Saturday, July 07, 2007
A close look at the most recent Pew Global Attitudes Survey: Part I, responding to Glenn Greenwald
A couple of days ago Glenn Greenwald enlisted the latest survey (pdf) of The Pew Global Attitudes Project (released June 27) in support of his most recent book, A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency (released June 26). As Greenwald details in his post, the Pew Survey reports that America's standing as measured by the answers to various polling questions has fallen precipitously since 1999-2000 among virtually everybody except populations of Christians and Jews who live in close proximity to large numbers of Muslims. Greenwald's punchline:
The collapse of America's moral standing in the world -- the intense and widespread contempt in which we are held -- is, without question, a direct by-product of our behavior over the last six years...
Our standing in the world has changed profoundly over the last six years -- it has collapsed almost completely -- for only one reason: because we have fundamentally changed how we conduct ourselves, the principles that guide us, the values we embody. The world was not "anti-American" before the Bush presidency, but -- at least in terms of how the world perceives our country -- it is now.
Suffice it to say that Greenwald holds the administration of George W. Bush responsible for the change in "our behavior" that has diminished our popularity in the world.
Greenwald's identification of the Bush-era policies as the culprit is, in one sense, optimistic, insofar as he believes that we will be able to reverse the supposed damage done to our reputation once we reverse those policies and, presumably, put somebody else in the White House. This is in stark contrast to the alarmist claims one often sees from Bush-haters, that the alleged damage he has done to America's reputation is for some reason irreversible in periods of time less than a couple of generations. Greenwald also dispatches the leftist claim that American foreign policy has always been exploitative, using the Pew data to support his contention that Bush's first term marked a clear turning point in world public opinion.
Of course, in the space of one blog post Greenwald does not assemble the entire argument necessary to support his claim. For example, perhaps his preferred methods for fighting Islamic radicalism would also have turned world opinion against us. One would have to read his book to see if he deals with that question, or just assumes that we could have fought a global counterinsurgency without polarizing world opinion. I have not done so (but, Glenn -- may I call you Glenn? -- I would happily read your book and write a good faith review if you send me a copy!).
For what it is worth, I think that Greenwald is directionally right about this, even if I think his absolutism -- "Our standing in the world has changed profoundly over the last six years ... for only one reason" -- is very difficult to defend. It is also strange that Greenwald would write this, considering that the point of his book's subtitle is that the president lacks nuance. Maybe it takes one absolutist to know another.
All of that as it may be, I read the Pew Survey's full write-up before Greenwald wrote his post and (not surprisingly) I had a somewhat different reaction. There is a lot of interesting stuff in there, and much of it tends to undermine Greenwald's claim that there is only one reason -- the Bush administration's abandonment of America's traditional values and means of conducting itself -- for the decline in America's stature. In fact, world opinion is itself quite nuanced, and in part reflects the fact that much of the world just cares about different issues than the United States.
The central theme of the Pew Center's report -- embodied in its first sentence -- is that world opinion increasingly distrusts all assertive great powers.
A 47-nation survey finds global public opinion increasingly wary of the world’s dominant nations and disapproving of their leaders. Anti-Americanism is extensive, as it has been for the past five years. At the same time, the image of China has slipped significantly among the publics of other major nations. Opinion about Russia is mixed, but confidence in its president, Vladimir Putin, has declined sharply. In fact, the Russian leader’s negatives have soared to the point that they mirror the nearly worldwide lack of confidence in George W. Bush.
This conclusory opening paragraph is reflected in the report's underlying data, and might be read to undermine the claim that the decline in American prestige is entirely George W. Bush's fault. It may well be that the typical person who lives in an economically or militarily weak or irrelevant country just does not trust great powers. Now that he does not depend on one for protection from another, why should he?
It is also not obvious that the declining popularity of the United States is of the great geopolitical significance that Greenwald and other advocates of "soft power" suppose. Yes, it is definitely easier to get your way if you are popular than unpopular, but the Survey data show that our adversaries -- Iran and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Osama bin Laden, Vladimir Putin, and Hugo Chavez -- have also become much less popular (of which more in a forthcoming post). The world may wish a pox on all our houses, but in the end people will have to think seriously about the threats they face. The French and Germans may dislike the United States, but Russia can turn off their supply of natural gas. Some of this discontinuity has surfaced in recent elections. Despite supposedly negative views of the United States, both Germany and France (only 30% and 39% favorable, respectively) have recently elected governments that campaigned for closer ties with America. This suggests that many Europeans express anti-Americanism as a matter of social convention rather than self-interested conviction. That certainly comports with my anecdotal observations.
