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The German Voices on the Greek Crisis You Aren't Hearing

Europe gone with the wind?
 Photo by Flickr User Theophilos Papadepoulos under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

From German traditional media it may seem seem that Germany is united in pushing for another round of hardline austerity and reform policies against its weaker Eurozone member Greece. However, within alternative media and German Internet or social media communities, anti-austerity voices that align themselves with the Greek people are loud and clear.

Germany is one of Greece's largest creditors and as the Eurozone’s biggest economy it holds considerable sway over Greece's bailout program. Germany's government wants Greece to enforce more austerity and repay its loans, and has even suggested a temporary exit of Greece from the Eurozone if it fails to do so.

Also read: Forget a ‘Grexit’. Twitter Users Want Germany's Finance Minister to Go Instead

Greece debt crisis

Despite two bailout packages in 2010 and 2011, the Greek economy never recovered from the European debt crisis of 2009. The packages were bound by strict austerity measures from bailout creditors International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Commission, and the European Central Bank — also known as the Troika.

On German public TV station ZDF, the popular satire television show “Die Anstalt” ran a skit that shows the Troika bullying the Greek God Zeus and telling him to “stop his rumbling” for the Greek people. In the following video in German, with English and Greek subtitles, the satirists tell Zeus “We are the Troika. We are Gods”:

On June 30, Greece became the first developed country to fail to make an IMF loan repayment, pushing the country into a crisis with its fellow Eurozone members. As images of distraught Greeks lining up at ATM machines appeared on to newspapers around the world, the Greece government under Prime Minister Tsipras came out strongly in opposition to creditors and called for a reform of credit terms. In a referendum that followed, Greek voters rejected further financial austerity measures.

But Eurozone members — led by Germany — aren't budging.

Germany's influence

On July 13, after 31 hours of discussions, Eurozone leaders and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras reached an agreement that would mean billions more in loans for cash-strapped Greece in exchange for implementing even more painful austerity. Greece's parliament is expected to vote on the package later this week.

Blogger Ingo Stützle explains the extent of Germany's dominance in the Eurozone, the monetary union of 19 European Union members that use the Euro as their common currency:

Wie weit Deutsch­land in sei­ner Selbst­herr­lich­keit geht, zeigte Mer­kel bereits im Juni 2010, als sie forderte, dass Län­dern mit finanz­po­li­ti­schem Schlen­drian das Stimm­recht ent­zo­gen wer­den müsste … Wenige Monate später konnte ohne Umset­zung die­ser fixen Idee, die Staats­ver­schul­dung quasi als Men­schen­rechts­ver­let­zung wer­tet, der CDU-Fraktionschef Vol­ker Kau­der befrie­digt fest­stel­len: »Jetzt auf ein­mal wird in Europa Deutsch gespro­chen. Nicht in der Spra­che, aber in der Akzep­tanz der Instru­mente, für die Angela Mer­kel so lange und dann erfolg­reich gekämpft hat.«

Merkel showed back in June of 2010 just how far Germany will go in its arrogance, as she declared that fiscally irresponsible countries must be stripped of their right to vote…just a few months later, without even acting on this ridiculous view of national debt as a kind of human rights violation, CDU Party Chief Volker Kauder could claim with satisfaction: “Now all of a sudden German is spoken in Europe. Not in the language, but in the acceptance of the instruments Angela Merkel has so long and successfully fought for.”

The economist Thomas Piketty, said in an interview with ZEIT newspaper that the German formula for success after the Second World War is based, among other things, on a crucial factor: debt reduction. In 1953, almost 60 percent of Germany's debt was forgiven. In the current Greek crisis, the prevalent argument is that reparation payments from World War II should not be conflated with the Greek debt situation.

Anti-austerity voices in Greece

A look at Germany's Internet community and social media shows arguments and perspectives that reveal a completely different German view towards the Greek crisis. These views also show that many Germans want a balanced, factual, and less-ideological approach to Greece—one that also allows for criticism of austerity policies.

After the humid tension of the day, a cathartic ‪#Oxi and thunderstorms over Berlin: “Hurray, the world is ending!”

Whenever I tweet something nonconformist about Greece, some people stop following me.
Looks like criticism of austerity is the new feminism.

Expropriate Springer and write off Greek debt in the billions. [Reference to a West German student movement in the late 1960s.] For some reason I’m in a revolutionary mood today.

Compare international and German mass media on Greece, as long as your blood pressure allows it, and the state of German media becomes clear.

Wolfgang Blau also writes in his Facebook post that more voices from Germany need to be heard in Greece and Europe to strengthen a civilized discourse in Europe. He leaves readers with an artistic—not journalistic— video from Greece that should give many people, and in particular journalists in Europe, cause for reflection:

You know that this video could begin or end with an imposing shot of the Acropolis. Or the Olympics. Or the deep blue waters of the Aegean. Or with people losing their jobs and homes. Or others sleeping in tiny carton boxes. Or others driving luxurious cars. But this shall not happen. Because this video wasn't made to impress nor to shock you. Because these words are not a scream. They're a whisper.

Also read: Journalist Asteris Masouras Hopes Solidarity Will Save Greece

How Germany's media is covering the crisis

The crisis in Greece has stirred criticism towards Germany's traditional media. Many feel that ideology drowns out any objective facts or criticism of austerity policies in the German media’s coverage of the issue.

Wolfgang Blau of The Guardian expresses concern in this Facebook post about the anti-Greece campaign by the German tabloid newspaper Bild:

Ich hätte nie gedacht, dass eine deutsche Nachrichtenorganisation so entehrend und rücksichtslos sein könnte im Angesichts des Leidens einer anderen Nation.

I would have never thought that a German news organization could be so degrading and reckless with regard to the suffering of another nation.

Heiner Flassbeck writes in his blog Hassbeck economics that he constantly receives complaints from his readers of “tendentious, ideological, and even demagogic articles.”

This applies not only to tabloid newspapers, but also to high-quality regional media outlets. According to Flassbeck, what’s lacking in German news coverage is the perspective of the German Internet community:

Dass es im Internet inzwischen Qualitätsinformation und Analyse gibt, die in ihrer Objektivität und ihrer Klarheit von den traditionellen Medien niemals erreicht wird, davon ist natürlich überhaupt nicht die Rede.

No one is talking about the fact that there is now quality information and analysis available on the Internet, with an objectivity and clarity that the traditional media never achieve.

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