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The Irrationality of Anti-Americanism

A world gone mad.

12:00 AM, Sep 19, 2008 • By JOE LOCONTE
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There are many reasons for anti-Americanism, of course, some as manifestly irrational as the views expressed in the Word Public Opinion Poll. What tends to be ignored, though, is the influence of mass media. A content analysis study released by the U.S. Institute for Peace last year found that across all seven European and Arab TV news outlets examined, "negative coverage" of the United States far outweighed "positive coverage." What the Institute for Peace considers negative coverage a more judicious observer might call shameless propaganda, revisionism, or hate speech. The point is that images of America as international gangster gush forth daily from the print and broadcast media of Europe and the Arab world. They help shape the narrative of these societies--from the imam who calls for the destruction of the Great Satan during Friday's prayers to the Anglican bishop whose pulpit oratory confuses political bombast about American "imperialism" with a message of redeeming grace.

In this sense, the widespread belief in a crackpot conspiracy theory--in which the U.S. government secretly staged a massive and lethal assault against its own civilian population--is comprehensible. That it has become tolerable, even fashionable, suggests that old dogmas and ancient hatreds are alive and well.

Joe Loconte is a senior fellow at Pepperdine University's School of Public Policy and the editor of The End of Illusions: Religious Leaders Confront Hitler's Gathering Storm.