Saturday, January 31, 2009

Comparing Local and International Coverage of Obama Inauguration

A Nation Reborn... Australian Coverage

Edited by Sally A. Cruikshank
Author: Ellen Schnier

Photo courtesy of WAToday
Aretha Franklin sang 'Our Country 'Tis of Thee' just before President Barack Obama was sworn in and delivered his inaugural speech. Michael D. Shear and Anne E. Kornblut of the Washington Post included this in their article, 'A Historic Inauguration Draws Throngs to the Mall.' Geoff Elliot, Washington Correspondent for The Australian, in 'A Nation Reborn Under President Bush,' left out such details as this and that Mr. Obama used the same Bible Abraham Lincoln used for his first inauguration.

While, of course, Americans are more interested in the details of an event happening in their own country, the Australian journalist spoke more about U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and what General Petraeus was doing during the inauguration.This is only to say that there was an overwhelming and palpable feeling of hope and a sense of history taking place that was felt by Americans on Tuesday and seeped into the Washington Post article. Shear and Kornblut, in introducing the tone on the National Mall in Washington, said the event 'took place among a building air of anticipation' for an inauguration with 'record-breaking attendance.'

President Obama 'looked out at a sea of admirers' while giving his speech, 'chanting his name and straining for a glimpse of the new president.' Elliott, on the other hand, began his article mentioning that one of the new president's first acts would be to stop legal proceedings at Guantanamo Bay. Caught up in the grandness of the day, the American journalists began by saying Mr. Obama has the task of 'reviving a country in crisis.' The words 'hope' and 'change' are used throughout the article.Geoff Elliott said of the president's address, 'The speech was a fairly dour effort for a renowned orator' and reported its 'subdued tone.' While Shear and Kornblut agreed about the 'somber tone,' they called his speech notable for its 'soaring rhetoric.'
Beyond such differences (that can be attributed mainly to the fog of euphoria that seemed to join Americans for a day), much of the commentary overlaps. Both mentioned near the beginning of their articles the economic hardships the country faces and quoted Mr. Obama, 'We must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again the work of remaking America.'Both articles also mentioned the president's discussion of foreign affairs with both ally nations and enemies. 'America is a friend to each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.'
The Australian, offering an international perspective to his comment, added, 'He sent a message to the rest of the world, and Islamic nations, after eight years in which US ties with some of its top allies have frayed, especially after the war in Iraq.' (This certainly speaks to a renewed interest both the new president and other foreign leaders have in moving forward.) Mr. Obama continued, 'To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward' and announced to terrorists, 'We say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.' A message of strength to our enemies in war, both articles included his vow.Aside from quoting similar parts of Mr. Obama's address, both articles mentioned that on Wall Street, stocks took a tumble throughout the day, signaling even greater economic demise.

Very little was mentioned about President Obama's race in The Australian and in fact never mentions the fact that he is the first African-American president. Elliott simply mentions his 'improbable tilt for the presidency' and said he 'touched only briefly on the triumph he shares with African-Americans.' While theWashington Post would agree that Mr. Obama 'made only glancing references to the racial barrier that had fallen with his historic ascent,' Shear and Kornblut did not downplay its significance. 'His voice echoing across the Mall, where Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed the 1963 march on Washington, Obama saluted the progress the nation has made in healing racial division.' They mentioned his reference to slavery, how ancestors 'endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth' and hailed 'our patchwork history.' It is evident that even if the new president did not bring his race to the forefront of his speech, the rest of the nation did.
Lastly, it is interesting to note that George W. Bush, upon being relieved of his duties and boarding a plane to Texas, received 'plenty of jeers from a crowd eager to see a new chapter in the U.S. story (from The Australian). 'Some of the crowd booed at the sight of Bush,' the Washington Post relayed, "who left office as one of the least popular presidents in U.S. history." Some things are too obvious to go unnoticed..."

Comparing Local and International Coverage of President Obama's Inauguration

Power of People... German Coverage

Edited by Sally A. Cruikshank
Author: Stine Eckert

Capturing the moment, saving it for the next generation - this seemed to be the purpose of German newspapers on January, 21st.. But it was not Obama, foreign correspondent Matthias Rüb (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) was focusing on - it was the American people. He observed and described a moment, where people stood together, sharing a moment everyone was waiting for. The correspondent experienced a united America, where citizens, whether they were Black, Hispanic, Asian or Caucasian, looked up to and believed in the words of one man. Matthias Rüb witnessed a day, where the American people re-gained their pride, and he shared this day with the German people. Also the New York Times appreciated the sea of flags and red, white and blue between the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol. 'Beyond the politics of the occasion, the sight of a black man climbing the highest peak electrified people across racial, generational and partisan lines,' the paper wrote. And this new hope is needed, to solve all the current and upcoming problems. Two wars, an economic crisis, terrorism, lost jobs and health care are only a few challenges the newspaper lists.