The second theme of the survey is that average attitudes about fundamental issues around the world have moved away from the views of most Americans. In particular, the American public is less likely to regard "pollution and the environment" as a top threat than in any other rich country and many poor countries (regular readers know that I believe this divergence is because climate change, so far, has worked to the advantage of most Americans), and has relatively less regard for the supposedly "growing gap between the wealthy and the poor."
In other words, the American public cares about leading global issues with different intensity than the typical rich country citizen. If the U.S. government does the bidding of the average American, it will be addressing different issues than those the world believes it ought to pursue. Again, that divergence suggests that there is more at work here than the Bush administration's callous disregard for our traditional values.
There is as well a certain self-interested bullshittiness in some of what passes for foreign public opinion. The French and Germans, for example, claim to be mightily concerned about the gap between rich and poor (45% and 50%, respectively, saying it is the greatest danger in the world today), yet 64% of French and 55% of Germans say that China's growing economy is a bad thing. Well, there is no force in the world today that is lifting more of the poor out of poverty than China's economy. Maybe closing the gap between rich and poor is only important if the United States does it by writing big checks to NGOs.
That bit of snark leads me to the third theme of the survey, which is that much of the world, despite its stated anti-Americanism, expects the United States to solve the leading problems. Of the 46 countries in the survey other than the United States, 12 thought that the United States should "take responsibility for dealing with" the greatest world problem ahead of either their own country or the United Nations. Of the 13 countries that said that their own country had the lead responsibility to "take responsibility for dealing with" the greatest world problem, another 5 chose the United States ahead of the United Nations for the second responsibility. Anti-American Spain chose the United States to deal with pressing world problems ahead of either the European Union or the United Nations, and 18% of French respondents wanted the United States to act on their most pressing problem vs. 17% who chose the European Union. In Germany, the corresponding numbers were 12% and 6%.
In other words, world public opinion does not, in general, agree with Americans on which problems are the most threatening, but it thinks that it is the job of the United States to address the problems according to world priorities rather than our own.
The Pew Center report curiously avoids this point, but to me it is important: The idea that the United States should "deal with" the world's most pressing problems (at least if the U.N. does not) is particularly popular in Western Europe, the one part of the world wealthy and potentially powerful enough to "deal with" most global problems as or more effectively as the United States (recognizing that it would have to make different choices about military spending to "deal with" some of these problems). The survey encompassed six wealthy countries in Western Europe -- Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden. A larger percentage of surveyed public opinion in each of these six countries believed that the United States should deal with the greatest problems facing the world than believed that their own countries should (see the table for Q.10 on page 87). Western Europe was the only region surveyed in which pluralities in every country believed that the United States had a greater responsibility than their own government to solve the most pressing problems in the world. In Eastern Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa there were at least some surveyed countries in which more of the public held their own government responsible for dealing with the most pressing problem than the United States.
Robert Kagan, are you taking notes? If this is not evidence for the neocon thesis that Western Europe has grown accustomed to free-riding off the United States, I don't know what would be.
Yes, the Bush administration was too damned arrogant in its relations with other countries during its first term especially and has all along simply sucked at waging the "information war". And, yes, various of its actions and omissions were destined to damage the reputation of the United States, especially among Muslims. It is not, however, at all obvious that this decline in popularity is of the great geopolitical significance that Glenn Greenwald (and, to be sure, many others on the left and in the permanent "foreign policy establishment") believes that it is. It did not prevent the election of the most overtly pro-American president France has ever produced, for example. More importantly, dislike of the United States has not prevented steep declines in the global public's regard for the likes of Vladimir Putin, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hugo Chavez, or Osama bin Laden. American transnational progressives may prefer to claim they are Canadian at their confabs, but are we actually finding it harder to recruit enemies of our enemies? There is much less evidence of that.
Finally, Greenwald's argument that the errors of the Bush administration are the "one" reason for the decline in standing of the United States strikes me as a huge stretch and in any case not supported by the Pew Study. As the Pew Study makes clear, there are at least two other factors at work -- the declining popularity of all great powers and an increasing difference of opinion between the American public and much of the rest of the world about which threats are the most pressing. That difference of opinion may one day narrow -- Al Gore is working his tail off to see that it does -- but until then not even a Democratic president will be able to cater to the world's preferences over those of his own electorate.
Anti-Americanism is hard to pin down, but suffice to say I've seen it for over 50 years. It's something that waxes and wanes according to world events.
So the Anglosphere could feel some bitterness over American isolationism in WW1 and WW2.. yet be terribly grateful when it did come in.. and feel some irony that America could work so hard to overcome reverse isolationism in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq later on.
