Recent surveys show Germany enjoys a pronounced media literacy among citizens and a great yearning for German-Russian rapprochement.
Despite “poison gas”, “barrel bombs” and “annexation” – a large part of propaganda is going nowhere in Germany. Recent surveys show a pronounced media literacy among many citizens and a great yearning for German-Russian rapprochement.
The first survey of interest might be the one Forsa Institute did on behalf of RTL (private media TV) about the trust of Germans in their öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunk, the public broadcast. It showed that only 48% of Germans think ARD and ZDF would do their job well (9%) or very well (39%). 30% of Germans think that they do a mediocre job, and 14% think they do it badly. Yet still 74% support the dual system of public and private broadcast. So, Germans do want their public broadcast TV, but they criticize it and 44% consider the monthly fee of €17.50 too high. A bigger problem with the TV tax, as most citizens call it, is that it is charged per household, regardless of whether you own a TV or not. Even cars have to pay for their radios (with a few marginal exceptions), which is especially a burden for small businesses like plumbers since they have to pay for almost every rolling thing in their car pool. So, public broadcasting, yay, funding and information, rather nay.
Another poll conducted by Civey about the trust of German citizens into the press in general shows that 53.3% have no confidence in the media, a fifth (20.8%) has even absolutely no confidence. A third of Germans (33.9%) as strong confidence in the media, but only 1.9% have total confidence. So, if you include the weekly and daily rags, the trusting citizens become a (slight) minority.
An earlier poll from March and also conducted by Forsa revealed that 91% of Germans don’t see Russia as a threat. In the age group of 18-29 it is even a staggering 98%! This is the generation that was born after the fall of the Berlin Wall and has never experienced the claustrophobia of the Cold War. They are currently attending universities together with about 15,000 Russian expat students and they grew up with the children of three to six million Russian speakers (estimations vary) living in Germany. I would be surprised if they saw Russia as a threat at all. Further, 83% of respondents said they think Trump might wage war to enforce his interests, 65% said the same about Putin. Polls can only deliver quantitative measures, so I’m sure most people had Syria in mind when they mentioned Putin. Nonetheless, the media propaganda might not work on Russia as a nation, but certainly it does on Putin as a person. I’ve noticed that a lot of Germans, even those who deeply mistrust the US, feel uncomfortable with the idea of putting trust in Putin. But if you follow the media, it is impossible to get an understanding of Russia and thus of Putin. However, the same is true about the US, just the other way around.
Another poll from March was conducted by Die Welt. It’s one of those Atlanticist rags (are there any other?), so maybe they fixed the results a little bit. It shows that 58% of Germans want closer cooperation with Russia, 26% want more distance, and 14% are content with how things are. A more recent poll from April shows an even bigger German desire for cooperation. According to Forsa it is 94% who think that good relations to Russia are important, East (95%) and West (94%) alike. The poll also reveals that 83% of German citizens don’t fear Russia, while 79% consider the US to be the bigger threat. It also reveals that only 43% (35% in the East, 46% in the West) consider Russia to be responsible for the poisoning of the Skripals. 28% don’t believe it, while 26% honestly said they don’t know.
All these results are consistent with an older poll from 2016, according to which 81% of Germans plead for closer relations to Russia, only the relations to France (89%) are viewed as more important. Interestingly enough Russians then placed Germany on number one with 62% barely ahead of China with 61%.
Ok, that is all nice and dandy, but why aren’t Germans buying into the propaganda? One obvious reason might be that Germans have had their share of propaganda throughout their history. They’ve been exposed to the propaganda that led to WW1, Nazi propaganda and Cold War propaganda on both sides. They’ve been lied to and duped into bombing Serbia, and since 9/11 through various stages of US imperialist propaganda, first 9/11 itself (23% of Germans think it was an inside job according to this survey), then a decade of anti-Islam propaganda, and now we’re back at good old Russia again. It would be a surprise if such a nation didn’t somehow developed a sixth sense for being lied to. I honestly don’t know, but I am glad that it is how it apparently is.
Now that Europe apparently will try to go an independent way, Germany will be designated leader. I can almost here the clatter from knees shaking at the chancellery and Department of Foreign Affairs. Leading without being bossed around on a leash? Is that even possible? Maybe they will be able to take a little comfort from the fact that they have all the support they need from their own people, their true designated boss – at least in theory. If they are serious, they will learn how a Putinesque level of popularity feels like.
Top Photo | Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to German Chancellor Angela Merkel as they walk after a joint news conference at Putin’s residence in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Friday, May 18, 2018. The meeting in Sochi is Merkel’s first visit to Russia in a year. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Sergio Weigel wrote this piece for the Saker Blog.