Photo courtesy of CreativeSoulPhoto
"Capturing the moment, saving it for the next generation - this seemed to be the purpose of German newspapers on January, 21st.. But it was not Obama, foreign correspondent Matthias Rüb (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) was focusing on - it was the American people. He observed and described a moment, where people stood together, sharing a moment everyone was waiting for. The correspondent experienced a united America, where citizens, whether they were Black, Hispanic, Asian or Caucasian, looked up to and believed in the words of one man. Matthias Rüb witnessed a day, where the American people re-gained their pride, and he shared this day with the German people. Also the New York Times appreciated the sea of flags and red, white and blue between the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol. 'Beyond the politics of the occasion, the sight of a black man climbing the highest peak electrified people across racial, generational and partisan lines,' the paper wrote. And this new hope is needed, to solve all the current and upcoming problems. Two wars, an economic crisis, terrorism, lost jobs and health care are only a few challenges the newspaper lists.

In contrast to that, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung focuses on the overall goals of Obama's politics: hope over fear, and unity over conflicts. Detailed challenges, or overall goals - The newspapers from the two continents seem to agree. There are problems to face in the next couple of months and years. But a President that has and values the support of the people is a step in the right direction.On January, 21st, German and U.S. newspapers had the same opinion. It was a glorious day, that was a result from the power of people." --Carolin Biebrach"On both sides of the Atlantic, journalists tried to get an overall feel for Obama’s tone during his inaugural speech; German and US journalists covered the event rather homogeneously.German foreign correspondent Gregor Peter Schmitz in Washington who was reporting for one of the major political publications in German, weekly Spiegel magazine, dubbed Obama the 'new national chief psychologist' for his motivational spirit; CNN gave Obama a thumbs up for 'the right speech for the times.' Whereas the Spiegel article was titled 'Obama proclaims his American dream,' the analysis of his inaugural speech by Nancy Gibbs of Time magazine was more specific and somber: 'Humility, Gratitude, Sacrifice.' She concluded her story taking the perspective of the audience who looked up at 'a man in the very far distance accept[ing] the full weight of their hopes.'

Hope over fear was just one topic that German and U.S. journalists addressed. Both also emphasized Obama’s willingness to face what ails the United States openly, his call for duty and sacrifice. Another German foreign correspondent Oskar Piegsa of weekly newspaper Zeit, another major political publication in Germany, gave examples of people in tears due to the historical meaning of the moment, pointing out Obama’s background. A theme that came up with every U.S. media I read. Piesga also likened the event to public viewing for a major soccer game with everyone on the same page, booing Bush and obsessing about Obama, a big game easy enough to play for everyone. Interestingly, the Spiegel article reported about Obama’s emphasis on a new and more appreciated position for science and his mentioning of wind and solar energy whereas environmental issues where absent in the U.S. coverage I followed on NPR, CNN, and Time.

The mirroring of topics was reflected in a number of same quotes: In their assessment of Obama’s inaugural speech, Spiegel as well as CNN referenced John F. Kennedy in 1961: 'Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.' Both publications quoted the America-as-a-friend line, his acknowledgment of a nation not only at war, and in an economic crisis but also the 'nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable and that the next generation must lower its sights.' In this transatlantic homogeneous mixture of hope and fear only one sentence struck me more than the rest, provided by Nancy Gibbs of Time Magazine: "You could almost pity the pundits as they groped for extravagant new ways to say what didn't need to be said in the first place.

Comparing Inauguration Coverage: IRELAND and CHINA

Overcome with Emotions...
Irish Coverage

Edited by Sally A. Cruikshank
Author: Aerin Curtis

Photo courtesy: CreativeSoulPhoto
"The main differences I have found between the in-state coverage and the foreign coverage of the inauguration, and the events surrounding it, are in tone and focus. The international papers and web sites focus on the emotional aspect of the event – the on-site Irish Times reporter, Kathy Sheridan, referenced individual people crying (happily) five separate times in an article that ran less than two pages. Whereas, similar domestic articles by the New York Times reporter Carl Hulse offered a serious tone and few descriptions of the crowd other than 'festive' or 'cheering,' while remaining focused on both the time line and the specific events.

