Dude, where’s my brains?

Young Germans are devouring anti-U.S. books and reveling in anti-U.S. conspiracy theories, reports the Christian Science Monitor. In a recent survey, 1 in 3 Germans under the age of 30 said the US government had something to do with the Sept. 11 attacks.

In the past six months, Wenzel, a teenager from the eastern German town of Strausberg has read four books by his new favorite author — American filmmaker, humorist, and vocal critic of President Bush — Michael Moore. Wenzel recently attended one of two sold-out appearances by Mr. Moore in one of Berlin’s largest concert halls.

“Not only do I really like what Michael Moore is saying, but I can really imagine that Bush had something to do with the [Sept. 11] attacks,” says the ninth-grader. “It could, of course, be a coincidence — but a really good one for Bush; it is too good an excuse for his wars. The Americans needed a good reason to attack so that they could exploit other countries for oil or whatever.”

What was once East Germany is fertile soil for anti-U.S. conspiracy theories that blame President Bush or the CIA for staging the Sept. 11 attacks.

“I think that some — not all — of the people who believe in these theories see a certain pardon for Germany’s history there,” says (editor Klaus) Hillenbrand. “They see that Germany is still measured against the Holocaust, and they have now found a point where the Americans are also very evil and that we Germans then don’t have to feel inferior to them.”

Young Wenzel and Michael Moore make a cute couple.

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  1. Ken Summers says:

    “1 in 3 Germans under the age of 30 said the US government had something to do with the Sept. 11 attacks”

    Well, we did have something to do with it. We were attacked. Oh, that’s not what they meant?

    “I think that some — not all — of the people who believe in these theories see a certain pardon for Germany’s history there…They see that Germany is still measured against the Holocaust”

    This would also apply to West Germany, so I found interesting the statement that “East Germany is fertile soil for anti-U.S. conspiracy theories”. I suspect that 55 years of continual dictatorship might explain differences between East and West.

  2. This quote astonishes me:

    “Citing a fear that an entire generation of young Germans is coming of age politically amid an atmosphere of anti-Americanism – and what officials are calling a growing potential for violent anti-Americanism – the Embassy’s public-affairs department has recently started sending Americans into German schools to talk to children and youth about life in the US.”

    Several things come to mind:
    1) what do they think they can teach about America in a classsroom session that children who live in an American mass-media soaked culture don’t already know?

    2) given that most of the world is in a state of at least suspended judgement about how trust-worthy American leaders are, don’t they think that a little meet and greet will only raise suspicions? Won’t jaded German children be suspicious if they hear their parents and journalists questioning American policy and then see a smiling American arrive for show and tell?

    3) will they do this everywhere? What about Canada? What about France? Can I expect the local American consulate to begin visiting elementary schools in my neighbourhood?

    I’d like to see the questionaire. This is the kind of issue where asking the right questions in the right order can lead people to agree with a vague statement like “Americans had something to do with it”.

    And what kind of guilt do they think those under 30 are feeling for WWII? My German husband and his friends view that as history, not their own baggage.

  3. By thinking us evil; they become, by comparison, less evil…

  4. “By thinking us evil; they become, by comparison, less evil…”

    As someone married to a German and who spent 5 weeks in Germany this summer, I think this is the weakest part of a weak article. Germans of that generation do not feel burdened by guilt. To them, it’s history – sad, tragic, stupid – but not their own baggage.

  5. Andy Freeman says:

    > To them, it’s history – sad, tragic, stupid – but not their own baggage.

    And it’s their future too.

    Things are different this time – we’ll probably let them keep France. I doubt that they’re smart enough to stop there, but ….

  6. PJ/Maryland says:

    Well, at least the Harry Potter books are outselling Michael Moore…

    Ken, my impression is that the East German schools made a bigger show of the Holocaust, along with the pro-Soviet and anti-American propaganda. I can’t see that affecting a teen like Wenzel, but I think it would have a bearing on the under-30 crowd mentioned in the survey.

    …what do they think they can teach about America in a classsroom session that children who live in an American mass-media soaked culture don’t already know?

    Sarah, I’d like to think they talk about how living with a free press and with free speech guarantees means dissent is not quashed the way Moore likes to claim. Also, they can explain that most of us do not live in mansions in California, or on oil ranches in Dallas. And that babysitters are hardly ever murdered by hockey-mask-wearing asylum escapees… There are an awful lot of misperceptions ready to be picked up from American mass media, after all.

