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A Bit of Brainwashing
By German Foreign Policy 1/7/10
Jul 7, 2010 - 7:43:39 AM

The German Minister for Family Affairs would like to see a continuation of the upsurge in nationalism engendered among Germans over the Soccer World Cup. Regarding the preponderance of public display of every sort of German flag, Kristina Schroeder declared that, above all, "what's so beautiful about the World Cup" is "that a nonchalant patriotism has become possible". She now hopes that "this feeling will endure longer than the World Cup". The minister's remarks are consensus, not only in Berlin's political circles, but also across the board in Germany's mass media, including its liberal segments, where, in the meantime, identifying with the German team and dissociation from other countries' teams is considered the proper thing to do - and this includes a growing lack of understanding for criticism of this behavior. At the local level, campaigns are being initiated against organizations refusing to go along with this upsurge in nationalism. For years, prominent social scientists have been warning that the alleged harmless "party-patriotism" is dangerous and foments chauvinist resentment.

Not the Better, but Germany

The German Minister for Family Affairs, Kristina Schroeder, declared in a recent interview in the press that she hopes that the nationalism that has become more prevalent in the German population, in the course of the Soccer World Cup, will "also persist beyond the World Cup."[1] According to Ms. Schroeder, "today it is no longer problematic to paint the German colors on the cheeks or put flags on the car," a "nonchalant patriotism" is "typical for our generation." The Minister for Family Affairs is 32 years old and embodies the coming generation of Berlin's political establishment. She says, in reference to the alleged "nonchalant patriotism" that this is "not a nationalism that excludes, but rather a positive, inviting feeling." In answer to the question of whether merely "the better" or "in any case Germany" should win in the World Cup, the ("positive", "inviting") minister answered: "Germany, naturally. Absolutely!"

Across the Board Consensus

The minister's remarks are consensus, not just in Berlin's political circles, but also across the board in Germany's mass media, including the liberal segments, where, in the meantime, identifying with the German team and dissociation from other countries' teams is considered the proper thing to do. According to the head of the editorial department of the German weekly "Die Zeit," the mass phenomenon of waving black-red-yellow flags being nationalism is "nonsense." "Nationalism" is found elsewhere, "with the neo-Nazis".[2] It is heard throughout the popular (public service) radio programs that "naturally" one is "in favor of Germany". The uniformly positive appraisal of enthusiasm for Germany falls in line with appraisals made back in 2006 by leading politicians. That year, in the course of the Soccer World Cup, national symbols, for the first time since the 1949 founding of the Federal Republic of Germany, were the predominating identifying characteristic in the entire public realm. At the time, German President Horst Koehler praised how "nonchalantly" the German flag was being used as decoration. At last national symbols could be celebrated "without accusation" declared the head of the Green parliamentary group in the federal parliament, Renate Kuenast.[3]

Dangerous Nonsense

The consequences of what is gladly referred to as "party patriotism," a euphemism for soccer nationalism, was demonstrated at the end of 2006 in a scientific analysis published by the prominent sociologist Wilhelm Heitmeyer. As documented by the authors, during the 2006 World Cup, an "upsurge in nationalism" was recorded. The "national identification with the whole of Germany" led to the depreciation of migrants.[4] According to Heitmeyer, the thesis that the Soccer World Cup produced a "tolerant patriotism" is "dangerous nonsense, a bit of brainwashing."[5] The authors of the analysis explicitly warn that "in any case (...) it is to be discouraged, to blanket the country, (...) with the complicity of mass media in identity and patriotism campaigns."[6] The analysis explains further that the "lack of patriotism accusation" could even "become a domestic battle cry and a term of ostracism."

"Germany Haters"

And this has already begun. One of the major German news magazines has already called those who criticized soccer nationalism during the 2008 World Championship "Germany haters". This term, which can be heard to a growing extent in daily life, has been picked up by the yellow press. "Germany haters are terrorizing soccer fans," was the headline of an article in a Berlin daily at the beginning of the week, reporting on a dispute over the public display of a 100m² German flag.[7] At the local level, campaigns have been initiated against organizations that reject the growing nationalism. The media in Eastern Germany's Rostock reported on the "dispute around an alternative public viewing,"[8] outraged because "fans with flags" were not allowed entry to a cultural center that asked television spectators to not display national flags. The cultural center "has come under criticism" and demands have been raised for stopping public funding and closing down the center. "It says a lot about its peacefulness and tolerance, when proponents of this new nationalism denounce its opponents," remarked one observer in Rostock.[9]

Internal Formation

The sociologist Wilhelm Heitmeyer predicted already back in 2006 that with the help of nationalism, pushed by politicians and media, "those members of the majority society should be emotionally reintegrated, who, socially, have been shut out."[10] According to a recent detailed study by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), the chasm between poor and rich is growing and the cleavage in German society is becoming obvious.[11] The growing nationalism can also be useful for a German foreign policy striving to enhance global influence. Last spring, a former prominent foreign policy maker of the ruling Christian Democratic Party (CDU) predicted "a new era of imperialism", bringing back 19th Century nationalism and colonialism.[12] Only a short time later, a German policy advisor pointed to a current debate in Berlin's establishment circles focusing on the introduction of dictatorial elements to strengthen Germany's position in the global competition.[13] The rapid upsurge in nationalism facilitates Germany's internal formation to become a power capable of intervening globally - with or without dictatorial elements.

[1] "WM-Erfolg lässt Geburten steigen"; www.rp-online.de 26.06.2010
[2] Jens Jessen: Schwarz-Rot-Goldene Begeisterung; www.zeit.de 15.06.2010
[3] Köhler und Künast erfreut über Fahnenmeer; www.spiegel.de 18.06.2010
[4] Julia Becker, Ulrich Wagner, Oliver Christ: Nationalismus und Patriotismus als Ursache von Fremdenfeindlichkeit, in: Wilhelm Heitmeyer (Hg.): Deutsche Zustände. Folge 5, Frankfurt am Main 2007
[5] Fußballtaumel und Fremdenfeindlichkeit; Süddeutsche Zeitung 15.12.2006
[6] Julia Becker, Ulrich Wagner, Oliver Christ: Nationalismus und Patriotismus als Ursache von Fremdenfeindlichkeit, in: Wilhelm Heitmeyer (Hg.): Deutsche Zustände. Folge 5, Frankfurt am Main 2007
[7] Deutschland-Hasser terrorisieren Fußball-Fans; www.berlinonline.de 29.06.2010
[8] Public Viewing: Flaggen und Polizisten verboten? www.ostsee-zeitung.de 25.06.2010
[9] Nationalismus: Wer nicht mitmacht, wird geächtet? www.ostsee-zeitung.de 26.06.2010
[10] Fußballtaumel und Fremdenfeindlichkeit; Süddeutsche Zeitung 15.12.2006
[11] see also Neue Armut
[12] see also A New Era of Imperialism
[13] see also A Bit of Dictatorship

 



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