The articles written by foreign papers often discussed the effect that the change in leadership would have on their particular country, thus localizing the event, before examining the emotional depth of response in their own country and the U.S. However, they almost uniformly raised the issue of racism and the progress that Obama’s election marked.

In comparison, Hulse’s coverage was much more sober. It began with a comment and quotation on the economy before bringing in an emotional tone. Then it quickly returned to the somber themes of racism, President Lincoln, and America’s problems which are 'serious' and 'many.'
Hulse’s article also quoted mostly from Obama’s speech and political celebrities like Colin Powell. Conversely, though Sheridan’s article, and other foreign coverage, also quoted the speech, it gathered reactions from the crowd rather than other politicians.

Overall, I think the difference between the national and foreign coverage of Obama’s election comes down to perception. The media from other countries are hopeful about what this new president means since many of them did not like our last one. However, the domestic media have suddenly remembered their job is to criticize and critique the President and his policy - a job they did not always perform adequately under Bush. Now that Obama has taken office they are damping down their enthusiasm until he proves himself."

Analyzing History... Chinese Coverage

Author: Yilei Cheng

"By reading the U.S. media coverage on Obama's inauguration, I can feel the proud and enthusiasm of American through out the country. Leading media in each state and major city sent their reporters to Washington D.C. to cover the grand, historical event. Their reporters did a good job in finding interesting characters from hometown regions and telling their personal experiential stories of the excitement in the "once in a lifetime moment". Their reports appeal to their readers emotionally with personal stories. At the same time, the stories also reflect the local relevance that their readers concern, such as rights for black people, financial policy, oversea wars, etc...

Compared to the emotional appealing reports by the U.S. media, Chinese media coverage on Obama's inauguration are more rational and analytical. The correspondents appointed by Chinese media play not only the reporter's role, but also the expert of international business and politics. Their reports emphasized more on the facts of the event, and the economic and diplomatic parts of Obama's speech. A few individual experience stories took a supporting part of all the coverage on the Inauguration, definitely not the spotlight part.
Chinese readers care more about how this new U.S. president will influence their lives. Chinese media highlighted the relevant statements in Obama's speech and also provided critical analysis on the possible future situation. The mainstream ideas consider the new U.S. president Obama as "a pragmatist on economic policy" and "a center on diplomatic policy". They stated strong arguments to discuss if Obama can deliver his promises and fulfill the hope from American people.

For example, Yang Qingchuan, the D.C. correspondent of Reference News, a Chinese newspaper with the biggest daily circulation (3 millions) in China, published a feature-length article providing analysis on Obama's speech: Whether or not Obama's inauguration speech could become a classic one?"

Comparing International Coverage of Obama's Inauguration

A Close Relationship... Canadian Coverage

Edited by Sally A. Cruikshank
Author: Cristina Mutchler

The presidential inauguration of Barack Obama had different meanings for different people, regions and countries. Inauguration day have been interpreted in many ways by journalists and people worldwide, and analyzing two countries’ coverage helps portray what is important or interesting to those countries and may reveal something about their relationship with the U.S.

Because Canada is one of our close neighbors, I chose to look at an article from the Vancouver Sun written by correspondent Sheldon Alberts, 'New Era of Hope Begins in America as Obama sworn in as 44th President.' The New York Times is so renowned and had an extensive collection of inauguration coverage to choose from that I decided to read an article written by reporter Carl Huse, 'Obama is Sworn in as the 44th President."

Photo courtesy of CreativeSoulPhoto

I was somewhat surprised to find many similarities with the two articles. Both focused on the historic aspect of this inauguration, the importance of this inauguration for the American people, and economy as one of Barack Obama’s main focuses for the future. It is evident that the economic panic, which polls indicate was the most important issue for 63% of voters, still plays a significant role for both countries' coverage (Foreign Affairs and the 2008 Election, Robert P. Saldin, p. 12). Quoting the inaugural address was also obviously an integral part of coverage for both countires. I found that the two articles used a few of the same quotes from the inaugural address; for example, 'Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.' The quotes from the inaugural speech used in both of the articles were significant and profound, and the selection that each reporter chose added emphasis to their focal points in the story.

The New York Times piece used and emphasized the 'change' that Obama’s presidency represented, something that was also an integral part of his presidential campaign message. Change was not, however, a huge topic in the Vancouver Sun article. The New York Times also highlighted the cheering crowds of American people that were present at this address; the Canadian article did not focus so much on this aspect. Bill Clinton was also a significant point of the article, as the New York Times quoted former President Bill Clinton’s remarks about the speech. This was not evident in the Canadian article.

