U.S. Patriotism: A Link To American Hatred. Politics In The Media Essay, Research Paper
As Americans, we believe that world events over the next few years will unfold from September 11th. The safety and security that we all felt before will never be the same. While Americans continue to recover our enemies continue to plan a way to bring us to our knees once again. Many of us will never again be able to fly without a fear of what if and many of us will never again be able to turn on the morning news without the fear of what if. We tend to have the attitude that terrorist attacks are events that happen in other countries like Israel where peace is unsteady. Many of us never dreamed of having it in our own front yard and to compound those affects by seeing parts of the world celebrating at the sight of a super power falling to its knees.
While the attacks themselves are a focal point for many scholars, I will focus not on the attacks, but rather I will ask questions as to why the attacks happened and why it hurt so much to see others smile happily at the sight of our pain. Americans are shocked to see that others would ever wish us pain. Much of this is taught to us at an early age, that everyone wants to be American and that the ?American Dream? is the only way to live a full and happy life.
What role does the media play in continuing this naivet? of American society and how does the media in other countries account for our pain? How does our super power mentality play in this picture and why do many citizens of the world feel ill will towards Americans? I will address these questions by reviewing foreign newscasts and magazine articles, interviewing international politics experts, and finally interviewing an expert in American foreign policy. As citizens in a democracy we deserve the truth. The truth about how our government treats citizens of other countries and other accounts of how bad U.S. Foreign Policy creates negative feelings towards American citizens themselves.
To understand how the American media plays into a bigger picture of the foreign media it is important to understand how they both operate. In The Politics of Illusions by Lance Bennett he writes about notable media differences. Lance writes:
A fascinating example of how these work routines affect news content was discovered by Timothy Cook in a study of Gulf crisis coverage in the United States and France. Immediately following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, television networks assigned their reporters to get reactions from key sources. American newscasts flipped through the ?golden triangle? of Washington news beats: the White House, State Department, and Pentagon. Since the invasion had just occurred, there was no official reaction to be had. However, the reporters were pressured to say something, and they effectively invented the kinds of vague pronouncements that one might expect from officials in sensitive political posts at the early stage of world crisis. By contrast, French reporters (who do not operate on U.S.-style beat system) interviewed various political party leaders and generated a comparatively broad range of political views about the meanings and implications of the invasion. (Bennett 119)
To understand that most U.S. reporters not only have lost sight of real journalism is to also realize that those same reporters sometimes knowingly hide the truth beneath many lays of non-important information.
The reporter and political official relationship is set to operate off one another. The politics could never play out without the reporters but on that same side the politics could never play out without a reporter willing to report what the political official wants to be heard. A politician?s public fate often lies in the trustworthiness of a reporter. Lance talks about how fragile this relationship is by stating, ?When those sources are powerful officials surrounded by an entourage of eager reporters clamoring for news, it is always possible that those who report what officials want them to will be rewarded while those who fail to convert key political messages into news will be punished.? (Bennett 120)
Foreign policy encompasses more than war and peace, it also has to tackle economic problems and globalism issues, foreign trade, international investment, and foreign aid are all an integral part of this system. In conjunction with NATO and the United Nations, most of American foreign policy is now focused on peacekeeping. And many debates over foreign and national security issues continue to be drawn along left-right lines. But who draws these lines and who is really in charge of American foreign policy, the President or the press?
The media plays a crucial role in the formulation of U.S. foreign policy. While the President is often the leader externally of foreign policy, he realizes he is a co-equal partner with the media, and this is essential to ensure that policy will succeed. If the media dislikes policy adopted by the President it limits its success and also limits the support given to the President by the American people.
