Analysis of German group fantasies (1995-1996):
An empirical approach
May 27, 1997
appeared in: TAPESTRY, Vol. 1, No. 1 (1998), p. 5-24
Based on the notion of group-fantasy analysis introduced by Lloyd deMause, an evaluation scheme for political cartoons was developed which enables a first assessment of emotional trends by following the daily rates of two summarizing index curves, strength and threat index. The two values are obtained by counting certain representational motifs in the cartoons. The method was applied to German and Swiss newspapers during the 21-months period from April, 1995 till December, 1996. Qualitative work with selected cartoons and with newspaper headlines was done to deepen the understanding of the group-fantasy dynamics reflected in the quantitative findings.
Cycles of collective birth enactment, leading from pressure to strength feelings and having a duration of about 2-8 weeks, could be identified several times and were closely associated to political events like the Bundestag decision for military engagement in Bosnia, the overthrow of German opposition leader Scharping, or the passing of welfare cuts. The basic fantasy in Germany during 1995 was that of waging a sacrificial, "humanitarian" war against the Serbs - with a wrapped or dead German past in the back - , whereas in 1996 the fear and fascination of the advancing Euro currency swept over Germany, materialized in the "mad cow disease" crisis and was associated with internal sacrifices - of cows, of the poor and unemployed and of children. - Furthermore, a 3-months comparison with U.S. data suggests that there is a certain accord between the emotional fluctuations in Germany and the U.S.A.
Ausgehend vom Begriff der Gruppenphantasie-Analyse, wie sie von Lloyd deMause eingeführt wurde, wurde ein Auswertungsschema für politische Karikaturen entwickelt, welches eine erste Einschätzung emotionaler Trends ermöglicht, indem man die Verläufe zweier zusammenfassender Kurven, des Stärke- und des Bedrohungsindex, über die Tage hinweg verfolgt. Die beiden Werte erhält man durch die Zählung bestimmter gegenständlicher Motive in den Karikaturen. Die Methode wurde auf deutsche und Schweizer Zeitungen angewandt, und zwar für den 21-monatigen Zeitraum April 1995 - Dezember 1996. Zusätzlich wurden ausgewählte Bilder und Zeitungsschlagzeilen qualitativ ausgewertet, um zu einem vertieften Verständnis der Gruppenphantasie-Dynamik, wie sie sich in den quantitativen Befunden wiederspiegelt, zu gelangen.
Mehrere Male wurden Zyklen des kollektiven Ausagierens von Geburtsphantasien identifiziert, die von Druck zu Stärkegefühl überleiteten und eine Dauer von ca. 2-8 Wochen hatten. Sie waren eng verknüpft mit politischen Ereignissen wie dem Bundestagsbeschluß für ein militärisches Engagement in Bosnien, dem Sturz von SPD-Chef Scharping oder der Verabschiedung des Sparpakets. Die grundlegende deutsche Gruppenphantasie im Jahr 1995 war die eines mit Opfern verbundenen, "humanitären" Krieges gegen die Serben - mit einer verhüllten bzw. toten deutschen Vergangenheit im Rücken. 1996 dagegen schwappte die Faszination und Angst vor dem näherkommenden Euro über Deutschland, materialisierte sich in der BSE-Krise und war mit internen Opferhandlungen verbunden - an Kühen, an Armen und Arbeitslosen und an Kindern. - Außerdem läßt ein 3-Monats-Vergleich zwischen Daten aus Deutschland und den USA vermuten, daß ein gewisser Gleichklang zwischen den emotionalen Fluktuationen in beiden Ländern besteht.
The approach to national group fantasies via the analysis of political cartoons was established and continuously applied to the current situation in the U.S.A. by Lloyd deMause (1982, 1984, and e.g. 1990, 1992, 1995). Jerrold Atlas (1992) developed the method further and was the first to apply it to German material. Jürgen Link, coming from a different tradition of research, drew independently some similar conclusions about "collective symbolism" in his studies of public language, statistical diagrams and cartoons (Link 1990, Korngiebel & Link 1992).
