Obamamania and Anti-Americanism as Complementary Concepts in Contemporary German Discourse
Hatlapa, Ruth, Markovits, Andrei S., German Politics and Society
There is no question that with Barack Obama the United States has a rock star as president who--behooving rock stars--is adored and admired the world over. His being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize nary a year after being elected president and barely ten months into his holding the office, testified to his global popularity rather than his actual accomplishments, which may well turn out to be unique and formidable. And it is equally evident that few--if any--American presidents were more reviled, disdained and distrusted all across the globe than George W. Bush, Obama's immediate predecessor. Indeed, the contrast between the hatred for the former and the admiration for the latter might lead to the impression that the negative attitudes towards America and Americans that was so prevalent during the Bush years have miraculously morphed into a lovefest towards the United States on the part of the global public. This paper--concentrating solely on the German case but representing a larger research project encompassing much of Western Europe--argues that love for Obama and disdain for America are not only perfectly compatible but that, in fact, the two are merely different empirical manifestations of a conceptually singular view of America. Far from being mutually exclusive, these two strains are highly congruent, indeed complementary and symbiotic with each other.
Obama; Obamamania; German and West European anti-Americanism
... [I]n Europe, there is an anti-Americanism that is at once casual but can also be insidious. Instead of recognizing the good that America so often does in the world, there have been times where Europeans choose to blame America for much of what's bad." (1)
In his speech in Strasbourg, President Barack Obama surprised his audiences on both sides of the Atlantic by being the very first American president to address in public a European resentment with a long history. To be sure, anti-Americanism--in Europe and worldwide--reached unprecedented proportions during the eight-year reign of the Bush Administration. Especially in the aftermath of the attacks of 11 September 2001 and the war against Iraq two years later, there emerged an unparalleled antipathy towards the United States government as well as American society that reached most social segments in many countries throughout the world. (2) Ivan Krastev, observing this tendency in 2004, predicted that the twenty-first century may well become known as the "anti-American century." (3) Andrei Markovits previously analyzed the pervasiveness and social acceptability of anti-Americanism in Europe as the continent's de facto "lingua franca," its most important inter- and intra-societal common discourse. (4)
The overwhelmingly positive reaction to the appearance of Barack Obama on the international political stage, however, seems to have run directly counter to this massive anti-Americanism. Indeed, Obamamania, as enthusiasm for Obama has been aptly termed, spread rapidly through Europe and the world seemingly negating the previously widely extant anti-Americanism. Thus, his being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize nary one year after having been elected President and barely ten months into holding this uniquely important office, testifies to this man's singular popularity among the world's publics, but most notably--and importantly--West (or, actually, in this case North) Europe's political and cultural elites who, after all, comprise the crucial decision makers that choose the recipients of this prestigious prize. Crudely put, had Barack Obama been less beloved by Norwegian, other Scandinavian and West European elites--and had George W. Bush not been as reviled and disdained--Obama would not have won this award so early in his presidential incumbency. This is not to say that Barack Obama is not a worthy recipient of this distinction. We emphatically believe that he is! …