- By Park MacDougaldPark Macdougald is an editorial researcher at Foreign Policy.
Barack Obama’s visit to Berlin may have sparked a wave of commentary and analysis, but it was an offhand remark from German Chancellor Angela Merkel that gave birth to a meme. Responding to questions about the National Security Agency’s PRISM program during a joint press conference with the U.S. president, Merkel noted that the “Internet is new territory, uncharted territory to all of us.”
“And it also enables our enemies,” she continued. “It enables enemies of a free, liberal order, to use it, to abuse it, to bring a threat to all of us, to threaten our way of life. And this is why we value cooperation with the United States on questions of security.
Sounds fairly innocuous, right? The web may not exactly be a new invention, but governments around the world are still assessing its impact and capabilities, especially after the recent revelations about American spying. Unfortunately for Merkel, German Internet users are not so forgiving. The German term Merkel used for “uncharted territory,” neuland (literally “new land”), conjured up images of 15th-century explorers discovering previously unknown lands. For context, the closest analogy for Americans might be former Sen. Ted Stevens’ infamous description of the Internet as a “series of tubes.”
Germans are nothing if not avid web users (German Wikipedia is the third-largest edition of the online encyclopedia in the world, after English and Dutch, even though German is only the 12th-most spoken language on the globe), and Merkel’s comments quickly spawned a full-blown Internet meme — replete with a hashtag, #neuland.
Some expressed frustration about seemingly out-of-touch politicians legislating something they can’t understand:
Others responded with a little more humor. The caption reads, “June 19th, 2013 – Merkel discovers #neuland”
Some Photoshop efforts bordered on the disturbing, like this one:
And others, like this rent-a-car company, rushed to capitalize on the chancellor’s remarks. The caption reads, “For all those who want to discover Neuland”
Here, a flash video, entitled, “Merkel’s travels in Neuland,” depicts the chancellor dressed as a conquistador arriving on a tropical island:
And inevitably — per a kind of Godwin’s Law for Internet memes — someone finally brought up cats:
Obama to outline big nuke cuts today; DOD civilian owes $500k – to DOD; Petraeus to Team Rubicon; Hastings, dead; Say goodbye, Rambo; Tara Sonenshine on “bottom line diplomacy;” and a bit more.Gordon Lubold
Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He is also the author of FP's Situation Report, an e-mailed newsletter that is blasted out to more than 70,000 national security and foreign affairs subscribers each morning that includes the top nat-sec news, breaking news, tidbits, nuggets and what he likes to call "candy." Before arriving at FP, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he wrote on national security and foreign policy. Prior to his arrival at USIP, he was a defense reporter for Politico, where he launched the popular Morning Defense early morning blog and tip-sheet. Prior to that, he was the Pentagon and national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and before that he was the Pentagon correspondent for the Army Times chain of newspapers. He has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, and has reported on military matters in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America as well as at American military bases across the country. He has spoken frequently on the sometimes-contentious relationship between the military and the media as a guest on numerous panels. He also appears on radio and television, including on CNN, public radio's Diane Rehm and To the Point, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and two children.| Situation Report |