Talk Less Shit, Be More Anal

Talk Less Shit, Be More Anal

The economic crisis in Europe is already hard enough to understand. Journalists should inform us if we’re screwed, and how screwed we are. Thing unravels when they start substituting literary fiction and an extended scatological metaphor for fact.

Case one: Speculation regarding France’s creditworthiness last week led to French shares losing 15 percent of their value. Something was responsible for fears of French exposure to Eurozone debt. NPR traced the possible source of the rumors to the Mail on Sunday, which published a piece questioning the liquidity of Sociétié Générale, France’s second-largest bank. One problem: the Mail’s source was probably a fictional serial in Le Monde imagining the euro’s collapse. The Mail denies the link, but retracted the story anyway.

Case two: Michael Lewis has a book out in October called Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World. Europe is the new third world in his eyes, having travelled there for Vanity Fair to write about the economic crises affecting various Eurozone countries. Published last week, his latest Vanity Fair essay concerns Germany.

Through 10,000 words he uses an extended metaphor of scatology to explain how Germany’s obsessions with shit and cleanliness are linked to its economic governance. Much of the essay meanders through this muck, as he tries and fails to hammer his point home. The essay lacks forward-looking analysis, and is weighed down by tired and lazy stereotyping of Germans, Greeks, and Jews. He says “there are no Jews in Germany, or not many,” but Germany’s Jewish population actually rivals the country’s combined number of American and Chinese residents. He claims that Germany has Europe’s only toilet museum, but in fact there’s one in Spain and another in Ukraine.

Lewis is influential, and his name next to an assertion that Europe is the new third world will make even more people believe Europe is more screwed than it actually is. Europe is not the third world, and Lewis offers little analysis to justify such an absurd title. Penguin, publishing the book internationally, has chucked the U.S. subtitle given by W. W. Norton & Company. Instead they call it Boomerang: Adventures of a Financial Disaster Tourist. When did we start listening to tourists?

Credit: Vom kleinen Maulwurf, der wissen wollte, wen ihm auf den Kopf gemacht hat, Werner Holzwarth and Wolf Erlbruch, 1989


TMN Editor Mike Deri Smith is no gourmet, he just has an abnormally large stomach. He lives in London. More by Mike Deri Smith

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