  7. Which generation: the one which looked the other way as six million were killed, or the one which looked the other way as the soviet-puppet government terrorized and killed their own families and friends???????

  8. Andy Freeman says:

    > 1) what do they think they can teach about America in a classsroom session that children who live in an American mass-media soaked culture don’t already know?

    Considering that at least some in Germany’s intellectual class think that Legally Blonde 2 is a US civics lesson, that’s hard to answer.

    They’re soaked in US media, but they don’t actually know much about the US. Example: if you think “cowboy” is an insult, you don’t know America.

  9. Bill, my husband is in the under 35 crowd, Western Germany. So he’d be neither of your choices.

    My point – how much guilt do North American teens feel because of Japanese internment camps, or the slaughter of entire tribes of Natives? I’d say that while they regret it, they do not feel ownership of it as an issue. German youth do not in general have the same issues about WWII that the German man quoted in the article apparently has.

  10. So what’s this about? People believing crazy things? Or opposing the US government?

    Or is it, as Sarah suggested above, the fact that there’s a generation of Germans who aren’t apologising any more? It seems to me there’s more than a hint of a racial element in the US Embassy reaction as noted in the piece.

  11. Andy Freeman says:

    Aww, poor Jerry.

    Except, it’s not race, it’s nationality. German-Americans don’t seem nearly as prone to wearing tin-foil hats.

  12. I seem to recall the poll in question being phrased more along the lines of “do you believe that the US government could have been involved in the 9/111 attacks”, rather than “do you believe the US government was…”. A question about speculation and possibility, that is, rather than certainty.

    That certainly puts a different light on things, though that 1/3 the population even thinks it possible seems odd (and, frankly, disgusting). Then again, like was said, that seems as likely the influence of sheer ignorance of the Real America as much as tinfoil-hat influence.

  13. Sarah,

    Look Around! There is a small but loud group of “young people” (albeit dupes of the socialist/leftist establishment), screaming for reparations for everybody. These various groups include japanese-americans and indians (and just about everyone else except WASPs)…..

  14. No, this generation doesn’t feel burdened with guilt for WWII. That’s probably why anti-semitism is on the rise again. How long til the next Chrystalnight?

  15. Kirk Parker says:

    >The Americans needed a good reason to attack so that they could exploit other countries for oil or whatever.

    That last word really sums it up, doesn’t it???

  16. jeff wright says:

    Germans are much like Americans in that they know little about the people of other countries. Nor do they care. If one travels within Europe one will note that the Germans tend to export their own culture whenever possible. Don’t expect a world-class Italian meal in Italian resort areas along the Adriatic. Schnitzel in abundance, but medicore Italian food. I’ve lived in the country for several years, speak the language, and have had German friends, some of whom were high-ranking government officials. Nice people, but totally preoccupied with their own navels.

    What Germans know about Americans is based on crappy TV programs and movies, as well as trips to Disneyworld. They don’t understand our underlying ideology and are prone to make grievous miscalculations regarding our motives and actions. Witness Hitler, who was convinced the U.S. would stay out of the European war.

    The WW2 German generation was comprised of strong and in many ways admirable people, who recognized that within themselves which contributed to the Hitler era atrocities and were determined to eliminate all vestiges of it from their society. They developed a pacifistic and socialistic culture characterized by ambivalence towards the Cold War and the great struggle between democracy and Communism. By so doing, they lost much of their Germanic identity.

    Today’s Germany is a pathetic nation, gradually sinking under the weight of a cradel-to-grave welfare system and the concomitant fading of the work ethic. The admirable toughness that made Germans so difficult to defeat in war has been replaced by a softness not lost on the rest of the world. No one fears them anymore and they can’t stand it. The Germans are a lost tribe and they will become ever more insular and hostile to non-Germanic peoples with each passing year. Fortunately, they are so hostile towards things military that other countries need not fear them lashing out beyond their borders. However, one should expect rising discrimination against non-Germans, especially Semites and persons of color, within their borders.

    With regard to the war on terrorism, we can also expect internal pressures within Germany to make whatever accommodations are necessary to stave off attacks on German people and property. We should accordingly expect to find Germany to be an unacknowledged safe haven for interests hostile to the U.S.