In 1995, a workgroup of the German Society for Psychohistorical Research was founded whose aim it was to establish a continuous "monitoring" of German and European group fantasies and to support the critical reflection (and possible improvement) of the methods of deMause. The laborious collection of material from newspapers as well as a background of discussion was provided by that workgroup - an essential prerequisite for this paper, which tries to outline some preliminary results. The responsibility for the presented interpretations and conclusions, however, rests solely with the author.
Two preceding reports (Kurth 1996, 1996b) and an extended version of this paper (Kurth 1997) - all written in German - can be obtained from the author or from the German Society for Psychohistorical Research.
2. Material and Methods
Political cartoons and some graphically enhanced statistical diagrams were collected from a sample of newspapers, which was chosen with the intention to cover several political directions as well as different regions in Germany. Two Swiss newspapers were also included. In the first research period (April 1995 - January 1996), the following newspapers belonged to the sample: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ; Frankfurt/M.), Frankfurter Rundschau (FR; Frankfurt/M.), Göttinger Tageblatt (GT; Göttingen), Handelsblatt (HB; Düsseldorf), Neues Deutschland (ND; Berlin), Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ; Munich), Tagesanzeiger (TA; Zurich), Die Tageszeitung (taz; Berlin), Der Tagesspiegel (TS; Berlin), Die Welt (Hamburg), Die Weltwoche (WW; Zurich, weekly), Die Zeit (Hamburg, weekly). Additionally, the titlepages of the German newsmagazine "Der Spiegel" (Hamburg, weekly) were included. In the second period (February - December 1996), five of the newspapers (FAZ, FR, ND, TS, Welt) were taken off the sample, based on an analysis of correlations among frequencies of motifs (see below).
Both research periods together yielded 7313 pictures - a number which makes it desirable to have a method for a quick, schematic evaluation of cartoons. A first attempt to create such a method will be presented in the following. However, it should already be emphasized here that an empirical, quantitative mass data analysis can never replace a full fantasy analysis; a qualitative component remains absolutely necessary. Indeed, in addition to the quantitative work, headlines from the first pages of some newspapers (and also some more pictures) were collected to provide further background material for subsequent qualitative analysis. But it is the author's experience that the quantitative results can give a first orientation concerning the dynamics of the group fantasy, thus making the analysis easier. Index calculations summarizing the feelings expressed by a large number of cartoons can be used as a kind of microscope showing clearly some fluctuations of public mood which normally remain just below the level of consciousness (or which are consciously percepted only by very sensitive or skillful people).
The schematic evaluation of cartoons is done in the following way: Each picture is checked for the appearance of one or several of the following motifs which are abbreviated by the letters D, T, M, Z, A, V, E and classified into the two gross categories "strength" and "threat".
D dominating, unendangered person
T rising trend, ascent, flight
M the strong D-Mark
Z cracking, disintegration (German: Zerfall)
A slipping, falling, crash, abyss
V being devoured
E encirclement, confinement, being tied.
Among these motifs, "M" is the only one which is not immediately transferable to other countries - the national currency has probably a special meaning for Germans. However, quantitatively this motif is of minor importance, and its frequency is further falling with the advance of the Euro. Examples for each of the 7 motifs are shown in the Figures 1-7.
Fig. 1: Motif D.
Fig. 2: Motif T.
Fig. 3: Motif M.
Fig. 4: Motif Z.
Fig. 5: Motif A.
Fig. 6: Motif V.
Fig. 7: Motif E. "In the cellar".
Of course, a lot of motifs and themes are not considered by this evaluation scheme, e.g. children, animals, or scenes where two persons with nearly equal strength confront each other. About 50 percent of the investigated pictures belonged to this "zero class", a relation which clearly demonstrates the limited range of information extracted from the material by the used scheme, but which could certainly be improved by future evaluations using a more elaborated list of motifs. The most frequent motifs were D ("dominating, unendangered person") and E ("encirclement, confinement, being tied").
The next step in the quantitative evaluation was the addition of the frequencies D+T+M, forming a strength index value, and E+Z+A+V, forming a threat index value for each day. (Motifs occurring on the Spiegel title page were counted with threefold weight in this summation because of their wider distribution and visibility compared with the small cartoons.) Like the choice of motifs, this summation implies a severe reduction of information, but nevertheless the two index values obtained exhibit a strong dynamics when plotted along the time axis. To smoothen the curves and enhance the visibility of maxima and minima, moving averages were used in the diagrams throughout this paper: 31-days mean values for an overview of the whole period covered (Figure 8), 5-days means in the subsequent, more detailed diagrams.