Part of that is due to the mild shock that America has it's own foreign policy and interests that can be at odds with the rest of the Anglophere and much of the rest of the world.. and does not always respond the way expected of the rest of us.
And nowadays, there's an even bigger issue.. the Western world grows more secular every year, and American religiousness looks odd to many.. even more like a Muslim country than the rest of the West. Coupled with that is a current bout of anti-religiousness sweeping the world which neatly picks up American foreign policy and seeming fundamentalism in it's net.
So I see old bitternesses, diverging foreign policies and anti religious sentiment trumping the old alliances that stood us all in great stead. There's a grass roots move in the West to disengage from just about anything that doesn't lead to a comfortable lifestyle and retirement and which can be left to the kids to sort out.
Unfortunately, the more I think about it, the more I think that last sentence is the key to anti-Americanism.
Now, as for Israel...
By D.E. Cloutier, at Sat Jul 07, 10:38:00 PM:
Excellent post, TH.
Meanwhile, AP reported this week: "Visits to the United States from countries outside of Canada and Mexico totaled 21.7 million in 2006, down 17 percent from a peak of 26 million in 2000, according to Commerce Department figures. In the same period, cross-border travel around the world was up 20 percent."
That decrease certainly didn't help Americans in the domestic travel and tourism industries. (No, the drop was not simply the result of an industrious Homeland Security Department). But the decline in visitors, and the other problems, can be fixed.
My own experience from my overseas trips: The international hostility toward the U.S. is wide, not deep.
By D.E. Cloutier, at Sat Jul 07, 11:03:00 PM:
"...is a current bout of anti-religiousness sweeping the world"
I don't see that outside Western Europe and America's blue states.
I certainly don't see it in Africa and Asia. I don't spend much time in South America.
By Unknown, at Sat Jul 07, 11:19:00 PM:
Did Pew ask folks what other country they'd move to if given the opportunity?
"Did Pew ask folks what other country they'd move to if given the opportunity?"
That would be the dreaded "one question too many" that would probably ruin the point they're trying to make.
Great post. One nit I would like to pick. You stated: "Well, there is no force in the world today that is lifting more of the poor out of poverty than China's economy." I understand what you are saying with that comment but I think the U.S. economy (with Japan, the little tigers and even Europe) doing far more to reduce poverty than China's policies. Our consumer culture is buying a heap of those (need of inspection) Chinese goods. Our companies, along with Japanese, South Korean and the other tigers are a huge reason for China's economic health. China has the supply, but it its American (and Asian) disposable income and our demand for low costs goods that is reducing poverty, not just in China, but worldwide. Its the upside of globalization. And we are the engine by far.
In other words, world public opinion does not, in general, agree with Americans on which problems are the most threatening, but it thinks that it is the job of the United States to address the problems according to world priorities rather than our own.
Or to rephrase this in slightly less diplomatic terms: most of the rest of the world views the United States as a trained attack dog: a resource to be used as necessary, and used up if necessary, whenever its skills are needed, with no regard for its health. When its skills are not immediately needed it should be locked up in a very small cage, so that they can amuse themselves by poking sharp sticks at it through the bars.
Harper, Howard, Merkel, Sarkozy, various and sundry Latin American Countries - Conservatives, and not quite rabidly leftist centrists have won a lot of elections in the last couple of years.
By quo vadis, at Sun Jul 08, 12:04:00 AM:
jc: And nowadays, there's an even bigger issue.. the Western world grows more secular every year, and American religiousness looks odd to many.
The perception of excessive religiosity in the US is probably more a product of the European media than any reality in the US. Over the last 40 years, the US has experienced the same declining interest in religion that Europe has. Perhaps more importantly, there is no significant domestic or international issue in which religious principals have dictated US policy over practical or secular concerns.
One other comment: the dependence of European culture on America's leadership is rather astounding and never ceases to surprise. Talk about a culture of dependency.
Lastly, I do think Bush's policies have caused the lower public opinion, but its not entirely his fault (his incompetence notwithstanding). The worldwide media, aided by America's media have been force feeding this image from day one of his presidency, long before 9/11. We forget that Bush's Kyoto and ICC policies already made him the great isoloationist (before he became the big imperialist). There is a convergence of transnational progressivism that is a big part of this, which is anti-American at its core. Combine that with the Muslim world whose "honest" opinions are created by anti-American dictatorships. Basically, nothing Bush could have done short of offering hugs for Bin Laden or resigning would have placated world opinion in this climate.
