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?

20 comments:

Hattie said...

Perhaps living in Switzerland you are losing the sense of what life is like here. It is not all media spectacle. That cover does not look like anything American to me, at any rate.
I'm am American, and I don't like the military. I've never been to Las Vegas and have no desire to go there. I'm not at all unusual.

Paul said...

As a Brit, I personally find Las Vegas pretty silly and fake, as does my American wife. I have relatives back in Britain who absolutely love Vegas, however.

Switzerland is a different place, however. I've never quite got my head around it as a country, though I love the southwest of Germany, Black Forest etc. I followed your blog to get some insights into Switzerland! hehe!

There are some negative stereotypes in Europe of America and Americans, for sure. Because of America's enormous economic power, people feel worried (rationally or otherwise) that their own culture will be swamped by America culture.

Paul
http://fromsheeptoalligators.blogspot.com/

Kelly Jarosz said...

I'm constantly frustrated with the media for avoiding actual discussion of issues in favor of promoting stereotypes and fear.

The wonderful thing about living and traveling abroad is seeing that real people from other cultures are much more diverse than the media make it appear (and hopefully for them to see that not all Americans fit the stereotypes they see).

Mama B said...

Can't agree with the "anti-American" conspiracy theory. Truth is, Europeans are mesmerized with many things Americana (good and bad) and discuss them accordingly.

I think this article truly is an issue of cultural differences. What kind of systemic, concerted "anti-American campaign" runs a US graduation ceremony story, when there is Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya......and Sarah Palin? More bang for your buck if you ask me.

bobbieliz said...

I do think that the "immer Las Vegas" is misunderstood in this conversation. I have met many Swiss over many years who, when they think of America, Las Vegas is always one of the places they plan to visit or have visited...and they like the magic of it. I think they do like the light heartedness of our American ways. And this graduation, I think, was seen by the newspaper, as more of this. I didn't find Swiss looking at us in a pejorative way in the years I lived in Switzerland, and I don't find it that way today when I am visiting.

Excimer said...

As an American who grew up in Las Vegas and is currently living in Switzerland, my background is clearly grounded in mythology. Most people when they find out I'm from Las Vegas respond "...people live there?" When an American says it, it's in jest. When someone from Europe says it... they might be serious.

Of course, 95% of Las Vegas is like any other American city. The 5% that is fake and childish is what makes Las Vegas its money, though, so perpetuating that stereotype is good for the economy.

Somewhat more distressing, in my opinion, is when an American running for president happens to have a Swiss last name, and this makes headlines in 20 Minuten, and this person is Michele "God Told Me To Do It" Bachmann: http://www.20min.ch/news/ausland/story/29044446

She's not even Swiss! Her husband is. Sigh, come on, Swiss media. Her last name is about the LEAST crazy thing about her.

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