Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 06, 2007

The Change in World-Wide Perception of U.S. Behavior

(Updated below)

Citing worldwide polls of public opinion, Glenn Greenwald writes about The tragic collapse of America's standing in the world.

While I believe that this is chiefly a result of a media and communication revolution, Glenn traces the serious decline of U.S reputation since 1999/2000 back to U.S. behavior (emph.add.):

The collapse of America's moral standing in the world -- the intense and widespread contempt in which we are held -- is, without question, a direct by-product of our behavior over the last six years.

In an update he adds:

In comments, Che Pasa, echoing the objections of several other commenters, argues that this post conflates two logically distinct issues -- how America is perceived in the world versus what America, in fact, is. Thus, he argues, simply because America was liked and respected around the world prior to the Bush administration does not negate the claim that America has been a net force for Evil, since public opinion may simply have been wrong.

Glenn does not buy this:

[W]hat is indisputably true is that world opinion regarding America has profoundly shifted -- for the worse -- since 2000. The question, then, is why has that happened? My answer is the simplest and most obvious one (which does not mean it is right): namely, public opinion of America has fundamentally changed over the last six years because our behavior in the world, our national character and our defining values have fundamentally changed.

I agree that the behavior of the U.S. in the world has deteriorated under Bush. But that change is not fundamental.

There is an even simpler answer for the crash of world public opinion about the U.S.: The revolution in information distribution through worldwide TV news and the Internet.

Before the late 1990s, access to international media and alternative views was difficult to get anywhere in the world. In my homecountry one could walk to major railway stations and buy a decent collection of international papers, or one could listen to BBC and a few other international views on the radio.

But now there are BBC, CNN, AlJazeera, Euronews, Arte and others on the regular cable TV. With a cheap satellite dish hundreds of international TV stations are available 24/7. Instead of a few expensive international papers from the international press kiosk, there now is instant access to hundreds of regular news-media on the web. 

A billion people now have cheap and simple access to terrabytes of original data, making it much easier to verify the truthiness of what the news-media are disseminating. Millions of blogs add  immediate commentary and analysis.

I agree with Glenn's commentator Che Pasa. The behaviour of the U.S. has not changed that much. What has changed is the perception of this behavior. This because of new unfiltered and cheap access to information.

Wars of aggression have been fought by the U.S. for decades. A few days ago James Caroll wrote a recommendable piece about US intelligence agencies after World War II in the Boston Globe:

In Iraq, they have run the gamut from pre war falsification of weapons data to surveillance of American citizens to kidnapping to torture of prisoners. During the Cold War, it was "black operations" that included staging coups, assassinating foreign leaders, infiltrating American organizations, conspiring with Mafia groups, spying on journalists -- perhaps even murder.

The atrocities of the war on Vietnam are not different from those in the war on Iraq. But while the facts of the massacre of My Lai took years to leak into some world knowledge, the pictures of torture at Abu Ghraib were seen by hundreds of millions within a few hours.

Colin Powell's presentation before the U.N. Security Council was broadcasted live worldwide, as were the facts proving that it contained nothing but a bunch of lies.

For the U.S. to go back to political behaviour "before Bush" would therefore not help to change the world wide public opinion. Over decades the U.S. has eliminated one or the other South-American leader without much worldwide public noise. But the U.S. supported coup attempt against Chavez in Venezuela in 2002 was transmitted live. The documentary about it has been broadcasted worldwide and downloaded over and over.

While, as Glenn assumes, Bush's political behaviour is certainly a part of a declining U.S. reputation, the much faster and wider distribution of knowledge about such behaviour is, in my view, playing an even bigger role.

To regain world wide reputation, the U.S. will therefore have to make an even deeper correction of its behavior than Glenn assumes. Bombing of pharmaceutical factories in Sudan like Clinton did will not regain the U.S. any good reputation. To publicly reject its inherent urge to imperialism would be a good start.


Citing some of the above, Glenn responds:

This is precisely the viewpoint I was describing, critiquing and refuting. Bernhard's attempt to explain how it can be that worldwide perceptions of the U.S. have changed drastically since 2000 if our behavior is fundamentally the same is, in my view, completely unconvincing.

This explanation (which was echoed by several commenters and e-mailers yesterday) ascribes an ignorance to people around the world that is more fictitious than anything else. The pre-Internet era was not the Dark Ages. ...

The times before Gutenberg also knew sunshine. But the arrival of the printing press certainly changed the fabric of the society. Without it, the Renaissance and the Reformation would not have happened. 

With the arrival of the Interent the costs of consuming information has decreased by several orders of magnitude.

This morning, for the price of one copy of my local monopolistic rightwing fishwrap, I skimmed through some ten major papers from five different countries on three continents. By noon I had added a dozen blog posts and alternative magazine pieces.

Some 1,154,358,778 worldwide Internet users have the ability to do the same. Most of course don't use the net with such an intensity, but the opinion leaders do and others use their access to check at least on major issues.

Of course this has changed the worldwide information level about and the perception of U.S. politics.

Why that is considered to be a "completely unconvincing" argument is beyond me.

Posted by b on July 6, 2007 at 7:35 UTC | Permalink


You're missing the key difference between previous US administrations and the current regime: they used to pretend to be embarrassed by their evil. Now they embrace it, telling us it shows just how manly and strong they are.

They're no longer failing to live up to their ideals: they've taken torture and murder as an ideal, a core value. It's the difference between human imperfection and pure evil. And people can see that.

Posted by: Colman | Jul 6 2007 9:09 utc | 1

I think indeed both causes explain the shift.
The US is actually acting like an out of control bully and brags about it. The idiots in charge are quite open about how they want to use raw naked brute force. Even Reagan and Nixon were more subtle. So, the world wasn't prepared to have the US act in such a warmongering manner.
Then indeed, information is easier to access now. The countless blogs and commentaries are, in my opinion, at least as important as the wide access to foreign media.
The US could have gone away with one or the other - brutal interventions with limited media, or softer use of force with worldwide media. With both, the US is doomed.
Of course your conclusion is spot on: now that the lid has been lifted, people know how it works, what the US does, has done, and can do again. Going back to less genocidal tendencies won't be enough, because there always be many people scrutinising US actions, and many who will fear that if this administration is nicer, the next one will be a bunch of GOP nutjobs.
To gain back its moral standing, the US would have to be a gentler nation towards the rest of the world than it has ever been in 230 years, and will need to show to the world that it can rid itself of its own evil by destroying the core of the neo-cons, BushCo, and by taking down most of the GOP with them.

Posted by: CluelessJoe | Jul 6 2007 9:48 utc | 2

Some people would say that it is not important that US have a favorable popular reputation throughout the world as long as world governments and organizations do not reflect the "popular" opinion and continue to act to support the goals and positions of the US; or when "popular" opinion is manipulable at the proper times, after all that practice in Hollywood. Besides, is it not true that a little "outrageousness" enhances ones rep?

I don't see the UN or any government standing up to the "pressure" the US can exert. There will always be support behind the scenes if not overt. (Interesting about how quietly the news was handled about the missing files from the BND about the rendition of one of its own German citizens).

It is most likely that change will occur with the financial collapse of the US, which will be painful for all. I am not hopeful that the rest of the world governments will listen to their constituencies and develop a morally just position and oppose the US. It is all about economics and staying in power.

I have become very cynical after seeing EU, UN all jump on the bandwagon for confrontation with Iran, continuing the bombing in Lebanon and drooling at the daily slaughter in Palestine, all policies of that country with such a poor reputation.

Posted by: ww | Jul 6 2007 10:36 utc | 3

colman is quite correct on this -the celebration of core values - like theft, torture & the repression ofcivil liberties are now something to be proud of - exhibited in '24' & any of the hundred other murdochian manifestations of a peculiarly american madness

speaking of corpse values - i imagine the obsession with morgues in american popular culture is a manifestation that it is easier to deal with dead bodies, bodies-waiting-to-die than real live ones, especially those of foreigners

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jul 6 2007 10:43 utc | 4

We recently got connected to TV again here after not bothering in the last house, and I finally got to see "24". It's horrifying.

Posted by: Colman | Jul 6 2007 11:16 utc | 5

Greenwald puts forward the conventional leftist dish: they are right to hate us because of our bad actions; he adds Democratic sauce: It is All The Fault of Bush.

Comprehensibly, the last part of this pov. is adopted by lackeys and followers world wide - Bad apples in high places! Implying that after Bush things will change and the sun will shine again.

Colman makes a good point. Yet, the previous ‘more subtle’ - more consistent strategy, careful wording, control of what appeared in the media - did not fool many who took time and trouble. The greater frankness of BushCo can itself be seen as a reaction to media changes. A wider world and higher stakes.

One might add that the internet has given dissenters, contrarians, doubters, alternative associations, etc. a voice. Many simply had none before. As Joe said, about the blogs.

Posted by: Noirette | Jul 6 2007 11:26 utc | 6

There's a belief throughout America and the world that it will all be ok when Bush is out of office. That will mark the end of a long nightmarish period of American history and it will all be back to being normal again. Interesting if that doesn't happen. Will America be waiting until the end of Clinton's term? Or Obama's when they get disillusioned with him? And while everyone is waiting for things to get back to normal a whole generation will grow up, all around the world who will only ever have known the America we see today. This will be the new normal.

Posted by: swio | Jul 6 2007 11:33 utc | 7

The greater frankness of BushCo can itself be seen as a reaction to media changes.

Very interesting thought - thanks Noirette - to be open about it, certainly helped to mobilize Bush's "base"

Posted by: b | Jul 6 2007 12:04 utc | 8

I have to agree with Coleman #1--Plausible deniability used to be maintained through a combination of disavowing of bad deeds when exposed and the very public display of occasional good deeds.

The public celebration of evil is new, and ought to be alarming.

Although the internet is a new source of information, this is somewhat offset by the centralization of the news media and its decreased interest in reporting news--to the point that if you are not plugged in, you get no real news whatever. So: How many people are plugged in? Compared with: In the old days, how many people COULD get their news from the media?

