America At War: The World Is Not Enough Essay, Research Paper
When a person is given the microphone at a podium, the attention of the audience is customarily afforded to that person so that they may convey their message(s) clearly. In the past fifty years, advancements in technology and the ability to transmit information have transformed the world into a global stage for any individual or group who wish to broadcast their agendas. The more modernized and stable countries, namely western European nations and the United States of America, have a strangle hold on the microphone to this global stage and are reluctant to release it. The major problems inherent in the effort to emphasize global instead of discreet national histories of mass communication rest within the mentalities of these western powers. A country, like America, whose mindset fosters ideals such as media imperialism, capitalism, and cultural dominance will have supreme reign in a society that can be easily influenced by the various tools of the media.
With the exception of the Persian Gulf War in the early 90?s, the Vietnam War is the last major conflict that the Unites States has been involved in. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, which effectively ended the Cold War and automatically allowed America to become the front running nuclear power, the U.S. needed a new objective to conquer other than communism. Since the U.S. armed forces cannot thoroughly flex its military muscles in the absence of a war, an acceptable alternative is to inundate other developing countries with the thoughts of ?democracy and freedom? through the media. However, the validity of America?s true intentions are often questioned when it begins to preach that all humans are entitled to have the freedom of choice. What exactly, do these freedoms entail? Normally, for American businesses and industries, this suggests that people are free to choose to consume American made goods and products.
Although it may have been inadvertent at first, an imperial power such as America will expand in its blundering efforts to do good or protect its borders (Herman 1992). After a certain amount of time, this expansion is no longer by chance but by purpose because those who control the channels of media begin to promote imperialistic views, which eventually lead to the domination of a market, be it newspaper, radio, or television. The American dominance in the television market for example, can be aptly characterized by a silly show about lifeguards working on a Los Angeles beach. Even though Baywatch recently ended nine years of international syndication, in its heyday, this was the most watched show in the world as it was viewed in over 100 countries (Associated Press 2001). The cause of Baywatch?s popularity is often attributed to brilliant marketing by the show?s producers, but in hindsight, the show was nothing more than a tool that Hollywood utilized to advance media imperialism. With the exception of some Islamic countries, which challenged the flood of half-naked blondes into their airwaves, the rest of the world embraced the sexual onslaught of bikini-clad bimbos and thoroughly enjoyed it as evidenced by the show?s rating numbers.
It is almost undeniable that the United States became involved in Iraq?s invasion of Kuwait because of the abundance of oil in the latter country. In order to fuel this capitalistic society, some Americans felt the need to protect their interests in a quarrel that they had no business in. Television as a medium is a relatively new invention, but arguably the most influential of the three named due to its visual images, which enable viewers to see propaganda-laden messages that influence their daily lives. During the conflict in the Persian Gulf, Iraqi forces were portrayed in American news broadcasts as rag-tag armies that were soundly defeated by American forces. Capitalism is based on a free market economy that allows for the survival of the fittest. The underlying message that America established by ?winning? the Persian Gulf War is that this country is a superpower, it is the most fit, and it can beat anybody when it comes to pushing buttons to drop a bomb. By claiming victory for the American people, the U.S. government led many to believe that that there is nothing wrong with killing to protect one?s personal interests.
In recent decades, the production of goods has shifted from American factories to those overseas in Asia and the Middle East where labor is cheap and can be easily exploited. Even with the enormous amounts of land and resources, The United States has become a consumer culture rather than a producing one (Folkerts and Lacy 1998). The culture created by the mass of consumers has translated into big revenues for the entertainment and food industries. This spread of cultural dominance, or more specifically westernization, is demonstrated by the dramatic increase in the number of American fast food restaurants that are now in operation outside of the United States. In the 1950?s no one could have envisioned that what was once a small hamburger stand in southern California could escalate into the multi-billion dollar corporation that McDonald?s is today.
On the contrary, what foreign foods has America accepted into its society as part of the mainstream diet? I personally cannot recall seeing any sushi or quiche franchise chains as of late. The sad fact is, when a product does come about that is marketable and profitable, American corporations swallow it up and attempt to make it American as apple pie. This society can even take an ethnic dish like Italian pizza and make it so commercialized that ?Dominoes? or ?Round Table? is what comes to mind when most people decide to go out for pizza.
While some scholars argue that globalization is opening up new lines of communication between different groups (Curran and Park 200), it is also reasonable to contend that the flow of communication is almost one way when it comes to westernization. Time and time again, corporate America knowing that sex sells when it comes to advertising and commercialism barrages the rest of the world with Baywatch re-runs. However, where are the programs that show us what other cultures in other countries have to offer the American people? They are practically non-existent.
If America really did win the war against Iraq, why is Saddam Hussein still in power? Why does the Iraqi government also claim a victory in the same conflict and continue to celebrate it annually? Seldom is the American public made aware of such conflicting versions of the same new stories. Charles Whiley, a retired journalist, sums it up best when he says, ?that we will never get an unbiased account of what is occurring in the world if those in news media continue to interject their own opinions and views into news reporting.? As long as the free flow of information continues to be headed in a single direction, the global history of mass communication can never be taught in a culture such as the one that exists in America today. Consequently, the only approach that could possibly remedy this dilemma is if all people begin to appreciate the world?s cultural mosaic as a precious resource that needs to be conserved and not exploited.