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Thursday, March 06, 2003

Simple City

I almost forgot about this, which dovetails nicely with the post below. If you think that I was a bit too harsh in taking Lilli as representative of Europeans, perhaps you would take a squint at this transcript of Fox's John Gibson interviewing an American expatriate in France, freelance journalist John Von Sothen.

Von Sothen says much the same thing Lilli does: that Europeans believe we are being manipulated by the press.

Von Sothen: I think basically the French, from what I've heard, they're primarily against Bush and not too happy with the way the media or the way you guys are painting the picture...They still feel empathy towards the Americans [because of 9/11], but I think they feel the Americans are being manipulated in this whole thing.

GIBSON: Well, who would be manipulating the Americans?

VON SOTHEN: I think it starts with the administration. And then the second people that usually get it and what I've heard is the media. And that, the Americans aren't getting the whole story and that a lot of the media is just...

GIBSON: What is the whole story they're not getting?

VON SOTHEN: Well, I think they're getting a story, but it's not complex. You know, they're hearing from Bush just a lot of sound bites, a lot of stuff like "game over", and "you're with us or without us or against us", you know, simplifying the situation...

And I think there's a fear of like an oversimplicity there. Where as here, they read about five papers a day and they've really kind of studied the situation back and forth.

VON SOTHEN: What I get here is the Americans aren't getting it from you guys why they see it this way. You know?

GIBSON: Well, what is the reason?...

VON SOTHEN: It's not like they believe that France is right and America is wrong. What they tell me is that the situation is a lot more complex, and you can't just go head off into war without realizing all the different angles and possible consequences.

There's a little more here. Gibson brings up the French oil contracts, and Von Sothen gallicly shrugs it off. But his basic, unsupportable point is that Americans are being manipulated by the media and the government.

In my experience, many Europeans take it for granted that Americans are stupid, or at the very least ignorant. This may well lead them to dismiss American support for the war as the product of manipulation, no matter our reasons.

It's always amazed me how Europeans can think the American people are stupid, given the history of the past century. "Oh, yeah, their society drives the world's economy, and they've spawned a ton of scientific advances, and the world's children flock to their universities, but we're much smarter..."