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    Penn chicks for Bush

    Most of you have probably seen this already, but Jane Galt has posted her presidential endorsement. It’s very well worked-out, but of course I’m going to say that because I agree with her. It did remind me of something a friend asked me the other day, though–namely, what do foreigners think about the election, anyway? Megan framed the question sensibly:

    Then there’s the question of what message electing Kerry would send. Does it make the world love us, because we got rid of the president they hate, or does it make them despise us, because we’ve just held a referendum on the Iraq war, and Bush lost?

    Obviously, I don’t know a representative sample of the 5 billion-odd people who live outside America. My Japanese and foreign acquaintances here in Tokyo are a mixture of international business types and bumming-around-teaching-English types, mostly. And I get to see foreign publications and broadcasts more than a lot of Americans, though I don’t know how I’d rate next to the newshounds of the blogosphere.

    Be that as it may, I think the foreign media will use a victory for either side to do exactly what they’ve been doing for all of recent memory: pissing on American policy and business interests while making moist-eyed proclamations of love for the American people. For anyone who missed it, Bruce Bawer had a long but beautifully done piece on foreign views of America a while back that expands on that point quite a bit. The way foreign journalists talk about the Clinton administration as the halcyon days of yore now, you’d never know that, while it was going on, they were carping and caviling and mewling and bleating about everything America did just as much as they do now. Sure, they liked Clinton more than they liked his right-leaning opponents, and 9/11 and the WOT have provided things to fixate on that didn’t exist then. But the essential song remains the same, in my view.

    So the answer to “Does it make the world love us?” when the “it” refers to anything but letting ourselves be annexed by Canada, is no. The foreign press would warm to Kerry more than it has to Bush; it would like his wife, who with her high-strung multilingual social-democratic persona is similar to most foreign women journalists. If he continued the WOT essentially the way Bush has promised to, he would probably get a little more sympathy for the first few months, because they could spin it as cleaning up his predecessor’s mess. If he deviated radically from the Bush doctrine, he might be ritually praised at first as more peacable. But we’d be back where we started in no time: America has arrogantly designated itself the world’s police force! And why isn’t it doing more to help other countries? And so on.

    As to whether voting Bush out would provide an opportunity to cast Americans as wishy-washy and unable to commit to long-term projects instead of staying just long enough to secure our short-term interests–please! That goes without saying. No matter how the people and the electoral college vote, America will be depicted as full of well-meaning but self-centered folks who don’t understand the realities of the world.

    However, I think those who hope that a landslide for Bush will show our willingness to stick by the difficult decisions he’s made as commander-in-chief are also naive. That’s surely the line non-US reporters will take when they want to make America out to be full of dangerous, gun-brandishing nutcases. The rest of the time, they’ll point to the offices that Democratic candidates actually won, declare that those wins show that Bush doesn’t have a mandate because the American people are bitterly divided over the WOT and domestic policy, and go right back to saying what they always say.

    Now that I’ve dug myself in several paragraphs deep, let me emphasize two points: I’m a pretty observant guy who happens to live abroad. I’m not a media expert, and I’m not a political scientist. What I’ve said here is based on my observation, and I’m aware how subjective it is. Normally when I post about things I’m not well versed in, I try to provide as many links as possible. In this case, I haven’t because I’m referring to BBC and NHK and CNN international broadcasts as much as to print media here, and you can’t really cite the tone someone took while tut-tutting over the invasion of Iraq. But I really do think that fair-minded people who immersed themselves in non-American news sources for a while would come up with pretty much the same impressions as I have.

    The second point is, I’m talking about foreign media–as opposed to people I talk to–because they are where ordinary citizens get their information about America. People aren’t too dumb to realize that journalists bring their own biases to the stories they cover, of course; but inevitably, when reporting about the US is colored the same way over and over by everyone you’re likely to read or watch, it has its effect. As Bawer notes, despite the general liberal bent of the US media, we Americans have access to a multiplicity of news sources and ideological slants that you really don’t have even in other democracies, where the filtering is done for you by others who get to decide what’s worthy and what’s junk.

    All of which is to say, we can’t really do much about the way the election results will be interpreted for the world. We also can’t do much about the way either man, if elected President, presents himself to the media. Faced with a choice between Bush, who has the demeanor of a lightweight but takes discernible policy positions, and Kerry, who has gravitas in his bearing but can’t string two sentences together without contradicting himself, I still think Bush is the better option.

    8 Responses to “Penn chicks for Bush”

    1. Dean's World says:

      How The Foreign Press Will View America After The Election

      Sean Kinsell, an American living in Japan, has a truly excellent (I’d almost say must-read) analysis of how the press generally views America and her Presidents–and how the foreign press and those in other nations are lik…

    2. Dean's World says:

      How The Foreign Press Will View America After The Election

      Sean Kinsell, an American living in Japan, has a truly excellent (I’d almost say must-read) analysis of how the press generally views America and her Presidents–and how the foreign press and those in other nations are lik…

    3. Dean's World says:

      How The Foreign Press Will View America After The Election

      Sean Kinsell, an American living in Japan, has a truly excellent (I’d almost say must-read) analysis of how the press generally views America and her Presidents–and how the foreign press and those in other nations are lik…

    4. Janelle says:

      Thank you for your keen observations. I do wonder about everything you wrote about.

