Germany’s Der Spiegel has made it something of its bread-and-butter to promote scares with sensationalist cover stories and spooky cover art. But Americans might be especially surprised by the identity of Der Spiegel’s latest big threat: the social-networking site Facebook. Yes, just three weeks after Time magazine named Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as its “person of the year,” Der Spiegel last week also placed Facebook on its cover: namely, in the form of a sort of grinning high-tech monster ensnaring the members of the public in the tentacle-like cables protruding from its metallic body and seemingly throwing some of them to their deaths.
Whether the blue-green eyes of the monster were inspired by Zuckerberg’s own baby blues as featured on the cover of Time, only the Spiegel editors and art director can know for sure. If for Time, Zuckerberg is “the connector,” for Der Spiegel “Facebook & Co.” are rather “The Insatiable Ones” [Die Unersättlichen], accused in the sub-title of doing “billions of dollars of business with private data.”
The face of Facebook, according to Time (left) and Germany’s Der Spiegel (right)
If some German readers experienced a certain déjà vu in seeing the cover story, this is because exactly one year earlier Der Spiegel ran a spectacular cover story accusing America’s other internet giant, Google, of representing precisely the same sort of threat. The more austere cover art for that issue features the Google logo with a small microchip below it. A pop-up balloon pointing to the chip indicates “you are here.” The full headline reads “Google: the company that knows more about you than you do yourself.”
Spiegel cover, January 2010
Incidentally, a look back at Spiegel cover stories over the last several years shows that the source of the would-be panics propagated by the Spiegel editors is more often than not to be found in America. The Internet is likewise treated as per se a source of anxiety. American internet firms like Facebook and Google thus represent a kind of “perfect storm” for the scaremongers at Der Spiegel.