I mean apparently 45% of Americans want Bush impeached now, I suppose because he "lied" to get us into war. The media have stuck with their storyline and because Bush can't articulate his way out of a brown paper bag, its stuck, no matter how patently false that storyline is (a reminder that the blogosphere still doesn't have the megaphone it needs).
Speaking simply from the narrow vantage point of the one European country that I actually know something about (France), many of the reasons the French "hate" America and Americans, is simply projection of their own problems and shortcomings onto the "other", namely the Cowboy Bush ("simplisme!"), who must be verbally crucified to justify the shortcomings, weaknesses and blunders of themselves (the French). If if feels good, why not do it?
After a week of being harangued with 9/11 conspiracy theories, cultural criticisms of the US, etc., I am more than amused to think of them as a nation of collaborators (read Irene Nemirovsky's book, "Suite Francaise"). A more silly group of small-minded, parochial humbugs is hard to imagine. Sarkozy LIKES Barbara Streisand's singing. Yuk.
They make the Chinese look like cultural giants.
Unfortunately, in my humble opinion, Western Europe in particular is living on borrowed time (literally). Irregardless of the Euro presently approaching the value of $1.40, their demographics are about to implode (about = 20 years). And no amount of America-bashing can change that. They won't like us anymore in 20 years than they do now. So what.
I think that the Pew poll overall shows a collossal failure of thought and imagination by many of the world's supposedly "informed" citizens. And Glen Greenwald's analysis just shows what a collossal horse's **s he is.
Agree with you. However, it's now fashionable to be irreligious and loud about it. That means picking up on any religious oddity and portraying a picture of US fundamentalism which "must" be the cause of war mongering or incompetence.
Such an attitude promotes a view that if we were nicer to those Islamic chaps and listened to their grievances everything thing would be fine.. at least long enough to retire and let another generation do the heavy lifting.
By Mannning, at Sun Jul 08, 01:17:00 AM:
One factor that I see no recognition of in the EU case, is the education systems there. For the last 50 or so years, the teachers, administrators, and students themselves have been skewed so far to the left as to be lamentably one-sided. Hate-America is taught from grade school on, with every one of our failings blown up to cosmic proportions.
We are seeing the results now of this huge emphasis on poisoning the minds of EU children against us.
I had to deal with it practically every day of my ten years in Europe. It was an incredible experience to be defending America against the wild accusations that had been fixed in the minds of the people from birth onwards.
By Unknown, at Sun Jul 08, 01:40:00 AM:
While the Euros will have to pay the price for any mistakes they make wrt the US, I think that there is one American characteristic that makes those mistakes more likely.
That characteristic is that Americans really want to be liked. Folks don't like you when you tell them that the reason that they're behind is that they're doing dumb things. They'll like you if you say that they're correct, smart, good-looking, superior, but something unfair is happening to them.
Yes, there are Americans who don't play that game, but they're not very likeable.
By Whiskey, at Sun Jul 08, 02:11:00 AM:
Glen Greenwald certainly is not a man. He's a woman, at least culturally.
His vision of America is the Lifetime Movie where the "beautiful victim" suffers some tragedy (usually her husband cheats on her / dumps her for a younger, hotter woman) and ends up some idyllic small town where a younger hunky guy (who is secretly a rich aristo) ends up her love interest.
That's Greenwald's plan for America: be a beautiful victim, people feel sorry for you, you get a rich/hunky/younger boyfriend (who? The Saudis perhaps with their oil money) and so on.
Did Bill Parcells CARE if players liked him? Hell no his objective was to win Superbowls. Most men focused on getting things done (as opposed to watching Lifetime TV) don't care if they are liked or not, merely if they are effective at what they do.
I have yet to hear anyone explain WHY it would matter one damn if people around the world "liked us." As opposed to living in fear that they'd get nuked out of existence, and everyone they knew, if Osama pulled off another 9/11.
Glen Greenwald is another deeply effeminate, unserious, and un-intellectual pundit who has never actually done anything of note at all. He belongs with Rosie in the idiot bin.
But if you want evidence on the deeply feminized, weak, appeasing culture of the US, look no further. "Feelings" elevated to the matter of international relations.
Secular Europe is one of the reasons fundamentalist Islam is allowed to take root in Europe.
