The media Images of the US and Europe
What do we look like in the media
As a european citizen looking at the United States one can get a strange feeling. How is it possible that conservative Americans call a democrat a socialist, where a socialist would call that democrat a conservative. Or how is it possible that the Americans created the internet and companies like Apple, Cisco, Facebook and Twitter. But they think Denmark is the capital of the Netherlands. Or how is it possible that a company like IBM builds a computer that is able to beat chess masters, but a shop assistant can not count 49 cents and 51 cents up to a dollar.
for why Europeans might have a bipolar view of the US
So the United States has a rather bipolar image outside its own borders. On the one hand it looks like a superpower with atomic weaponry. On the other hand it looks like a country that you would find in the African continent, with poverty and hunger and uneducated people.
The cause for this strange bipolar USA could be called education. Or the cause could be found in the fact that Americans think the American dream is reachable for every one. Or maybe it is all caused by the bipartisan political system the USA is known for. But maybe it is caused by the fact that the Americans are the last real defenders of democracy. Of could it be that Europeans just get this bipolar image shown by their media.
Maybe it is all of the above in the case of the USA.
Question about - the European image in the US
What images do the Americans get when their media show them what Europe looks like.
Are Americans getting a positive or negative image presented for Europe.
Lets make some comparisons - if that is possible
The strange thing of course is that Europe looks a lot like the United States. We might have less immigrants than the US, so there still are more Caucasians in Europe than in the US. However all that means is that many citizens in the US speak more then just English, just like the Europeans. But is that what the media tell about Europe, probably not.
Do the media make clear that the differences between the different countries in Europe are comparable to the differences between the different states in the United States. For example the rich state of Texas is comparable to the rich country Germany. And like the Germans the Texans have a poor country as a neighbor which citizens are willing to cross the border to earn a buck. Although there are more Germans (81 million) than Texans (25 million). But the Texans have almost double the space 261,231 sq m (668.753 km2) against 139,461 sq m (357.021 km2). And like everything in Texas is bigger than in the rest of the USA, so is everything in Germany bigger than in the rest of Europe.
But that is not the only comparison the media could make. For example The Netherlands is comparable to the state of New York. Like New York state with its 19 million inhabitants against 16 million in the Netherlands, the Netherlands has a big city with tolerant citizens. Although New York city does not allow the sale of soft drugs. Like Amsterdam in the Netherlands New York city has more artists and musicians and tourists than any other city in the state of New York. And like New York city Amsterdam has the same pull on artist, musicians and tourist. If you can make it there you can make it anywhere in the Netherlands. Like most foreign tourists that do not know that New York city lays in New York state most tourist do not know that Amsterdam lays in the Netherlands.
Media, USA, Europa - Something to read
Thomas de Zengotita shows us how our media-saturated society influences our lives and us.
Henry Jenkins describes the changes that the new media have created in the world of the media.
Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky explain that the media most of all defend the economic, social and political agenda of the privileged and the holders of power.
A photo book by Jake Rajs with pictures of all what makes the US great.
Book is written in German.
Norbert Walter explains why it is right to fight for an European Union.
And so forth
Let us go on
I could go on making comparisons between the US and Europe. But there are differences off course. For example the United States of America are a union of states, with a government by the people for the people. Where the Europe Union is a treaty organization like the NATO. No European country has given up any sovereign powers to a central government. There is no central government. We may have a European parliament with legislative powers and comparable controlling rights like the American Congress. But every European country has its own foreign policy and its own army and its own language and its own educational system.
And off course the US has more space, but the European Union is a bigger market. Europe has around 500 million consumers on 1,6 million sq miles, where the USA has 3,5 million sq miles of space for 311 million consumers.
So how can it be that Americans think that all Europeans are almost or are communists. And why do Europeans think Americans are crazy when they think everything can be solved through the market.
The media - Digital, paper and broadcast
For Europeans and Americans alike the most information they get about the other group is through the media. Off course many Americans and Europeans have visited the other country as tourists. And off course lots of Americans and Europeans have worked in the other country or even migrated there. Those emigrants will tell you that Americans and Europeans are more alike than the media make us believe.
For example if you would ask an European citizen to give the answer to the question what the capital of the state New York is, most probably he would say New York, where it should be Albany. If you asked an American to tell where Rome lies, how many would say Georgia.
So our average topographical knowledge of both countries is probably equal. Which is logical of course, as we only learn countries and capitals and not state or provincial capitals for other countries. So a Dutch pupil will know the capitals of most countries in the world, as would an American pupil. But where an American student would also know the state capitals and states of the USA a Dutch student would learn the provinces and their capitals of the Netherlands. Ask a Dutch pupil to name the provincial capitals of the Belgian provinces and most students would give you a blank stare, except for those that went to a Belgian school. So how strange is it that an American thinks that Denmark is the capital of the Netherlands, when they never left the US or even their state. Or how strange is that a Dutch citizen does not know that Washington is not only a city in the US but also a state.
But the problem with the media is, that they expect us to have all this knowledge, they seem to have. So a Dutch reporter in New York will show that some Americans think the Netherlands are like Sodom and Gomorrah. Where an American reporter in Amsterdam will show that the Netherlands are Sodom and Gomorrah. But neither will show an American or a Dutch citizen that shows a more balanced image. As if the consumer of all this information will do the same as those reporters and take the information he receives and go out to verify it. Where we all know that nowadays those who consume the news, use it like they use a bowl of popcorn.
Who is at fault
Yes Americans get a bad press outside of the US. And yes Europeans get a bad press in the US. Not because the media write or report only bad stuff, but because the media act as if everybody is interested in what they find interesting. So they think that their audience remembers five days from now what was reported five days before about the US or Europe or any other story.
Is it all the fault of the media, off course not. The news consumer is as much to blame as the reporter and his editor. The reporter and editor are to blame because they assume that their readers and audiences know as much as they do. So it is not necessary to provide extra information to make them informed consumers.
The audience is to blame because they assume that the media know that they only watch the news to be entertained. Where they are only interested in news if they are affected directly. And the consuming audience is to blame because they do not protest against how they are treated by the media. Except for those few consumers that write letters to the editor.
There is a solution off course for this situation we find ourselves in as media and its consumers, and in our time it is not that difficult to implement it. All the media have to do is link their stories and create databases. All the consumers have to do is go to the world wide web and find the stories that precede the last report they see, remembering that the media are a human product that needs to be checked and double checked. Just as we do with our governments and politicians.
Pictures used - where did come from
or who made them