Unfortunately, the direction of US policy cannot change, it will only get worse. The reason is the War for Oil. The US wants not merely the right to bid--but direct access--to ALL the world's oil, and soon will lack even the means to pay for it in the normal way. Taking by force is the alternative, and the means of disguising the plunder will be increasingly strained.

People in other countries really need to start thinking about how they want to respond to this.

OT--It occurs to me it has been a while since I have said thanks, b, for this blog. You continue to write on the heart of events. Thanks.

Posted by: Gaianne | Jul 6 2007 12:24 utc | 9

Yep all of the above, however I'm a bit wary of this 'new mistrust'. I think I've posted in here before about how the voices round here that were once the most conservative and pro-amerikan have become the most vociferous in their opposition to everything amerikan. This worries me in the same way that the sudden shift towards general acceptance that human activity has disastrously effected climate worries me.

Strongly held views which were acquired in a short timespan can be discarded just as quickly. We live in an era where ethics and morality are fashion accessories to be worn on one's sleeve, shown off to impress, then discarded in favour of the next year's beliefs.

Just after the last amerikan educational massacre a really heated debate developed on my local rag's 'your views' blog. After a number of people posted that those behaviours don't exist in a vacuum and that these shootings were a consequence of the institutionalised violence in amerika, the opinions must have been posted to a conservative blog in Amerika cause the comments really became heated as hundreds of posts by ignorami on both sides spewed their venom. The depth of knowledge was pretty evenly shallow

Bush Co crimes have made amerika such an easy target for the world's contempt that it has become very easy to justify that contempt without really knowing whats goin on now or what has gone before.

Those sort of shallow rooted beliefs are absolutely ripe for exploitation by the sort of politican ww was talking about.

If no easy alternative economic dominant appears, the politicians will persuade the people to 'get over it'. On the other hand China hasn't been sitting on its hands meekly waiting for amerika to take up the reins of economic domination once more. I don't know how apparent it is within the US but the BushCo administration has taken it's eye right off the US world wide monopoly ball. They have been so busy trying to steal ME oil, the other regions have slipped the leash. The concentration on arm twisting other countries into subsidising the amerikan military industry that most other amerikan industries have been forgotten about.

Nothing showed the lack of power more than the way that the Europeans had Wolfowitz sacked from a postion which up until that point had always been regarded as being within the POTUS gift. It had been completely accepted that whoever was to be CEO of the World Bank was a decision of the US prez. That is no longer the case. Amerika can still pick em but the other large white- fella countries now get to accept or reject. Once that sort of power has been lost it is very difficult to regain.

NZ and China are finalising a free trade agreement, now this is a tiny deal. On one level not worth any large economy losing sleep over, but in the past amerika would have moved heaven and earth to prevent NZ from signing a free trade deal with China.

Not for what it was but for the precedent it represents. This is the first such deal China has managed to negotiate with a westernised economy. They have put far more effort into it than NZ's size would warrant but they aren't really that interested in NZ's market. It is the other nations of the Pacific Rim especially the nation to the West of NZ that is overloaded with minerals and energy resources like coal, gas , oil and uranium that China really wants to do a deal with.

NZ is just a 'dry run' a place to practice and learn the ploys and pitfalls on. If China and then later Iran do promote their trading system, those same politicians who would have tried to swing back into friendly terms with amerika will be at the vanguard of the segue to China.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Jul 6 2007 12:45 utc | 10

I would agree with colman #1 - the Internet has made some remarkable changes to the world.

I see some other things as well. The first poll that Greenwald sites is from 1999/2000. Already there is substantial, though minority, dislike evident of the US. What were things like from WWII on? I searched the Internet for the data, but could not find it on line. I am too lazy to go to a major library and try to find the answers. I suspect that after WWII there would have been support for the US in the 80's to low 90's of many countries. I believe that US popularity has been declining slowly since WWII.

I also believe that the opposition to the US was not focused before Bush. It was anti G8, anti globalization, anti-ruling elite - the US was first among many evils. Bush has changed the perception so that it is the US and its tentacles of evil spreading throughout the world. Blair was not an equal, but Bush's lap dog. Before Bush I think that the middle class of various countries would trade off dislike for the US militarism with desire for the wealth and opportunity that they believed the US could potentially provide.

As well, the opposition in the western countries seemed to be concentrated in the left wing, and had a hard time breaking out of that political group. As colman stated, the Internet has provided the medium for Bush to succeed in making that breakout happen.

Posted by: edwin | Jul 6 2007 14:30 utc | 11

i'll agree w/ b's stmt that what we are seeing is not fundamentally different from what has been. bushCo is not much different than the reagan regime -- couching an embrace of the use of terror in moral rhetoric. reagan talked of the 'evil empire' while bush talks of the 'axis of evil'; both to justify slaughter & genocide. it doesn't get much more blatant than creating & supporting the contras in nicaragua or an international 'american jihad' in afghanistan. that larger proportions of the world public were not fully aware of u.s. responsibility for these terror campaigns is a reflection on the media capabilities at the time; it does not mean that the u.s. did not embrace their roles in it.

chalk a lot of this new awareness up to the information revolution, definitely, but don't forget to include the amnesia factor. like, how many people recall clinton's slow genocide of iraq via sanctions & the rhetorical/policy justifications that went along w/ maintaining that? the deaths of half-a-million iraqi children was worth the price for what?

the notion that the u.s. has ever attempted to live up to its propaganda (espoused as ideas & platitudes) & that only the last seven years have deterred the country from those goals is a naive one. since losing in the u.s. war in vietnam, the u.s. has embraced terror outright in order to rollback regimes not in its orbit & to quash militant nationalism throughout africa, the americas & central asia. counterinsurgency targets the sea that guerillas swim in, politely labeled collateral damage.

talk of changing perceptions is actually a conscious awakening to reality. greenwald may write all purty-like, but he's still reading like a somnambulist.

Posted by: b real | Jul 6 2007 14:41 utc | 12

The greater frankness of BushCo can itself be seen as a reaction to media changes.

I don't see BushCo reacting. They see themselves as "history's actors", as Suskind reports, who want others to react to them. The GOP has been putting together it's media arm for a couple decades now. It made noise throughout the 90's with manufactured Clinton scandals and succeeded in swaying the coverage of media outlets that were not aligned to the GOP. I.e, the GOP media outlets became powerful enough to sometimes set the terms of coverage, as during the Clinton impeachment theatre. However, the MSM still deferred to those in power on "national interest" issues like Kosovo, presenting administration spin of a humanitarian war and not buying the Fox "wag the dog" line. In 2001, the consolidated MSM media structure that was not permanently aligned to the GOP became a tool BushCo could manipulate for their ends just like the official levers of govt. The nature and tone of the propaganda dispensed through the MSM changed, more closely resembling the tone of the GOP aligned media. I think this change in propaganda style - sometimes called foxification (R'giap's Murdochian is just as accurate) - was the deliberate product of GOP media minions taking virtual control of the entire media apparatus and driving it's content (through voluntary imitation or outright intimidation) to look more like the parts of the media that actually did work for them. In other words, the media didn't change, the people who set their agenda did. That we now hear squeaks and squawks from some MSM corners questioning some BushCo actions is a testament to Bush's decreased power rather than some belated awakening on the media's part.

Posted by: | Jul 6 2007 15:02 utc | 13

Colman's point that the mask has fallen from the long standing US policy, a policy that will likely continue into the future, seems bloody obvious. What is not obvious to me is how the world will survive the economic and middle-eastern political chaos resulting from this administration. The last thread was about the coming war in Syria and Musharef's plane was shot at today. Will deal making and trading systems by other power centers protect anyone from the chaos that could ensue in the next 18 months of unopposed belligerent behavior.

Posted by: ww | Jul 6 2007 15:05 utc | 14

Without print, the Renaissance and the Reformation would not have happened

i aghree w/ your more specific complaint w/ greenwald. but your internet-love needs critique. print technology concentrated clerical power more than it did to set free the mad habits of lone pamphleteers. why believe, as you do, the internet is any different? the most powerful media are mass media steered by centralized control. still. if we had a "msm" owned and operated by breal, programmed by rgiap, the minds of people would be thankfully transformed. well, probably not.

but, what is the alternative? as for the people power armed w/ blackberries and circulating unmediated bullshit, what we get is a political consciousness marked by racism (immigration "reform"), irrational fear of government (notice even the left's vilification of "sicko"), the unending location of every conceivable vice in american "empire," and a vast ignorance on right and left of history, structure, theory.

put another way, the concern about opinion balkanization, information cascades, sequestered will formation, echo-chambers, the Daily Me, wrt internet babble, is relevant.
there's not much cross-fertilization between the knuckleheads and the enlightened ones. only "msm" can do this.

Posted by: slothrop | Jul 6 2007 17:46 utc | 15

I think b's point is well taken, however with several caveats. Obviously U.S. foreign policy is on a trajectory established post WWII, but now uninhibited by the well defined nemesis of international communism. Where by the project of privatization/exploitation of the global economy could be justified against the socio-political background of sino-soviet economic and social failures. The post war period up until the collapse of the soviet union was a windfall of good will towards the U.S., particularly among the eastern block countries, but also in the middle eastern dictatorships nervous about popular revolution. Since the fall or reformulation of communist ideals worldwide the U.S. has (at least until the advent of terrorism) has been (generally) allowed to expand and concentrate its economic hegemony upon the world without significant or unified resistance. Or at least up until the current bush administration. Where, without the advantage of a legitimate global foil to shield its intentions, has sought to simultaniously invent one in the form of terrorism and to showcase its defeat as a ruthless example if non-compliance. I think what we have seen in the last 7 years is an exponential acceleration and concentration of american power, fueled by hubris, and exposed as such without the benefit of alternative - or exposed as a tyranny in its own right.

Posted by: anna missed | Jul 6 2007 18:46 utc | 16

Well said, b real!

Posted by: Jane | Jul 6 2007 18:52 utc | 17

the information revolution is as much about access as it is to creation of content. perhaps more. at your fingertips you have access to official & legal documentation, a myriad of sources on a particular topic in textual/hypertextual/video formatting w/ the option to copy/store/print. content specialization, getting the necessary info to the correct audience is now inexpensive & effective.

president's will always claim that our victims enemies "share a hatred for democracy, a fanatical glorification of violence, and a horrible distortion of their religion to justify the murder of innocents" who "have made the United States their adversary precisely because of what we stand for and what we stand against" while killing others.

at least now people can do more than scratch their heads & rely on others supplying the information that shapes their experiences.