  17. I am equally appalled by the number of Americans who take Michael Moore seriously. It is common to have someone pop into a discussion of gun rights and expect watching “Bowling for Columbine” to change our minds. Watch that soi desant documentary one more time, and pay attention to the way Charlton Heston’s necktie changes color while he is supposedly giving one speech.

  18. My father is an 80 year old WWII and Korea vet. He received an all expenses paid trip to Germany in 1944-45 where he helped liberate Europe and a couple of concentration camps. He maintains to this day, based on his assessment of the German national character, that “we’ll have to deal with the Krauts again sooner or later.” I realize that some people will consider this a horrible breach of political correctness. When I first heard his comment 35 years ago, I sluffed it off as unlikely. Now, I’m not so sure.

  19. When I was living in Germany in the late 70s, the local Germans thought the USA was a land of serious pollution and Germany was pristine. The reality was almost opposite. The small town I lived in was covered by a sulfur cloud in the winter. They burned high sulfur coal to heat their homes. I never experienced anything like it in steel mill towns back home in the 60s. The local fish were carp and stocked rainbow trout. The native brown trout were extinct in the local waters. I never saw a native brown trout in my 2 years in Germany. Germany is good land with good people, but they were misled by reports they got from their media.

  20. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Screw them!
    Take names, and if they ever apply to enter the United States, tell them to go to hell.
    We need not appologize to anyone, nor care what most of them think.

  21. Richard Cook says:

    Looks like people are a mite wound up ’round these parts. I’m not particularly against the Germans. I’m sure the young folks, after what their country went through from ’35 to the wall coming down pretty much ensured that they probably would not want to fight under any circumstances for a government. They’re experiences with governments haven’t been too positive ‘ya see. A disturbing number of conversations I hear and participate in during the day leave you thinking “reason and logic have fled”. I hear the same thing about Bush did it and we deserved it from otherwise sane and balanced people. People seem to believe anything that supports what they think. No matter if its accurate or not, well reasoned or not, done by a known fool or not. I had just come back after being recalled and spoke to a neighbor of my dad’s, a man I had known for years. Even after I described the people we are fighting the man said “I don’t think they want to kill us”. I stopped the conversation right there. What is the use? I would not be too quick to put the boot into the Germans just yet. We seem to have the same problem over here. Oh, yeah–if Moore’s book was so bad why did it sell so good?

  22. PJ/Maryland says:

    Oh, yeah–if Moore’s book was so bad why did it sell so good?

    Because it says what (some) people want to hear? And purports to support its statements with facts?

  23. Richard Cook says:


    Do not mistake my comment for support of Moore. I think he should be rolled off a cliff. I phrased the question badly. What I meant is that the book is obviously B.S. If is so recognized by so many as B.S. why do so many buy its arguments? And I’m not talking about undereducated people here. We hear what we want to hear regardless source, construction, etc.

  24. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Orwell had it right. When you control the definition of the meaning of words, you control discourse, and thus the world.

    Look at what “they” have done to cities with “traffic calming.”

  25. Bob Diethrich says:

    The great twentieth century novelist Henry Miller once observed that “Germans tend to make the best Americans, which is good because when they get together they make the worst Germans!”

  26. Bob Diethrich says:

    Give all those half-wit German young people a cookie, show them how to turn on a computer for puropses other than looking at porn and get to http://www.bowlingfortruth.com where just about every scene in the whole film is revealed for the misleading piece of fiction that it is!

  27. PJ/Maryland says:

    What I meant is that the book is obviously B.S. If is so recognized by so many as B.S. why do so many buy its arguments?

    Well, I expect some people who buy Moore’s book(s) don’t buy his arguments. I don’t know how to find out how many copies of his books have sold, but this Atlanta JC article says:
    “Michael Moore’s books sell in the seven figures,” [Publishers Weekly editorial director John] Baker says…

    There are more than 100 million households in the US, so we’re looking at a copy of Moore’s book in maybe 2% of them. Germany’s population is less than a third of the US’, and I expect any book selling more than 100k copies there counts as a bestseller. If Moore sells 250k copies in Germany, that would still be less than 1% of German households with a copy.

    So I guess the answer is, you can sell BS to some of the people all of the time.

  28. Mein Kampf was a big seller in Germany, too. Guess it must not have been B.S….

  29. “Mein Kampf was a big seller in Germany, too.”
    It’s not true. Millions of copies were given out for free but hardly anyone read it. I started reading the copy my grandparents got 70 years ago. It sucks. Greetings from Krautland Germany.