Not so surprisingly, race was brought up as a point in both of the articles. What was so interesting was that the Vancouver Sun mentioned race within the first few sentences, but did not elaborate on that racial reference for the rest of the article. The New York Times reporter chose not to mention race until after the first two paragraphs, but referenced race a few more times, commenting on the prevalence of African Americans in the inaugural crowd and the symbolism of the proximity to the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

What set the Vancouver Sun article apart from several of the other local reports that I read was its mention of America’s relationship with Canada, for obvious reasons. Included was a quote from Obama’s speech that gave a message for those beyond America’s borders. Most interesting were the quotes from Canadian Prime Minster Stephen Harper and Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean, who offered their best regards to the new U.S. president. The government officials were 'thrilled' that Obama will soon be in Canada for his first official visit, and referred to the U.S.’s relationship with Canada. 'The United States remains Canada’s most important ally, closest friend and largest trading partner and I look forward to working with President Obama and his administration as we build on this special relationship,' said Prime Minster Harper.

Also unique to the Vancouver Sun article was a focus on the personal milestones that Obama has marked throughout his political career. The reporter chose to recap Obama’s political journey from an Illinois state senator to a Democratic presidential nominee and finally, as the 44th president of the United States. Interesting to me is that this historical outlook on Obama’s career was absent in the New York Times article, as well as in other domestic reports that I have read.
Because Canada is such a close neighbor, perhaps Americans often times do not necessarily consider this alliance as a 'foreign' relationship. But nonetheless, foreign affairs still played a huge role in the 2008 election, and coverage of the inauguration may show us just how important that role was. Many of the points in the Canadian article were similar to those in the coverage by a U.S. reporter.

However, the additional four or so paragraphs regarding our relationship with Canada made it evident that this is an important factor most likely of interest to Canadian readers. Foreign affairs and our relationship with other countries played a large role in the U.S. election, as well. The racial barrier was not mentioned more than once in the Vancouver Sun article; perhaps this isn’t as important an issue for Canadians because of the eclectic mix of diversity there. But the historical significance of this inauguration, the meaning for American people, and the hopefulness to overcome the economic crisis remained the prominent issues in both articles, revealing that perhaps country borders are not indicative of the true importance of this inauguration to people of different nationalities and backgrounds. "

Friday, January 30, 2009

Comparing Local and International Coverage of Obama's Inauguration

Photo courtesy of Jim Young, Reuters
The Oath Heard 'Round the World

Edited By: Sally Ann Cruikshank
Author: Natalie Cammarata

Remaking of America....

British Coverage

"In The Guardian (United Kingdom) and The Washington Times, I found two very different responses to the inauguration. In their article, 'Obama Takes Charge,' Stephen Dinan and David R. Sands, had a positive take on the inauguration. They mentioned how historic the day was and key elements of President Obama’s speech. In The Guardian article, 'Obama Inauguration: Let the Remaking of American Begin Today,' Alan Rusbridger was focused also on key elements of the speech. Both articles quoted specifically, 'harness the sun and the winds and the soil,' as well as, 'To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.' Both these points were brought up similarly in both articles, but that is where the similarities end.
The biggest difference with these two articles was how the authors presented the inauguration to the reader. I felt that The Washington Times article showed the inauguration and entire day’s festivities as an awards show. There was a lot of 'hype' about what the president said, but very little substance about what it meant. Instead of focusing on how serious this time is for America, he focused on Oprah Winfrey and Sean 'Diddy' Combs being in the crowd.

In The Guardian article, however, the author focused on the somberness of the speech. He also highlighted how this speech fit into history better than the Times article did. Rusbridger stated that there were 'four ghosts' at the speech that day, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. He showed President Obama’s similarities to each of these historical figures and what each of those figures sacrifices and contributions meant to the inauguration.

Overall, I enjoyed reading both these descriptions of the inauguration. I think, however, that The Guardian article was a much better piece. The Office of the President is one of the highest and most respected in the world. I felt that the article from The Guardian communicated that respect better. The Washington Times article did not disrespect the presidential office by any means, but I thought it focused more on the celebrity aspect of it." --Celia Shortt

"When I read the inauguration accounts by The New York Times and England's The Guardian, I was struck by how similar the two articles were. Alan Rusbridger, The Guardian's correspondent, titled his article 'Obama inauguration: Let the remaking of American begin today.' That same quote from President Barack Obama's inauguration speech was featured in the first sentence of the New York Times article. I found it interesting that both newspapers would highlight the idea that America need to be remade.

