Friday, April 11, 2008

Through German Eyes....

Two big stories out of the US this week have been in the German news. They reported extensively on both the Olympic Torch relay through San Francisco and on the American Airlines/FAA debacle. We don’t look good in either story.

The French government knew there would be protests along the Olympic Torch’s route. They weren’t disappointed. No less than three times the French protesters managed to extinguish the Torch. Each time it was re-lit from the real Olympic flame (carried separately in two shielded torches, though I strongly suspect it was some French gendarme’s Bic). Finally, overwhelmed by the protests, they canceled the remainder of the run.

Fast-forward to San Francisco. The night before, the German news was reporting that officials were considering changing the route. And we weren’t disappointed – they did, depriving both protesters of their free speech and peaceful spectators a view of the torch. A select few, reminiscent of a Bush campaign event crowd, got to see the torch go by. The rest were deprived.

German news presented this as cowardice. I can’t argue. They presented it as an attempt by the Chinese and the Olympic committee to prevent free speech. I can’t argue. They presented it as the City of San Francisco and by extension the United States being unable to control crowds or tolerate dissent. I’m sure they can control crowds. They have plenty of tear gas and rubber bullets. It’s the dissent part we can no longer tolerate as a country – dissent is unpatriotic, remember? You’re with us or against us, remember? The German news nailed that one.

The second issue was American Airline's shoddy maintenance practices and the FAA’s cozy refusal to enforce regulations. Plainly stated, the FAA looked away as airlines failed to perform adequate security checks and threatened members who reported the problem. Finally a whistle-blower went before Congress and exposed it, precipitating American Airline's actions.

Corruption was the German take, just as corrupt as the German representative who got ski lifts declared public transportation to reduce the tax the operators pay (if they’d passed the savings on to customers, I’d vote for the rep… :-) ). And again, they nailed it. Abuse of power – the threats against the FAA employee who threatened to report the problems. They nailed it again. And risking lives – again the Germans got it right.

I don’t know what was reported on these issues in the States but the German coverage was accurate, factual and fair, no artificial balance, no color reporting, just pure, damning facts. I appreciate that. Although I’m looking forward to home on Sunday, I’ll miss their reporting.

Perhaps I’ll have to read Der Spiegel off the Internet more often.

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