Hans' News and Politics Blog

A Blog of Conservative News, Politics, and Foreign Affairs

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

At a recent conference at the Harvard School of Government as covered by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung with American and European journalists the Europeans pointed out that their editors usually only allow a very narrow scope of stories about America such as:

1. Bush is stupid, religious fanatic
2. American democracy is dysfunctional
3. American policy is aggressive and narrow-minded
4. The US press is cowed into submission by the president
5. The US is a Human Rights violator

If it doesn't fit that profile their European editors do not want to hear it. In addition, increasingly stories about the US are not written by correspondents in the US, but by their European counterparts, based not on first-hand experience, but on their preconceived notions about the US.

This goes to the heart of the difficulties the US is having in convincing Europeans to go along with their policies, most people do not understand them. The only people who do tend to have a grasp of American concerns tend to be government officials from our respective allies abroad. However, some European politicians, especially Chirac and Schroeder, have found it easier to curry favor with their electorate by denouncing US policy, instead of trying to explain US motivation. This applies not only to the recent unpleasantness over Iraq, but also on issues such as the International Criminal Court and the Kyoto agreement. There have been no serious efforts in European media to explain the reasons for US opposition, instead it is simply explained as point #3.

Part of this adversarial approach of the European media is based on the political nature of those papers. While most US papers at least try to present both sides of an ongoing issue and limit their opinions to the editorial page, European papers have no such tradition. On the continent they are usually affiliated with a political party and are used to assume an advocacy role, over an informational role. To the Europeans the failure of the US press to openly advocate against the Iraq war was symptomatic with a press that was supine, not of a press that was objective, leaving the decision to the reader.

In the long run this inability to get a fair hearing in the European media on our issues will lead to a continued demonization of the US in the eyes of the average European. What we need is a revolution in the way the US deals with the media in Europe. The State department ought to open a center in Bruessel, modeled on US think-tanks, such as the Heritage foundation or the Brookings Institute. The role of this center would be to communicate US policy to European media by providing editorials, research papers, and television interviews. It would be a pro-active organizations that would aggressively advocate our positions to the European media to increase the understanding of the European people. This would be no panacea for all disagreements. There still will be serious policy differences on various issues; however, it might lead to the resolution on some issues while preventing disagreements to mutate into open hostility.


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