The similarities didn't stop there. Both reporters set the scene in similar ways. Peter Baker, the New York Times reporter, talked about the celebratory crowd begin 'sobered' by Mr. Obama's 'grim assessment' of the country's hardships. Rusbridger likewise used the word 'sombre' to describe the inauguration speech. Both the articles mentioned Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, and the fact that the Capitol and the White House had been built by slaves. Many of the quotes from the speech were used in both articles.

However, there was one major difference between the two articles that I particularly noticed and that was how former President Bush was addressed. While Barker did mention the 'implicit criticism' of Bush in the speech, Rusbridger went one step farther and said there was 'plenty' of 'repudiation of the previous eight years of Bush.' Furthermore, Barker wrote about Bush leaving the events to go back to Texas, while Rusbridger framed the former president's exit by saying 'there was one final rousing cheer as the helicopter carrying George W. Bush rose... took the former president off to Texas-- and out of public life for ever.' It was a much stronger way of describing Bush's exit. It made me surmise that despite Bush's low approval ratings in the U.S., maybe foreign media are more comfortable with condemning his time in office than the U.S. press is.

There were a few other minor differences. The New York Times article was longer and more in-depth. It mentioned not only Edward Kennedy's collapse earlier in the day, but also some of Mr. Obama's immediate plans in office. Overall, what struck me about both articles was something that seemed to be apparent in the crowds at the inauguration, and that is a feeling of hope for a brighter future for the United States." --Sally Ann Cruikshank

"The articles I read from The New York Times and The Times (London) both covered Barack Obama's Inaugural Address but with differing focal points.
Kakutani, the New York Times reporter, wrote 'Speech Puts a New Frame on Obama's Call to Serve,' and in it focused on the historical aspect of Obama's speech, noting how Obama's aim was not only to 'inspire a country grappling with an economy in free fall and two ongoing wars but to situate America's problems in a historical context.'

The article goes on to highlight Obama's rhetoric about the progress we have made thus far, and the progress we hope to make in the future. Kakutani mentions how Obama refers to 'us' and 'we,' and gives the reader a sense that Obama sees his presidency as a movement that is bigger than himself, as he calls on the American public to serve their country.
Compared to the British article, Kakutani's interpretation of the speech delivers a message of hope and progress, casting a positive light on Obama's fresh takeover of Washington. The British article, 'Barack Obama's promise to America,' had more negative connotations and focused on the sorry state that America is in now, at least more so than the American article.

Foreign Correspondent Tom Baldwin called Obama's address a 'sombre speech that had little of the soaring rhetoric' that we are used to hearing from our new president. It's true, many political commentators were discussing on cable news channels how his speech was not up to par with his campaign speeches, but Kakutani did not bring this up in his article, and for good reason. Any decent journalist should know that this was not supposed to be like a campaign speech--the American public (well, most of them) are already on board with Obama and his plans, so now is the time to inspire them not to go along for the ride but to do their duty as faithful Americans.
Baldwin also mentioned that we are in a 'crisis' and that America's 'challenges would not be easily met.' He said how the stock market fell 4 percent on the Inauguration Day and compares the number to that of the Great Depression. Kakutani mentioned none of these sobering details.
In addition, Baldwin played up the race factor throughout the article, making note of America's historic struggles with slavery and segregation. Kakutani alluded to this in a subtle fashion, quoting Obama's part of the speech about how his father wouldn't have been served at a restaurant 60 years ago.

In general, from this sample, it seems that the British coverage is taking a more critical stance towards American politics while the American coverage is less critical and leaning more towards the notions of hope and progress. Although both mention the focal point of Obama's speech as a call to service for all Americans, the British I think actually take into account the context of American history and our current circumstances. Even though at first glance it seems the British are making some negative associations with U.S. policy, I think they end up with the more fair and balanced coverage, compared to the American coverage which seems lenient on its own nation."

Thoughts on the Inauguration's coverage

A vast crowd assembled to watch Barack Obama be sworn in as president, and based on the coverage afterwards, it appears that many have differing opinions on the event. Certainly, there was a range in coverage both by national reporters and those from other countries, whether they came to Washington D.C. or reported on events from other locales. Within that range of coverage there were, however, areas of convergence:

"The sentiment seemed to be that this was more than a 'simple' inauguration; it was a bigger 'part of history,' and this story (from CNN) was essentially written by everyday Americans who agree." Maria Fisher

"This article focused more on the size of the event and how Obama was able to inspire thousands upon thousands of people to travel to see his Inauguration ceremony. The tone of the piece suggests Obama is more of a celebrity, using phrases such as 'chanting his name,'" wrote Natalie Jovonoich, adding "an interesting notation about the article is what Michelle Obama and her daughters were wearing. This is certainly not a necessary item for the world to know."


