Isolationist information and international ignorance
September 24, 2001 5:38 AM   Subscribe

Isolationist information and international ignorance -- Whenever I visited my sister in Hong Kong over the past five years, I was always impressed with how much I didn't know about what was going on in the world. This link is a commentary on the feedback to an interview with a CNN Afganistan correspondent who said something similar, and got lambasted for it. Maybe if something good comes out of 9/11, it'll be a shift from celebrity news to real news. Ignorance can be dangerous.
posted by fpatrick (13 comments total)
He wasn't lambasted for talking about American ignorance, he was lambasted for "blaming the victim".
posted by Steven Den Beste at 6:11 AM on September 24, 2001

In 1988, Pentagon officials circulated word that a U.S. aircraft carrier would be delayed in heading to the Persian Gulf, where Iran and Iraq were at war, and the story was promptly leaked to a network correspondent.

The information was wrong -- the carrier was quickly dispatched to the region -- and the military brass were pleased.

"We actually put out a false message to mislead people," said Jay Coupe, then the spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "The idea was not to give information about the movement of our carrier. We were trying to confuse people."

As the administration gears up for what President Bush has described as a new kind of war, many journalists are growing concerned that they will have less information and less access to U.S. troops than ever before. Even the use of deliberate disinformation cannot be ruled out.

"This is the most information-intensive war you can imagine. . . . We're going to lie about things," said a military officer involved in the planning.
Journalists Worry About Limits on Information, Access, It doesn't seem likely that either the quality or accuracy of the news as reported by mainstream media will increase during this New War.
posted by sudama at 6:23 AM on September 24, 2001

This is discussed in some depth here. (Note that Robertson is a Brit.)
posted by holgate at 6:31 AM on September 24, 2001

At the same time, can we trust the news media with national security when it is not their overwhelming interest.

I mean, did anyon notice how many of these idiotic stations were reporting the President's exact whereabouts on the morning of Sep. 11th? "The President is now in Barksdale AFB in Lousiana."
posted by brucec at 7:28 AM on September 24, 2001

30 emails and phone calls, that's it? This is CNN, millions watched but a handful called in and complained. There's a vocal minority out there (here too) that will not allow any mention of the motives of the terrorists other than they really, really hate freedom, just like the president said.

WTC: Just don't say foreign policy
posted by skallas at 7:45 AM on September 24, 2001

Watching foreign news shows/reading foreign papers is always an eye opening experience for me. One starts to realize that not everything revolves around the US and that there's plenty of newsworthy events going on in the world that just don't make it to the American TV screen.
posted by Witold at 8:16 AM on September 24, 2001

A colleague of mine has just returned (to the UK) from the US and we were discussing what it was like to be there. He describes how, during all the TV coverage he watched, he never once saw a non-US national talking. Any truth?
posted by RichLyon at 9:39 AM on September 24, 2001

this article is really interesting, because i don't particularly think of the united states of isolationist. we send the army all over the world; we send humanitarian aid to many different countries. yet i realize that there is no "world" section of my newspaper. i believe that the events of the nation are generally given priority over anything that happens in the world at large.

if i wanted to roughly analogize what i think this situation is, having realized it, i would say that it's similar to a husband and wife sitting in their living room watching a baseball game. the wife is telling her husband about her day at work, and he is barely interested -- at best. all that he hears is something crazy woman something something strike 3?! goddamn son of a bitch something something we never talk. the husband then responds and says, "well maybe you should just stand up for yourself," nearly oblivious to any and all context of the conversation, and still engrossed in baseball.
posted by moz at 10:29 AM on September 24, 2001

the most balanced news coverage i have seen belongs to sbs in australia and channel4 news in the uk. both are on commercial channels(!).
here is a good suicide bomber related interview.
debate on Is it possible to criticise what George Bush and now Tony Blair call "the war on terrorism" without being branded a traitor? link on right hand side.
posted by asok at 10:38 AM on September 24, 2001

First of all, if you want foreign news, watch C-Span every morning. Domestic news, foreign news, guests,'s all there.

Second of all, who watches CNN any more? Try watching The Fox News Channel (FNC) on cable....NOT The Simpsons Fox channel....the CABLE channel. FNC has jumped to #1 in the news ratings and has been creaming CNN. The people on CNN are just plain creepy! Christine Anampour, the has-been Wolf Blitzer, the dwarfy Larry King...give me a break!
posted by mikegre at 12:43 PM on September 24, 2001

mikegre: Mr. Murdoch says the check is in the mail.

Anyway, I think the American attitude to international news is much the same as it is with political news. Most people could care less because it doesn't impact their every day lives. "So Spain declares war on Portugal, as long as I don't have to pay any more for gas - I don't care".

I'm not saying thats right or wrong, it just is. And the news stations are just servicing the market.
posted by owillis at 12:57 PM on September 24, 2001

Well, for many people, it just was that way.

I'm (only partially) ashamed to say that this event is making me more aware of the rest of the world, from an international point of view, instead of from just an American point of view.

That's how we should have been all along, but our culture, safety, and relative distance to "all of that other stuff" promoted our indifference.

On the whole, the American people are not arrogant or indifferent. Just haplessly lulled into a pattern of focus on our own culture and nation.

Since the media reflects our own mindset, it's not fully to blame, although it certainly exacerbated the situation.
posted by fooljay at 3:36 PM on September 24, 2001

Mikegre: nice to hear you choose only to hear news from attractive people and not creeps or dwarfs. It funny but I use the opposite heuristic..if they are ugly they must be good.

That said CNN did suck during the WTC disaster. They played the same 5 clips over and over while all the other stations had fresh footage.
posted by srboisvert at 7:46 PM on September 24, 2001

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