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Excellent diary - hard to find anything to add or comment except for the painfully obvious: this situation and these perceptions are "not just German", they're emblematic of Europeans as a whole.

"Ignoring moralities is always undesirable, but doing so systematically is really worrisome." Mohammed Khatami
by eternalcityblues (parvati_roma aaaat libero.it) on Sat Nov 4th, 2006 at 03:28:43 PM EST
The way I've come to see it is that our biggest problems is that we've come to believe all the ugly things that are being said about our countries in the English language press, and to repeat them ourselves, and it depresses us.

This is not to say that we do not have problems, but I refute that our countries or even our economies or our social fabric is in any worse shape that that of the countries so often touted as models (hint: their names start by U). But this is what is being said and repeated and believed by everybody and it's all lies.

Thus we have to fight the lies.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Nov 4th, 2006 at 04:07:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
this is the second time in recent days that I see stories about povery in Germany. The survey of the Economist on France last week also flagged the "worrying" poverty numbers for France.

Who the fuck are they kidding? Not that poverty is not a problem, of course it is, but the point is that it is a MUCH SMALLER problem in France and Germany than in the USA or the UK (precisely, I might add, because of the policies these people are hell bent on "reforming), and yet we now only talk about poverty in France or Germany and people end up thinking - becuase that's essentially what's being stated - that there is no poverty in the USA and the UK.

And yes, this pisses me off to no end.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Nov 4th, 2006 at 04:10:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If so, the Economist is hopping on a German domestic debate by turning it upside down and omitting comparison. A study for a branch of the SPD analysed that the neoliberal reforms of recent years in Germany have created a new underclass (Unterschicht). There was much hypocritical debate after this (with former Schröderites in denial, Greens pretending they had no part in it, and CDU pretending this is only about Schröder era policies).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Nov 4th, 2006 at 06:41:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I note the Unterschichten-Debatte gave a slight dent in SPD's poll numbers, moving it again under CDU's..

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Nov 4th, 2006 at 06:43:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What is the definition of poverty?

Is it a monetary metric that may include those who by choice have a self-restricted consumption lifestyle? Is it based on ownership? I recall the definition of poverty in a UK study of the 80s that used non-ownership of a colour TV as one definition.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 06:21:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A standard definition of poverty is 60% of median income.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 07:00:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think that the low approval ratings are simply about believing the English-language press.

I read the German situation as somewhat analogous to that in the US. There as well, the macroeconomic metrics are looking pretty good, at least superficially. But the Repugs are unable to capitalize on this because none of the gains are trickling down (if you will excuse that term) to the broader society.

To my mind it's about fairness.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 08:51:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
we've come to believe all the ugly things that are being said about our countries in the English language press, and to repeat them ourselves, and it depresses us.

But would you go so far as to say that this increase in discontent is wholly due to buying the bad-mouthing hype of the English-press?

Are conditions such in Germany that "objectively" Germans today should be feeling better about things rather than worse?  If so, that is giving a lot of credit to the English press.

If on the other hand conditions are indeed worse than they were in the past, but not as bad as they are in the U.K. and the U.S., then maybe this is not just irrational worrying on the part of Germans, but also perhaps a matter of higher expectations, higher "quality standards" so to speak, with more rigorous demanding of satisfactory results from the government.

If only the ARD could come over to the U.S. to do a similar survey to release the results just in time for the midterm Congressional elections.

Rien ne réussit comme le succès.

by marco on Sat Nov 4th, 2006 at 10:27:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But would you go so far as to say that this increase in discontent is wholly due to buying the bad-mouthing hype of the English-press?

I'd say discontent has three sources (which count with different weight if at all for individual pessimist Germans): that the economic upturn doesn't benefit all, that there is no direction in federal politics just endless squabbles, and the unceasing badmouthing from the business press.

While I'd disagree with Jerôme that the last has that strong a role in the present downturn of public opinion, you have to realise that it is a very potent influence on Germany.

Germany is not like France and the USA, the most peoples' and the elites' patriotism/nationalism is much limited. There is a much greater willingless to listen to outside criticism -- and a naivety about critics' motives. Since I'm following the German media, I see the public being subjected to an unceasing series of widely disseminated reports badmouthing the country, serious comparisons with abroad get much less airtime, and real German successes even less.

It's quite the inverse of how things are done in the USA, where every new trend or expanding industrial branch is declared to be the harbringer of a new boom that brings total change. In Germany, if something new is introduced, its proponents will of course praise it in similar terms, but the media will focus in on what sceptics say or on initial problems.