Posted by: b real | Jul 6 2007 18:55 utc | 18

Anna is bringing up a point that was missing in the discussion: the lack of the USSR as a counterbalance and "negative pole" to attract a lot of criticism.

There was a time when the US stood for individual liberty vs. totalitarian control, artistic expression vs. socialist realism and freedom of movement vs. internal visas and residence permits.

And the USA stood for rock 'n' roll, blue jeans and Coca-Cola vs. stodgy folk dancing, ill-fitting padded jackets and fermented horse urine.

But now that socialism is no longer a threat, US-style capitalism has thrown away almost all attempts at maintaining even the appearance of a social conscience.

American jeans and sneakers are being manufactured in third-world sweatshops. And as other nations grow more liberal, America grows more repressive in an attempt to maintain its Way of Life, which is starting to lose the glow that once appealed to great parts of the world, and is starting to be seen as a menace by another, growing part of the world.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Jul 6 2007 19:04 utc | 19

but your internet-love needs critique. print technology concentrated clerical power more than it did to set free the mad habits of lone pamphleteers.

Between 1517 and 1520, Rome saw Luther as just a lonely pamphleteer that didn't deserve much response ...

Posted by: b | Jul 6 2007 19:11 utc | 20

b real

but look at the highly localized character of struggle achieving some positive effects (falon gong, chiapas, wto/seattle) and some issue-oriented activism (kill the immigration bills, boycott sinclair, etc.). but these are limited and too diffuse, too bloody postmodern, to challenge the kinds of structural control partly reproduced by general interest mass media.

and frankly, the developing consensus arrived at by all the little assholes w/ all their little opinions on the internets wrt immigration, healthcare, capitalism, etc. augers real problems for anyone abiding by a theory of the spontaneous democracy from below.

i dig the whole jeffersonian ideal of diffused power. but, the results of the usual opinion formation affected by blogs inspire me to reread walter lippman, harold lasswell, etc. with less suspicion.

Posted by: slothrop | Jul 6 2007 19:16 utc | 21

@ 16

personalized supernatural beings (or souls) inhabit all objects and govern their existence

is this you?

Posted by: Hamburger | Jul 6 2007 19:29 utc | 22

well b, everyone from the horny priests to the philosophes served their bourgeois masters.

print consolidated, ramified, centralized, reified the world. a far greater weapon than writing.

there is nothing inherent in the employment of emerging communication technologies guaranteeing revolutionary uses by the little people. the internet is no different.

Posted by: slothrop | Jul 6 2007 19:39 utc | 23

# 22

ain't me babe, it is whats missing though.

Posted by: anna missed | Jul 6 2007 22:20 utc | 24

imperialism, which is inherently flawed carries with it its own contradictions - lenin put it crudely when he sd capital would sell you the rope with which to hang it

the internet has become in part such a rope

access coupled with activism guarantees actions which can resonate more fully, actions can not be isolated - they can be demeaned, even destroyed but they cannot be islolated

capital was once able to isolate even within the same regions - actions - but now we are forcefully awre of actions 'far from us' & in this sense it doubles the importance both of conscience/consciousness & of exemplary actions but also by its very nature it puts praxis within an ever widening focus

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jul 6 2007 22:45 utc | 25

"But now that socialism is no longer a threat, US-style capitalism has thrown away almost all attempts at maintaining even the appearance of a social conscience."
So this means we don't have to fear national jails like Cuba, North Korea, or Zimbabwe, where socialism rules and people are living in a workers' paradise? Like Pol Pot? Or Saddam Hussein? Or Joseph Stalin? Or Mao Tse Tung [or Zedong?]?

And other nations grow more "liberal?" Except for a couple of Scandanavian isolates, the rest of the world is less "liberal" than the US. I lived in six countries, including France and the UK, and they are both more repressive than the US, ralphieboy.

Those voices in your head must be telling you things that just ain't so!

Posted by: daveinboca | Jul 6 2007 23:18 utc | 26


between hanoi & the hamptons give me ol hanoi every time - so sweet there when the sun goes down & between uncle ho & hubert humphrey - there's no contest & well that must be clear even to you

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jul 6 2007 23:44 utc | 27

washinton's little ways

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jul 6 2007 23:50 utc | 28

I don't know the explanation for the poll results. Bernhard's explanation is probably part of it--it's also true that Bush is more openly evil than his predecessors, even Reagan, who was personally charming by most accounts.

What really bothered me about Glenn's viewpoint is that he seems to be arguing that because the polls are worse, this means that pre-Bush actions weren't all that bad. But if anything, Bush is restrained in fighting the insurgency in Iraq. In Vietnam, the US dropped millions of tons of high explosive on South Vietnam, the place we were ostensibly defending. Even the Lancet2 report doesn't indicate US-caused death on the scale we caused in Vietnam. And then there are countless examples of US-supported mass murderers, genocidal dictators, and torturers. Does Glenn think these don't matter so much because it didn't hurt our poll ratings the way Abu Ghraib has?

Glenn also seems to think in some moral balance sheet where the good we do (in helping to defeat Hitler, for instance) more than balances out the evil we do. So defeating one Hitler means we can support numerous Rios Montts, Jonas Savimbis, and Suhartos. He doesn't actually say that, of course, but what does it mean to say that the good we did outweighs the evil? I've had that kind of childish discussion with friends who get defensive when I start outlining the harm we've done. Suppose the accounting is true--what follows from this?

Posted by: Donald J | Jul 7 2007 0:18 utc | 29

As much as I'm an admirer of Glenn's I think he's only half right here. He seems to embrace that quintessentially American belief that "freedom", democracy and individual rights are somehow a uniquely American invention which, through gracious dispensation, it has chosen to share with the rest of the world.

Needless to say for many of us non-Americans this is unbelievably conceited and self absorbed.

He even quotes Canadian Ian Welsh of the Agonist at length, who claims, inter alia, that Canada has "no deep sense of history", an attitude which as a fellow Canadian I would respectfully suggest is more indicative of Welsh's ignorance than anything else. Welsh then simply regurgitates paeans to the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers, the statue of Liberty, etc. that are familiar to any apologist of American exceptionalism. The rather obvious fact that the wellsprings of American republicanism can be found in the writings of European Enlighenment thinkers like Montesquieu, Locke and Rousseau, rather than springing fully formed from the heads of Jefferson, Hamilton and Washington, has clearly eluded both Welsh and Greenwald.

Posted by: lexington | Jul 7 2007 0:56 utc | 30

slothrop - print technology concentrated clerical power more than it did to set free the mad habits of lone pamphleteers

why do you say this? clerical power was at its peak while the only books were largely those transcribed by clerics for the feudal church. as stuart & elizabeth ewen write in their book, channels of desire: mass images and the shaping of american consciousness,

Throughout most of feudal Europe, the written word had been a monopoly of the church ... [which] ... gave the clergy enormous power, for they reserved the right to interpret what others could not read or understand.


While feudal power was often held and defended by the sword, it was justified by the word. The monopoly over the word, over literacy, and over the ability to interpret what was read, was the fundamental aspect of rule.

the authors make clear that the advent of mass printing technologies was an equalizing force, as "[l]iteracy and access to the printed word were cardinal elements in the overturning of social systems predicated on popular ignorance."

so i'm curious as to your stmt that it concentrated clerical power. mass printing certainly extended their reach, as bibles became household fixtures in the advance of colonial expansion, but i see that as dispersal & dilution -- as varous interpretations led to new sects -- not concentration.

whereas the pamphleteers were undoubtedly successful in introducing diverse vernacular literature & ideas, influencing popular mvmts, transmitting knowledge & timely information, and introducing a commercial press not limited to an elite audience.

but we really cannot compare the current context, w/ our seemingly-ubiquitous communication technologies, to the advent of the printed word. the structure & dynamics of our modern societies, combined w/ the feedback enabled by these media, translates into greater opportunities for empowerment outside of institutional constructs, as exemplified every day on this blog & others.

Posted by: b real | Jul 7 2007 0:57 utc | 31

"between hanoi & the hamptons give me ol hanoi every time"
I love this site cuz the euroweenie mindset is so crystal clear. I learned to speak Vietnamese and French and lived in both countries. I will take Vietnam over France now that they've modified their insane economic system, but France remains the worst country out of six I ever lived in. What a collection of arrogant leftardos!

Posted by: daveinboca | Jul 7 2007 1:15 utc | 32

greenwald is employing rhetoric that makes room for critique and defeat of republicans without the right wing labeling it part of the "hate America first" contingency. the problem, as noted, is that this "exceptionalism" still allows Americans to indulge in amnesia about actions around the globe since WWII.

slothrop, b is right about the printing press. before printing the church controlled all learnedness -- such as it was. this followed, of course, the Moors in Spain who in turn made the area safe for the Jews who followed them and translated Greek, Farsi, and Arabic texts on philosophy, mathematics and medicine. they brought paper to western europe. Printing made the dissemination of these non-medieval texts possible on a wide scale. printers in antwerp could create works that were not allowed in England that could then be smuggled back... and thus the glorious revolution.

the scientific revolution in w. europe became possible when people were able to share knowledge across place and time...

as far as the philosophes - the way I see it, they set the groundwork for the French Revolutionaries to question the existence of god and thus the divine right of kings. Printing was also directly responsible for a middle class (via jobs and education for those jobs) that challenged the aristocrats who were happy to keep power sharing between themselves and the king. as you noted, pamphlets were an essential part of the revolution.

maybe the critique of the oppression of knowledge (the Enlightenment) is not a decentering act ... even Derrida ended up defending the enlightenment... maybe Hegel went with the mystic and monarchical Plato and was antithetical to the Enlightenment with his view of an absolute end of knowledge.

or maybe not.