TIME magazine’s coverage of the inauguration, journalist Nancy Gibbs begins the article by characterizing the speech as somber, given the day’s expected excitement. . . .
She emphasizes his words about the crisis we are in and how we must work to reaffirm the 'greatness of our nation.'" Taylor Mirfendereski

"Though the reports from both major papers (Wall Street Journal and New York Times) expressed the dire state of the nation and the somewhat sober address from the new president in his speech, both also heavily played up his promise to 'begin again the work of remaking America.'" Michael Barajas 

The Middle East
"The Middle East had much to say about the inauguration, most telling, I thought, was Jordan's independent, pro-government Al-Ra'y that said, 'Obama will not preform miracles and it would be silly for Arabs to think that he will support them if the do not help themselves. However, at worst he will not be as bad as Bush and he is supposed to make a change like in his slogans.' Much of the media seemed optimistic but hesitant." Veronica Norton

"This article filed in Beijing, China is one of many that noted the Chinese government's omission of the word 'Communism' from Obama's speech, and in other censorship, some even removed an entire paragraph about dissent. I think that decision is overtly significant as it completely alters the tone of the speech." Natalie Jovonoich

The Global Community
"Foreign media, as Dareini implies, was much more eager to see how the election, which screamed for equality, reflects upon U.S. foreign relations. That is to say, the global community is hoping for progress and a turn-around in U.S. policies which previously lacked such equality." Halle Tansing

"Though the focus of The Guardian wasn't too far off of other Western Media, Al-Jazeera shows a striking difference in coverage, showing not only the historic nature of the inauguration, but also the tough international climate this president is being brought in to." Michael Barajas

"Much of the national coverage of the inauguration tended to focus on domestic issues and the historic nature. . . . The international coverage . . . focused more on things like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, American foreign policy and how the United States will interact with other countries under new leadership." Emily Mullin 

Edited by Aerin Curtis
Photos courtesy of Jeffery Lowy and Justin_1988 on Flickr

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Why Do They Hate Us? - REACTIONS from the IIJ Foreign Correspondence students

Cultural Differences

By Jeff Bennett

The global community displays a vast spectrum of diversity, providing opportunities to grow together in learning and friendship. However, it unfortunately also leads to malevolence through disparity. In the case of anti-United States sentiments, cultural difference perpetuates hatred for a myriad of reasons.

As technological advances facilitate cultural contacts, Celia Shortt believes the increased access creates a need for people to become aware of various global cultures. As for animosity from the Middle East with increasing interaction, one should expect trouble when he or she tries to insert their values into an alien society while not remaining objective, said Shortt. As seen, when objectivity is absent, the cultural gap is not bridged but instead widened.

According to Ellen Schnier, Americans are non-responsive to variance. “We do not value the differences … we think that if other countries are anti-American, that is not our fault, we did nothing to deserve such criticism, and they will eventually come around,” said Schnier.

This particular mindset exacerbates anti-Americanism. “To some cultures Americans therefore might seem as self-centered,” said Carolin Biebrach.

Both prejudiced attitudes and cultural misconceptions need to be quelled to form accords. This can be accomplished “by learning about other cultures … some of the misunderstandings between nations have a better chance of becoming understood,” said Sally Cruikshank.

American imperialism is evident in the unwillingness to accept cross cultural differences. This dark hubris breeds extreme rancor against the American disposition and should not come as a surprise. While the United States continues to force its culture upon those unwilling to accept it, enemies will emerge.
Photo above by blogrodent - Flickr © Some rights reserved


By Jeff Bennett

“They hate us because since September 11, Middle Easterners have been interrogated in our airports, and Islamic temples in the United States have had bricks thrown through their windows, have been burned, and bombed,” said Ellen Schnier.

American forms of bullying are neither new nor reserved solely for citizens of the Middle East or those of the Islamic faith. Nonetheless, the American presence abroad, even if in good intentions, is typically viewed as the overextension of its militaristic authority and democratic attitude. In the context of the Middle East, the forced democratization of Iraq caused numerous nations to view the U.S. as a bully.

“In the current war, the world – especially the Middle East – saw an unprovoked invasion by a Western power,” said Cristina Mutchler. “This caused other countries to be concerned that it could happen to them for no apparent reason.”

