Skip to comments.Christopher Hitchens: This July Fourth, ignore polls on America’s image
Posted on 07/04/2006 9:54:31 AM PDT by West Coast Conservative
Heres what I want to know, and heres why I want to know it. At what point in history, exactly, did the Pew Center decide that it knew how to measure world opinion?
I ask this because almost every week I seem to read a study of how the rest of the globe thinks (or at any rate feels) about the United States. The polls in this country are unreliable enough and are often used to measure intangibles, such as approval ratings, which is why there is so much fluctuation within and between them. But whos doing the random samples in Somalia and Tajikistan and Ecuador?
I ask because these polls tend to inform Americans that the rest of the world has a decidedly low view of them. That this is true in large parts of the Middle East, and among large swathes of European intellectuals, is something that I can already tell you from experience.
For that matter, it was at one point true that the majority of Pakistanis, say, believed not just that all Jews had left the World Trade Center on time, but that (therefore) they had all reported for work on time, hung around for a bit presumably whistling and wearing unconcerned expressions and only then left; doubtless offering some clever Semitic excuse. Not even al-Qaidas pilots had as exact a schedule as that.
Nonetheless, and despite the absurdity and hysteria of much of what is said and believed, we seem almost ready for a poll of Americans on what they think the rest of the world thinks of them in opinion polls, where the finding would be that most of those Americans polled think that most other people polled think they stink.
There are several possible responses to this.
One of them no doubt to be found in the presumed red states is to say who gives a flying flip? Another is not to surrender to impressionism, and to do some work of ones own.
Large numbers in India, for example (another multiethnic federal and secular democracy), report highly favorable views of the U.S.
A very important poll in Iran (where polling is illegal) found that a huge majority of Iranians considered better relations with America to be the single most urgent priority. One of those who conducted the survey was a former American embassy hostage-taker, who was jailed for publishing his findings.
Then there is the question of method. Polling in the U.S. depends on finding a lot of people who are identifiable by name, and at home in their kitchens when the poll-taker calls. How is this feat replicated in the Andes, say, or in the Congo? Who pays for the work? When is it decided that the time is right?
For example, I am quite certain that an opinion poll of any kind, taken in the Muslim world in 1992, would have discovered enormous resentment at the failure of the United States to intervene militarily in Bosnia. But this ingredient in the famous mixture of Islamic grievances is seldom, if ever, mentioned, and certainly wasnt head-counted at the time. As a result of that just and necessary intervention, large numbers of Orthodox Christians, not just in Serbia, now record strongly anti-American opinions. Which goes to show that you cant please everybody.
It also goes to show that you probably shouldnt try. A country that attempted to be in everybodys good books would be quite paralyzed. The last time everybody said they liked the United States (or said that they said they liked the United States) was just after Sept. 11, when the nation was panicked and traumatized and trying to count its dead. Well, no thanks. This is too high a price to be paid for being popular.
Measurements of opinion are in any event static, and they assume passivity, and a consensus upon knowledge. If you had asked people in 2001 whether they thought it was likely that Afghans and Iraqis would be holding free elections in a couple of years (not that any polling group ever did even suggest such a question), I doubt you would have got a very good response. And how, in any case, could people have known enough to know what they were supposedly talking about?
If I was to interrupt this article every few sentences, asking you whether or not I was making a good impression on you, I hope and believe that you would think I was a servile jerk. Yet this is what our politicians are doing in every speech (most notably in the absurd recent debate on flag-burning) and this is apparently what we hire Karen Hughes to do in our public diplomacy.
Faced with a complete beast like the late Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi, who has been trying to kill us for several years, millions of Americans appear to believe that he only appeared in Iraq because in some way we made him upset. Well, even if this was true which it is not it wouldnt be such a bad thing. (What would you say to a policy that made him contented, instead?).
Thus, for a Fourth of July message, I would suggest less masochism, more confidence on the American street, and less nervous reliance on paper majorities discovered by paper organizations.
Happy Independence Day.