Posted by: fauxreal | Jul 7 2007 1:19 utc | 33

it will all be back to being normal again

I think it *is* all back to being normal again -- after those weird pinko/hippie moments of (a) the New Deal and (b) the Sixties, whose history the right and centre-right are working overtime to rewrite out of existence.

US policy, Furrin and Domestic, looks purty much like it has for the majority of the country's history. it's just that those of us who grew up in or just after the aberrant moment of press freedom, intellectual ferment, human rights struggles and student unrest in the 60's-70's thought that period was normal. it wasn't; it was exceptional. the backlash is gathering momentum and authority, and we're returning to Business As Usual. remember that the US right wing seriously would like to get FDR's head off of the dime and replace it with Reagan's. [here a browse through the chillingly funny book The Commissar Vanishes might be in order.]

Posted by: DeAnander | Jul 7 2007 2:03 utc | 34

the stuff i've read on print technology: febvre & martin, walter ong, elizabeth eisenstein, michael schudsen, others, if nothing else print's "noetic" economy (the ability to store information) greatly expanded prevailing formations of class power. there are moments in which the technology availed counterhegemonic potential. according to eisenstein, diffusion of the political ambitions of enlightenment and reformation are not among these potentials. habermas, in the structural transformation of the public sphere book, makes the case for post-revolutionary europe. but, the ascendancy of the bourgeosie effectively ended this counterhegemony. some people make an issue of sam johnson in the study of lord chesterfield(?) declining patronage, but then the dr. bitched bitterly about his livelihood dictated by the vulgarity of grub street. as for the diffusion of the vulgates, this coincided with the rise of regional empire and the nation-state--hardly an outcome favoring the welfare of the little guy.

as usual, i prefer to take the low road and assign social transformation to class war favoring the usual elites and their obstinate control of communication technologies.

Posted by: slothrop | Jul 7 2007 2:06 utc | 35

to b real:

I'm not slothrop, but I'll chime in on this, as this is somewhat of my specialty.

Because printing press is expensive, whereas non-written communication--even as it reached smaller audiences--is not. Before counter-reformation, Catholic theology existed on multiple levels--the intellectual elite within the church hierarchy might have been subjected to the same conformity of the written word--meant for a handful--but vast majority of laity, rich and poor alike, adhered to Catholicism in name only--their local beliefs and idiosyncracies remained much as they did for centuries. Greatly lowered cost of the written word, made possible by the printed word, changed this: counter-reformation was an attempt to homogenize the theology throughout the church, not just among a handful of intellectual elite. The inquisition--at least the version affecting the masses--was the product of the counter-reformation, made possible by the printing press...not before.

Posted by: kao-hsien-chih | Jul 7 2007 2:18 utc | 36

he structure & dynamics of our modern societies, combined w/ the feedback enabled by these media, translates into greater opportunities for empowerment outside of institutional constructs/i>

sure, well. broder in his own way has a point that the blogs/internet currently deliver access and publishing to users, but another problem quite apart from the ability of power to concentrate control over uses (which is growing as the net neutrality crisis seems to show), is the declining viewpoint diversity among balkanized groups. it seems to me it is too early perhaps to say whether this phenomenon will undermine useful praxis challenging power. but the recent nationalist hysteria over immigration is really troubling, as is the general decline of production of actual reportage, especially of gwot.

people are fucking stupid. basically. who here can seriously defend the aggregate opinion of "the people"?

Posted by: slothrop | Jul 7 2007 2:21 utc | 37


he structure & dynamics of our modern societies, combined w/ the feedback enabled by these media, translates into greater opportunities for empowerment outside of institutional constructs

sure, well. broder in his own way has a point that the blogs/internet currently deliver access and publishing to users, but another problem quite apart from the ability of power to concentrate control over uses (which is growing as the net neutrality crisis seems to show), is the declining viewpoint diversity among balkanized groups. it seems to me it is too early perhaps to say whether this phenomenon will undermine useful praxis challenging power. but the recent nationalist hysteria over immigration is really troubling, as is the general decline of production of actual reportage, especially of gwot.

people are fucking stupid. basically. who here can seriously defend the aggregate opinion of "the people"?

Posted by: slothrop | Jul 7 2007 2:23 utc | 38

it seems to me that the difference between pre-2000 and post 2000 world views of the US is simple.

Before 2000 people somehow doubted a lot of the praises the Americans used to give themselves. They considered them eventually not honest and overblown.

After 2000 people don't doubt anymore, they are sure about it.

Sadly many see the self-deception of Americans as a socially conditioned mental health issue. Even worse, many think that neither the social conditions nor the symptoms resulting out of it, can be changed or treated by therapy.

Posted by: mimi | Jul 7 2007 2:56 utc | 39

I don't read Eisenstein the same way.

She says "As the 'second Ptolemy,' Copernicus (despite his personal distance from printing shops) was cast in much the same role as was Erasmus, who had set out to redo the work of St. Jerome. Both set amend the Bible and reform the church [to remain within traditional belief/knowledge]...but both used means that were untraditional and this propelled their work in an unconventional direction, so that they broke new paths in the very act of seeking to achieve old goals."

So, tho the counter reformation was an attempt to standardize belief, it was a failure because, in their attempt to correct the Julian calendar to fix dates for saints, etc., the church, instead, financed those who learned the infallible text(s) were wrong about the earth as the center of the universe... which was a huge, huge as important as evolution earthshaking paradigm shift... tho this shift, of course, was not universal (just like those today who insist on creationism.

Back to Eisenstein - she also talks about the possibilities of multiple texts, set side by side, rather than a monolithic secret and arcane "reality" that reinforced the church and royalty. but also noted the rational lived alongside the irrational (and still does, right?)

And she talks about the use of vernacular language as a way to increase the scientific revolution -- and that printing was the process that enabled people to look at the world, as in the dissemination of botanical drawings.

-- I take that to mean to see nature/the world as something other than a burden too, unlike the church view promoted among the people... this life is a burden to bear, get to work...

The scientific revolution was possible when people no longer thought that the world was unknowable... doesn't this lead precisely to the enlightenment?

the vernacular was already in use in religious incunabula that was still reserved for the elite so even the elite were changing -- scholars and royalty were challenging the monopoly of Latin. -- and this was the beginning of nationalism, if you ask me. And romanticism was essential to the nation state, rather than the enlightenment - romanticism/the gothic was a reaction to counter the enlightenment.

anyway, back to use of the vernacular - this was also significant for sharing experiential knowledge that was derived from artisans to scholars who sought them out.

and back to Eisenstein again- while she notes that the move from bulky folio to handy octavo was not intended to create a mass market, wasn't that the outcome in the 18th/19th century with subscription libraries where trashy Jane Austin novels encouraged female literacy?

Even tho printing itself was a seismic shift, the effects within institutions are not necessarily as fast. I mean, old understandings don't go away -- look at people who still subscribe to religions that use texts to say that the natural order means women are subject to men... how could the church produce texts that competed with their own in terms of how society was organized without pressure from other sources?

and "reality" builds upon "reality" -- the dualistic tradition is a belief that didn't begin with "I think therefore I am" or printed classification... traditionally Adam named the animals (while Eve, I suppose, was engaging in some Zhora dance with the snake or something.)

And just like the Sunday school movement of the late 18th/early 19th century started the drive for widespread literacy, the outcome was not what they expected... even so, the idea that the industrial revolution would create better lives for the poor wasn't exactly true either. But they were able to read cheap translated copies on Engels' Condition of the Working Class in England if they wanted to. any technology is neutral, to me, in any circumstance and it is the actors who employ the technology that determine its judgment.

but how was the rise of the nation state worse for the little guy than the vassel system, or the system in which the church controlled property and wealth?

and, yes, a dictatorship of the proletariat in the U.S. would mean compulsory attendance at the holy of holies Talledega and repeated viewings of American Idol, etc. etc. However, "the people" to me means that people do not have to remain ignorant if they choose otherwise, whether they were suckled in the silicone breasts of stock car races or not.

Posted by: fauxreal | Jul 7 2007 3:54 utc | 40

kao-hsien-chih: counter-reformation was an attempt to homogenize the theology throughout the church

i confess ignorance in this area, so thanks. maybe there was short-term concentration/maintenance/increase of the church's power by focusing their institutional programs in the face of a real threat to their dominance, but wasn't it still eroded by the spread & accessibility of the printed word? and was it as absolute in europe during the counter-reformation as it was prior to mass printing?

from the ewen's typecasting: on the arts and sciences of human inequality:

While Gutenberg's objective was to supply Bibles to the Catholic clergy, his invention helped to set in motion events that would, very quickly, undermine the historic hegemony enjoyed by the Pope and the Catholic hierarchy.

The printing press, an archetypal mass-production machine, could spread words, ideas, and information as never before. For people engaged in the new world of trade, it was an indespensible tool, providing the connective tissue of an ever-expanding market. As mercantile activities reached across the continents and oceans, print generated standardized forms of information essential to the pursuit of business: contracts, patents, laws, measurements, and above all, notes of exchange. Simultaneously, for secular scholars and an increasingly literate middle-class public, the press enabled the interchange of ideas, scientific inquiry, philosophy, and social thought and popularized a belief in the power of these ideas to refute the traditional mysteries of Church doctrine. For these enterprising beneficiaries of economic development, the printing press was a defining symbol of their identity.

With the rise of print, more and more people became both readers and writers. Printed matter, written in commonly understood tongues, began to thrive. Already by 1500, in Europe, there were 20 million books in circulation and 1,100 print shops in 200 cities. Over the next two centuries, the availability of printed matter grew exponentially. Beyond the practical authority of printed scientific facts and commercial information, beyond the secularization of knowledge, print emerged as a powerful weapon in the social struggle against feudal authority, a revolutionary instrument for promoting democratic ideals in the name of the people.

which brings me to slothop: people are fucking stupid. basically. who here can seriously defend the aggregate opinion of "the people"?

who here can seriously claim to know "the aggregate opinion of 'the people'"? why assume there is, or has to be, one voice?