Using the average of 5 days ensures an elimination of weekend effects (due to the non-appearance of most newspapers on Sunday), while on the other hand the curves remain precise enough to promote the detection of relations to the political events on a daily basis, as we will see in chapter 4. - The notion of a "danger index" was already introduced in J. Atlas' pioneering work (1992); however, his index had a different definition and was calculated only on a monthly basis.
Fig. 8: Strength and threat index along the whole research period, 31-days moving averages (the first and last half-months are omitted to avoid border effects). The whole period can be roughly divided into two parts which are separated from each other by the marked depression during february 1996 (absolute minimum of strength index). Before this separation, German group fantasy was dominated by wishes for external sacrifice (in the Bosnian war), afterwards internal sacrifice became the main issue.
All evaluations used in this paper were done by only one person (the author). One can ask for the intersubjective stability of the method - i.e., whether other persons would obtain similar index values. This is currently an issue of research. The interpretation of the seven motifs was deliberately done in a representational and not in an abstract way to facilitate their "objective" recognition. However, first experiments have shown that further explanations of the motifs, additional to the short definitions given above, and a certain training are necessary to enable a secure application of the method by other researchers. Some additional explanations (in German) for this purpose are given by Kurth (1997).
A first, preliminary attempt to apply advanced statistical tools (spectral analysis; for mathematical details see SAS Institute, Inc., 1989) indicated that the strength index contains significant cyclic (periodic) components, whereas the threat index has a much more diffuse character which is not much different from a random series if regarded from a purely formal point of view. However, this does not mean that the threat index is not sensefully interpretable in specific situations.
Another application of statistics concerns the relation of the strength and threat values obtained from a single newspaper compared with the other newspapers together. A cross-correlation analysis (see Kurth (1996) for a detailed table of results) revealed that the newspapers differ markedly in their capacity to reflect the general trend. One result of these calculations was that the two Swiss newspapers are apparently in good correlation with the German ones. The results were used to reduce the newspaper sample in the second research period, lowering the expenses of the monitoring. Thus, the number of cartoons to be evaluated could be diminuished by 45 %, whereas the index correlation between the large and the reduced sample was about 70 % (Kurth 1996b).
We finish the methodological remarks with the observation (see Figure 8) that strength and threat index, though often showing antagonistic behavior (as could be expected from their definition), are nevertheless independent variables, rendering our quantitative model a proper "two dimensional phase space of group fantasy". In fact, a closer look at the high-resolution diagrams (e.g., Figure 19) reveals that even some simultaneous maxima of strength and threat exist - indicating without doubt moments of extraordinarily high tensions and ambivalence.
3. Theoretical background
A number of hypotheses about the dynamics of group-fantasy has been developed in the psychohistorical literature. These hypotheses form a background for our interpretations:
For a general discussion of these issues we refer to the literature. The idea of birth enactment was made plausible by a particular pattern which was found several times in the analysed material, motivating the following definition. We named the considered phenomenon after Howard F. Stein, who had discovered similar patterns in his 7-months analysis of an Oklahoman newspaper (Stein 1981).
Definition. A STEIN cycle is a sequence of collective threatening fantasies and strength fantasies which
As an illustration, we present translated "Göttinger Tageblatt" headline keywords from end of October / beginning of November 1996, which are accompanied by a corresponding dynamics of the threat and strength index from the cartoons (see also 4.6 below):
October 19: Emergency sacrifice; putting government under
21: under pressure
22: emergency sacrifice, quarrel, fighting, with the back to the wall, battle of the sexes
25: hunger, blocks off, block off, blockade
26: stops transports, cruelty to animals
28: drumfire, major offensive, pressure vessel, war
29: The situation is desparate
30: 36 hours buried, boy washed into the sea, generals tighten the noose
31: blocked, under pressure, being pilloried
Now the breakthrough advances:
November 1: opened longer, sacrifice, quarrel, deployment of the
IFOR troops, bomb plutonium
2: rush, coalition break, "at home, all hell has broken loose"
5: trial of strength, ready for surgery, urges, military intervention
6: World heaves a sigh of relief, removing hurdles, court acquits priest
7: new committee, government pushes through health care reform
8: 200 million Mark for the Transrapid train in the Emsland
The cycles discovered by Lloyd deMause (1982) have a similar dynamics, but a normally much longer duration. Indeed, a glance at the following table summarizing cycle concepts from psychohistorical literature confirms that STEIN cycles are situated at the lowest end of the time resolution scale (the list does not claim to be complete). To clarify the connections between these different sorts of cycles remains a challenge for psychohistorical research. At present, we can only speculate that a superposition of similar patterns - forming a kind of "fractal" structure - could form the emerging picture of group fantasy dynamics over several time scales.
