Will press ever give Germans a break?

June 2, 2006

As World Cup mania overwhelms the media, The Times Higher asks German and journalism academics if war jingoism can be red-carded.

"The last time England faced Germany in the World Cup the press went over the top with Second World War headlines and the Press Complaints Commission did some serious finger-wagging. Will that stop them now all the games are in Germany? No chance. Any opportunity to whip up nationalistic fervour in the name of profits will be grabbed with both hands. Those with weak stomachs are advised to seek a World Cup hideaway if England make it to the semis."

Chris Frost, head of journalism at Liverpool John Moores University

"As a German national who has lived here forJ20 years, I have not experienced much anti-German sentiment. But the little boy of German friends of ours got beaten up at school after the famous 5-1 defeat a few years ago. Having recently moved from Wales to England, I am struck by a rather mindless English nationalism. Quite a few taxi drivers, on hearing that I am German, confess that it was a pity that our countries had to fight in two world wars because, they argue, the Germans and the English are most alike among European nations. I am not sure I find that much less frightening than the tabloid press exploiting the Second World War theme. Personally, I hope that neither England nor Germany survive the first round. The sooner this excuse for jingoism is over, the better."

Stefan Berger, professor of modern German and comparative European history at Manchester University

"The anti-Germanism of the English press is exaggerated. Germans can sometimes get a little huffy about this based on a small number of articles. My impression is that it has been quite restrained so far."

Anonymous professor of German

"Fuelled by strong cultural memories such as Dad's Army , Basil Fawlty not mentioning the war and Gazza being made to cry, it's hard to see how the association can just be switched off. While other countries'

football-related enmities are airbrushed away, perhaps the jingoism charges against English fansJstem from a po-faced middle class desire to censure a lumpenproletariat who are merely acting out their frustrationJbecause prawn sandwich-eating Grauniad readers treat their sport like the Sudetenland in 1938... oops... see how easy it is?"

Paul Taylor, senior lecturer in communications theory at Leeds University

"Unless the British learn, as the Germans have, to come to terms with the past and to look to the future, the Second World War will remain a tragic reference point. The solution is to encourage the teaching of German language and culture in schools and universities as well as exchange schemes between young people and to discover the rich intellectual traditions shared by our two countries. We must teach history to understand the present; but we must do so to build better relations for the future."

Paul Bishop, professor of German at Glasgow University

"In Britain and Germany, national identity finds its strongest expression in football, the most popular competitive activity for both nations. It isn't surprising that the World Cup routinely evokes memories shaped by national history - such processes are normal in the cultural transmission of group identities. While Germans are naturally keen to project an image untrammelled by an ignominious past, it's unrealistic to expect the British to ignore a victory that remains the founding event of its post-empire identity. I therefore have no doubt that Germany and the Second WorldWar will continue to be linked in the British national consciousness."

Katrin Kohl, fellow in German at Jesus College, Oxford

"I'm not confident that this will stop in the foreseeable future; it is a stance held not only by the older generation but increasingly by younger people. The key responsibility for a long-term change lies with the media.

It is amazing how German-bashing is a regular feature of coverage in both tabloid and broadsheet. For a country that prides itself on its political correctness combating all forms of discrimination, this brand of xenophobia remains lamentably unchallenged."

Anonymous German lecturer

"Certain football matches tap into deep-rooted and not easily dislodged histories of cultural antagonism. England versus Germany is one of these.

But the problem is not exclusively English, as any Celtic, Rangers, Barcelona or Real Madrid fan could testify. Sport is about rivalries, the popular press thrives on stereotypes, and the Second World War did happen: put those factors together and the end result is as predictable as England losing on penalties."

Andy Medhurst, lecturer in media and film studies at Sussex University

"In this country, jingoism is not restricted to Germany - just put yourself in the shoes of a Frenchman, Italian, Argentinian or US citizen. The British media seems to need jingoism to come to terms with the phantom pain of a lost empire. But it might be good to realise that some of it is just old hat and utterly unfunny. Be a bit more creative with your humour. But then who am I to lecture on humour to the 'inventors of humour'?"

Christian Fandrych, lecturer in German at King's College London

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