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Flagellating the Fatherland

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Flagellating the Fatherland
Photo: DPA
17:06 CEST+02:00
The New York Times on Thursday blasted Germany for its reaction to the Greek debt crisis. But the paper's criticism of Berlin is naïve and flawed, argues The Local's Marc Young in an editorial rebuttal.

I know The New York Times is facing painful cutbacks these days, but putting a Bild story through Google translate is no basis for an inflammatory editorial.

America's paper of record on Thursday published a blistering critique of Germany's response to the eurozone emergency sparked by Greece's debt woes. Titled “Germany vs. Europe,” the opinion piece painted an ugly picture of a callously selfish Germany returning to petty nationalistic tendencies in times of crisis.

It then quoted Bild, Germany's biggest and – rather more importantly – most sensationalist paper, as evidence how the country was rife with absurdly anti-Greek sentiment.

The barbarous Germans are demanding the Greeks sell the Acropolis! The Germans want to kick the lazy Greeks out of the euro!

In truth, Bild's anti-Greek campaign was simply a classic tabloid effort to sell papers with populism. Would the New York Times base an editorial on US healthcare reform on Fox News reporting? The boys in the Axel Springer tower must be giddy with glee for managing to hoodwink America's most important daily with such transparently silly coverage.

On the back of this breathtaking journalistic lapse, the editorial goes on to attack Germany for refusing to simply open its chequebook and pay off the European Union's problems as it has for much of the post-war era.

Certainly criticism of Chancellor Angela Merkel's dithering approach to the Greek crisis is warranted. I've dished up some myself. But is the New York Times editorial page so naïve that it believes American politicians are above being guided by domestic concerns?

No one at the Times would ever have questioned the United States or France for sticking up for the national interest. It's only when Germany suddenly decides to assert itself that a respectable paper can have the gall to speak of “nationalist illusions,” conjuring up images of jackbooted thugs marching across the Rhine.

Perhaps most absurdly, the Times faintly praised Germany for resisting the fiscal recklessness of some other EU nations – and the US – yet demanded Berlin now spend like a drunken sailor to save the global economy from certain disaster. Maybe the Midtown Manhattan pontificators would also like to suggest German consumers rack up some punishing credit card debt like their American cousins to spur domestic demand?

It's likely no coincidence the paper published this piece the same day US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was in Berlin to push Germany to do more to boost the global economy. But it's rather doubtful the editors at the Times did the Obama administration any favours with their ill-informed hatchet job.

The next time the New York Times op-ed page cares to devote so much space to Germany, perhaps they should read The Local first. We'd be happy to educate them about what's going on here – and they wouldn't even have to use Google translate.

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