U.S. presidential terms
manic-depressive change of decades
"18 main cycles" of U.S. group fantasy
realignments in U.S. party politics
H. F. Stein 1981
(also H. F. Stein 1981)
L. deMause 1979, 1982
e.g. J. Link 1991
R. Morrock 1992, J. Atlas 1992
D. R. Beisel 1985
4. Interpretation examples: 6 episodes
With reference to the index curves and to particularly suggestive cartoons and headlines, it is possible to identify a series of STEIN cycles and to comment the daily politics in Germany during the whole investigation period from a group-fantasy point of view (cf. Kurth 1996, 1996b). However, such a complete account would take too much space here; hence we restrict ourselves to certain important episodes.
4.1. "Brent Spar" and French nuclear tests (June 14-21, 1995)
The plan of the Shell company to sink the oil platform "Brent Spar" in the Atlantic ocean and the French nuclear test series on Mururoa stirred worldwide emotions, but emotions were running particularly high in Germany. Both issues have several qualities in common:
Fig. 9: taz, July 3, 1995. "The young Chirac".
Therefore, when Chirac made his announcement to carry out the nuclear tests the strength index soared and reached a maximum (cf. Figure 10). Like little children, we found pleasure in polluting everything, and we delegated this regressive wish to Chirac and to Shell. But of course, our super-ego had to oppose these plans fervently.
This splitting between polluting id and moralizing super-ego was especially intensive in Germany, probably because of the particularly strict and early cleanliness training of German children (see, e.g., Krieg 1990 for further reflections about the German "anal character").
Fig. 10: Strength index (unbroken line) and threat index (broken), April - July 1995, 5-days moving averages.
Fig. 11: Spiegel, September 25, 1995. "Campaign of the moralists: From protection of the environment to eco-mania".
However, deep in their hearts, the Germans - like other nations - hate their moralizing super-ego (Figure 11), and consequently the turnaround of Shell in the case of the "Brent Spar" platform was not celebrated as a victory (as one would have expected naively), but instead the threat curve went up (cf. Figure 10), and the following week was full of bizarre quarrel and discontent, as can be documented from the newspaper headlines (Kurth 1996). The anal psyche was totally furious about the missed grandiose event of sinking the dirty oil platform, which would have had a strong relieving effect (we would have had a perfect excuse for our own "little sins" if Shell had done this...).
Consistent with this interpretation is the observation that the protests against the French nuclear tests had a visible anti-pleasure component: the boycott movement against France concentrated mainly on wine and champagne. - To prevent any misunderstandings, it should be added that these remarks do not imply any comment about the true environmental or political damage possibly caused by sinking oil platforms or by setting off nuclear bombs; this is a completely different issue. But apparently, the main reason for these actions was a psychic one, and the imagined pollution was not an unwelcome secondary effect, but the driving force behind them.
4.2. The Wrapped Reichstag, the death of German history, and setting free the Tornados (June 25 - July 1, 1995)
Superficially, Christo's "Wrapped Reichstag" (June 25 - July 6, 1995) was a happy, light-hearted celebration in the middle of Berlin, "uniting people in delight and astonishment" (GT, July 7, 1995). But subliminally, other, strange emotions were set free: an increased number of death images and death wishes can be detected in the media (Figure 12).
Fig. 12: Spiegel, June 26, 1995. "With 15 into death / When youths want to die".
