Monday, May 23, 2005

Don't hate us, we're "good" Americans 

Tim Blair reports some chuckles in Baghdad at the sight of the semi-nude former great leader and notes: " 'The Sun' should launch an Arab-language edition. Looks like they'’ve got a large potential readership."

Meanwhile, "Newsweek" strikes back retrospectively, with the cover of its Japanese edition from 2 February featuring the American flag in a rubbish bin.

Expect deadly riots to break out throughout the United States at this act of sacrilege. Or maybe not. After all, flag desecration is protected by the First Amendment, and as far as the American media is concerned, trashing your own country - particularly for the benefit of the overseas audiences - seems to be also taken as a constitutional right, if not actually a sacred obligation.

Check out the rest of the report by the Riding Sun blog, which broke this story, particularly the way "Newsweek" promoted the same set of articles in the Japanese and the American editions (hint: the Japanese pieces have significantly more negative titles – see also here for additional translation).

As Ed Driscoll notes, American journalists engage in a lot more America bashing to foreign audiences than they do at home (via Instapundit who comments: "I suspect that the Internet will make that much harder, as people are starting to pay attention, and to compare this stuff.") You only have to recall that Eason Jordan’s comments were made to an international - and receptive, or at least unquestioning - audience.

It's not just journalists, of course, but also film-makers, actors and artists. If the rest of the world are indeed Blue States, then our media and creative elites feel far more at home overseas than they do back in America which is much more split between the Blue and Red States, and where, regardless on specific political affiliations, the majority of people have generally positive feelings about their own country. Not only is it a matter of the staff at "Newsweek" and other major outlets having pretty much the same attitude towards America as do people in Berlin or Bangladesh, but trashing your own country actually serves a useful purpose of ingratiating and legitimizing yourself to your overseas audience - put the American flag in a rubbish bin, sneer at the swaggering Texan cowboy, and bemoan the Iraqi quagmire or the failure to ratify the Kyoto agreement and you can instantly show yourself to be a different, "good" American, more sophisticated and in-tune than the yokels back home. The foreigner are bound to think you're wonderful and reward you with recognition and applause - what comedian Martin Short once called getting the "French ego juice."

Maybe we should let the tabloids handle public diplomacy from now on.


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