Posted by: | Jul 7 2007 3:57 utc | 41

41 was me, of course

fauxreal: any technology is neutral, to me, in any circumstance and it is the actors who employ the technology that determine its judgment

"every technology has inherent and indentifiable social, political, and environmental consequences"

from jerry mander's four arguments for the elimination of television: The Illusion of Neutral Technology

If you accept the existence of automobiles, you also accept the existence of roads laid upon the landscape, oil to run the cars, and huge institutions to find the oil, pump it and distribute it. In addition you accept a sped-up style of life and the movement of humans through the terrain at speeds that make it impossible to pay attention to whatever is growing there. Humans who use cars sit in fixed positions for long hours following a narrow strip of gray pavement, with eyes fixed forward, engaged in the task of driving. As long as they are driving, they are living within what we might call "roadform." Slowly they evolve into car-people. McLuhan told us that cars "extended" the human feet, but he put it the wrong way. Cars replaced human feet.

If you accept nuclear power plants, you also accept a techno-scientific-industrial-military elite. Without these people in charge, you could not have nuclear power. You and I getting together with a few friends could not make use of nuclear power. We could not build such a plant, nor could we make personal use of its output, nor handle or store the radioactive waste products which remain dangerous to life for thousands of years. The wastes, in turn, determine that future societies will have to maintain a technological capacity to deal with the problem, and the military capability to protect the wastes. So the existence of the technology determines many aspects of the society.

If you accept mass production, you accept that a small number of people will supervise the daily existence of a much larger number of people. You accept that human beings will spend long hours, every day, engaged in repetitive work, while suppressing any desires for experience or activity beyond this work. The workers' behavior becomes subject to the machine. With mass production, you also accept that huge numbers of identical items will need to be efficiently distributed to huge numbers of people and that institutions such as advertising will arise to do this. One technological process cannot exist without the other, creating symbiotic relationships among technologies themselves.

If you accept the existence of advertising, you accept a system designed to persuade and to dominate minds by interfering in people's thinking patterns. You also accept that the system will be used by the sorts of people who like to influence people and are good at it. No person who did not wish to dominate others would choose to use advertising, or choosing it, succeed in it. So the basic nature of advertising and all technologies created to serve it will be consistent with this purpose, will encourage this behavior in society, and will tend to push social evolution in this direction.

In all of these instances, the basic form of the institution and the technology determines its interaction with the world, the way it will be used, the kind of people who use it, and to what ends.

chandler: Technology as Neutral or Non-neutral

Many deterministic commentators on the 'non-neutrality' of tools argue that the tools we use determine our view of the world. Abraham Maslow, the psychologist, once said that to someone who has only a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail. And Neil Postman adds that 'to a man with a pencil, everything looks like a list. To a man with a camera, everything looks like an image. To a man with a computer, everything looks like data' (Postman 1993, p. 14).

I have already noted Postman's acceptance of the notion of technology as an autonomous force acting on its users. He also presents technology as non-neutral. He insists that 'the uses made of technology are largely determined by the structure of the technology itself' (p. 7). The medium itself 'contains an ideological bias' (p. 16). He argues that:

(1) because of the symbolic forms in which information is encoded, different media have different intellectual and emotional biases;
(2) because of the accessibility and speed of their information, different media have different political biases;
(3) because of their physical form, different media have different sensory biases;
(4) because of the conditions in which we attend to them, different media have different social biases;
(5) because of their technical and economic structure, different media have different content biases.
(Postman 1979, p. 193)

Postman insists that 'the printing press, the computer, and television are not therefore simply machines which convey information. They are metaphors through which we conceptualize reality in one way or another. They will classify the world for us, sequence it, frame it, enlarge it, reduce it, argue a case for what it is like. Through these media metaphors, we do not see the world as it is. We see it as our coding systems are. Such is the power of the form of information' (Postman 1979, p. 39).

technology, violence, and peace

The word "technology" can be used to refer to both the artifact and its associated social aspects.

All technologies are social in this sense. They are created by humans and used by humans in social contexts. Therefore, in order to understand technologies it is necessary to understand their social contexts, including violence, peace, and conflict.

Technologies can be used for many purposes. For example, electronic mail can be used by armies and peace groups. Even so, every technology is typically easier to use for some purposes than others. Electronic mail is easy to use for sending messages but it doesn’t even make sense to use it to hit someone over the head. Thus, although technologies are multifunctional, they are never neutral.

Weapons are tools for inflicting violence. A bare hand or foot can be used as a weapon, but today the most commonly used weapons are technologies, such as knives, rifles, and bombers. It is true that weapons can be used for nonviolent purposes. For example, a grenade can be used as a paperweight and a fuel-air explosive can be used as a piece of art. It is even possible to caress someone with the barrel of a rifle. But it is far more common to use these technologies to inflict violence, since that is what they were designed for.

There are many different theories of technology; some are more useful for thinking about technology in relation to violence and peace than others. To treat technologies as inherently good or bad is not helpful, since technologies have multiple uses. A more common view is that technologies are neutral. It is true that many technologies can be used for both good and bad purposes, and for different purposes. But usually neutrality is taken to have a stronger meaning, such as that technologies are equally easy to use for different purposes, which is not helpful when comparing compact disks and cruise missiles. The approach taken here, a standard one in studies of technology, is that technologies are constructed for specific purposes and, as a result, are usually easier to use for those purposes. Users can choose and modify technologies for their own purposes, but are constrained by the physical reality of artifacts and the inertia of associated social systems.

There is a lot of writing about the ways that society influences technologies. On the one side is the view that technologies are autonomous, following their own trajectories. On the other side is the view that technologies are largely determined by their origins and inevitably serve the purposes of their creators. A middle view is that technologies are "shaped" by the social conditions and groups that led to their creation but, once created, they can, within limits, be directly used or modified for other purposes.

Checklist for technological democracy

Technology is political, therefore it should be democratic; it confers power, therefore it must be controlled equitably to ensure justice. At present, decisions on technological development are made almost entirely by those who stand to benefit from further progress in the current direction. Only by involving everyone affected by a technology in its development and use can society determine what is really beneficial as opposed to merely 'efficient'. Such a development both requires and leads to changes in society's power structures.

Checklist for technological democracy:
-Who owns it? (the hardware, the knowledge and the intellectual property rights)
-Who controls it? (who can switch it off?)
-Who profits from it? (directly, in money, or quality of life, and indirectly by opportunities created)
-Who loses by it? (directly in money or quality of life, indirectly through loss of opportunities)
-What has gone into it? (raw materials, 'enclosed' resources, cultural assumptions)
-What does it need? (power, space, time)

Posted by: b real | Jul 7 2007 4:55 utc | 42


Cuba and Nort Korea are still oppressive, but no longer pose any kind of threat to US hegemony. And I did not say that other countries are growing more liberal than the US, just easing up on their restrictions, as in the case of most of Eastern Europe.

And what restrictions do you mean with regard to Western Europe, for example? Countries there have liberalized prostitution and personal drug use at a time when Americans must still fear a prison sentence for getting stoned or getting laid.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Jul 7 2007 5:14 utc | 43

Wrt to the original topic of the post, the question of what is mainly responsible for the decline of US popularity abroad, I’d have to side with B. US foreign policy since the turn of last century, in one hand the bible in the other a gun, has been a constant source of anguish for countless people on this planet, with the Bush Admin being simply the latest fashion in US imperialist wear. Not an entirely new trend, actually a bit more like the 80’s retro.

The widespread introduction of the www certainly is an important factor in the change of global opinions on US esteem. It provides the paparazzi photos of an uncombed USA getting out of bed in the morning before it puts its NYT or WaPo print media make-up on. Without it I wouldn’t be able to read this blog and its valuable writership, I wouldn’t be able to send an e-mail to my friends overseas sharing with them within an instant the latest piece of puzzle in the bigger picture I think to have stumbled across. In the category of eye openers, the www would have to be near the very top.

However, although it is a very powerful device in the hands of people who want to look and think outside the square, the following three points illustrate just how relative this power is. Firstly, as quickly as the internet was introduced it could also be switched off again (I believe one of Uncle $cam’s links was to this effect a while ago). If it will become too inconvenient for the Almighties, that’s it, shut the god damn thing down.

Secondly, the www has been around now say for nearly ten years, it certainly was around for the last two US elections (or Australia for that matter), and what did it get us? Bush (kind of) and Howard were elected and Re-elected (!!!!!).

And thirdly, despite the inconvenience the web’s represents with its growing threat to the near total media domination of the Capital and its puppet governments, the www is still up and running, meaning that the Cheneys of this world still perceive its existence as more of an advantage than a risk to their power. “Know your enemy” is the motto, and the www is the perfect tool to keep tabs on people (Echelon etc), track movements and sentiments within the masses, and again thanx to its associates in the msm and their major web presence, use it to counter any criticism with on-line spin and other red herrings. In other words, we wouldn’t have the free web as we know it if it wouldn’t be in the ruling elite’s best interest.

On the other hand, Glenn is also right to a point with his observation, Bush II and his administration of blood thirsty gargoyles are by no means a zero factor in this context, their blatant and shamelessly overt crimes have tipped the scale for many people towards dislike. What gets me though is that although that now, with the web’s information freedom and Bush’s in the face war crimes and human rights abuses, even blind Freddy and his dog can see how corrupt and war profiteering the Bush regime really is, but still the apparently so Bush critical people of Germany, England, France and so on all elect governments who are on rather friendly terms with his murderous government. Zarkozy, Merkel, Blair. Me wonders, just how meaningful are such surveys about US or GWB’s popularity, if when it comes down to it, national governments are elected which are in almost full support of US hegemony? Warme Luft, nix weiter.

Re #26 daveinboca’s “… the rest of the world is less "liberal" than the US….,” you made me laugh. This threat is about public perception of US foreign, not domestic, policies, and your comment therefore slightly OT, here are my thoughts on your argument. There is nothing liberating in a bullet through one’s head, or an unexploded cluster-bomblet found by a child playing in Iraqi fields. Quite contrary, depleted uranium ammunition and total destruction of essential services infrastructure ensure a long term environment in which the word “liberal” means jack.