This gives rise to the idea that the wrapping of the Reichstag building can be seen as a shroud. But what is sent to the grave here? To understand the underlying national fantasy, it is useful to look back to another national event, the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II at may 8, 1995, which was preceded by a distinct STEIN cycle and which coincided with a persistent period of strength (cf. Fig. 10). At this occasion, the Nazi regime (and equally the communist regime in East Germany) was imagined as a totally distant, nebulous, unreal past without any connections to the here-and-now (Figure 13). The young Federal Republic was seen as newborn and clean; the issue of continuities from Nazi Germany into the time after 1945 was completely absent in the media, as was the question of the causes of Nazism.
Fig. 13: Spiegel, May 8, 1995. "The past overcome", lower left corner: "defeated, occupied, liberated".
From this point of view, it becomes obvious that the wrapped Reichstag underlines the strong national fantasy that the German history is "dead". But even more can be said if we consider the political event which took place on July 1, 1995 and which coincided with the "strength" part of a STEIN cycle (cf. Fig. 10): It was the Reichstag - the parliament of the Weimar Republic - which legalized as a democratic institution the dictatorship of Hitler (and thereby the subsequent war) by passing the "Ermächtigungsgesetz" (Enabling Act) of March 23, 1933 (a historic fact which was, again, never discussed in the media in 1995). The annihilation of this Reichstag by the magic spell of Christo's art (out of sight, out of sense!) was particularly desirable for the Germans in the moment when the Bundestag - the very successor of the Reichstag - legalized the first German military intervention in a war region after World War II, namely, the participation of Tornado aircrafts of the Bundeswehr in operations in Bosnia!
It is interesting to watch the reactions following this Bundestag decision. As has already been mentioned, the strength index soared. The Spiegel brought up a title page with a woman exposing her breast (unusual for this newsmagazine) - reflecting an old ritual of women spurring on the men when they go to war (Figure 14).
Fig. 14: Spiegel, July 3, 1995. "The East feeling / Homesickness for the old order".
The flags and phallic symbols on this picture underline the martial character of the represented fantasy. The Wrapped Reichstag is clearly visible in the left background - although it has absolutely nothing to do with the pretended subject of the title, the "East feeling" (the Reichstag building belonged always to West Berlin). In fact, the headline "East feeling", referring to the GDR, can be seen as a certain deflection or encryption: The communist regime is, in the group fantasy, a less dangerous substitute for the Nazi regime (cf. the equivalence of both in Fig. 13). Hence, the subtitle does better express the message of the picture: "Longing for the old order", i.e. for Nazi Germany and for unscrupulous war. - This message is kept very, very subliminal, because it would of course be completely offensive to express it overtly in Germany! -
In 1996, when the war wishes disappeared from the dominating group fantasy, it became possible to discuss the mass involvement in the Third Reich policies more openly, although the sharp reactions against D. J. Goldhagen's book "Hitler's willing executioners" demonstrated that a huge amount of denial and "don't touch the dead past" attitudes is still present.
4.3. Bombing the Serbs (August 30 - September 14, 1995)
Parallel to the annihilation of the German past, a new, external Hitler was identified in the figure of Radovan Karadzic, leader of the Bosnian Serbs, giving us the feeling to be on the right side now. The Bosnian theater of war served as a superb projection screen for all kinds of aggressive wishes. As a matter of fact, parts of the German peace movement of the 80s were still busily alive throughout the ex-Yugoslavian war and performed unprecedented activities in organizing humanitarian help, supporting anti-war groups in former Yugoslavia and developing new forms of civil service: However, all this was completely ignored by the media, who instead declared the death of pacifism - in accordance with some dissidents of the former peace movement, among them the Green Party leader Joschka Fischer, who fervently yearned for military strikes of the Bundeswehr against the Serbs. The risks and possible sacrifices which such kind of engagement could entail were lifely described in the media (Figure 15) - and were in fact the core of the group fantasy.
Fig. 15: Focus, July 24, 1995. "Bosnia deployment - What the Germans risk: Death of soldiers, revenge terror, escalation of war." Bar at the peak of the fighter: "Horror list".