An example. One of the last successes of the previous Red-Green government was the introduction of highway road toll for lorries. It was badmouthed by the road lobby, and due to shabby preparation and sheer complexity, the remote tracking system wasn't truly operational for months -- this was all over the headlines. But now that by now the system is fully operational and brings heaps of money into the German federal budget (more than €5 billion since its start nearly two years ago), it is but a small news on the back pages, even though it is now studied by other countries as a model to follow.

This "Anglo-Saxon" propaganda is all-pervasive and nauseating. Even currently, the rhetoric is that although the economy is running and the budget deficit is the smallest in 15 years, it's all temporary and 'reforms' must continue.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 04:16:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
While I'd disagree with Jerôme that the last has that strong a role in the present downturn of public opinion, you have to realise that it is a very potent influence on Germany.

When scanning Der Spiegel's headline articles, they sometimes do seem to have some strikingly neoliberal tendencies.

In Germany, if something new is introduced, its proponents will of course praise it in similar terms, but the media will focus in on what sceptics say or on initial problems.

I wonder if this is not also a European trait in general, at least relative to the U.S.

This "Anglo-Saxon" propaganda is all-pervasive and nauseating. Even currently, the rhetoric is that although the economy is running and the budget deficit is the smallest in 15 years, it's all temporary and 'reforms' must continue.

It's also ridiculous, and sometimes pitiful.

Nevertheless, as the maps of European job gains below indicate, there do seem to exist certain "objective" conditions in Germany which could be substantial reasons for the current malaise described in this diary; it would be somewhat of a stretch to blame the English language press for these.




Rien ne réussit comme le succès.

by marco on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 05:28:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you look closely, only a small part of West Germany is orange, while London is orange -- and London is not spoken of in similar negative mood. That East Germany is in continuing bad shape is really bad, but local (and encompassing some sixth to seventh of the total population), while the depression is all of Germany.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 06:02:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
only a small part

Sorry, I meant "the smaller part", and I was already contemplating population which  you may not know where concentrates.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 06:05:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Looking at it again, scratch it: on the blow-up I see London itself is not orange, only its surroundings.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 06:07:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A different approach:

First, this map is not relevant to the current (second half of 2006) downturn in public opinion, because this is the 2000-2005 change, and just in the last few months, an opposite trend (e.g. increase of jobs) started. On the other hand, the decrease of jobs is arguably a consequence of certain neoliberal reforms (and business policies shifting from Rhineland Capitalist to neoliberal), not the consequence of lack of such "reforms" as the Anglo-Saxon press argues. I.e., I see a loopback effect between the rhetoric and real socio-economic problems (one of which I named as first of three reasons).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 06:19:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
First, this map is not relevant to the current (second half of 2006) downturn in public opinion, because this is the 2000-2005 change, and just in the last few months, an opposite trend (e.g. increase of jobs) started.

Very possibly.  Have jobs increased enough to turn those orange areas into peach?  If so, perhaps  Stimmung has yet to catch up with reality.

On the other hand, the decrease of jobs is arguably a consequence of certain neoliberal reforms (and business policies shifting from Rhineland Capitalist to neoliberal), not the consequence of lack of such "reforms" as the Anglo-Saxon press argues. I.e., I see a loopback effect between the rhetoric and real socio-economic problems (one of which I named as first of three reasons).

I wrote it would be a "stretch" to attribute unpleasant  conditions in Germany to the English language press (and its "neoliberal" rhetoric).  What you are describing is the one way I could think of where such blaming might happen.  But this is giving the English press even more credit than Jerome does: basically it is saying that if things are bad in Germany, it's because Germans (Schroeder?) were too weak and/or gullible in the face of the neoliberal rhetoric, caved in, and implemented "reforms" that caused the job situation they had through 2005.  That's a totally plausible scenario and very well may be true.  But it seems a bit too pat and convenient: if something is going well, it's because we are doing things the German/European/Social Democratic way, but if something is going bad, it's because the Anglo-Saxons bullied/seduced/tricked us into doing it.  (My own no doubt too simplistic guess as to why much of Germany was orange was that this was due to still lingering effects of the reunification.)

Again, it may very well be true, that the 2000 to 2005 drop in employment in many parts of Germany were due to Anglo-American-driven neoliberal "reforms" (in the late 90s/early 2000s?), while the 2006 improvement in the job situation was due to a return to German/Social democratic form of capitalism (in the last 2-3 years?).  But I guess I would like to see that case argued in more detail.