By Unknown, at Sun Jul 08, 06:34:00 AM:
Greenwald's "It's all Bush's fault" thesis is absurd on the face of it for anyone who has actually been following the development of anti-Americanism in the world over the last couple of decades. It could only be believed by someone who was intellectually asleep during that period, and, in particular, during the final years of the Clinton Administration. I have been watching the development of the phenomenon in Germany rather closely over that period. I suspect that the genesis and development of anti-Americanism there in its modern, pervasive, and, one might say, obsessive form is more or less similar to what has happened in the rest of the world. The decisive factor in the development of modern anti-Americanism was not Bush, but the demise of Communism and the perception of the U.S. as the “King of the Hill,” the one remaining superpower. The classic and predictable emotional response to this worldwide has been the categorization of the U.S. as an “out-group,” the evil enemy per se. We have become to many in the modern world what the Jews were to the Nazis, the bourgeoisie to the Communists, and the blacks to the Ku Klux Klan.
Anti-Americanism has, of course, existed since the foundation of the Republic. It has only become a pervasive, worldwide phenomenon, however, in those last couple of decades. Its expression in Germany is typical. There, legions of haters are obsessed with the evils of the United States. They literally spend their lives wading through sewers of anti-American propaganda so they will have something to post on Internet forums the next day. Anyone who can read German can easily verify this by visiting a few German political forums. The development of this phenomenon did not begin all of a sudden, of course, with the collapse of Communism. It spread first among the ideological elites, many of whom, as in other countries, had influence over the German mass media. The result was striking. Anti-American diatribes of unprecedented viciousness, at least in my lifetime, began to appear in the media ever more frequently. It became obvious in time that all this propaganda was striking a responsive note among the German people. They demanded more and rewarded the propagandists. Anti-American hate became a profitable business, and papers and magazines throughout the country, regardless of their editorial bias, were quick to cash in. Bookstores throughout the country were stacked with the latest by Moore, Chomsky, et. al.
Anti-American propaganda in the German media hardly began with the Bush Administration. In was, in fact, far more pervasive, obsessive, violent, and unabashed during the final years of the Clinton Administration, a demonstrable fact that blows Greenwald’s “It’s all about Bush” thesis out of the water. See, for example, the incredibly nasty and vicious coverage in “Der Spiegel,” the biggest German news magazine, of the “Echelon scandal,” or the alleged “American theft of Panzer secrets,” both of which took place during the final years of the Clinton Administration. In fact, coverage of America in “Der Spiegel” and elsewhere in Germany has become far more subdued in these waning years of the Bush Administration than it was then, because ever increasing numbers of Germans and Americans began to push back. The quasi-racist nature of the phenomenon was obvious, and editors couldn’t continue to publish such over-the-top anti-American propaganda and maintain their respectability at the same time. They became aware that they were being watched. Bush has never been anything more than a fig leaf for the America haters. His real significance is obvious to anyone who actually takes the time to look at the German numbers. What could he possibly have done to cause the favorability ratings of the US to suddenly drop from 78% in 2000 to 61% in 2002? Greenwald and his ilk provide intellectual cover for the rationalizations of the haters and the propagandists in the German media who feed their hate. The fact that he is completely and disastrously wrong in his assessment of worldwide anti-Americanism will become clear when Bush is gone. Don’t hold your breath if you think anti-Americanism will suddenly disappear. Of course, then the America haters will leave Greenwald high and dry and come up with a new rationalization. That process has, in fact, already begun.
Is it better to be loved or feared? We're the last of the historical super-powers still standing. And we look to our next threats, like China and the rise of the rogue states or states that would fund and supply terrorists with the weapons for waging war. Even Russia is spooked by the US talking missile defense, but they're doing squat to combat terrorism, and probably are in their own way enabling it.
We're the richest, so by definition more than we can shoulder (for immigration, aid to dependant nations, protections, food, medicare care, fighting aids, etc.) want into or something from the US. In other words, their turn on Lady Liberty's abundant teet.
If travel to the US is down, so what? The economy is exactly sparkling, when you dig under the HELOCs how many US citizens are traveling abroad?
So sure, the sitting administration did more to damage our standing... right. What explains the terrorism during the Clinton years, or Carter years?
By TigerHawk, at Sun Jul 08, 08:50:00 AM:
Bizarrely, I feel the need to mount a qualified defense of Glenn Greenwald. If you believe that the pre-2001 State Department data are comparable to the Pew Global Attitudes Survey data during the Bush years, then there has been a palpable deterioration of the world's regard for the United States during that period. The point of Greenwald's essay is to refute the claims of both the right and left, each of which argue that "nothing really has changed." The right makes this point because it reduces their need to examine the Bush administration's record for still more things that might have been done differently. The left -- or at least the hard left -- makes the point because it believes that America's foreign policy has been systematically exploitative for a long time. Greenwald says that both the left and right are wrong, and I agree with him in this -- there has been a shift in opinion in the last five years that probably reflects substatantive changes.
