Uncle Sam Through Saudi Eyes
March 15, 2003 1:59 PM   Subscribe

Colin Powell and the Marketing of Uncle Sam is an idiosyncratic rant by Afnan Fatani, professor of stylistics at King Abdul Aziz University, in the English-language Saudi journal Arab News, arguing the sinister implications of Colin Powell's employment of advertising experts to put the American message to the world. Starting with Nelson Mandela's recent comments, among them that the U.S. is disregarding the U.N. because its leader, Kofi Annan, is black, Prof. Fatani achieves some rhetorical fireworks from the observation that "Uncle Ben is not Uncle Sam."
During the days of slavery in America, white men discovered the powerful singing voices of their black slaves. Today, judging from the sleek performance of Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, American leaders have apparently discovered and successfully utilized the articulate skills of their black citizens. Too bad the message these black politicians are promoting is Zionist war and destruction, and not Christian peace and goodwill. Too bad that Powell and the Bush administration have between them tainted the white wholesome goodness of Uncle Ben’s Rice.
According to a December 2002 story in Salon, Powell had said, upon hiring ad mogul Charlotte Beers at State, "Hey, she got me to buy Uncle Ben's rice." Interestingly, Richard Lyons posted an op-ed based on a very similar conceit in February 2002 — though without the bizarre racial overtones. Didn't German soldiers taunt black GIs with the fact of their second-class citizenship during WWII? Stylistic it is, a mishmash of apocalyptic scriptural interpretation and Internet antiwar rhetoric. Fellow Netizens, I give you our Saudi allies on this, 12 Muharram 1424, the eve of war.
posted by hairyeyeball (14 comments total)
Why even post this and give it exposure. There's tons of hate material on the Internet. One professors views do not represent our Saudi allies and it shouldn't be presented as such.
posted by stbalbach at 2:14 PM on March 15, 2003

Point taken about representativeness, prima facie, though in my regular reading of the Arabic press of all persuasions [I work as an Arabic translator], I find it's not atypical. I don't think it's a matter of disseminating hate speech: No one seems to keep an eye on the "Arab Street" these days, where our troops will be billeted, it seems, for a long, long time. Antiwar sentiment among the Saudi public is high, the anti-Zionist paranoia is par for the course even among Westernized elites, some observers have expressed concerned for the stability of the monarchy, and the crown prince has announced that the U.S. troop presence will end after American planes make limited use of Saudi facilities and airspace in the upcoming campaign. That troop presence, on what Muslims consider holy soil, is what motivated the terrorist attacks against us in the first place. I think we should all be concerned with understanding the viewpoint of articulate spokespersons for this point of view: It's going to affect us.
posted by hairyeyeball at 2:38 PM on March 15, 2003

What makes this hate material, stbalbach? Because it questions the motivations of the US government, Israel, and the President and his cabinet? Whether or not it's really "hate material," this is the way a vast majority of the Arab world, no, the WHOLE world, sees America. This is what we are up against in the whole entire world. And the Bush government and Congress are either sadly ignorant of it, or even more depressing, simply are dismissing the feelings of millions of people across the world because they don't care about it.

The Bush government is corrupt (perhaps no more or less than any other) and they need to be very seriously thinking about how we are seen by the world and how our grand plans are really being seen. You brand it "hate material," I brand it "reality."

By the way, the overall gist of the article, that Kofi Annan, Condeleeza, and Colin are ignored because they are black is not true. I think the first two are ignored because they disagree with Bush and Rumsfeld, and Condeleeza certainly isn't ignored.
posted by aacheson at 2:43 PM on March 15, 2003

< more inside>?

'63 percent of the US public has a negative opinion of Saudi Arabia'
posted by asok at 2:52 PM on March 15, 2003

By the way, Charlotte Beers has resigned for reasons of health, saying, "We have begun the dialog. We've opened up a number of doors. " The fact is that the clumsy propaganda broadcasts and marketing campaigns she engineered for the State Department — frequent objects of derision in the Arab world — are one-way channels, not dialog. The mind of the marketer means to influence behavior and beliefs by hook or crook, and fits in nicely with our unilateralist spirit these days.
posted by hairyeyeball at 2:52 PM on March 15, 2003

our Saudi allies
LMAO! Is "Saudi allies" like "military intelligence"? The House of Saud is the biggest enemy this country has. But don't tell the Bushes that, wouldn't want to violate any of those contracts.
posted by owillis at 3:14 PM on March 15, 2003

That's unpatriotic owillis! You wouldn't be one o' them there French folks wouldya?
posted by i_cola at 3:33 PM on March 15, 2003

Saudi allies? Surely you mean Saudi "allies".

The only thing we can rely on from Riyadh is a swift knife to the back once the tide turns.
posted by clevershark at 3:34 PM on March 15, 2003

Powell is from the islands. The nonsense from the post is typical in that all things disliked become "zionist," and rather than look into their own brand of hatred they badmouth others.

In passing: Blacks during WWII were not integrated into American battle units...But then Nazi ideology detested blacks and many other as inferior (note Jesse Owens in Olympics).

And wasn't it the Arabs who took the slaves that were then sold and shipped? How quickly they forget this.
posted by Postroad at 3:35 PM on March 15, 2003

haireyeball .. point taken. Let us hope these sentiments are a vocal minority, there's a lot of propaganda going on from both sides the Arabs and the USA. You have to wonder about the motivation of someone who says we base policy on the color of a mans skin. Who does this professor work for? Are these true sentiments of the common man or a vocal minority interested in swaying public Arab opionion to gain political or economic power in Saudi Arabia.

aacheson .. the "whole world" doesn't see the USA this way. It is hate material. Regardless of the motivation behind it, even if Bush was guilty of the empeachable corruption charges you claim (we shall see), recognize hate material for what it is and reject it and question the motivations of someone who would use it.
posted by stbalbach at 3:44 PM on March 15, 2003

You wouldn't be one o' them there French folks wouldya?

Oui L' Iverwillis?
posted by y2karl at 4:49 PM on March 15, 2003

Professor of stylistics? That's too fucking funny.

People with titles like that have no business pointing fingers.
posted by Ayn Marx at 4:56 PM on March 15, 2003

Just a point of order: Linking to a piece that makes a claim doesn't mean that the linker is making the claim him / herself.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:07 PM on March 15, 2003

>I find it's not atypical. I don't think it's a matter of disseminating hate speech: No one seems to keep an eye on the "Arab Street" these days, where our troops will be billeted, it seems, for a long, long time.

This is such a great comment. I have yet to see a news report regarding the complaints of the Arab world, both its conspiracy theories and valid complaints regarding the US and the western world.

It just blows my mind that the President can get on TV and claim, "they hate our freedom" as the main impetus for terrorism. Its not like we're trying to see things from their perspective. Afterall, if you really want to defeat your enemies, or the very least come to some kind of resolution, then you have to understand them first.

Are we so damn isolated here in the states that when a messenger does bring us the message we don't want to hear we cry, "Hate speech! Hate Speech! Go away!"
posted by skallas at 8:55 PM on March 15, 2003

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