"In the last few months the Bush administration has finally given a more prominent place to this 'public diplomacy', even hiring an advertising executive named Charlotte Beers to get America's message across to foreigners."
Now, obviously, the American "message" most foreigners would be most interested in hearing would be, for instance, a decision to stop funding death squads in their countries. Tellingly, Kristof never describes his idea of the American "message." All he does is mention at the end of the piece that Woo ended up in Denver. In other words, America doesn't have to change at all to change the world's opinion of her -- she only has to do a better p.r. job.
It's people like this that Mohammed Atta was aiming for as he zoomed over Central Park.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 16
JUSTICES SOFTEN ARBITRATION LAW
In a freak accident, the Supreme Court rules against employers, softening its own hideous mandatory arbitration ruling.
U.S. AND PHILLIPINES SETTING UP JOINT OPERATIONS ON TERROR
Laying the foundation for our next anti-insurgency war. Says Abu-Sayyaf group "linked to Al-Qaeda", but does not source the information. WALKER WILL FACE TERRORISM COUNTS IN A CIVILIAN COURT
Anti-abortion extremist John Ashcroft charges John Walker with "embracing fanatics."
AUTHOR OF LETTER TO ENRON CHIEF IS CALLED TOUGH
Whatever good news there is to report in the Enron story will be reported, and the Times will report more of that good news than anyone else. No credit on photo of letter writer Watkins, who may have blown her own anonymity.
ARTHUR ANDERSEN FIRES AN EXECUTIVE FOR ENRON ORDERS
AA's absolutely unavoidable first damage control maneuver reported as a big brave move.
2 CIVILIANS FROM ISRAEL KILLED IN PALESTINIAN MILITANT ATTACKS
Palestinians with guns are called militants, while Israelis are called soldiers.
DELTA FARMERS WANT COPYRIGHT ON CATFISH
About fight to force Vietnamese to stop calling their catfish-looking basa fish catfish. Protectionism is okay when we're the beneficiaries.
Cultural myopia, part deux was on display in the Times' Saudi Arabia story today, ("Dismay With Saudi Arabia Fuels Pullout Talk", A11). Actually it was a case of joint myopia, a sort of twisted foile a deux situation involving the Times and Congress.
The story, written by James Dao, is about how the United States is "frustrated" with the Saudis for their "tepid" support of the war on terrorism. The story is even framed around a wounded, plaintive pull quote, "A feeling that an ally isn't devoted to curbing extremism," which in the context of the article sounds quite a lot like "The sickening feeling that my wife is running around on me."
More and more often, the words "militant" and "extremist" are becoming self-justifying red flags that papers like the Times wave at readers whenever they want to describe opponents of the United States or its allies.
This was always the case, of course, but now, after 9/11, the expected response to these words is different. "Militants" and "extremists" are no longer to be merely frowned upon, they're to be "curbed" and "eliminated."
It is clear from the general vibe around the anti-terrorism coverage lately that anti-Americanism of any sort will soon be associated with Islamic terrorism, and so, by extension, anti-Americanism will soon be something that has to be "curbed" and "eliminated" abroad. And from there, by extension, foreign cultures who merely persist in maintaining a way of life different from our own may soon fall into the realm of intolerable outrages.
Here's how Dao describes the Saudi situation:
"The dismay with Saudi Arabia ranges widely. In Congress, there is a broad sense that the Saudis are not doing enough to rein in Islamic militants. Some lawmakers also hold the Saudi government responsible for a Pentagon requirement that American servicewomen wear head-to-toe robes when traveling outside their Saudi bases, a rule being challenged in a lawsuit brought by a female Air Force major against the United States military."