The question, though, is whether it is all or even mostly due to the Bush administration's disregard for traditional American values, as Greenwald puts it, or whether there are larger forces at play. I think that there is ample evidence of the latter in the Pew Survey, and Greenwald thinks that the Pew Survey "conclusively" proves the former. On that issue, which bears on the extent of Bush's culpability rather than the seismic changes in the world that happened to occur during the Bush administration, Greenwald and I disagree rather starkly.
Much of this anti-Americanism is also a result of what nations and politicians do to distract the populace from the growing problems within their own borders. Rather than look honestly at themselves and admit they could be better, they look at the US and bash it. That Bush is in the White House is largely irrelevant. If I were the rest of the world, with all of my economic, social, political and military weaknesses, watching the lone superpower go about its prosperous and happy business, I'd rather not draw attention to my own failings. I'd do what many around the world are doing (Chavez, Iran, Europe, etc.) point outwards to the lone super-power, engage in hyperbole and emotional carping and incite the populous to focus their attention away from their own sad realities. It's nothing more than jealousy whipped to a fevered pitch by the world's media.
By D.E. Cloutier, at Sun Jul 08, 10:58:00 AM:
"If travel to the US is down, so what?"
For one thing, it removed $100 billion from the U.S. economy. And the drop in travel means the U.S. is slowly becoming less relevant in the global economy. Don't assume the U.S. will always stay on top. (In the case of GDP per capita, the U.S. ranks ninth, behind countries such as Norway, Ireland, and the UAE. Source of ranking: CIA World Factbook.)
Having been in western Europe many years prior to the Bush presidency, I can affirm that anti-Americanism was alive and well (especially among the French) at that time. In fact, several friends warned us about it and gave tips on how to ameliorate it. The papers especially were anti-American. I think people forget just how reviled Reagan was and for similar reasons to Bush. He, too, was seen as an unintelligent, religious, America-first "cowboy".
The Pew study seems to be limited just as much by what it didn't cover as by what it did. Many people have emotional perceptions that have little to do with global political implications, which this study focused on. I think the "tall poppy" phenomenon is evident in some of the answers. Enormous and steady economic success and a very popular culture don't always lead to admiration by the chattering classes of other countries and the populations they influence.
I also have to agree with other posters here about the influence of the intelligentsia and the media's love affair with a John Lennon world where those bothersome religious constraints will go away and we will all live in a utopia of absolute personal freedom with no consequences. Those anti-faithers resent Bush with every fiber of their being because he is the embodiment of the stubborn persistence of those despised constraints.
By David M, at Sun Jul 08, 11:16:00 AM:
Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 07/08/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention updated throughout the day…so check back often. This is a weekend edition so updates are as time and family permits.
By Purple Avenger, at Sun Jul 08, 11:18:00 AM:
The following remarks were apparently written by Turkish diplomat circa 1961 and ran in an article published in Reader's Digest. Go read it all. Greenwald is a young twit who has no context to make his proclamations from. His notions of "the past" started with the 1990's.
Why America is misunderstood
"In recent decades the United States has poured out its bounty and shared its technical skills in a spirit and with a lavishness never before seen in history. The world has seldom known a people so friendly and compassionate, so warmhearted and eager to be understood. Or so ubiquitous. American magazines and movies, goods and industry, technicians and educators, students and tourists cover the earth. One cannot find a daily newspaper in any language without some news of the United States.
Yet no nation is so misunderstood, its true aims so misinterpreted. WHY?
Let’s dismiss the shallow “causes” often cited...
...it is too facile, I believe, to ascribe any sizable misunderstanding to envy on the part of nations with lower living standards...
There are, I think, deeper reasons behind this nation’s being misunderstood. One is the extraordinary American addiction to self-criticism. No people on earth so persistently and with such gusto present themselves in the worst light - a curiously contradictory trait, since the ordinary American is more obstinately proud of his country than any other nation I know. Yet, U.S. newspapers, magazines and other information media seem bent on publicizing the worst in their culture and playing down the good. The abnormal, adverse and catastrophic are developed in depth..."
By Cosmo, at Sun Jul 08, 11:24:00 AM:
Anti-Americanism has morphed into a globally-fashionable form of bigotry far out of proportion to any of its alleged causes, real or perceived -- practised most enthusiastically by people who spend a lot of time congratulating themselves on their tolerance and open-mindedness. It is the only hatred I’m aware of which is justified by its very existence: ‘ask yourselves why you’re so hated’.
