panem et circenses

Two interesting, but also kinda controversial articles that appeared on Der Spiegel Online today, the website of the German weekly magazine:

The first one on the ailing German blogosphere (in German) that has been busy trying to constantly polemize itself and the lack of more influential power-bloggers who also participate in politics (compare that with Loic LeMeur & Sarkozy in France). Now while there are quite a few talented German bloggers, the use of blogs is certainly not as widespread as in other European countries.

Politics = range of (controversial) subjects of which some are covered by the mainstream media, some by the blogosphere.

This may of course be due to different reasons, but then – also – there’s a vivid news culture in Germany and somehow free media that covers world affairs. Just compare that with the US media and see why there are much more political bloggers in the USA.

Comparing these worlds, I think, just doesn’t make sense (I could go on for ages on this subject – just look at the German section of GlobalVoices!). On the other hand, I’d prefer much more political activism. Activism as such, however, is often (unfortunately) labeled as left-wing socialism – and if you look at today’s public image of the German party “Die Linke” which was mainly formed by former members of the (~communist) East German party SED and disappointed socialist from Germany’s oldest worker’s party SPD, you’ll instantly realize that many Germans (of course not all, see below) today are fed up with politics and don’t give a damn about who actually rules as long as politics do not switch to an extreme and do not reactive the usual stories on Nazis & Co. I guess it’s similar in other countries. I am sure there’s a reciprocally proportional relation between political activism and living conditions.
I think this also started way back in the 1970s and 80s when green issues started coming up on the agenda and activism centered around this absolutely neutral range of subjects (~ nuclear waste). No war, different kind of demonstrations. And then, also, Germany today lacks a range of charismatic leaders. Or do you really think that Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancelorette, is that sexy? Exactly.

Which of course gets me to the upcoming visit by Jesus Superstar Barack Obama to Germany. Rumour has it that other European nations are quite pissed about the attention his visit generated and that Germany will actually have a bigger timeslot than the British or France. Vanity.
Now, with such a visit on the schedule and an adequate editorial on Der Spiegel, it may be rather obvious that the editorial department placed a link to this story: “Flirthinweise fürs Feindesland“. And while Der Spiegel is definately not THE institution or THE only credible magazin out there, they at one point in the past invented something I really, really like: a section called “einestages – Zeitgeschichten auf SpiegelOnline”, which is like a multi-authored, edited & moderated public blog for readers who may contribute their own stories, images and videos of historical events, especially since the end of the 2nd WorldWar on just about anything.
This story “Flirthinweise fürs Feindesland” actually talks about a booklet issued by the USArmy at the end of WW2 and features a rather shocking short film called “Your Job in Germany”:

Your Job In Germany was a short film made by Frank Capra and Dr. Seuss for the United States War Department in 1945, intended to be shown to U.S. soldiers about to occupy Germany. It urged against fraternization with the German people, who are portrayed as thoroughly untrustworthy. (source)

I was a bit shocked when I saw this short film today and then thought: well…despite of the apparent need for such propaganda back then (bet it’s similar for the Iraq & other “freed” nations) – may the fading interest for common politics in todays Germany also be an indirect / not so obvious result of the political influence the US had on Europe in the past?

In the end, these discussions are not about politics, but about selling newspapers/magazines and editing interesting stories people want to read about. It’s a business. And that’s just one of the many reasons out there why the German blogosphere has in the past failed to create more influential (!) political bloggers. This, however, does not also imply that ppl aren’t interested in politics.

Interestingly, the SPON article also mentioned that the German edition of Wikipedia is the second largest in the world – which instantly reminded me of this article by Ethan Zuckerman where he mentioned the ailing Arabic-language edition of Wikipedia & huge number of bloggers in Egypt.

The remaining question is: is this discussion about political activism (= contributing ideas to society), or about citizen media?

Author: jke

Hi, I am an engineer who freelances in water & sanitation-related IT projects at You'll also find me on Twitter @jke and Instagram.