The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

South students see U.S. image through foreign views

By Jonathan Resendez/south news editor

In April 2008, BBC News reported that 56 percent of the world viewed Russia and Japan as having a mainly positive influence on the world while the U.S. was at only 35 percent.

That means the U.S. is viewed less favorably for world peace than two of its major adversaries from World War II, said Reinholdt Wagnleitner, associate professor at the University of Salzburg.

He presented The United States of America and the World: Views from a Distance to a packed Performance Hall on South Campus Feb. 2.

As he began, Wagnleitner reminded the audience that since Greek antiquity, most people have understood that one shouldn’t shoot the messenger. He said his lecture’s facts and figures about the world’s negative view of America explained his need for the disclaimer.

The U.S. makes up 4 percent of the world’s population, he said. Of those, only about 2 percent voted in November. Further still, only half of those who voted did so for the winning candidate. That means that 1 percent of the world’s population picked the most important man in all of it.

Wagnleitner said his data represented a truth, not a trend. He explained why the whole world pays attention to the U.S. and the reason the world view of us has, up until recently, grown so poor.

The morning after President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election, Britain’s Daily Mirror cover read, “How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?”

A poll taken by worldpublicopinion.org in January 2005 showed that 18 countries, including U.S. allies, viewed Bush’s re-election as negative for world security.

World security was only one of several issues or events that caused the U.S. image to plummet worldwide.

Wagnleitner said people-press.org reported in late December 2008, “The U.S. image abroad is suffering almost everywhere. Particularly in the most economically developed countries, people blame America for the financial crisis.”

“Wall Street sneezes, and the whole world gets pneumonia.”

Becoming like America was the yearning of many Europeans 20 years ago, he said, quoting Barbara Coudenhove-Kalergi, reporter for Der Standard. Today, that is the horror vision of at least as many. To describe the U.S., Kalergi used terms such as “the last bastion of the death penalty, the source of war and repression.”

To explain how the U.S. sunk so low in the world’s view, he said that it must first be understood that the U.S. has always meant more to the rest of the world than the world has meant to it.

Carolyn Carney, assistant professor of history and organizer for South Campus’ monthlong program on global awareness, said many students do not know that they have to work with the world.

“Some of my students know. Some don’t,” she said. “Many of them are living in a bubble.”

Wagnleitner said that during the 20th century, the U.S. itself had become a global product of popular culture. The whole world was watching and mimicking us. Euro Disneyland and a U.S. flag with corporate logos in place of the stars were used as examples.

“More people probably speak English in China than do here,” he said.

The rapid descent began during the Bush administration, he said. Photos of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo replaced the Statue of Liberty as the images that represent the U.S.

Wagnleitner said if he were asked about America as a kid, his response would have included things like progress, jazz and rock ’n’ roll.

When Austrians, ages 12 to 13, were asked about the first associations that came to mind when thinking about the U.S., their responses included “violence, drugs, poor people, fast food, bad food, fat food and fat people.”

When Wagnleitner said another answer was “bad English,” a TCC student responded, “For reals.”

Wagnleitner said Barack Obama’s election abruptly changed many of the facts he had been presenting during his lectures — 53 percent of the U.S. voted for Obama, 46 percent for John McCain.

The Economist’s World Electoral College showed that 97.7 percent of the world would have voted for Obama and only 2.3 percent for McCain.

Upon Obama’s victory, the same Daily Mirror that had questioned the American people a couple of years earlier read “GOBAMA!”

Wagnleitner said one reason for this shift was that U.S. and world views were becoming more similar near the end of the Bush administration.

“The rest of the world had an anti-Bush policy much earlier than the United States,” he said.

Student Zamon Fabela had an opinion on how the world sees us.

“It’s amazing how far down we have gone in this millennium … I would be proud to grow up in the ’60s. That’s when Americans were in revolt for human rights. That was an era when the United States citizens thought for themselves,” he said.

 

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