Fact is, the only picture of America most people on this planet will ever see is comprised of words and images selected by editors and producers in the politically-compromised newsrooms of the West and their state-controlled counterparts in places like the Middle East and China.
Elite media present the United States almost exclusively in the worst possble light -- then blame Americans for the willingness of others to believe the worst about them.
In the absence of an alternative to the media narrative of non-stop American wickedness, the answer to the question 'why they hate us' is that 'they' are given precious little choice.
This form of coverage has only been amplified since 2000, with the election of what transnational elites who dominate global media organizations believed to be an illegitimate administration.
Domestically speaking, invoking manufactured animosity to cow and ostracize is a classic 'struggle session' tactic aimed at our increasingly insecure elites, who believe it's more important to be well liked than to do the right thing.
Far too many of them have bought into the simple-minded notion that we should be judged primarily or, so often, only by our shortcomings, and that all moral authority evaporates the instant we fail to meet the standards we champion and to which we aspire.
Like 'struggle session' party cadres, people like Greenwald hold out the false promise that the volume of vitriol, ridicule and abuse hurled at the U.S. every day will be attenuated once Americans elect leaders more easily seduced by smooth-talking European diplomats, more easily conned and guilted by third world grievance hustlers and UN charlatans, and more easily cowed by gangsters masquerading as statesmen.
Sorry for the long comment.
By George, at Sun Jul 08, 11:45:00 AM:
Greenwald is a simpleton. Look, the US and Europe have always had different ideas on what/how/where to do things in the world. What has changed since Bush's inauguration is that a new paradigm has risen in the media, not to mention the effects the Internet now play on global opinion.
The global media is now drenched in anti-American narratives by 24/7 media channels that never existed before, or in the least, did not have the same type of global coverage as they do today. You cannot evaluate global opinion on the United States without factoring any of that in, which is what Gleeeen does because he's an utter moron.
For the Middle East, the emergence of Al Jazeera alone since 1996 should have made its way into this equation. I like the English version of Al Jazeera, but I'm fully aware that the Arabic version isn't exactly the same.
The Bush administration's claim to fame when it comes to all this is that they have more or less made no attempt to conduct fake diplomacy and sugar-coat everything. The Clinton administration was very good at this - even if Russia, France, Germany and the US completely disagreed about Iraq in the late 90s, how many knew? The Russian diplomats would call the Clinton administration "unilateral" in the UN on their approach to Iraq, but you never heard the global media following up on that.
During the Clinton administration, policy disputes with other great powers were sugar-coated or covered up completely, whereas the Bush administration has made barely any attempts to do this.
One can argue whether it is better to pretend you and your friend aren't having an argument for the public, or let that disagreement be open for all to see, but Gleeeeen seems to fall for this and believe that we were "loved" earlier for some other reason.
How can you ignore the effects of the media on public perception in evaluating that perception through history? Most people believe what they do because of what they've seen or read. Most people are sheep. And that includes Greenwald.
I've reached the ripe age of 65, and have sorta been paying attention for all that time. And there has always been spittle flying in the US' direction.
Does it really matter how wet we're getting? And can we really assign retroactive blame? At this point, it ain't the weather -- it's the climate.
By Cosmo, at Sun Jul 08, 12:24:00 PM:
You're right. Media is/are the elephant(s) in the room whenever hand-wringing about America's image abroad begins.
And this isn't the first instance of media organs being used to stoke resentment into hatred.
By Kev, at Sun Jul 08, 12:46:00 PM:
I can't believe that anyone is making such a big deal about a poll. Pollsters can defend the science behind it all they want to, but I'm not going to buy it, because I have never been asked, and I bet that most of you commenting here haven't participated in one either.
The only way to truly measure world opinion on something would be to ask each and every person, and that's obviously impossible. So if you haven't been asked, then who exaclty is speaking for you? And how is that determined? Certainly, you don't have a say in who that person might be.
I know that there is a segment of society that believes that people behave the same way according to what (insert trendy demographic here) group they belong to, but there are a lot of us out there who think that people behave as individuals first, not as part of a group. So all these polls, where a thousand or so people are assumed to speak for an entire population, are about as scientific as a horoscope, and should be respected as such--only for their entertainment value and nothing more.
I have found it enlightening to begin my conversations with the international "America is the cause of everything wrong in the world" crowd with the following scenario. Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning and there was nothing but ocean between Canada and Mexico. America is gone completely. Would the rest of the world sit down and design a compromise on all of the issues America is screwing up? Would a new super power emerge and would they be as good/bad/benevolent/malevolent as America. This tactic usually exposes some spirited conversation.
