Photo by Alexander Johmann (aj82; Flickr CC)
It was quite endearing to read the German papers yesterday. They got all excited when a poll came out – from the BBC: that makes it really truer! – saying that people do actually like the Germans. It was like the German media had poked its collective head through a wormhole and had a little peep into an alternative reality where Germany was a normal country – a country that didn't instantly and involuntarily conjure a series of terrible, negative images in people's heads. "Hey!" the German papers said giddily when they saw the headline of the BBC article "Germany: Most popular country in the world." "Look! People like us! They actually like us! They like us. Us!"
But a closer look, and it turns out that what the poll actually said was, of the 16 countries it chose to put in the table, roughly 26,000 people in 25 countries thought that Germany was "mainly positive." That's not really the same as liking someone. Reading on, it became clear that what they meant was that they admired Germany's economy.
The BBC's in-house "analyst" Stephen Evans, sensing that Germans would realize this as they got further down the article and their mood might slip into being depressed about themselves again, suddenly chipped in with a happy little sidebar: "Who can doubt that there'll be a little more spring in the step of Chancellor Merkel because of what the poll reveals about attitudes to Germany?" he began, in the same way you say, "See? People do like you," to your constantly miserable friend.
"After a year when she has been depicted offensively on placards in a Nazi uniform, in protests from Athens to Madrid, it turns out that many admire the country," he chirped on, trying not to think too much about what he was saying.
Then, possibly inhaling oxygen as he wrote and by now almost delirious with how brilliant his theory was, he went for his killer line: "Will the poll matter? It might well. It may confirm German ministers in their belief that tough love is true friendship."
At this stage, at the very latest, someone should have taken this man's laptop away and told him to have a lie down, and then quietly called an ambulance when they were sure he was asleep. He'd obviously been out in the sun too long. For a start, even asking the question, "Will the poll matter?" is clearly a sign of someone in the midst of a nervous breakdown. It's a dangerous hallucination. No polls ever matter. Saying polls might matter is like saying blogs might matter, like saying what anyone thinks about anything matters. Only last week, some TV commentator came up with the theory that Germany did badly at the Eurovision Song Contest as payback for Germany's Europe-wide austerity policy. That was also just silly nonsense made up in a heady moment.
Another poll, by a respected US research centre, came out two weeks ago saying that so-and-so many people think that Germans are the most arrogant people in Europe. They also thought Germans are the most trustworthy. Also bollocks, proven by the fact that, according to the same survey, Polish people think that Germans are simultaneously the least and the most trustworthy people in Europe. Not only do two surveys two weeks apart completely contradict each other, the same survey actually contradicts itself.
To sum up, then – surveys, like blogs, are almost always just some bollocks that fell out of a computer made up to fill up some space on the internet. So Germans can relax, everything is fine, probably everyone still hates them just as much as they always did. It's better if we just accept it.