Polling reveals a global "credibility gap"

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Since September 11th, befuddled Americans have asked a single question of the world: why do they hate us so? However reasonable such a question might seem in the wake of the attacks, it signals something far less reasonable: We’ve become a thoroughly solipsistic nation. In the last year, America has refashioned itself as the world’s primary victim, survivor, and dominator. We’ve taken possession of all available roles except, of course, that of villain, and the rest of the planet has been relegated to the sidelines. It’s like that old joke where a man talks endlessly about himself and then says, “Enough about me, how about you? What do you think of me?”

Now, the Pew Research Center has conducted a global opinion poll — asking the only question we care about — and, as has been reported in our media, has discovered that “they” like us less … and less… and less. It’s interesting below, however, to see how one not-American journalist, the Guardian‘s Peter Preston frames these figures. From them, he offers us a sense of American post-9/11 self-involvement and so, tin ear-ism. “Only 20% of Americans,” he tells us, “think the US doesn’t consider other countries much or at all.” (It must be the same 20% who think a war with Iraq would have something to do with oil.)

Between the American polling figures and the rest of them, Preston implies, is a “gap.” Imagine it as like the “credibility gap” of the 1960s but raised to a global level. As Preston indicates, many Americans seem convinced (as this administration certainly is) that the solution to global problems come out of the barrel of a gun or, more accurately, the trajectory of a cruise missile, that “super”power can be measured by military power. It’s easy to forget that what’s presented by the Pew Center as global public “opinion” may turn out to be that most powerful weapon of our age — people power, resistance that, in the end, has swept all before it, and that has proved remarkably impermeable to domination and force.

It’s worth remembering at the same time that there is a countertrend in the US as well. A movement is, possibly movements are, growing; new kinds of audiences are forming; new kinds of resistance gaining ground. With this in mind, I’ve also included below a nice piece from the Sacramento Bee, taken off the war in context website, about the growing antiwar movement. It’s typical of a number of such articles here and abroad recently. A very good one to look at as well is a week-old piece from the Washington Post, “Antiwar Effort Gains Momentum: Growing Peace Movement’s Ranks Include Some Unlikely Allies” by Evelyn Nieves, which includes the following:

“The extraordinary array of groups questioning the Bush administration’s rationale for an invasion of Iraq includes longtime radical groups such as the Workers World Party, but also groups not known for taking stands against the government. There is a labor movement against war, led by organizers of the largest unions in the country; a religious movement against the war, which includes leaders of virtually every mainstream denomination; a veterans movement against the war, led by those who fought Iraq in the Persian Gulf a decade ago; business leaders against the war, led by corporate leaders; an antiwar movement led by relatives of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks; and immigrant groups against the war.”
To read more of this article from the Washington Post, click here.

Such pieces remind us that this is not just the 60s redux. Tom

Not such a super power after all
A new US poll shows that the world is falling out of love with America
By Peter Preston, December 9, 2002, The Guardian

Even the ambition is gargantuan. Only an American pollster like Pew would contemplate asking 38,000 people in 44 countries (speaking 63 languages and dialects) what they think of America. Only a superpower would try to take the world’s temperature thus. The trouble is – when you hold their thermometer up to the light – the reading that comes back says this power isn’t so super after all.

Take just a few out of thousands of figures. Nineteen countries with data available for comparison showed antipathy to the US on the rise, and goodwill draining away. Favourable ratings in western Europe, pretty consistently, were down five or six percentage points over the last three years. That turned to 22 points in Turkey and 13 points in Pakistan. Just 6% of the Egyptian public has a favourable view of the United States.

What the World Thinks in 2002 can be found on the Pew Research Center website,www.people-press.org

To read more of this article from The Guardian, click here.


Anti-war protesters are flowing in from the mainstream
By Marjie Lundstrom, December 5, 2002, Sacramento Bee

In Chico, a shy, 83-year-old World War II veteran and former naval officer surprises his son by attending an anti-war protest outside Rep. Wally Herger’s office, where 21 are arrested.

In Sacramento, a land surveyor for the state rounds up his book group to attend three peace rallies in Sacramento and San Francisco.

In the Bay Area, a former Silicon Valley entrepreneur creates a Web site whose current anti-war agenda has attracted nearly 600,000 Internet followers. It has been four weeks since I wrote about the burgeoning anti-war movement and the flawed media coverage around it. The stories have been pouring in since, among them:

The Rocklin schoolteacher who worries about his students’ futures. The 68-year-old “stay-at-home protester” who e-mails and writes his elected officials. The 64-year-old semiretired carpenter who proudly stages a war protest in Auburn.

To read more of this article from the Sacramento Bee, click here.