    5. Sean Kinsell says:

      Thanks, Janelle. This sort of thing is hard to pin down, because you have to have a memory like a steel trap in order to make citations that would hold up even in a paper for a college class. And a lot of what I’m talking about is presentation, not content.
      One example: there was a report on the BBC soon after the Iraq invasion. The reporter was passing through a village after the Coalition forces had taken it and moved forward. He said something to the effect of, “The US claims that it is making every effort to avoid unnecessary casualties. [pause] We saw these injured children without access to medical help.” The camera at this point was trained on two or three people displaying what really were pretty serious injuries, if I recall correctly. But they only showed those two or three people, and the footage of destruction in the area was always tightly focused in on one or two buildings. There was no way for a viewer to get a sense of how much the destruction was because the camera didn’t zoom out.
      To my mind, the reporter’s juxtaposing those two sentences was pretty obviously a way of saying he didn’t believe the US forces was trying to avoid hurting civilians. I can’t think of any other way to interpret that weird phrasing. But it’s cagey enough that you could easily miss it, or the reporter could conceivably argue that he was just giving the US forces’ side before narrating what he and his camera crew actually saw.
      That’s the sort of thing that I’m talking about, to a large degree. Open hostility toward the US (and capitalism and individualism in general) is often obnoxious, but it also makes it plain that whoever’s talking has a personal perspective the audience needs to account for. It’s the people who get all aquiver with self-congratulation over how objective they are that you have to watch out for. Was it Linda Ellerbee who said to remember that, in pointing the camera at something, a journalist is always pointing it away from something else?

    6. nathan in tokyo says:

      i am an american living in tokyo just like you. nice blog; i jumped over here from dean`s world. i wrote a mail to megan regarding her post about expats at instapundit a few days ago. not sure that she ever read it, so i will paste it here as i think it`s relevant to this post:
      hi megan,
      kudos to you, michael, and ann for doing some great blogging at instapundit this week. i am a regular reader of michael and will be looking at your and ann`s blogs from now as well.
      i may be late on this, but i wanted to put in my 2 cents` worth on this post of yours. i am an american expat in japan, living in tokyo and working in the IT industry here for the last 6 years. i am a dyed-in-the-wool democrat but have voted republican straight down the line this time in protest at the direction that i see the party going. i cannot stomach that direction, and i also cannot stomach kerry or edwards. there are other democrats that i would have willingly voted for (lieberman, etc.) , but kerry is not one of them. sorry to have had to do it, but we all have to vote our conscience.
      most of my expat friends outside of work here seem to have decided on kerry, and i am tired or trying to show them the error of their ways. people in the finance/IT industry, however, are a bit more divided.
      most japanese people, also, seem very anti-bush, and i attribute this to 2 things:
      1) the japanese are very, very knee-jerk-anti-war. they have their reasons for this, but it translates to seeing bush as a warmonger. never mind that this is all a response to 9/11. there is also a pretty deep vein of general anti-americanism here due to how badly this country was devastated by us 60 years ago. it`s completely hypocritical, of course, but the educational system here teaches them pretty much nothing at all about the war except that they were the victims of 2 A-bombs. everything that came before hiroshima/nagasaki is ignored.
      2) the media here is extremely, EXTREMELY biased to the left. one of the most popular network evening news commentators is unabashedly anti-u.s. i have never heard him say a single thing siding with the u.s., even about 9/11. other networks almost always exclusively use footage, facts and figures, etc. from only the NYT, CBS, and reuters. they have all made a huge deal about all the “negative campaigning” against kerry, but have not given an ounce of coverage to the substance of any of the charges or the same type of anti-bush campaigning by kerry supporters.
      my two cents` worth. hope you have time to read it!
      best wishes,

    7. Sean Kinsell says:

      You won’t get nearly as much exposure here as you would at Asymmetrical Information, let alone Instapundit, but thanks for posting.
      Don’t be too hard on your friends–I think most of us get defensive when it’s clear that someone is trying to show us the error of our ways. :) But I’m with you on Kerry and Edwards. I sometimes wonder whether the press’s need to temper its criticisms of the Japanese government gives journalists a buildup of frustrations that they vent by being extra harsh on the US, especially on Bush and other Republicans. To keep my blood pressure at reasonable levels, I tend to tune out the evening news when the US coverage starts.

    8. No matter what, the foreign press won’t like the president

      Sean of The White Peril is an American living in Japan. He sent in his absentee ballot some time ago, and he’s watching the election here with trepidation. Recently he gave his opinion as an American expat on whether it…