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Re: <nettime> First thoughts on the American election
Ronda Hauben on Thu, 6 Nov 2008 22:20:30 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> First thoughts on the American election

Here's something I posted about the election on Nov. 4 just before the
election. From the viewpoint of an American in Europe in the runup to the
election I hope it helps to put the English languague mainstream media
coverage into a broader perspective. Perhaps what I have come to realize
from conversations I had in Europe there is that the mainstream media in the
US presents a false picture of reality for those in the US but even more
significant is that it similarly presents a false view of the US and US
policy issues presented to those outside of the US .
The url for my blog at Tagazeitung where this post appears is

Media Failure in American Election
Ronda Hauben

I have been in Berlin, Germany for the last two weeks of the 2008 U.S.
presidential election campaign. This has made it possible to get a different
perspective on the U.S. election than is obvious in the U.S. In general, for
the Europeans I have spoken with, it appears that the election has been
framed so it appears that the two candidates of the major parties represent
the majority of Americans. This is not the reality. In general, many
Americans see themselves as independents, not represented by either the
Republican or Democratic Party. Yet there is little in the media coverage to
help Europeans recognize this reality.

In the English language media coverage of the election I have observed,
mainly BBC or CNN, the reporters have focused on those who support either
the Republican candidate John McCain or the Democratic candidate Barack
Obama. The large number of Americans who are frustrated with the positions
of both candidates have not received any attention from the English language
media. Similarly these two candidates dominate the German news headlines.
The headline that is missing is that many Americans are not happy to have
only two similar parties to determine the candidates and the policies these
candidates are supporting.

The result of this inaccurate reflection of the sentiment among many in the
U.S. is that many Europeans explain that the only choice in the election
campaign to be voting for Obama. They are concerned with what would happen
if Obama were not elected. The sentiment was expressed that for example,
there is much frustration internationally with the Bush administration and
it requires a change of administration in the U.S. for Europeans to feel
that there can be any change in U.S. policy.

Inevitably in conversations with friends and acquaintances in Germany, the
question has been raised about how I felt about the election. Many of the
Europeans I spoke with were surprised to learn that the lack of multiple
parties in the U.S. leads to a feeling of frustration with the narrow
alternatives offered by the U.S. two party system. Once this discussion has
been started, however, it becomes evident that there is a similar discontent
in Germany with the narrow range of alternatives offered to people by the
political system, even though there are a few additional parties for people
to consider.

Also, the discussion has inevitably turned to the quality of the media in
the U.S. There is a general recognition that the mainstream U.S. media is
very poor. One person described how he was visiting in the U.S. and was very
surprised at the content he saw when the people he was staying with turned
on the television to watch either CNN or Fox News. He felt that these were
very poor when compared with German television offerings.

The issue of what kind of media is needed in the U.S. has been an
interesting topic of conversation. There is a widespread feeling of the poor
quality of the U.S. media. Many of those I spoke with have turned to the
Daily Show or other entertainment forms for the little first hand knowledge
they are able to get about American politics. They realize, however, that
this is not adequate and I have often been asked if there are some better
media sources I could recommend.

The conversations I have had while in Europe have helped to clarify that the
press is an important component of a functional political system. There is a
need for a press that accurately presents the problems of the society and
provides the basis for a broad ranging debate on these problems. The failure
of the American media to fulfill this function not only contributes in a
significant way to the serious political and economic problems facing
American society, but similarly leads others around the world to develop a
false view of America and of the American people. Instead of U.S.
institutions providing an inspiration or a helpful model, they are an
example of the abuse that unchecked power can lead to. The lesson from the
many conversations with Europeans about the U.S. presidential campaign I had
these past two weeks is that there is a serious need for an alternative to
the U.S. mainstream media if there is to be any significant change in U.S.
government policy toward the rest of the world and for there to be elections
in the U.S. that have any chance of expressing the needs and choices of the
American people. Relying on any of the candidates to bring the needed policy
changes is not adequate.

On Wed, Nov 5, 2008 at 2:31 PM, Dan S. Wang <danwang {AT} mindspring.com> wrote:

> Anyone else?  --dsw
> Already there?s been quite a bit of writing, remarking, and blogging on the
> Obama victory as a sort of national catharsis. But like the fluid identity
> of Obama himself, the emotional healing enters the picture from any number
> of angles. Here?s mine...

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