I am not exactly sure how you define “liberal”, from your writing I assume it means favouring the idea that everyone everywhere can own a semi-automatic rifle or something along those lines, but in terms of state – citizen relationship in general, the US appears to be in some respect about as bad as some of the communist countries you mentioned. Ask a Cuban if his government allows him to live in the US, and then ask an US American if his gov allows him to live in Cuba. Pol Pot’s men tortured, George Bush’s men torture. The Patriot Act passed in the US is nothing short of the stunts the STASI (State Security Services in the former socialist East Germany) pulled. The NSA is listening in, reading the citizens e-mails. You get arrested for wearing a war protest t-shirt, get fired for not believing in God, as a coloured person face racial discrimination, get finger printed as a foreign national upon entry, and so on. When in the US allegedly independent court judges get fired for not matching a particular political profile, then that is just about what would happen in China. GOP or Chinese National Peoples Party, in many respects not a great deal of difference really. And funny enough, whilst in communist China they seem to be granting slowly but surely more liberties to the people, in the US it’s the other way round. How many laws have been passed lately in the US that granted liberties to the people instead of restricting them?

Posted by: Juan Moment | Jul 7 2007 5:33 utc | 44

Heysoos fuckin christ I've never SEEN so much Ph.D wanna be rhetoric dancing around the issues at hand than in this buncha scrawlings.

Bad guys are doing bad things.
They are in control.

They use and manipulate the religious fundie's, and the poor, and the ignorant, to gain their power, keep it, and impose it upon the masses.

Been that way for millineum's.

You don't like what's going down, take it to the streets, and get yer fat assed lazy fuck rhetoric somewhere it will make a difference.

'Kin pseudo liberal intellectuals sold us down the river before, and are doing it again.

Ford pardoned Nixon, and the rats and worms hid in the cellar cuz we didn't pour salt on their tails and flood the damned place and drown them all.

Now, they're killin us, and YOU people, wanna debate about it like some Euro Coffe Clutch at yer local Starbucks, cuz yer Jones is so lame, it's all about coffee . .

77% think impeach. Even the fuckin rednecks know they've been screwed with Scoot's pardon . . . Cheney is evil . . . 77% KNOW it.

YOU people? Sip cafe latte's with yer cheroots . . . and think yer kewl in a raspberry beret . . . lame is as lame does . . .

Take it to the streets, if you want to save the world, WE did, to save yer sorry assed butts once, before you were born . . . but now, most of the BOOMERS, are too fat and lazy . . . and those younger, are clueless.

You want a country, look to the revolution. Look to the MASSES who fought it, screw the businessmen who LED them to fight, and it WAS the businessmen who led them, the masses.

And it WAS the masses, who died. Not the rich men of the new frontier.

Same as it ever was.

But if you REALLY want change, get off yer asses and MAKE it.

Anything else, is jive talk. Over a latte. You know, no big whoop. Coffee talk.


Posted by: | Jul 7 2007 6:51 utc | 45

To my rememberinggiap, it is so nice to hear your voice my friend. We are all in fine voice, I hear fauxreal loud and clear in response to our favorite devil's advocate Slothrop whose choice of nickname will always resonate, at least with me.

Sloth, does it brand you as a cynic when you say, "as usual, i prefer to take the low road and assign social transformation to class war favoring the usual elites and their obstinate control of communication technologies"

My thought here is that there are two trends -- elite use of the broadcasting nature of publishing as well as the egalitarian use of these newer technologies for peercasting. The question of the influence of Internet news, email and blogging has already been settled; these are all increasing access to our increasing store of knowledge. By "our" I mean us global billions of people with Internet access.

I don't know Derrida but I do know the difference between my arse and my elbow. The information we get from the Internet is a big time deal.

A follow on benefit is recognition (re-knowing) of clear writing.

Posted by: jonku | Jul 7 2007 7:46 utc | 46

I don't see BushCo reacting. They see themselves as "history's actors", as Suskind reports, who want others to react to them. The GOP has been putting together it's media arm for a couple decades now.

I agree with that, more or less. Still, my general point can hold: history’s actors have to act in a new landscape - see the media arm - whether they take the initiative or not is another matter.

Some other aspects, thru an example:

Think of what Europeans, Asians, Democrats or doubters (etc.) thought about Bush before 9/11. A pro-biz, isolationist Republican, conventional, expected positions - smooth sailing, nothing more than a change from Dems to Reps, or from the charismatic Billy C to some boring more religious establishment figure, a sort of meld of Bush the first, Maggie the Thatch, Reagan. ...that was basically the idea, the zeitgeist. Business as usual...

The flash of 9/11 changed that. Dopey and low-key (as he was) Bush Junior was not a mover and shaker, magnet for change, conqueror, defender of the American way of life. Now, views on 9/11 are various, specially the level and type of Gvmt. involvement or shut-eye, some argue that the neo-cons were waiting in the wings for 30 years! - needed Bush II as patsy; anyway around 1995 - 2000 it somehow became necessary to use, or exploit shock and awe, to up the ante; to galvanize hate and loyalty. In an atomistic, individualistic society, dominated by the media, entertainment, and economic considerations, with, just examples, ppl quoting their favorite bloggers and not Senators! - or reading tabloids and not able to find the US on a map - finding their Albanian roots on new sites - a new domain for free speech, etc. Gvmt. has a problem. With apologies to the victims of 9/11, it was essentially a media event, or *presented* as such, detached from the plane of reality (though undoubtedly those buildings fell down), and managed or treated outside the scope of the normal procedures, such as law, including international law, insurance law, public health principles and processes, criminal investigation, forensics, Gvmt. functioning, crime and punishment. It also lacked what one might call a comprehensible motivational script, whether from the area of war, or grand crime, or personal power plays. Its quality was thin, shallow - terrifying, horrific, deadly, but otherwise empty. The perpetrators have never been identified - the prisoners in Gitmo don’t count, nor do KSM (never charged), Moussaoui, etc. The 19 terrorists remain unknown unknowns, and if they did act, they did not do so alone.

So while 9/11 bears many similarities with previous false-flag, or genuine, terror ops, the type of event, its scale and magnitude, as well as its presentation by authority, were essentially new. They came about, and took the form they did, in part because the communicative landscape had changed. In particular, it became necessary to allow, or accept the existence of, multiple interpretations of the event, which in turn necessitated a halting, morphing cover-up, a sort of go-with-the-flow kind of thing. In this way, the Gvmt. lost a lot of power, left itself open to all kinds of criticism and attacks, and reacted with authoritarian measures (or preparation for their need), thereby creating an even bigger division between ‘the people’ and ‘the elites’, as well as between different factions within Gvmt. Communication became slowly (from before 9/11) split in two - from the gvmt. or the ‘elites’ which includes the main stream media, and non-official, but visible in the public sphere. (As well as becoming generally available to millions of new people.)

Ah, it’s the internets, I tell you, the internets! Marshall McLuhan did not warn us that the global village would lead to jackboots...Of course there are many other strands to explore...


Another example is the catastrophic slippage of Israel’s image and attitudes towards it. Possibly easier example to develop in line with Bernhard’s argument than the US one?

Posted by: Noirette | Jul 7 2007 10:32 utc | 47

Technology is political, therefore it should be democratic; it confers power, therefore it must be controlled equitably to ensure justice.

and so, visavis the internet, this diffusion can be assured by design ("code" as lessig says), norms, law, marketplace combine to manage uses. so far, so good it seems. but this is an interval when the status quo of use is emerging. so, i think enthusiasm for counterhegemonic uses of the medium are the same as amateur uses of radio in the teens, until hoover destroyed that medium for popular access.

i stress also the flipside of this access isn't so great all of the time. i urge people here to spend time on the knucklehead blogs to see what i mean. it's obvious that most people who enjoy unparalleled access never learn anything from the experience.

Posted by: slothrop | Jul 7 2007 15:02 utc | 48

to Barry (jive talking) Gibb @ 45 - I am so sick of people telling me what to do without any knowledge of my existence. Please don't read something if you don't want to, but if some people talk about something tangential, you really look like an asshole to use the "latte drinking" stereotype, especially when something directly relates to work that someone does. -- and if you look at who has been most active in resisting the Bush junta, you might find that quite a few people you would describe as "latte drinkers" were there before the majority let the scales fall from their eyes.

Comments about others who "think they're cool" should have been left in the middle school bathroom with the clearasil.

b real- the issue of technology could be argued infinitely. In my view, the statement "if you accept" is an actor who makes a decision about a technology...even the decision to pursue a technology is the choice of an actor.

cars were not the first things to use roads, so is the problem movement from one place to another by any humans? or is on foot okay, but horse and carriage not okay? if a technology is bound up in the time in which it was created, without foreknowledge of eventual issues, is that initial acceptance by an actor in life a way in which technology is not neutral?

isn't technology driven by issues-- like illness, death and then population growth...illness that can come from natural sources...and then the expanding population wants technology to sustain that population? Who would be the person to say, no, let my family starve, thank you, I'll not use a team of oxen to pull my plow, I'll continue to plow by my own energy.

and technology most often does not simply occur - it is generally in response to an issue that concerns actors in a situation...i.e. the plow... so of course the action for which it was invented would give a direction to that technology...

or, to look at it another way, if chimps use technology (twigs for termites to climb on so they can easily eat that tasty protein, say) and then apply it to another species which is endangered, was the technology the issue, or the actor's need to feed its body and, for the sake of survival, consume as little energy as possible doing so?

I wonder about the issue of technology since humans are the masters of unintended consequences. anyway, the links are interesting. thanks.

Posted by: fauxreal | Jul 7 2007 16:21 utc | 49

Arguments for counter hegemonic use (possibility, efficiency, etc.) of the medium in the posts above struck me as rare though the question is interesting.

The question of ‘noise’ - stupid ppl who learn nothing, knuckleheaded blogs, time wasting - isn’t really pertinent either. One might just as well say that ppl are clever and experience always brings a bonus, why not? If one wants to go down either those routes, one has to tie considerations directly to the medium.

It is all much simpler. It is about the dissemination, availability, and quasi-forced exposure to new, different, extra, sources of information, paraphrasing Bernhard. The content and its form is not in itself new, either structurally or semiotically, the technology itself has not (yet) revolutionized anything for the regular user, except the ease/speed/low cost/diversity of access, thereby nevertheless creating a new networked landscape; what was often previously transmitted orally, face to face, can now be shown to the world, shared. The Cathars had secret signs to recognize each other; today! ...fill it in.