According to Kristin Eckert, the U.S. foreign policy of being the city on the hill – spreading its own brand of democracy, capitalism and consumerism with a missionary zeal – does not reverberate positively with cultures where happiness is defined otherwise. The Iraqi example shows the United States’ dedication to stamping out dictators in creation of a government mirroring the American system breeds hostility from the Iraqi citizens, journalists and nations sympathetic to their plight.

In agreement with this perspective, Lu Tang said “[American] unilateral foreign policy … acting like world policeman, policies to intensify the gap between rich and poor countries should account for the anti-Americanism to some extent.”

Put quite simply on why some hate the antics of American bullying, “[American and Middle Eastern] cultures are different and Western liberalism has a tendency to eat others,” said Lacey Curtis.

They don’t hate ‘us,’ They hate the Leadership

By Jeff Bennett

It is a common misrepresentation that foreigners who advance anti-Americanism hold contempt for every U.S. citizen. In fact, it is more likely anger is reserved for the creators and enforcers of domineering foreign policy.

“I consider 9/11 as a tragedy that American people paid the cost for the foreign policy the U.S. government made,” said Yilei Cheng.

In terms of negative foreign sentiments, some believe the former-presidency provides an insight into the backlash of ill-will and intermittent acts of violence.

“The way in which the Bush administration has diminished the cultural significance of the rest of the world has shown light on the U.S. government's ignorance of the past eight years,” said Natalie Cammarata.

Albeit the negative reactions observed toward the U.S., much of the hatred is not focused at the common citizen. It is “a rejection of the politics of the Bush administration which many people also differentiate(d) from feelings toward U.S. residents,” said Kristin Eckert.

Adding a similar position, “I believe that the people within [foreign] countries can differentiate between the government and the citizens,” said Sally Cruikshank.

The policies of American institutions – from pre-9/11 encroaching capitalistic multinational corporations to post-9/11 closed-door policies and the propagating fear towards foreign cultures – create the visible antipathy from abroad against these same establishments, not the citizen.

“I don’t think people around the world would hate Americans, they just don’t like American foreign policy,” said Jung Lee.
Photo above by Berd Whitlock - Flickr © Some rights reserved

WHY DO THEY HATE US? Foreign Correspondent Students in J467 Respond

Because journalists have been asking the wrong question


Reaction from Emily Mullin
The question, “Why do they hate us?” is almost inherently ethnocentric in its nature. Americans could not believe what happened on Sept. 11, 2001. Our country had been attacked, our family members killed. The notion that a small group of men had so easily walked past airport security, brought down two skyscrapers and killed thousands of people was unfathomable. We are America, how could this happen to us? Many people wondered.

And for a short time, there was no line separating ideology in Washington. Almost everyone agreed; those killed in the terrorist attacks would be brought to justice. Journalists nodded their heads in agreement. The media, for a time, was subservient to the Bush administration. Reporters sided with the government and with the sympathies of the American people, but worst of all, they stopped asking the tough questions.

In a way, I think American foreign correspondents – and even domestic journalists – dropped the ball on the War on Terror. No mainstream news network has been able to properly answer the question so many of us have posed, and I think it is probably because it is the wrong question to be asking.

Instead, the American media should have been asking, “What have we done to warrant a terrorist attack on our soil?”

Image by

… Because we don’t recognize the effects of our own foreign policy

Reaction from David Flores

Media coverage of anti-Americanism isn’t lacking in superficial acknowledgement; Americans are inundated with videos of protestors burning American flags and effigies in the streets, yet a deeper understanding of the reason for this hatred and its implications is seldom investigated.

In July of 2007 a Washington Post reporter addressed these sentiments:

“There is another major reason for anti-Americanism: the accreted residue of many years of U.S. foreign policies. These policies are unknown to most Americans. They form only minor footnotes in U.S. history. But they are the chapter titles of the histories of other countries, where they have had enormous consequences.”

In terms of getting at the ‘why’ of anti-Americanism, journalists would go well to address the ignorance that the Post reporter refers to. It is not enough to simply acknowledge said hatred; as John C. Merrill writes in Global Journalism:

“In the modern world, journalists must take various cultures into consideration…Common sense too often defers to nationalism and personal ethnocentrism. Among other intercultural scholars, Novinger stresses the need to know and respect other cultures and their rules.”
This extends to the American audience, who needs to know the circumstances that breed this hatred, thus addressing the “why.”

… It’s not so much why, but who?

