The Eva phenomenon
I couldn´t believe it. Last week I stepped out of the intercity train at Berlin and, once again, Eva Herman was looking at me -- from page one of Bild, the German market leader tabloid with 10 million readers.
Eva Herman (48) has achieved something few television anchormen have achieved before: four times in two weeks she dominated the front page of Bild. What is more, a week ago she was thrown out of one of Germany´s most popular talk shows, Kerner. But most important, this dismissal on camera sparked a rare debate in newspapers, e-papers and blogs which reveals a new dimension of protest against the TV ruling class. Ironically enough, Eva Herman herself was until recently part of that elite. In 2003 the ever-stylish former presenter of the Tagesschau news was elected anchorwoman of the year.
What is going on?
Basically there are three issues. First, Herman´s new-found faith in the family.
Second, her alleged comparison of the family values which still existed under the Nazis with the abolition of those values by the "class of 1968".
And third, e-mail mass protests in Germany against the television supremos have produced a new concept of public opinion.
What was a typical blonde-TV-star-puts-her-foot-in-it
incident developed a completely new e-dynamic in the internet
The day after the Kerner show Herman received on her homepage 5000
supportive emails; after five days the number had grown to more than
20,000. Blogs of the leading German papers got several thousand
messages mostly critical of the television establishment and pro-Herman.
It all began in 2006 with her best-selling book, Das Eva Prinzip (The Eva Principle). In the simplest terms, the book says that modern dogma wants women to find fulfilment first and foremost in a career, but this leaves them bitter and burned out, with too little time for husband, motherhood and family.
In a key sequence Herman remembers a call she got during a holiday abroad from a best friend, a good-looking 41-year-old successful businesswoman and single mother from Hamburg. She had suffered a serious heart attack and wept on the phone saying: "Everyone thinks I am so tough. Yes, but I would have much preferred a normal family life to the life I lead. I often thought about committing suicide. I feel so overstretched and empty. Only the responsibility for my 10-year-old daughter prevented me from doing it." Herman hung up, went to her three women friends in the holiday resort, told the story, and one by one the three of them, all around forty -- a businesswoman, an artist and another anchorwoman -- started to cry. "This is our life," they agreed. "We all feel like this."
Don´t make my mistake
That was a starting point for the thrice-divorced Herman to give a voice to many disillusioned women who felt betrayed by the new dogma of self-realisation. She says: Don´t make the mistake I made.
All right, you say, she is one of the many who notice late what matters in life. Better late than never. But why all the fuss about her?
It comes down to this: during a press conference to present her second book on this topic, The Noah's Ark Principle: Why We Must Save the Family, she said the following:
"We have to make the burden for families lighter and not heavier. And we also have to create more justice between families with and those without children. And we have to give a more positive connotation to the role of the mother in Germany, which unfortunately had been abolished by the Nazis and the subsequent movement of 1968. We all know that there was a highly dangerous politician who led the German people into its ruin, but what was good -- and that is values, that is children, that is mothers, that is families, keeping together -- all this was abolished by the 68-ers. Nothing should stay as it was."
There were 30 journalists at the press conference. None took offence. The questions were the normal ones on the subject of the family. But next morning a report by one female journalist in a Hamburg daily alleged that Herman had applauded the family values of the Nazis.
Then all the agencies and TV stations jumped on the bandwagon and a typical German debate began: Is it possible to compare anything with what happened under the Nazis? Political correctness states, No! The slaughter of millions of Jews was unique in history. Or, as Jewish journalist Henryk M. Broder says: "There is a rule in current affairs discussions that every participant should heed. The first one to say 'Hitler', 'Nazis' or 'Third Reich' has played the bad card (actually, Broder's expression was a lot stronger). He either sympathises with the Nazis or, worse still, he violates the 11th commandment: 'You shall not compare!'"
There was, in fact, a simple way to check Herman's intentions. In The Eva Principle she dedicated a whole chapter to the negative effects of a book by a Nazi woman on motherhood, indignant that this book was still in print at the end of the 1970s. And she took part in a public campaign against neo-nazi hooligans in the 1990s. So everyone could have known where she stands.
The real media frenzy
Herman denied what was reported about her now but could not prove it. She had not recorded her press conference. Strangely enough, the biggest private TV company in Germany, RTL, had filmed the whole thing but did not want to give her the tapes. Happily for Herman one of the other journalists had taped the conference. When the media fuss broke out, he sent her his MP3.
Then came the invitation to appear on the Kerner show. "It was a tribunal with Eva Herman in the role of the accused, Johannes B. Kerner as prosecutor, and three lay judges who had agreed on the judgement before the beginning of the process," writes Broder. After 55 minutes she was dismissed by Kerner in front of the cameras. For what? Kerner had solemnly pronounced the words "unrestrained individualism". This term, he noted, was used by chief Nazi ideologist Alfred Rosenberg. Herman had also used these words. When Kerner asked her why she used the same words as Rosenberg she lost countenance and quipped, "I don't want to comment on that. Motorways were built [in that era] too and we drive on them." Kerner said immediately, "Motorways is too much," and asked her to leave.
Now comes the real media frenzy. What was until then a typical blonde-TV-star-puts-her-foot-in-it incident developed a completely new e-dynamic in the internet community.
The day after the Kerner show Herman received on her homepage 5000 supportive emails; after five days the number had grown to more than 20,000. Blogs of the leading German papers got several thousand messages mostly critical of the television establishment and pro-Herman.
As one blogger wrote: "I have the same feeling as in September 1989 when the Berlin wall came down, a certain 'something is happening here'. The people are very patient but not so stupid as the PC media men would like. 'We are the people', the slogan of the peaceful revolution in the GDR against the ruling communist class, has already worked once ..."
That might be one of the reasons why not only the quality papers, but also last Tuesday's Bild once again opened its pages to Eva Herman and interviewed her in a full-page article, which is unusual for a tabloid. In the interview Herman drew the conclusion that "there is a difference between public opinion and published opinion".
Sorry, Eva, this is not true any more. Thanks to the internet.
Hartwig Bouillon is MercatorNet's contributing editor for Germany. He writes from Muenster/Westfalia.
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