I stopped reading anything Greenwald wrote when it became clear he doesn't believe half of what he writes anyway. His writing is just masturbation material for BDS sufferers, and no one should take it seriously.
By Unknown, at Sun Jul 08, 11:06:00 PM:
"Fact is, the only picture of America most people on this planet will ever see is comprised of words and images selected by editors and producers in the politically-compromised newsrooms of the West and their state-controlled counterparts in places like the Middle East and China."
Precisely. Greenwald's whole argument is based on the premise that not only "well-informed" Europeans, but every America-hating peasant in the third world is really so well informed that his hate is rational and justified. In fact, people generally believe what their media elites tell them about the United States. Germany is probably a representative "data point" for what the people in the rest of Europe are seeing, and there the message is relentlessly and obsessively negative. It is remarkably homogeneous, whether it comes from the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" on the right or "Der Spiegel" on the left. Indeed, on one of my visits to Germany, I saw Noam Chomsky's face smiling down from the front page of the neo-Nazi "Deutsche Nationalzeitung." Germans know a lot of "facts" about the United States, but those "facts" are half-baked, one-sided emphasis of negative incidents ripped out of their historical context with no effort to understand what really happened, or to even consider that there might be another side to the story. As a result, Germans as a whole are grossly and profoundly ignorant about the United States. Their "knowledge" consists of the propaganda slogans and themes of their mass media. The idea that they are even close to sufficiently well-informed of the arguments on both sides of any issue to justify their low "favorability" rating of the United States is palpably absurd. That goes double for Bush. He is relentless demonized, and portrayed as evil incarnate, with hardly a trace of any attempt at balance. The idea that low "favorability" based on this grotesquely slanted portrayal could somehow be "rational" or "logical" is patent nonsense.
I have been visiting Europe for 30 years and find the French, in particular, to be the friendliest I have ever seen them. Everyone now speaks at least some English and the anti-American sentiment that was so common in the 1980s is much diminished. My European friends do not like Bush but it is instinctive and a reaction to the "Texas" image. My daughter has had French friends ask her about Bush and they obviously know almost nothing about him. If anything, the attitude is much better than it was in Reagan's time.
By Unknown, at Mon Jul 09, 10:23:00 AM:
> I have yet to hear anyone explain WHY it would matter one damn if people around the world "liked us."
The stock answer is something like "they'll help us if they like us" or "they'll hurt us if they don't", to which I ask
Really, name three instances of a country doing something that it felt was not in its self-interest because of affection for another country. Also, name three instances that a country did something that it felt was not in its self-interest because of dislike for another country.
What? Countries always behave in their perceived self-interest, regardless of affection or dislike? Why will that change in the future when the US is involved?
By Georg Felis, at Mon Jul 09, 11:52:00 AM:
I wonder how the tourism rates would look if they were adjusted for the strength of the native currency? As an example, Bratislava attracts quite a few British tourists with the argument that you can fly there and spend a week for less money than a weekend in Britain.
By D.E. Cloutier, at Mon Jul 09, 02:00:00 PM:
"I wonder how the tourism rates would look if they were adjusted for the strength of the native currency?"
Cheap destinations are nothing new.
By Unknown, at Mon Jul 09, 04:41:00 PM:
Any polls asking Americans how they liked the world? I guess the answer is: not much, they are problems that we can live without.
Btw: Two years ago, I spent two weeks in Beijin, I had to turn to Beijin's National TV to watch anything remotely pro-US, and "unbiased". I couldn't stomach CNN's anti-American propaganda. It seems the only way American "progressives" peddle their wares overseas is to blame Americans for all the world's ills. They are afraid to antagonize local audience if they criticize their local govt., they are afraid to be looked upon as racists if they criticized Latin warlords, Muslim dictators, or African kleptocrats. Who else can they critize and remain in the host countries? In these countries, the press is the mouthpiece of their govt., thus they believe whatever CNN told them, else they believe the US govt. would not allow them to say what they said on TV.
By Fen, at Wed Jul 11, 10:20:00 AM:
Yes Ivy, CNN International is much worse than our domestic CNN. And it does seem that they propagandize against the US to curry favor, much like they censored reporting of Saddam's rape rooms and torture chambers to maintian "access". Whores all.
But my question is: what use is the "goodwill" of the world anyway? When have we ever been able to bank it?
By Fen, at Wed Jul 11, 10:26:00 AM:
many of the reasons the French "hate" America and Americans, is simply projection of their own problems and shortcomings onto the "other"
Much like the wahhabi in Saudi. Ironic. Good thing there's not a mediocre painter to rally them into action.
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