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The United States and the United Kingdom

America seen

Gay is the new black

"The gay rights issue has been a ticking time bomb for the Bush government. And now it looks about to explode."

"Whenever politicians (in the USA) refer to welfare, crime, inner-city deprivation, teenage pregnancy or affirmative action - which is often - they are talking about race, and rarely in terms supportive of minorities."

"Homophobia may yet become the rallying cry for the next (presidential election) . . . gay is the new black."

President Bush "has no wish to be seen as isolating a relatively small group for special opprobrium - unless of course they are Arab immigrants, in which case he can hide behind national security."
Gary Young, The Guardian
16 June 2003

Wishful Thinking

"If Bush finally wins a term as President, decent Americans . . . are going to be looking for a civilised haven. . . Could it be that political developments in (the USA) are now starting to make emigration look more attractive? . . . You must be close to despair . . . have things reached to point where you might consider moving? … We (in Britain) can . . . offer you a civilised, decent government, very different from the one you are eager to leave behind."
Richard Dawkins, The Guardian, 2003

Classic British Journalism

"It was a classic American journey, aimless, anonymous and headed inexorably towards a final orgy of devastating, meaningless violence." (Emphasis added)
Andrew Gurmbel, The Independent, 26 October 2002, reporting on John Allen Muhammad’s ten murders.

The Dark Heart of America

That's the front cover of the 20 August Review section of The Independent above a street scene from Tulia, Texas. The story of  "racism and police corruption" in this small town, already exposed in The New York Times, is certainly alarming.

However, writer Andrew Gumbel quotes a a lawyer for the residents of Tulia who were covicted of false charges as describing the small town as an "isolated, weird land-that-time forgot kind of place."

How then is it to be seen as "The Dark Heart of America"?

Double Standard

"Britain secured immunity from prosecution in the International Criminal Court for its troops in Afghanistan, while criticising the United States for its refusal to accept the tribunal.

"Britain and France said they would oppose a draft US resolution to the United Nations Security Council seeking judicial immunity for UN-mandated military missions. . . . However, before committing its troops to Afghanistan, Britain obtained a guarantee from the interim government that British and Allied troops . . . would not face trial before international tribunals for offences under international law."
The Independent, 21 June 2002

Press Prejudice 1

Independent headline, June 2002 - "Revealed: how the smoke stacks of America have brought the world’s worst drought to millions of Africans."

The real story - "New research indicates that pollution from factories and power stations, especially in North America and Europe has exacerbated drought in countries south of the Sahara" (Emphasis added). The report mentioned also that increasing emissions from China and India would be a problem. And that one proponent of this idea that emissions in the northern hemisphere causes drought in the southern hemisphere admitted that so far it was no more than a theory.

Press Prejudice 2

Independent headline, 14 June 2002 - "US-backed Karzai sweeps to power in Afghanistan."

The real story - "Mr. Karzai has the tacit support of the United Nations, the Americans and the British."

Support for US Highest In Britain

A survey by the American Pew Research Centre in April 2002 showed that 40 percent of Britons surveyed supported American foreign policy, against 37 percent who disapproved. In none of the other four European countries surveyed did those who approved outnumber the respondents who disapproved.

Thirty nine percent of British respondents were critical of American policy in the middle east and 57 percent thought that the US could have done more to achieve a peace agreement.

There was a majority in support of the military action in Afghanistan in all the countries in the survey, but this was highest in Britain where 73 percent approved

The Special Relationship

Following the massacres by terrorists at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, some British journalists could not resist exaggeration, animus against Americans or the hope that the American way had been discredited.

Front page headlines, The Independent
Wednesday 12 September Doomsday America
Thursday 13 September The American dream in ruins

All-American Nightmare. Reporting in the Review section on 13 September from London Mary Dejevsky wrote:
"The most powerful country in the world . . . was reduced to a gibbering, panicked state of siege. . . . In the inquest . . . every angle will be explored, calling into question every aspect of the American way of doing things. . . Between the (Americans') paranoid suspicion of all things alien and the blissful acceptance of all things American . . . . . . Americans, unlike Britons, are unused to comprehensive adversity. The spirit of the Blitz is not something Americans have experienced collectively. (Note. Some readers of the Independent were surprised that Ms Dejevsky, who appears middle-aged in her photographs, had experienced the Blitz or comprehensive adversity). . . .It was the American dream smashed to bits in the style of a Hollywood spectacular."

Wishful Thinking?

"The 20th century was American, but this one will be Europe's."
Independent headline, January 2001.

