Wednesday, June 29, 2005

For the want of misery

Lifted from the Wall Street Journal’s Best Of The Web:

The 'Pro-Americans':

«Recently the Pew Global Attitudes Project released another of its international polls finding that, ho-hum, a lot of foreigners don't like America. But columnist Anne Applebaum has an interesting take on it. Noting that a significant minority in many countries--"some 43 percent of the French, 41 percent of Germans, 42 percent of Chinese and 42 percent of Lebanese"--are pro-American, she looks at the demographics of this group:»
These numbers are competitive with many of wins in three party elections held in some of these state. So why would the inverse – the percentage of ‘positives’ divided by 100 – matter so much as the BBC has been flogging for nearly a week now?
«Advertising executives understand very well the phenomenon of ordinary women who read magazines filled with photographs of clothes they could never afford: They call such women "aspirational." Looking around the world, it is clear there are classes of people who might also be called aspirational. They are upwardly mobile, or would like to be. They tend to be pro-American, too.

In Britain, for example, 57.6 percent of those whose income are low believe that the United States has a mainly positive influence in the world, while only 37.1 percent of those whose income are high believe the same. Breaking down the answers by education, a similar pattern emerges. In South Korea, 69.2 percent of those with low education think the United States is a positive influence, while only [?] 45.8 percent of those with a high education agree. That trend repeats itself not only across Europe but in many other developed countries. Those on their way up are pro-American. Those who have arrived, and perhaps feel threatened by those eager to do the same, are much less so.

In developing countries, by contrast, the pattern is sometimes reversed. It turns out, for example, that Indians are much more likely to be pro-American if they are not only younger but also wealthier and better educated, and no wonder. . . . Some 69 percent of Indians with high incomes think the United States is a mainly positive influence in the world, and only 29 percent of those with low incomes agree. This same phenomenon may also account for the persistence of a surprising degree of popular pro-Americanism in such places as Vietnam, Indonesia, Brazil and the Philippines. They're getting wealthier--like Americans--but aren't yet so rich as to feel directly competitive.

There may be domestic parallels here. The most anti-American Americans seem to come from the ranks of the superrich and the overeducated. And "working class" support for the relatively free-market Republicans, which so mystifies liberal Democrats, is at least in part aspirational.»
So losers resent, and those working hard and hoping to succeed are positive about a nation about which they've only had bad news brow-beaten into them over. Shall we guess what side of the divide the Independent’s cartoonist falls on? In that light, he aspires to very little.

On to the point of the construct of a negative image, we also find in today’s WSJ a citation to a failed attempt at agitprop:
« A Muslim cleric formerly held at Guantanamo Bay prison said Tuesday that U.S. guards there regularly desecrated the Quran by putting it into a toilet," the Associated Press reports. But Airat Vakhitov acknowledges that "he never witnessed it himself":

"A Palestinian named Mahir, who was in a neighboring cell, had seen it and told me about that," Vakhitov told the AP. "Many other people in Guantanamo also told me about that."

Sure thing there, Airat. Just one problem: As blogger Danny Troy points out, "Vakhitov was singing a different tune not too long ago." Troy quotes from an August 2003 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty report:

“Hasanova [Vakhitov's mother] said she learned of his fate after receiving a letter from him last November. She said her son is feeling well and is satisfied with the conditions of his detention at Guantanamo.

"He writes that he is treated kindly and with respect, that he has good food, cleanliness, and as he says in his letter, he feels better than if he was at the best Russian sanatoriums," Hasanova said.

Vakhitov's mother said he also writes that his fellow detainees are friendly toward him, and that they often lend each other copies of the Koran and pray together.”»
Further this morning the cat dragged in this bit of puzzlement:
«The special rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak, said the claims were rumours at this stage, but urged the US to co-operate with an investigation
The answer should be "nope, find out what those capo-lile cops of yours' are up to, sparky". Even if they’re only rumored to be bustin' heads and abusing prisoners. Childish agit-prop, but the BBC’s audience has already been conditioned to drink the kool-aid, no matter what it looks like.

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