The latest issue of the Weekly Standard gives everyone the chance to play a game called “What if it happened in America?”
What if in America there was a gang of neo-Nazis who, over the course of 14 years, murdered 10 people, nine of them “foreigners” and one a policewoman? What if the gang had also carried out a nail-bomb attack in an immigrant neighborhood? What if immigrant (in this case, Turkish) households and apartments were attacked with Molotov cocktails and spray-painted with Nazi SS symbols?
What if the authorities had resolutely maintained that the motive for these crimes was mysterious—ignoring the obvious fact that (almost) all of the victims had one thing in common? What if the gang responsible had been known to the police for years? What if, after two members of the gang were cornered and killed themselves after committing a bank robbery, credible allegations emerged that at least one of them may have been an informant for the intelligence services and might be linked with an intelligence officer with well-attested Nazi sympathies?
If those events had happened in the United States, the European media would have been all over it. They would deploy it to demonstrate the rise of fascism in America, mutter darkly about government conspiracies, and decry religion, conservatives, the corporate media, the CIA, and everything else they don’t like about the U.S. And, of course, The New York Times would have chipped in with yards worth of earnest column inches about the fundamental intolerance of American society in general and Republicans in particular.
That is the story that John Rosenthal tells in the latest issue of the Weekly Standard, except he tells it about Germany, where these events actually happened. But since they happened in Germany, not America, what we get is, well, a good story in the Standard, but apart from that, nothing. No big European media campaign about evil conservatives, no domestic American hand-wringing in the Times.
The lesson to take away from this is not, of course, that Germany is on the verge of fascism. It is that Germany has (to put it concisely) a complicated history when it comes to matters of ethnicity and that a lot of foreign and even domestic media coverage of the U.S. is really nothing more than the projection of the anxieties and concerns of others, and particularly of Europeans, onto us.