Public debate on the national interest and goals of foreign policy is vital if practical and logical policy is to be formulated. Unfortunately, most of the time this debate does not appear on the news unless it is directly conducted from politicians themselves. While the press does cover stories and give some detail they cannot actually participate in the debates most of the time. This makes particular sense for those reporters assigned to the executive branch because of the career risks in directly opposing presidential intentions. (Berry 145)
To relate the media directly to our case study we should look at a specific example being broadcast from the Middle East. Most Americans receive their news from privately owned television stations while in the Middle East almost all television station there are government owned and regulated. So the people hear what the government wants them to hear. Since September 11th American?s see a lot of reporting coming from a station called Al-Jazeera. Al-Jazeera is the exception to the rule. It is broadcast out of Qatar, in the Persian Gulf. The station is targeted to its Arab neighbors and Arab speakers around the world, including the United States. Al-Jazeera makes sure that the Arab view is heard, but it also reports news that is unwelcome to Arab governments. As New York Times reporter John Kifner wrote, ?In a part of the world where news has always been the news the government wants, true or not, Al-Jazeera is truly a phenomenon.? (Kifner B7)
Now that we have a brief introduction as to how the media operates in general pertaining to policy and the government, it is important to look at why these other countries sometimes express hatred towards the U.S. While hate coming from anyone can always cover a broad range, in its simplest form, hatred towards America tends to cover two areas, bad American Foreign Policy and jealousy towards American?s. Again, while everyone has many ideas of which foreign policy and American lifestyle create anger, we will try to focus on more concentrated areas. Most foreign policy issues come from problems in the Middle East and most lifestyle issues are broad ranging but generally targeted towards specific freedoms and rights we have versus their homeland. Be aware that not all Middle Easterner?s hate America?s foreign policy that other countries do as well; we will just use that area as a region to concentrate the study on. Also not all foreign citizens envy America, so my intention is not to imply that they do, but research has shown that many citizens of the world would like to live in the U.S.
Has the United States become so large and so powerful that we forget that the rest of the world has to live with us and not around us? For many American?s and most of the world, anti-Americanism came to a head on September 11th 2001 when terrorists flew two planes into the World Trade Center?s in New York City, when terrorists flew a plane into the nations defense headquarters, the Pentagon, and when terrorists caused a plane to crash in the Pennsylvania countryside. American?s live life in a way that we do not see that others in the world may see something that we do as negative because of the influence that it has on their religious beliefs, cultural heritage, or economic struggles. Exactly a month after September 11th Kenneth Zapp, Economics professor from Metropolitan State University in Minneapolis wrote, ?Unfortunately, Americans are famous for assuming that others see the world as we do.? (Zapp par. 3) Zapp continues, ?While Americans like to believe that our government treats all fairly or equally, our actions are viewed differently abroad.? (Zapp par. 4)
The United States has to carry a large burden from other countries. Being considered the world?s ?super power? carries the responsibility of being able to protect all interest equally and playing big brother, which sometimes means our own interest conflict with the interest of those we are suppose to be aiding. An excellent example of this triangle is the current conflict in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine. For many years the U.S. has protected and supported Israel with large amounts of money and weapons. Now in times of conflict the world looks upon us to be a peacekeeper and to fix the problem and make it go away. Is it possible for us to play a neutral role in a conflict where we have historically supported one side more than the other? Caught in this conflict is also a certain amount of blame placed on the U.S. because we allowed, or at the very least supported Israel and let this happen. Zapp addressed this situation in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, he wrote ?But why do they blame us for actions of Israel? Because our government has bankrolled that country?s policies with $3 billion to $4 billion of aid each year. Most damaging to our claim of evenhandedness, we continued these subsidies even when the Israeli actions were condemned widely by our Western allies and the United Nations.? (Zapp par. 6.)
Even in these situations many Americans still do not know the truth behind our governments actions. Today anti-Americanism is often dismissed as an unavoidable by-product of superpowerdom or as mere hypocrisy. Many will ask if these complaints against America warranted the actions of September 11th. While many put it very crudely, none has stated that the Americans ever deserved it. A week after the attacks the Toronto Star published an editorial from the papers own editor emeritus, Haroon Siddiqui. Siddiqui wrote, ?The public, more than the media, senses this. Some put it clearly: America had it coming. The surprise is how a broad spectrum of the Canadian middle class, including academics, professionals and business people, is coming to the view that America needs, beyond any tactical strikes or smart bombs it might deploy, a more humane and even-handed approach to the world.? (Siddiqui par. 32) Many terrorists do want to burn the U.S. and are willing to die for their beliefs. These suicidal anti-Americans will never be persuaded to change their minds. (Naim par. 15)
Current and past U.S. foreign policy has yielded different results. During my college life I have been shocked and horrified by U.S. governmental actions, such as the U.S. sponsored coup against democracy in Guatemala in 1954 which resulted in killing over 120,000 Guatemala citizens to protect the interest of the United Fruit Company, an American corporation. (Schlesinger 32) I also remember the U.S. war against the people of El Salvador in the 1980?s when I was young, which resulted in deaths of more than 80,000 people which the government considered to be ?collateral damage.? The U.S. government defines ?collateral damage? as being innocent people who are just casualties of war, or also considered ?soft targets.?
Both of these examples are extraordinary, because besides the random professor who may teach this information, it is not easily found. The U.S. media never reported the information in mainstream daily newspapers and are still considered to be taboo subjects among the media. For the dedicated researcher you can shuffle through thousands of pages of congressional reports and white house papers and find the information, if you are willing to dig, in unfindable places. Why do the media and the U.S. government go to such extremes to hide this information from us? Am I wrong when I say that I thought our government was supposed to support our interest?
