Tuesday, June 21, 2005

(Un)diplomatic bias

A few days ago the Wall Street Journal ran an eye-opening (and depressing) article by Bret Stephens about a conversation he had with a senior German diplmomat posted in New York (via Davids Medienkritik):
But the diplomat had no patience for my small talk. Apropos of nothing, he said he had recently made a study of U.S. tax laws and concluded that practices here were inferior to those in Germany. Given recent rates of German economic growth, I found this comment odd. But I offered no rejoinder. I was, after all, a guest in his home.
The diplomat, however, was just getting started. Bad as U.S. economic policy was, it was as nothing next to our human-rights record. Had I read the recent Amnesty International report on Guantanamo? "You mean the one that compared it to the Soviet gulag?" Yes, that one. My host disagreed with it: The gulag was better than Gitmo, since at least the Stalinist system offered its victims a trial of sorts.
Nor was that all. Civil rights in the U.S., he said, were on a par with those of North Korea and rather behind what they had been in Europe in the Middle Ages. When I offered that, as a journalist, I had encountered no restrictions on press freedom, he cut me off. "That's because The Wall Street Journal takes its orders from the government."
I have no idea to what extent such despicable opinions are shared by the people of Germany (and the rest of Euorpe) but make no mistake, they are quite common - if often unexpressed. I find the sheer dishonesty of the comments simply baffling. Does this person seriously believe that what he is saying accurately and fairly reflects reality? How can it be that such people populate the upper echelons of the German diplomatic corps?
To get a good idea of the extent of the bias take a look around Davids Medienkritik, an excellent blog that focuses on German attitudes. Some of the media here in Europe are literally corrupting the public dicourse by creating consensus opinions that are totally unmoored from reality - and in my view this is one of the most dangerous trends affecting the Western world (and Western Europe specifically). This is why the intellectual toil of exposing and debunking these incredible distortions and prejudices is so important and valuable.

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