Reaction from Michael Hess
I spent almost four of the last five years out of the United States. I worked on base, but lived and socialized outside the gates in the community. Old friends say I adopted a European attitude. I defend myself by saying it's not an attitude - it's a perspective.
The first question one would have to ask is: Who are the people who allegedly hate the United States and its way of life so deeply that they would want to cause harm to its people?
Do first world countries hate us or are they frustrated by some of our policy and ideology? The French may hate that McDonald's is taking over their country one street corner at a time, but I don't think they'd retaliate with violence.

Do people in Middle Eastern countries hate us? I've traveled all over the Middle East. They may like the American individual, but don't like our government or president and that’s common ground between many Americans and the rest of the world.

Do Iraqis hate us? That’s a complicated issue. No, at least not the ones I talked to. Will they retaliate when American service members kill family members and destroy property? Wouldn’t you? An Iraqi acquisitions agent who spoke very good English told me that his living conditions were better under Saddam. “At least I had electricity and water then. At least my kids could go to school,” he said.

The questions I’d ask would be based on who I was asking. I didn’t ask the Iraqi salesperson, “Why do you hate us?” I asked him, “Is it better now than before?” If I could sit down with Osama himself, I’d first ask him if he planned it and then ask him where he’s been hiding and then finally ask the why’s.

Image by Britannica

… Because media interpretation creates people’s reality

Reaction from Gregory Stephens

Why do they hate us? It’s quite simple actually. Perception often takes place of reality, especially when from afar, such as from other parts of the world. Stories have aired in innumerable quantities that show U.S. soldiers ignoring societal customs, desecrating religious buildings, and various other activities deemed “morally incomprehensible,” such as Abu Ghraib. However, the actions of a few are outweighing the good deeds of many, as unfortunate as that is. Because of that, a good portion of the world thinks that we are exactly like those who negatively represent us in the press.

Another reason we are so negatively looked at is the “throne” America sits on. America, under questionable leadership from both political parties, has assigned itself the position of world police, toppling regimes and overthrowing governments that don’t represent what “the West” feels is a fair government. While we may overall be correct in the long-run, it appears as if no thought was given to the residents of those countries, who now live in a lawless area and are treated as the enemy because they look like the enemy.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Why Do They Hate Us?

Reactions from Ohio University "International Journalism" students ...

"Because we rename French fries in "Freedom fries" after France fails to support the United States in our decision to enter Iraq. [...] Americans have the notion that all other countries [...] respect us and want out help. That they wish they could live a life just like ours. We think we are their savior and are surprised to find out differently." Ellen Schnier

"Do first world countries hate us or are they frustrated by some of our policy and ideology? The French may hate that McDonald's is taking over their country one street corner at a time, but I don't think they'd retaliate with violence."
Michael Hess

"The U.S. foreign policy approach of being the city upon the hill, which with missionary zeal wants to spread its own brand of happiness, featured by democracy, capitalism, and consumerism culture, might not reverberate positively with cultures in which happiness is defined otherwise." Stine Eckert

"While it’s certainly not true of every U.S citizen, much of the population knows and
cares to know little about the rest of the world. People visit foreign countries with
ignorance about the different customs of the country they are visiting. Rather than
thinking about their way of behaving as just one among hundreds, they view their
way—the American way—as the only correct way." Taylor Mirfendereski

"Due to an overwhelming sense of ethnocentrism, Americans could not possibly believe that perhaps the U.S. government is hated in some cultures because of our aggressive foreign policy, our tendency to police the world and our military presence in parts of the world where we are not welcome." Emily Mullin

"It is essential to us, especially as U.S. citizens, to understand world opinion about the U.S. and the fundamental problems that are caused by American foreign policy and relations. Most Americans are unaware of the tenets of our foreign policies, and have no idea that often countries and cultures are infuriated by our policies." Cristina Mutchler

"The U.S. is already the strongest, politically and economally, nation in the world, and when a nation that strong pits itself against all other supposedly Anti-American nations, the rest of the world will begin to think of the U.S. as a bully."
Natalie Cammarata

"Another reason we are so negatively looked at is the “throne” America sits on. America, under questionable leadership from both political parties, has assigned itself the position of world police, toppling regimes and overthrowing governments that don’t represent what “the West” feel is a fair government." Gregory Stephens

"I believe that recent events have given people all over the world a chance to disagree with how America handled and is handling the fallout from September 11, evidenced with the current war in Iraq. I believe that this Anti-Americanism movement is in response to the actions of a small group of leaders in the United States government." Celia Shortt

"While the U.S.'s recent policies, including the Iraq War, have been unpopular with other
countries, I believe that the people within that countries can differentiate between the
government and the citizens." Sally Cruikshank

Edited by: Carolin Biebrach
Photos by All rights reserved.