Mary Dejevsky, one of the newspaper's US correspodents, ended her article thus: " As the American model strains to withstand new pressures and new doubts, let Europe's century begin."

Whither the Democrats?

August 2000. "The most right-wing Democratic ticket in living memory." (The BBC's Gavin Esler). Al Gore's Democratic convention speech "shifted the Democratic party decisively and surprising to the left. " (US correspondent Mary Dejevsky).

Comments on the Democrat's convention by two of British journalism's "experts" on the United States in the Independent, 19 August 2000.

Americans Imprison Woman For "A Crime That Could Not Have Happened In Britain."

According to the Independent reporting from Tallahassee, Florida in December 2000, the Prime Minister's wife Cherie Booth had been asked to represent a British woman, Chantal McCorkle, serving a 24 year term in a Florida prison. As a prominent human rights lawyer she was considered an appropriate representative for a woman convicted of "a crime that could not have happened in Britain."

According to the newspaper the imprisoned Briton's husband ran a "get rich quick scam." Declared bankrupt he was unable legally to run the business. Ms McCorkle agreed to its transfer to her name although he continued to run the business. "I signed everything that William put in front of me. Why shouldn't I?" she said to the Indpendent. Both were convicted of conspiracy, fraud and money-laundering. Ms McCorkle's husband seems not to have told the police, prosecutors or judge that she was innocent.

Apparently the Independent based its notion that Ms McCorkle's human rights have been violated on a shared belief that it is permissible to front a business for a bankrupt and to sign business documents that you have not read and do not understand. The principal that to sign a document is to take responsibility for it has no validity, it seems, when applied by Americans to a Briton.

"America's Heart of Darkness."

June 1998. The murder of James Byrd by racists in Jasper, Texas gave the British news media an irresistible opportunity to rub in America's failure to eliminate racism. One example. In the Independent newspaper Gavin Esler, until recently a BBC correspondent in the USA, was given half a page under the banner "America's heart of darkness."

"What is especially chilling about the Texas suspects" he wrote " ... is that they ... could be the boys next door." Really? According to the Washington Post "the trio's unofficial leader (was) a foul-mouthed convicted burglar." Another of the suspects also has a criminal record. And the third "had served seven years on a cocaine conviction (and was) released on condition he be treated for an undisclosed mental illness. All three had tattoos or personal items with the special markings of the white supremacist." If Gavin Esler thinks these are "the boys next door" where does he live?

Esler made much of the nervousness of his white neighbours in Washington D.C. during the 1996 "Million Man March." This indicated to him that the murder in Jasper "fits into a new and ugly pattern." But he failed to mention that the march had been called for by the racist Nation of Islam, although his piece was illustrated by a photograph of uniformed NoI stewards.

Esler did concede that "the majority of Americans ... genuinely want racial harmony." But he did not find time even to mention that the legislative measures taken in the USA to counter racial inequality have gone far beyond anything imaginable in Britain. Nor, of course, was his article the place to ask whether Britain, where a government enquiry was then taking evidence to determine why the racists who murdered a young black citizen of London in 1993 are still free, has a "heart of darkness."

Esler Again

Writing in the Independent on 13 November Gavin Esler claimed that ten per cent of the population of Washington DC were lawyers belonging to the District's bar. "You may well ask what kind of society you get, " Mr Elser wrote, "when 10 per cent of the capital's population are registered lawyers. "

Gavin Esler has a degree in American Literature, is a BBC journalist, and is also a frequent commentator on American affairs in the British press. He had arrived at this conclusion on the basis of a population of under 600,000 and a figure of 63,000 for lawyers accredited to the DC bar. His extensive knowledge of the United States had not suggested to him that many of those lawyers live in the states of Virginia or Maryland, or even further afield, not in the District of Columbia, where they may practice law.

Californian Deaths.

Tyisha Miller, a young African-American woman was shot dead by police in Riverdale, California on 28 December 1998 as she sat in her car with a gun at her side. The news of the circumstances of her death soon crossed the Atlantic to be reported in the British press. Two weeks before David Bruner, aged 35, a white resident of Riverdale had also been shot dead in his car by city police. His story aroused no interest in Britain. No prize for guessing why.

Not the American Century.

Richard Pellis, Fulbright Scholar in American Studies at Bonn University argued in an Independent essay this June that the twentieth century has not been as sometimes argued, the "American century." He made a case for characterising it instead as the "European century." Among his somewhat desperate reasons: the two world wars devastated Europe not America: American science and arts flourished because of the Europeans who fled that continent for the USA; the civil wars in the former Yugoslavia show a resistance to globalism that is rooted in Europe; Tina Brown, former editor of The New Yorker, is British.

