Chicago/New York - First it was the "New York Times," then came TV magazines and local newspapers. Now the respected "Chicago Tribune", winner of multiple Pulitzer Prizes, distinguishes itself in the preliminary highlights. "Germany's new Stormtroopers" graces the front page of the Sunday edition - along with a picture of bald neo-nazis from the new German states.

The core of the message occupies the main spot on the page: In numerous cities and communities of "former communist-ruled East Germany", right radicals have begun their "ethnic cleansing." This is a term which the US editors have borrowed from the Balkan War. "They threaten and pursue foreigners, and have killed ten people in the past two years," reports the paper, and reproaches the German officials - as well as the rest of the US media in their reports: "The police solution has not been very effective." The US citizens are served a picture of Germany, the main course of which is that right-wing radicals and xenophobes are able to expand, unhindered, throughout a portion of the German Republic.

Reporters narrowly ascribe Third Reich "Blitzkrieg" tactics to the Nazi offspring: "They rush the foreigners and beat them with baseball bats for exactly four and a half minutes, because they know that the police can be there, at the earliest, in five minutes." The reports from the last few weeks all revolve exclusively around the topic of neo-nazis, and create the impression that foreigners are taking their lives into their own hands in this part of Germany, even if they are on the street for only a few seconds.

As proof of the allegedly escalating situation in the new German states, the "Chicago Tribune" refers to news magazines, for instance to the "Spiegel", in which a survey determined that 65 percent of the east Germans have complained about "too many foreigners", and that there are still 14 percent who would welcome a dictator, because this would solve the problem faster than the German government. "The old demon has returned," reflects the US reporter, and writes a few statements of foreigners from the city of Furstenwalde near Berlin. The message they give is that no foreigner can feel safe in Furstenwalde, the police only protect the Nazis, and the objective of all attacks is to drive the immigrants out of the country. The legal actions which have been taken against radical neo-nazis in east Germany are only mentioned in a half a sentence. That is done in a quote by a Lebanese to show that the measures are hardly worth mentioning.

The articles about right extremist activity in the new German States does not bother the Office of Foreign Affairs in Bonn. A speaker from that office told the "Berliner Morgenpost", "A critical report about Germany is absolutely alright. Journalistic methods, such as provoking headlines, are legitimate." Bonn's representatives in Washington have evaluated all articles about Germany, and have determined that the reports of 1997 were balanced and fair. Only ten percent of the reports had to do with Nazis, compared with 50 percent about business topics. "Even if right-wing extremism were the main topic of discussion, the measures taken by the state would consist, for the most part, of processes and investigative committees.


America's Picture of Germany

Far, far away
by Kirstin Wenk

When US journalists report on Germany, they address only the negative. Above all in the former communist East: neo-Nazis wielding baseball bats chase foreigners as the police stand by, smiling. The government does not know what to do. This picture is embellished with reports about the alleged Scientology persecution. This is how racist, nationalistic Germany has been resurrected for the USA.

Nevertheless, one cannot hold the media solely responsible for these reports. For one thing, they are based on facts. For another, the media is in competition for the best quotes and the highest ratings. And, for Americans, Germany is far, far away. A little land on an old continent, which lost its charm when the wall fell. There is supposedly not much there as far as commerce goes, either. That is why sensational headlines, such as "Germany's New Stormtroopers" attract readers.

Regrettably, and of consequence, this distorted picture of Germany is what remains. It prevents a true understanding of the problems, and leads to fewer and fewer Americans who want to study in Germany, or learn the language. The only recourse is the old public relations motto, "Do good and talk about it." Therefore: combat right-wing extremist abuse in the country, and simultaneously, hold information campaigns in the USA. The proposed student exchange program between Hohenshoenhausen and Beverly Hills would be a good start.

German Scientology News