Rien ne réussit comme le succès.

by marco on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 07:22:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Okay, reading dvx's comment below (in particular, his phrase the "reforms" to date), I see that the scenario you describe is more plausible than I had thought.

Rien ne réussit comme le succès.
by marco on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 07:31:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If so, perhaps  Stimmung has yet to catch up with reality.

It's more like they go in opposite directions. At the time of the World Cup, when positive macroeconomic trends were also already showing,  public sentiment as measured by various indexes was rather positive (by German standards).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 08:29:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
still lingering effects of the reunification

A question is, why do those effects have to linger on? The explanation might have something to do with policy.

while the 2006 improvement in the job situation was due to a return to German/Social democratic form of capitalism

For the record, I haven't said that (in fact I see no return to another form of capitalism at all). For the purposes of this thread, the uncoupling of public sentiment and macroeconomic trends is more interesting than the actual reasons behind the current upswing. (My own guess would be that we are seeing the late effects of the World Cup, the effect of stopped oil price increase on the world economy, and the fruits of projects companies they held back during the elections but restarted after.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 08:38:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For the record, I haven't said that (in fact I see no return to another form of capitalism at all).

Yes, sorry, I misinterpreted your previous comment.

For the purposes of this thread, the uncoupling of public sentiment and macroeconomic trends is more interesting than the actual reasons behind the current upswing.

In your other comment you wrote,

If so, perhaps  Stimmung has yet to catch up with reality.

It's more like they go in opposite directions. At the time of the World Cup, when positive macroeconomic trends were also already showing,  public sentiment as measured by various indexes was rather positive (by German standards).

And I found that so striking, I wanted to make sure I understood it correctly:  You're saying that up to the World Cup, real economic conditions were actually not that great, but public sentiment was pretty good, but since then, as macroeconomic trends started getting positive, public sentiment has gone down?

If so, this is indeed pretty fascinating indeed.  I am sure someone has diaried something along these lines already, but it would be interesting to compare and contrast such trends across various countries.  For example, Colman and Andre the Giant have written about the falseness of the American Dream.  It would be interesting to examine just how far education, myths and propaganda can convince people -- negatively or positively -- that things are different than they are.  (I guess on the extreme side you have North Korea -- but even there I think far fewer people are buying the party line than merely pretend to.)

I see Jerome has just launched another counteroffensive against neoliberal criticisms of France...

Rien ne réussit comme le succès.

by marco on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 04:58:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think there is more of double bind going on.

Yes, to an extent we've come to believe all the ugly things that are being said about our countries in the English language press, and to repeat them ourselves, and it depresses us.

But people in Germany are also seeing that the "reforms" to date have made their situation more precarious, and that a global economy "run" entirely on marketista principles will further undermine them both individually and collectively.

What I find fascinating (in a somewhat macabre kind of way) when discussing such subjects is how many people unquestioningly accept the current economic system, as if it were a natural law and not a construct.

If we can formulate an alternative the lies will start to wither.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 05:18:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I wonder about your use of "English language press" as a categorization of all that is wrong-headed. Is there a pan-European language other than English?

You are equating the language of the newspaper, English, with an economic model and a broad mindset that does not see "European," and yet if English is the common language of Europe, one would think that there would be European-language (i.e., English) news sources that reflect the proper European way of looking at things.

What are they? Who are the European-language news outlets that I can read that will reflect the correct way of looking at things? BBC? Guardian? Spiegel?

by asdf on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 01:35:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]

What are they? Who are the European-language news outlets that I can read that will reflect the correct way of looking at things? BBC? Guardian? Spiegel?

Quite simply, they are not in English.

EVERYTHING in English has a anti-French, anti-German and anti-European bias. It's not as pronounced in every publication and every article, but it's the general background against which stories are built.

And I do mean this a a sweeping statement.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 02:10:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is a pretty big problem, then, I would say. If der Spiegel can offer an English version, why can't the journals that tell it the way it is (or should be)?

Apparently the left in Europe is not interested in communicating with the rest of the world?

by asdf on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 06:39:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EVERYTHING in English has a anti-French, anti-German and anti-European bias.

Does the Le Monde Diplomatique in English have an anti-French, anti-German and anti-European bias?  How about EuroNews in English?

They very well may; I only rarely read them so I wouldn't know.  But as I noted in dvx's diary on Germany, I am often struck by neoliberal undercurrents in Der Spiegel's English version.

Rien ne réussit comme le succès.

by marco on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 06:56:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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