I Don't Go to America.

"I don't go to America, and, knowing almost nothing about it, am not in a position to express scepticism, even at the most extraordinary piece of information about American affairs. If somebody tells me, say, that there are Americans who put peanut butter and jam on the same piece of bread, or that it is illegal to smoke in the street, or that the government gives cheese to the unemployed, or that Julian Schnabel is regarded as a good painter there - and these are all things that people have told me with every appearance of seriousness - my response, honed over the years, is simply to widen my eyes, say "Really? How fascinating!" And then we can talk about something more interesting."

Philip Hensher in the Independent, November 1998, on a report that Vogue is to put Hilary Rodham Clinton on its front cover.

Land of the mad and the fee.

"Travelling through America may be cheap and convenient, but that doesn't mean it ever takes you anywhere worth going. From its humungous retail stores on the outside of town, such as Bob's Discount Tire Warehouse or the Wholesale Bedding Galaxy, to its vast deserts, canyons and really tacky tract housing, America is a landscape in which everything grows bigger and more boring every day. Highways are circulated endlessly by massive 18-wheelers bearing loads of crap to every factory outlet in site."

The introduction to a review of Bill Bryson's Notes From A Big Country" in the 23 November 1998 edition of the Independent. "Land of the mad and the fee" was the headline.

More Abuse.

"The British have two choices; either they join Europe and accept the euro, or they become the 51st state of the USA. I hope they choose Europe, where nearly all our ancestors came from. Gun-happy America already dictates how we respond to international crises (drop bombs) and it is almost too late for Britain to repair the damage American decadence and lack of family responsibility have done to our young people. Let us vote for the euro

What a Laugh!

Found posted on the British Channel 4 TV web site in response to a posting asking for more American TV shows.

"YES! An American hour! at about 2AM. Brilliant idea! As for American news and politics, they own this country and dictate our foreign affairs. Or have you forgotten the bombing of Gaddafi, the unconditional welcome for genetically mucked-up food, the constant backing-up of US decisions e.g. Iraq etc. How long before we cut off relations with Cuba? Incidentally, they banned imports of British beef YEARS before anyone in Europe. Strangely, our 'sovereign' government (Tory AND Labour) have made NO complaints whatever! Funny isn't it."

Hot Dog!

The 5 March 1998 edition of The Guardian carried an amazingly intemperate article on its op-ed page. Headlined "Food fascism" the article alleged that proposed US Department of Agriculture standards for organic farming would "outlaw genuine organic production all over the world." To ram home the claim George Monbiot alleged that "Farmers will be forbidden by law from producing and selling good food." Elsewhere he expressed thanks that "there's an ocean between us and American plutocracy." True to the best traditions of British journalism there was no space for rebuttal of these astounding allegations. The piece was illustrated by a picture of the Statute of Liberty holding aloft a hot dog.

Dumb and Dumber.

"It's British beachhead secure, American cultural imperialism has leaped across the (English) Channel to corrupt the rest of Europe's youngsters with mental bubblegum, according to a children's television survey published today." So reported The Guardian on 16 February 1998. On 24 February it published a statement by the author of the survey in its "Corrections and Clarifications" column. He insisted that the survey had not said that the increase in imported cartoons was a dumbing-down. The Professor went on "Cartoons and US programmes are not inherently low in quality, and children are entitled to enjoy them."

The American Nightmare.

"The American Nightmare" was the banner that The Guardian chose to advertise its book of the week, Michael Moore's book "Downsize This!" As if downsizing were not as much a British phenomena as an American one. Or unemployment not higher in the UK than in the US.

More on Moore.

"There is one American who understands irony." That was the headline in the Independent to a piece on the American responsible for TV Nation and Roger and Me. According to the report that followed, American TV executives are nervous about the way in which Moore reveals the "ridiculous as well as the iniquitous" in American life. But it seems that Michael Moore finds the British monarchy ridiculous also and will be fantasising about sex with Elizabeth Windsor in his new show. We will see how well that British sense of irony stands up to that!

US Blamed for Mexican Human Rights Abuses.

The 1 April 1998 edition of the liberal British broadsheet the Guardian reported on human rights abuses by Mexican anti-narcotics special forces. The thrust of the article however was to place blame on the United States because members of the elite military group had received training at Fort Brass, North Carolina. Thus the headline was "US trained Mexican 'torture squad'." The report contained nothing of substance to link the alleged abuses to the American training.

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