We are the largest economy in the world, the source of food and aid for much of the world, the source of technology and industrial might for many of the world's economies, one of the largest markets (if not the largest) for most of the goods produced in the world........we have what THEY want, NOT the other way around!!!
I have said for a long time that it is high time Americans stopped worrying about what the rest of the world thinks of US, but instead let the rest of the world worry about what America thinks of THEM!!!!!
Since most of the world wants to live here they must think America is pretty good place.
A big piece of truth here we need to face. There are people around the world who actually liked us for a brief moment because we were suffering. It was not compassion.
I am in the first school of thought.
Excellent. Speaking as a life-long resident of Texas, the reddest of red states, I don't give a damn how many pompous European leftists and grubby Middle Eastern terrorists "love" us; in fact, I'd be worried if they did. All I care about is that they are scared to death of us. If they think we're a bunch of violent rednecks led by an out-of-control cowboy who'd sooner nuke them than look at them, that can only be a good thing.
couldn't agree more. if people love us, we aren't leading. progress and change upset people, and certainly the world's record on supporting freedom, their own and that of others, is abysmal. ours is without equal. Happy Birthday, America! i'm one proud American gal.
A clue: Maddy Albright.
His response to a typical Euroweenie whining about how Americans don't understand war, that they think war is...
"A John Wayne movie," I said. "That's what you were going to say, wasn't it? We think war is a John Wayne movie. We think life is a John Wayne movie -- with good guys and bad guys, as simple as that. Well you know something, Mr. Limey Poofter? You're right. And let me tell you who those bad guys are. They're us. WE BE BAD. "We're the baddest-@ssed sons of b!tches that ever jogged in Reeboks. We're three-quarters grizzly bear and two-thirds car-wreck and descended from a stock-market crash on our mother's side. You take your Germany, France, and Spain, roll them all together, and it wouldn't give us room to park our cars. We're the big boys, Jack, the original giant, economy-sized new and improved butt-kickers of all time. When we snort coke in Houston, people lose their hats Cap d'Antibes. And we've got an American Express credit card limit higher than your p!ss-ant metric numbers go." "You say our country's never been invaded? You're right, little buddy. Because I'd like to see the needle-d!cked foreigners who'd have the guts to try. We drink napalm to get our hearts started in the morning. A rape and a mugging is our way of saying 'Cheerio'. Hell can't hold our sock-hops. We walk taller, talk louder, spit further, f*ck longer, and buy more things than you know the name of. I'd rather be a junkie in a New York City jail than King, Queen, and Jack of all you Europeans. We eat little countries like this for breakfast and spit them out before lunch."
Of course, the guy should have punched me. But this was Europe. He just smiled his shabby, superior European smile. (God, don't these people have dentists?)
I already ignore the lousy image half of my countrymen have about America. The rest of the world can sod off!
Isn't the Pew Center the same organization that convinced congress that the #1 subject on the minds of Americans was campaign finance reform, and then later admitted that they had rigged the polling and the results that saddled us with McCain/Feingold CFR?
. . . another excellent analysis from Hitchens! [FYI: Maddie HALFbright runs the Pew Poll -- 'nuf said!]
If you want to know what a genuine leader thinks about the world and our position in it, watch President Bush deliver an absolutely AWESOME speech to his troops at Fort Bragg (from this morning)!
You will find the video here:
"...One of them no doubt to be found in the presumed red states is to say who gives a flying flip? Another is not to surrender to impressionism, and to do some work of ones own..."
Oops. These are in effect the same thing, or am I mistaken Hitch?
Still, I'm always glad for the cheerful fellowship of this hyper intellectual Brit who makes his home among us and enjoys and admires and celebrates our great nation, what we love and hold most dear, with such vast enthusiasm.
Frankly, I'd like to do some smoking and drinking and conversing with the man.
I would never "surrender" to impressionism, or post-impressionism, or even cubism or pre-war German expressionism. Give me N.C. Wyeth and Normal Rockwell anyday.
Heheh... Normal Rockwell,... is Norman Rockwell.
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