the-south-asian.com DECEMBER 2002
DECEMBER 2002 Contents
Islands - in 1884
‘Why They Hate Us’
- A survey in high schools in 12 countries helps reveal 'Why They Hate Us...'
Professors Margaret H. DeFleur and Melvin L. DeFleur
We’ve seen the future, and it is not pretty. We saw it clearly through the media-soaked eyes of more than 1,200 teen-agers in 12 countries from all parts of the world whom we surveyed for a project entitled ‘The Next Generation’s Image of Americans.’
With rare exception, they hold uniformly negative perceptions not only of our government but of all Americans. We saw a mindset that is one of the parts of the requisite foundation for next-gen terrorism. It would take, among other things, some triggering incident and the presence of messianic militant groups to ignite, but it is a collective perception with the scary potential of becoming a bloody reality when some of these global teens come of age.
Indeed, our recently completed research project suggests that the constant threats of terrorism and increased security measures that are so much a part of our lives today will likely continue during the decades ahead. This conclusion is based on the decidedly negative attitudes of these middle-class high school students from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, South Korea, Mexico, China, Spain, Taiwan, the Dominican Republic, Pakistan, Nigeria, Italy and Argentina. Only in one country, Argentina, were their views basically favorable.
View of Americans: Violent, Selfish, Dominating and Immoral
While there were variations from country to country, these youngsters think they know a lot about us. They are convinced, for example, that we are violent, materialistic and want to dominate other people. On the whole they believe that we do not respect people unlike us, are not generous, are not concerned about the poor, that we lack strong family values and are not peaceful. They also believe many of us engage in criminal activities and many American women are sexually immoral. So what is there to admire or respect about such people?
As we watch more street demonstrations on TV, with angry mobs raising their fists at us, and see our flag being burned, keep in mind that these actions are based on shared convictions that Americans are people who deserve to be harmed. When such negative attitudes are common in a country, more of the young become available as recruits for those who see us as an enemy that must be punished. Any action that can inflict harm on the people who are despised is part of the curriculum. That is particularly true in countries where there are messianic religious groups whose leaders and members are convinced that we are the infidel, an enemy bent on harming not only their sacred religion but also their country and its culture.
The Global Impact of American Media’s Cultural Imperialism?
Where do such views come from? For one thing, many people in the world know that the U.S. is the most powerful nation on earth; with military might and an economy that greatly exceeds any other. This can be a foundation for envy, dislike, resentment and even hate. Such sentiments easily lead to assumptions that our position of strength has been gained by exploiting them and their traditional ways of life.
If these conditions are present, feelings can be quickly inflamed when a negative incident involving Americans occurs. An example is the recent case in Afghanistan where Air Force pilots on a mission mistakenly returned fire and killed civilians on the ground who were shooting into the air to celebrate a wedding. Such incidents will happen again whenever American military personnel, or even civilians, are present in troubled parts of the world.
Teen-agers get their flawed beliefs about Americans from many sources, and most lack access to accurate information. Few among them have traveled to the United States and their schools and religious leaders spend little time correcting distorted impressions of what we are actually like (nor do their parents, whom we know already dislike us). Not surprisingly, a major source from which their beliefs and attitudes are formed is what they learn about Americans from mass communications.
Easy Media Access, Even When Forbidden
What teen-agers seek is American popular culture in all its familiar forms; movies, TV programs and music. These are easily available and enjoyed greatly all over the world. Even if forbidden by their governments, such entertainment products are readily obtained on the street, often in pirated versions. Virtually all families except the desperately poor have, or have access to, a television, radio, CD player, VCR and even a DVD. And like teen-agers everywhere, they do not avidly follow the news. If they did, they would see a lot of: infotainment; stories about crime, sex and corruption (staples of journalists since mass newspapers began).
Over a long period of time, those who produce and distribute popular entertainment worldwide have sought maximum profits (an approved idea in a capitalistic society). To attain that goal, what they produce must appeal to the largest possible audience; which means the young people in any society. It is their tastes and interests that dominate entertainment products, not those of the older and more conservative.
Higher Profits, Greater Sleaze and Violence
What these media products increasingly portray is what the older generation does not want;graphic sexual depictions, violent action and dirty words. Those are precisely the features of Americans and their way of life that are depicted in much of mass-communication content distributed to the countries that were studied. And it is from these sources that the teen-agers have derived their beliefs and attitudes about all of us.
History proves that future generations will be just as focused on pop entertainment, and that the flow of such entertainment products will not cease. Indeed, to increase profits even further and remain competitive producers and distributors will spew increasingly flawed depictions of Americans, which, in turn, will provide a source for even more distorted beliefs. Moreover, the inevitable U.S. military presence around the globe will create opportunities for more negative incidents, and religious extremists bent on harming us ‘infidels’ will no doubt continue to recruit young people to do their bidding. Welcome to the future.
Professors Margaret H. and Melvin L. DeFleur teach at Boston University’s College of Communications.
See their full report at http://www.bu.edu/news/releases/2002/defleur/report.pdf
© 2002 New York University. All Rights Reserved.
Courtesy:The Global Beat Syndicate, a service of New York University's
Center for War, Peace, and the News Media
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