Participation in war was defined as the only way to achieve political maturity; a fifty-years peaceful tradition of restraint of the foreign policy of the Federal Republic was denounced as "dollhouse" (Arnulf Baring; see Schoch et al. 1996, p. 88).
Fig. 16: Strength index (unbroken line) and threat index (broken line) from large sample, July - October 1995.
Martial headlines in the newspapers (GT, August 28: "cleansing thunderstorm", 29: "no taboo", 30: "make pressure", "thunderstorm") preceded the ultimate climax of war euphoria when German fighter planes indeed participated in the military action of NATO forces against positions of the Bosnian Serbs. This is not the right place to discuss the political background of these airstrikes and to question the popular myth that they were necessary to enable the peace treaty of Dayton (see Schoch et al. 1996 for these issues) - we restrict ourselves to demonstrate the profound effect that they had on the strength index obtained from the cartoons (Figure 16). In fact, in the second week of the raids, when civil positions were also bombed, the curve climbed even higher.
4.4. The sacred renewals of Dayton and Mannheim (November 16 - 22, 1995)
In November 1995 we can watch the startling phenomenon that political events happen at the same time in different places of the world, which seem to have no causal relation to each other, but which have an underlying common theme, namely, change or renewal:
This remarkable type of coincidence can be found at other moments, too (see 4.6 below) - leading to the conjecture that a strong interrelation between the national group processes of different countries exists. - To appreciate the change in the SPD leadership in Germany, one has to consider the role which Rudolf Scharping played in the cartoons during the summer of 1995: He was shown as the victim of persisting attacks (Figure 17) and as the center of disintegration fantasies (Figure 4 above) - a striking analogy to the "cracking phase" which deMause (1982) identified in the cartoons showing U.S. presidents.
Fig. 17: TS, August 1, 1995. Left: Scharping, right: his rival Schröder, on the board: "SPD convention in November".
This leads to the hypothesis that the head of the SPD was indeed the German fantasy leader in 1995. Correspondingly, Scharping's successor Lafontaine was depicted by the Spiegel (November 20, 1995) as a rising Superman, very much like a new U.S. president in the "honeymoon" phase. - On the other hand, the image of the German chancellor Helmut Kohl underwent little change in the investigated period; he is seen rather as a god than as a political leader (Figure 18).
Fig. 18: ND, September 13, 1996. "All CDU representatives vote for my economy measure bill".
Parallel to the renewal in the halls of the Mannheim SPD convention, President Clinton got strengthened during his conclave with the Bosnian war leaders in Dayton, who in turn were transformed into proper statesmen and guarantors of peace afterwards. Thus, the Dayton negotiations paralleled to a certain extent the Camp David negotiations conducted by Carter in 1978 (see deMause 1982). The renewal process was an extraordinarily exciting event with simultaneous peaks of strength and threat feelings (Figure 19).
Fig. 19: Strength index (unbroken line) and threat index (broken line), October 1995 - January 1996.
4.5. The BSE battle and the sacrifice of the D-Mark
Beginning at the end of March, 1996, and during the subsequent months, the fear of the "mad cow disease" (BSE), an animal epidemic widespread especially in Great Britain since several years and suspected to be transferable to humans, worried the public. This fear obviously had something to do with nutrition and poisoning feelings (Figure 20), but together with these oral fantasies there were images of phallic assertion (British Prime Minister John Major as a lonesome fighter), of scarcely concealed rape, and of confrontation between the animal British forces and the human forces of civilisation, embodied by continental-European "toreros" (Figure 21).
Fig. 20: ND, August 8, 1996.
Fig. 21: SZ, May 25, 1996.
Fig. 22: FAZ, June 18, 1996.
Additionally, sacrifice fantasies were depicted (Figure 22) - and with the EU plan (finally pushed through against Great Britain) to kill several hundred thousands of British cows, a great animal sacrifice was indeed prepared and realized.
The complex of fantasies surrounding the BSE crisis can be better understood if the context of the ongoing European unification process is considered, especially the plans for a common European currency (the "Euro", formerly named "Ecu"), which became much more concrete during the year 1996. There was a massive trend against the D-Mark; the DM was imagined as shattered (Figure 23), whereas the European currency was associated with the motif T ("rising trend"; Fig. 2).