As a country that has been a world leader in giving its citizens freedom and human and civil rights, we are expected to set an example for the rest of the world. I do not think that the example we want to set is, ?If you agree with them support them, if not take all necessary action to force their support or change.? As long as we continue to bomb countries because they disagree with us and continue to support countries that kill thousands of innocent citizens for selfish gain, the U.S. will always be blamed for aiding these actions. ?As long as this is their reality, we will be their enemy.? (Zapp par. 12)
For all the pain the U.S. heaps upon the world with our foreign policy decisions, it seems that we create a dream for just as many people who are not experiencing the negative affects of our policy. This dream is often referred to as the ?American dream.? From a very early age, starting in elementary school and on up we are taught that the ?American dream? is the only way to live and that the rest of the world strives to live the ?American dream.? Being an adult now, I realize that those thoughts carry many falsehoods, originating with my schoolteachers and ending today with the American press who teaches the same ideas. For Americans, if the rest of the world wants to be us and live an American life, how bad can we truly be?
As Americans we appreciate a standard of life which is much higher than that of most of the rest of the world. So to live the American dream is equivalent to being able to succeed, be free in your choices, being free in your speech, and most of all being able to seek prosperity and happiness in everything around you. Dr. John Lewis from Ashland University feels that terrorist?s hatred of the West is not based on jealousy, but based on good. Lewis writes, ?The moral, political, economic, and religious support necessary for these attacks have been provided over the past 25 years by specific governments in the Middle East. Those governments wish to destroy the Great Satan: America, her core values, and the prosperity that has followed from our pursuit of those values.? (Lewis par. 4) Herein lies the problem; does everyone in the world truly wish to be American?
At the harmless end of the spectrum is the envy brought on by the United States pre-eminent wealth and might. Anyone who has been king of the hill for very long will find others cheering his occasional stumble or trying to knock him off outright. Arrogance, real or imaginary, adds combustion to emotion. Moving farther along this spectrum, resentment evolves into fear. Renowned attorney Chi-Dooh Li writes, ?Herein also lies a great paradox. Ask people anywhere in the world, including the Arab world, where they would live, given the choice, and the overwhelming number would name America.? (Li par. 27) No matter how much hate one may possess towards the United States they still see clearly how different their life can be here.
While there is very little question as to the greatness that America offers its citizens and thousands of immigrants who move here each year, there is question as to how we treat other countries. We lead by example for other great countries. At this point in history we have very good relationships with other important countries such as Russia, England, and Israel, but once those good relationships end where does that leave America. Our policy continues to work and thrive around the world because other ?super power baby?s? allow it to operate. Would we be so successful in our peacekeeping or war fighting if other countries did not support us? The old saying, ?what?s good for the goose is good for the gander,? comes to mind when I think about the situation we are now. One day America will not be top dog and one day someone will force us to live in the conditions that we have heaped upon the world, but will we be prepared?
As Americans continue to live their lives in a happy little daze, the world continues to plot how to bring us to our knees once again. We live our lives in a way that allow us to worry about ourselves and nothing else. We allow our government to take care of business the way they see fit. We also allow the media to educate us in a way they see fit. American?s as a general rule take no active role in educating themselves in politics. The problem is that one-day, Americans themselves will be accountable for the government?s actions, and we will have no clue as to what we did wrong. Seeking to fix the problems now is the only solution to ward off further problems in the future. Everyone in the world is not going to love us all of the time, but if we can at least win over part of the world some of the time, things will continue to get better.
While apathy will most likely always exist in America, especially where politics and government are concerned, there are a few ways to look at how the media is not completely responsible for American ignorance. Lance Bennett tries to explain how both sides can exist together, he writes,
In the ideal civics book version of American democracy, power rests with the people, who are, in effect, the voice of the political system. Leaders are supposed to take cues from the people and express their voice politically. The journalist in this scheme occupies the role of the independent monitor who reports to the people on how well leaders handle the public trust. (Bennett 195)
Citizens can become an effective part of this by thinking how they receive the information and how the media and the politicians can deliver it more effectively. Besides trying to figure out a way to make the current system work, citizens would also behoove themselves to help create a better national communication system. The media is not going to do all the political participation for the public; everyone must do his or her own part. Bennett discusses this quiet clearly by saying, ?In short, it can make a big difference to people if they realize that becoming better informed does not simply mean reading more papers or watching more television. It means decoding the information from these and other sources with a critical eye.? (Bennett 201)
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