Slipping into College Mode, it was Jack Goody (“The Domestication of the Savage Mind”), and after him, David Olson, amongst others, who argued that literacy and its medium, print (both for the individual and groups) also affect the way people organize information and how they think, in various ways, notably Olson on the distinction between hypotheses and facts, the idea and the reality, between propositional content and illocutionary force, to branch out into linguistics; or Goody, on categories and classes. Of course dissed by others.

The internet, bloggers, the new pundits, more varied newspapers, wide(r) TV choice, access to different D-bases, aggregators, books, even cell phones and e mail, and today YouTube and the possibility for individuals to produce short films and replicate what advertisers or Elite propagandists do - none of these things produce *structural informational* or cognitive changes. The emitters, the users, the audience, the participants are all stuck in extensions of older forms.

But is sure makes them FEEL different. So the revolution, if there is one, turns around questions of legitimacy, social empowerment, affirmation, the possibility of of contact, of sharing, influence, possible action... In our age of emotion, that is quite appropriate, no?

Posted by: Noirette | Jul 7 2007 17:04 utc | 50

to the extent the internet is the message, there are problems. again, viewpoint polarization and lack of dissent and deliberation are big problems unique to the medium. i remain skeptical these deficits of what passes as a public sphere endanger rational discourse, but there are a lot of irrational fuckers on the intertubes. and they often drive policy. you could spend the rest of your life proving to knuckleheads they're knuckleheads, but their beliefs are utterly unassociated w/ what we call facts. there is nothing novel about the internet changing this basic disaster.

also, i meant vernaculars, not vulgates up there. and, fauxreal, i've not read eisenstein for years, but her general take on print is it made renaissance a communications revolution benefiting the usual characters.

Posted by: slothrop | Jul 7 2007 17:38 utc | 51

So it is basically an amplification, a louder drumbeat ..

And as the Swiss say, too much democracy kills democracy (meaning by that that ppl could in theory, vote in anti-democratic measures!...) yes to all of that, still it has fundamentally changed the landscape, even in ‘the third world’. See Nigeria for ex.

Posted by: Noirette | Jul 7 2007 18:02 utc | 52

anonymous posted: Take it to the streets, if you want to save the world

One of the reasons that the internet will not be regulated is that it provides an outlet for opinion, rage, and serves a containment function.

Posted by: Noirette | Jul 7 2007 18:11 utc | 53

the first time I marched in a protest in D.C., I was made aware of the event via the internet. I made arrangements for a ride via internet. I met local people who were involved in issues and then kept in touch with them via the internet. We made arrangements to meet in person via the internet mailing list -- lots and lots of people who could get the same information with the same cost as one person getting that information.

when the election in 2000 was stolen, I found out Bugliosi had started an impeachment drive against the Supreme Court 5 via the internet. (which stopped with 9-11, btw). I've contacted my reps about various issues that were brought to my attention by the internet.

I was made aware of how nasty the right wing really is via the internet. when I was one of the few I knew who were really pissed off about the 2000 election, I found others who shared my frustration via the internet, and those people shared information (such as the protests at the inauguration that I didn't see in the big newspapers) via...

Dean's campaign, and now Ron Paul's, have been and were driven by the internet - Dean's campaign got people to meet up in areas where they lived to canvas voters. He also gave some people a reason to want to be politically active. Now Paul's message cannot be shunted aside when Paul raises more campaign funds than McCain, for instance.

I used to do a workshop with a group back in the early 1990s that looked at writing in a new way via this weird thing called "hypertext." this was when text-based was all there was. We spent time discussing how things could be different based upon new options -- and how to get outside of the idea of a traditional narrative, whether fiction or nonfiction.

Scientists can now share information/papers before they are published in journals (but of course they make sure these are in the pipeline before hand. People collaborate on projects across oceans. People in different nations are able to talk to each other and family members can stay in contact much less expensively than international l.d. people who have children with disabilities have been able to share information and experts in various fields have shared their information with parents and not just other professionals.

maybe none of that counts.

slothrop- imo the polarization of povs was going on before the internet. now it is accessible, if you want to find out what others are saying without attending a John Birch meeting. this alienation has been around for a long time... at least back to Kennedy. I could polarize myself from people much easier before...I simply walked away.

anyway, tata for now.

Posted by: fauxreal | Jul 7 2007 21:09 utc | 54

faux, have i told you lately how much i love you?

Posted by: annie | Jul 8 2007 5:54 utc | 55

this place and whiskey bar is the coolest thing that has happened for me over the internet. all of you. i have learned more about my own country and the world right here. all the best links w/hella analysis.

that noose we've been feeling around our necks? it's not in our mind. solidarity. like kind.

the last 6 years have been unprecedented because they have been flushed out in the open spit apon excreted with the crudeness only satan could approve. the world is getting much much smaller.

what connects us is our minds and thoughts. the amazing thing about hamburg was...we really aren't that different in person than we are right here.

Posted by: annie | Jul 8 2007 6:07 utc | 56

annie, you're right, this blog is amazing. It gives me some measure of hope and faith in America's future despite the Orwellian nature of U.S. politics.

Unfortunately, 'some' measure is not going to be enough. I disagree totally with the claim that U.S. unpopularity is only about "the last 6 years": The "last 6 years" merely brought already strong and horrific undercurrents to the surface, namely, U.S. unilateralism, hypocrisy, blind nationalism and global cultural/political ignorance. The result is that a buffoon like President Ahmadinejad has become a hero on the Arab street and among 1.2 million Muslims worldwide (even as he becomes increasingly unpopular at home). Chavez and Putin enjoy 70 - 80 % popularity ratings mainly for their anti-American (= anti-Neocolonialist) stance. In numerous polls conducted outside the Muslim world America was voted the "greatest danger to world peace", closely followed by Israel and Iran. (Pakistan wasn't on anyone's radar!).

Even before 2000 much of the world beyond America's shores was disgusted with the U.S.'s blind support of Israel, its failure to sign on to Kyoto, its refusal to join the International Criminal Court, its mollycoddling of dictators subservient to U.S. interests and its total disregard for freedom movements that endangered those interests. Many foreigners, while liking Americans on a personal basis, detested the nation's wealth gap and income disparities, its ubiquitous guns, the power of AIPAC, arms suppliers and other 'special interests' and, finally, the jingoidstic flag-waving and singing of the national anthem at even minor sporting events. (In Europe the very few flags visible are those raised by the authorities, not by normal citizens).

To many foreigners, Bush Jr. is merely the extreme political expression of a system that has managed to shut down the nation's democratic roots and shout down its free thinkers. The proof of this is the toothlessness of the new Democratic majorities in both Houses. Hillary Clinton has declared firmly and proudly in numerous interviews that "America's No. 1 foreign policy priority is Israel"!?! So, for many foreigners, pre-2000 and post-2000 appear different in tone, but not in substance, which is why America is going to remain basically unpopular around the world. A great pity. I just read a Princeton article on one of its alumni, called "An American Hero in Iran", that brought tears to my eyes and to the eyes of many other Iranians who have read this moving story of American self-sacrifice:


The above is far removed from current U.S. methods of "winning hearts and minds".

Posted by: Parviz | Jul 8 2007 9:16 utc | 57

annie @ 55- smoochy smooches back to you hunny bunny -- I'm sure I've annoyed the hell out of too many people around here -- they can't hear the inflection that softens my statement or questioning -- or the laughing -- I'm really just a cocker spaniel in heat or something like that... and b is a leg... right? ... uh, or maybe not.

okay, back to the great out-of-doors...

Posted by: fauxreal | Jul 8 2007 20:39 utc | 58

#57. thanks for the link parvis, i had never heard of baskerville.

Ahmadinejad has become a hero on the Arab street and among 1.2 million Muslims worldwide

don't you mean billion?

Posted by: annie | Jul 9 2007 13:07 utc | 59

ditto on your 55 annie.

Posted by: beq | Jul 9 2007 15:00 utc | 60

same to you beq :)

we have to stop meeting like this...

Posted by: annie | Jul 9 2007 15:45 utc | 61

let's all go to the bathroom together and put on lipstick!!!!!


smooches to you too, beq...and I have to stop doing this because my computer screen is a mess!

Posted by: fauxreal | Jul 9 2007 18:34 utc | 62

@Parvis #57

Yeah, there's nothing quite like the zeal of a missionary: a guy who will endure all manner of hardship, and risk his very own soul to save yours! And all because you have the unfortunate backwardness to believe in a heathen god. Truly, it brings tears to my eyes, too. That's what the Muslim world needs -- more Christian missionaries to school those "radicals," to inure them to suffering in this life, because there is a better one to come.

Of course, with the vast vista which history has accorded us, we KNOW that Woodrow Wilson, while a southern cracker racist at home who hated those darkies in his home state of Georgia, loved the Iranians and wanted nothing but the best for them -- indeed, probably would have liked to have treated them as good as the Philipinos, if he had the chance. Anyhow, it warms the cockles of my heart that you are so touched by America's altruistic entry into "The Great Game."

History has certainly proven that once America has managed to wrest the greedy grasping hands of the British, French, and Russians from the resources of the Middle East, she graciously allows the sovereign countries of the area to manage their resources for their own benefits. Although, in Iran's case, I guess the US, being so interested in the well-being of others, would like to at least be able to hand pick the designated manager.

Of course, The Princetonian's history of this "American Hero" may be just a little bit embroidered for propaganda value, but who really cares once the tears start to flow.

Posted by: Bob M. | Jul 9 2007 18:38 utc | 63


the link on the Princetonian is touching but this part below got me:

Baskerville moved in with Wilson, his wife, Annie, and their teenage daughter, and attended family prayers with them each morning. Annie Wilson wrote later that they would read aloud to each other on Friday evenings — The Virginian, The Old Curiosity Shop, Vanity Fair, and Bleak House among their selections, as well as Jungle Folk of Africa and a history of the Reformation.

"The Jungle Folk of Africa" ???
I have never heard of this book and should probably be glad I have'nt.