Fig. 23: Focus, October 9, 1995. "Fear for the Mark".
The descent of the DM can be quantified using the frequencies of the motif M ("the strong DM"): In the reduced newspaper sample, they fell from 12 in the first investigated quarter (April-June, 1995) down to 1 in the last quarter (October-December, 1996). In the second half of 1996, the weakness of the DM became also apparent on the foreign exchange market. Instead, the Euro seemed to exert a forceful, attracting spell. But on the other hand, the monetary union is associated with deep fears - of loosing the potency or the identity, of drowning, and of castration (Figure 24).
Fig. 24: GT, December 29, 1995. "Monetary union" / "She says she wants only stable and experienced men".
The writer Hans-Peter Schwarz called the Maastricht treaty (in which the EU nations agreed to introduce the common currency among those who fulfill certain criteria) the "castration of the economic giant Germany" (Schoch et al. 1996). Frequently occurring in the cartoons is the motif of a dangerous jump, having something to do with the Euro (Figure 25).
Fig. 25: Zeit, December 20, 1996. "Dared the bold jump".
These pieces of group fantasy can now be put together to form a consistent whole: The fear of the monetary union is on a deeper level a fear of water, mush or flood, and also a fear of phallic women (Fig. 24; cf. Theweleit (1995) for a discussion of the connection between these fears). It was put into concrete terms during the BSE crisis - the object of fear was projected into British cows, and at last into Great Britain itself as an external opponent. Thus, on the one hand we have the chain "flood, chaos -> BSE -> mad cows -> Great Britain", on the other hand "continental European civilisation -> EU ( -> toreros, see Fig. 21) -> Germany", and the confrontation was enacted during a few days in June 1996, when on the EU summit Britain accepted the cow sacrifice demanded by Germany and ended its blockade of the EU policy (June 22), and when Germany defeated England in the semi-final match of the European soccer championship (June 27; see Figure 26).
Fig. 26: Strength index (unbroken line) and threat index (broken line), April - July 1996.
This double victory was paid for by sacrificial measures - not only by killing the cows, but also by domestic policy decisions which passed the Bundestag two days later, still on the climax of the strength phase (see Fig. 26). The economy measures bill, pushed through by the Kohl government, entailed cuts in welfare and public hand job creation programs. Partially, these and other cuts in governmental social spending were justified by the politicians with the necessity to meet the budget criteria imposed by the Maastricht treaty for participation in the monetary union.
In fact, it is the sacrificial flavor of the monetary union which is probably the source of the ambivalent feelings of the Germans towards the Euro - the fascinated, sometimes even compulsive longing for it, coupled with angst. One has to appreciate that the DM is one of the few national symbols which were left to the Germans after WW II, and with which they can openly identify themselves. Indeed, we are devoted to the D-Mark in intimate love, like a little child who loves his teddy (Figure 27).
Fig. 27: GT, January 8, 1997. "Little nightmare".
And it is this very DM itself which is to be sacrificed in the "monetary mush" of the Union (Figure 28)! Thus, the advance of the Euro means a real sacrifice for the Germans, i.e. to give away something considered very valuable for oneself. We fear it, but we also long for it because of our guilt feelings arising from prosperity.
Fig. 28: SZ, December 16, 1996. Kohl and Waigel (minister of finance): "The Euro comes and becomes strong like the Mark!" - On the altar / tub: "Europe monetary mush".
From this point of view, the statement of Kohl that the introduction of the Euro is "a matter of war and peace in Europe" - oddly exaggerated as it sounds at first - gains some realism: Probably it was the advance of the monetary union and of the DM sacrifice that had distracted German sacrificial wishes away from external wars (like in Bosnia, where they were concentrated during 1995) and focussed them on the European and domestic stage. The war in Zaire in 1996-1997 did not play an important role in group fantasy; unlike in the case of Bosnia there were no calls for military intervention of the Bundeswehr.
However, the imagined end of the DM could unfortunately not prevent the enactment of sacrificial fantasies against unemployed and poor people by political "economy" measures (Figure 29, 30) and even the direct enactment of human sacrifices by criminals murdering children (Figure 31).
Fig. 29: ND, October 1, 1996.
Fig. 30: GT, February 8, 1997.
