Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Stereotypes in the mainstream press

Hello yodelers

A Swiss blogger living in Texas, author of True America(n), recently wrote me an email suggesting that perhaps there is even more going on in some of these so-called news pieces I’ve posted than what I’ve previously mentioned.

He is right. So I would like to open up this discussion and see what you think as well.

The media can be dangerous, particularly magazines, newspapers, and TV news that we read or watch casually, like
Blick am Abend.

While I find it endlessly interesting to understand the European view of the U.S. by reading publications here, it can also be somewhat disturbing if you look deeper.

Here’s the Swiss blogger’s view of the article here. He is also responding to my recent posting of it:

I admire your viewing this as just a cultural difference and understand why others in the comments don't get it. What we’ve really got here is the stereotype and subtle propaganda you can find in every newspaper in Europe. It is the daily dose of Anti-Americanism in Europe since 1776. That's how the European press fosters a special image about the United States and Americans, for centuries and for various reasons.

So, what about this little innocent article? There is no real information, nothing newsworthy about it. There is only one reason for it: Keep a certain image alive about the U.S. and Americans. Let’s take a closer look at the caption and this first sentence. Europeans see Las Vegas as something "childish, silly, ridiculous" and also "fake, not genuine" or like many things in Vegas as a "copy" of something original in the old world. Las Vegas serves as a moniker in this text for those adjectives. In your translation, you also missed the German "immer", or „always.“ Its position in the sentence also puts stress on it. This little word actually pulls the whole sentence out of the context and becomes a general statement. Here's what people understand when they read this first sentence: "Americans are always childish and everything is fake."

As an American, I do find that this stereotype exists a lot in the press here. And I think it is dangerous to people who don’t understand both sides. American and Swiss cultures are very different—friendly and exuberant versus private and discreet. Nothing is wrong with either, except when we fail to try to understand the differences. It is unfortunate that a lot of mainstream media prefers stereotyping to in-depth stories that help us better understand the world. The American press is guilty of this as well. In fact, I think a lazy press is to blame for a lot of the issues in the world today.

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What do you see?

When I saw this picture in the local Blick am Abend newspaper I thought, "Oh, a graduation ceremony."

But then I read the caption and realized the Swiss saw something else: a little Las Vegas.

The beginning of this caption reads: Air Force Academy, CO--For the Americans, everything is a little Las Vegas.

I think this caption versus my original impression of the photo says a lot about the difference between Swiss and American culture.

What do you think?

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

What do the Swiss think of Americans?

Bell, a meat brand in Switzerland, has a new ad campaign advertising American style BBQ. Based on my last post, I thought their headline was actually quite appropriate: Think Big. Grill Big.

I don't think I could sum up American life much better. Could you?


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