But I am guessing that even a most zealous Christian missionary in Persia might find that the bandwidth can go way beyond faith (or across faiths). What a surprise.

Welcome back Bob M. and agreed, we got to watch the sentiments.

Posted by: jony_b_cool | Jul 10 2007 1:10 utc | 64

Well, let me start with an obvious correction: Yes, Annie, I meant 1.2 billion muslims.

Secondly, Bob M., I know all about imperialism, being an Iranian nationalist myself, but you missed the entire point of the story: Baskerville may well have started out as a "zealous Christian missionary", but he ended up risking his life trying to get food into Tabriz that had been blockaded by one of the most corrupt and brutal Shahs in Iran's history. He followed his conscience. In effect the Persians, with their honesty and generous hospitality, ended up converted HIM to THEIR cause, and not the other way round.

You can make fun of my feelings as much as you want. It's easy to be a permanent cynic, but I found the story extraordinarily moving, especially in the current circumstances: How many tears do you think Bush has shed over the 3,500 merican soldiers he sacrificed, not to mention the 1 million Iraqis he murdered?

We could do with more tears and less bluster. No offence.

Posted by: Parviz | Jul 12 2007 11:05 utc | 65


I can definitely understand your reaction to Bob M's post.

But I think he was using the Princetonian story & your reaction to it to mock USA policy in general.

I was going to try to say something about the 'cockle' sentence but I give up. Its just a humorous style though.

Theres a lot of sarcasm in his post and useful bits of wisdom too.


Posted by: jony_b_cool | Jul 12 2007 12:25 utc | 66

I took it a bit personally, so thanks for the clarification. Back on topic, I want to share with you one of the best articles I've read concerning the title of this thread. It's an informative and moving speech by Ambassador Freeman to DACOR (retired U.S. officers and consuls), and illustrates exactly how important it is for a country to fill its embassies with career diplomats rather than lobbyists and financial contributors:

Posted by: Parviz | Jul 12 2007 12:48 utc | 67

Maybe young Baskerville did selflessly risk his life to help those in Tabriz. The point I am trying to make is that while he is ostensibly being honored for that, he is really being honored as part of a stalwart American beachhead in a civilization which the US was attempting to secure a toehold in, in order to influence it for US ends.

I have been a US ex-pat around the world. There are many well meaning Americans trying to help others all over the globe (though generally to industrialize and become more like us). But they are the sea that the CIA and others swim in -- and their aims are always global "full spectrum dominance."

So, I am questioning the entire meme of "helping others" as patronizing and controlling. If we stopped interfering in the world and causing so much damage, and stopped others from interfering also, we would not have to go around helping people as much. It is sort of a reinforcing cycle of ever increasing influence, which inevitably reaches a pernicious level for the host society.

Posted by: Bob M. | Jul 12 2007 14:01 utc | 68

I'm sorry, Bob, again I believe you've missed the point -- let's call it the 'moral' -- of the story: Baskerville wasn't being honoured by America but by Iran, which is the crux of this inspiring story. It totally refutes your argument that Americans shouldn't involve themselves in other people's affairs. The article is titled "An American Hero in Iran", with the emphasis being on "IN IRAN". If, in today's atmosphere of fierce anti-Americanism, Iranians can build several monuments to an American and adorn them with fresh flowers, it serves as an example of how foreign involvement can remove psychological boundaries; but through example, not through force and oppression.

For example the Germans (B, you're going to love this), are the most admired foreigners in Iran. They entered Iran in the late 19th century, built Iran's first roads, tunnels, railways and ministries (the buildings still stand today despite umpteen major earthquakes that destroyed almost everything else) and were involved in every sector of the Iranian economy. The difference between the Germans and the despised Americans, British and French (in that order) is that the Germans never once involved themselves in big power politics. They stuck for 100+ years to civil engineering, granting scholarships for Iranians to study medicine in Germany, created archaeological joint ventures, established the Goethe Institute in Iran and spread their influence through good deeds.

This, Mr. Cheney, is how to "win hearts and minds", not by your grotesque methods.

Posted by: Parviz | Jul 12 2007 14:49 utc | 69

This may be slightly (but not very) off topic, but I want all American blog members to consider this:

Which do you believe is the worse crime of the two examples below:

1. In a fit of revolutionary pique/fervour Iran seizes 50 U.S. hostages from the country that installed the deposed dictator, holds them for 444 days and then releases every single one of them unharmed. They are neither killed nor tortured but deprived of 'room service' for 444 days. (Think of what would have happened if they had been captured by a 'revolutionary' new Islamic government in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan or even non-Islamic Cambodia -- remember the Pol Pot -- or by any of the other 100 dictatorships on this planet. Even better: Just think what America is still doing to its prisoners and hostages, both in Guantanamo and via Extraordinary Rendition!).

2. America overthrows the first democratically elected government in the Persian Gulf, also the first in Iran's 2,500 year history, and installs a puppet Shah who establishes the dreaded SAVAK to retain power, resulting in thousands of deaths and many more tortured. America encourages Iraq to invade Iran, supplying it with logistics, intelligence and 7 strains of anthrax, and also blocking U.N. motions condemning Iraq's gassing of advancing Iranian soldiers. America, because of the hostage crisis, imposes and reimposes sanctions on Iran for almost 30 years to cripple its oil production capability, and threatens any country or corporation with sanctions that doesn't comply with this unilateral order.

O.K., now let's see a show of hands for those who picked No. 1 above as the greater crime. No, I didn't think so ...............
Iranians are not as bloodthirsty and evil as we are made out to be. The treatment of the U.S. hostages was a genuine reflection of our famed 'hospitality', as was the treatment of the 15 British sailors who were fed, entertained and fattened up before being freed just 2 weeks after their capture inside Iranian waters. (You can dismiss the British Admiralty's version as B.S., because the prisoners were filmed having fun throughout their 'ordeal', to preempt precisely such propaganda).

The current regime tortures its own citizens in horrific ways, and even imprisons dual Iranian-foreign citizens suspected of participating in 'soft' regime change (Thanks, Congress, for tipping the Mullahs off with your stupid announcement allocating $ 75 million to the 'soft regime overthrow' of Iran, which means that even pro-engagement think-tanks are now suspect!). But foreigners visit Iran in their thousands each year, and those who respect the customs (which I don't!) depart the country with glowing praise. Iran is probably the most misunderstood country on this planet, thanks to American propaganda.

Posted by: Parviz | Jul 12 2007 16:23 utc | 70

b, and now you can see why we like Germans!

Posted by: Parviz | Jul 12 2007 16:24 utc | 71

@Parviz -

All countries have their good and bad. You currently have Ahmadinejad who doesn't knwo shit about economics and tries to hit the infaltion wall at the highest possible speed.

Us Germans currently have Merkel, a former eastern dictatorship functionary, who has no idea of civil liberties and personally hates any care for "the people".

The U.S. has the mess of Bush and a totally corrupted Congress.

As for your @70 comment - you are asking in the wrong place I think. People here know some history ...

Posted by: b | Jul 12 2007 19:48 utc | 72

You're right about the level of sophistication of blog members. But my comment on Germans was just to explain how one country managed to win the "hearts and minds" of the Iranian people, even though it took 100 years to achieve it. Take a poll, inside Iran, and Germany has a popularity rating of 95 %. I don't think any other country gets close to 30 %. I thought many blog members could learn something from this.

By the way, China is adopting the German philosophy and strategy in Africa, through loans and infrastuctural help. Whether you agree with their support of dictators or not, the Chinese are seen as helping nations in despair, not just the ones that have oil, and unlike America the Chinese have not (yet) attacked another nation (except Tibet which they consider a breakaway province). If the roles had been reversed America would probably have invaded Taiwan and Hong Kong in short order, destroying both countries and creating permanent hatred and guerilla movements. No, China is winning the Great Game through trade, not through military aggression which is a thing of the past.

Posted by: Parviz | Jul 13 2007 6:55 utc | 73

To support on of Parviz' points - The Guradian writes: Iran's Jews reject cash offer to move to Israel

Iran's Jews have given the country a loyalty pledge in the face of cash offers aimed at encouraging them to move to Israel, the arch-enemy of its Islamic rulers.

The incentives - ranging from £5,000 a person to £30,000 for families - were offered from a special fund established by wealthy expatriate Jews in an effort to prompt a mass migration to Israel from among Iran's 25,000-strong Jewish community. The offers were made with Israel's official blessing and were additional to the usual state packages it provides to Jews emigrating from the diaspora.
Iran's sole Jewish MP, Morris Motamed, said the offers were insulting and put the country's Jews under pressure to prove their loyalty.

"It suggests the Iranian Jew can be encouraged to emigrate by money," he said. "Iran's Jews have always been free to emigrate and three-quarters of them did so after the revolution but 70% of those went to America, not Israel."

Posted by: b | Jul 13 2007 7:23 utc | 74

Thanks, b, and here's another tit-bit: Religious minorities in Iran are permitted not only to drink but to actually produce their own alcohol, as they've been doing for thousands of years. This is why locally produced vodka is superior to Absolut, Finlandia and other premium brands. An Armenian friend provides me regularly with locally produced vodka and wine (Iranian grapes are fantastic and we produce more grapes than Chile, acc. to the U.N.F.A.O.!), but if they get caught selling it to Muslims they get into big trouble, especially as the Mullahs control the illegal import of alcohol through 12 unregistered jetties in the south -- one for each Imam ?!? -- and don't want their market share encroached upon by the minorities.

So while Iran is portrayed by America and Israel as part of the Axis of Evil, it is actually an Oasis of Sanity for religious minorities in this part of the world.

Posted by: Parviz | Jul 13 2007 10:40 utc | 75

I know I shouldn't repeat a message, but I really think the link below should be recommended reading for anyone remotely interested in America's changing image in the world. The speech is as eloquent as it is informative:

(And it looks like this semi-computer literate finally got the hang of the links!)

Posted by: Parviz | Jul 13 2007 10:50 utc | 76

Not quite.

Posted by: Bob M. | Jul 13 2007 14:18 utc | 77

Jeez, I give up!

Posted by: Parviz | Jul 13 2007 18:14 utc | 78

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