Fig. 31: Spiegel, August 26,
Indeed, whereas in 1995 the maxima of the strength index were mostly associated with military actions, they correlated in mid-1996 with sexual murders of little girls in Belgium and in Germany (Figure 32). The identification with the innocent victims and the projection of all negative impulses on the culprits had a strongly releasing effect and made us feel good.
Fig. 32: Strength index (unbroken line) and threat index (broken line), July - October 1996.
4.6. The renewal event of November 6, 1996
At the beginning of November 1996, we find again a striking coincidence between political events in several places of the world, this time associated with a common emotional flavor of danger and near-death experience: the re-election of U.S. president Clinton for a second term, the heart surgery of Russian president Yeltsin (Figure 33), and - most surprisingly - on the very same day a crisis in the governing coalition in Bonn, where a quarrel between the two allied parties CDU and FDP about tax policy was fought in an unusually irreconcilable manner. The GT titled on November 6: "The coalition in Bonn at the edge. Doomsday feelings." This is remarkable because there was by no means any rational political reason for such a deep crisis just at this moment - in most of the issues, CDU and FDP were not so far away from each other, and anyway, their differences about taxes were well-known for a long time before.
Fig. 33: GT, November 8, 1996. "The important news". Left: "U.S. elections", right: "Yeltsin ECG".
A closer look at the newspapers reveals that there was a simultaneous STEIN cycle in Germany and in the U.S.A. preceding the date of November 6 (see Chapter 3 above for German headlines; the U.S. cycle is documented in Kurth 1997b). A three-months study of cartoons and titlepages from U.S. newspapers and magazines (Kurth 1997b), which were evaluated according to a similar scheme than that employed here for the German material, enables a first transnational comparison of strength and threat index curves (Figure 34).
Fig. 34: Strength index (unbroken) and threat index (broken), August - October 1996. Thin lines in the lower part: German values, 5-days moving averages on daily basis. Thick lines in the upper part: U.S. values, weekly sums. Evaluated U.S. newspapers and magazines: Wall Street Journal, Washington Post Weekly Ed., U.S. News & World Report, Time, Newsweek, The New Yorker, The New Republic (cf. Kurth 1997b). The zero level of the U.S. curves was shifted upwards to enhance readability.
In spite of the coarser time resolution of the U.S. indices in this study, their peaks can be associated roughly to peaks of the German curves. Particularly, the only distinguished maximum of the U.S. threat index during that period is immediately followed by an outstanding maximum of the German threat index.
Hence, it can be conjectured on a quantitative as well as on a qualitative (STEIN cycle) basis that the dynamics of group fantasy in the U.S.A. and in Germany are strongly coupled together. However, observations on a broader basis of material and for longer periods are needed to make this result sure.
5. Perspectives and open questions
The German workgroup for the analysis of group fantasies intends to continue the monitoring of German cartoons, so that investigations of long-term trends become possible. Apart from that, research could proceed into several directions:
The basic question, however, which lies at the heart of all these approaches, is that for the causes and drives of the group-fantasy dynamics. Despite the pioneering work of deMause and others, we still have large gaps of knowledge concerning this issue. Why do the different cycles just have the durations that we observe? Why do the sacrificial wishes from time to time switch between internal sacrifice and external sacrifice (i.e., war)? Are we currently watching the rise of a new psychoclass (cf. deMause 1982), possibly connected with value change (Inglehart 1977), or is there "nothing new" in the long run? These are some of the challenging questions which can be asked.
The auther wishes to express his heartily thanks to Florian Galler, Frank Horstmann, Ludwig Janus and Reinhard Merker for their part in collecting the material and for their enduring engagement in the workgroup, ensuring the necessary forum for criticism, discussion and encouragement. Thanks are also due to Christian Büttner, Ralph Frenken, Edmund Hermsen, Helga Levend and Mireille Schmitz who contributed to the laborious collecting of cartoons and to discussions, and to Gerhard Buck-Sorlin for his assistance in debugging the final text. Without their efforts, this paper would not have been possible. This work was originally presented at the first European IPA Conference in Amsterdam. My thanks go to Jerrold Atlas for organizing this conference and offering me the opportunity to talk there.
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