A New Kind of News

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The Internet lets the world hear American voices they haven’t heard before.

Probably the most noticable trend in my emails are nonAmericans essentially saying, “Thank God there is
somebody sane in the United States.” They think we Americans have all gone mad, and they’re afraid President
Bush simply is just as nuts to begin with, or will get dragged along with the tide.

I think these people need to keep something in mind.

This is the first real war situation in which America is involved during the Internet Age.

This is the first time when a majority of the American population, including every bozo and yahoo out there, can literally shoot their mouths off to a worldwide audience. Maybe not a big audience, but
a worldwide one.

Something you should also keep in mind is that if you’re looking in areas like computer hardware forums, who are the vast majority of the participants? Young men. Young men have always been more than a bit on the belligerent side. Young men fight wars; they don’t run them.

I’m not horribly shocked by some of the primitive sentiments being expressed, those voices have always been here. The only thing that’s different is that the whole world is hearing them, in many cases for the first time.

What you don’t know is that these voices don’t and won’t determine American foreign or military policy. You need to understand that the average American pays little to no attention to foreign policy. It’s not important to him, and he or she is not interested in it.

Foreign policy to the average American is media-driven. Every once in a while, somebody acts up someplace, and people jump up and down a bit. Then it gets handled one way or the other, and Americans mentally go back to whatever else they were doing.

It takes an awful lot to get the average American focused on foreign policy. For instance, I would bet the average American is only vaguely aware, if even that, of the recent problems between Israel and the Palestinians.

That’s certainly not the impression you’d ever get looking at the New York Times, but the average American is not reading the New York Times everyday, but rather something more along the lines of USA Today when it comes to foreign affairs.

Even more likely, he or she just relies on television, which means a few happy Arabs jumping on and down is a much bigger opinion-maker than it ought to be. When you ask somebody who is saying, “Nuke ’em” why they’d want to do that, he almost always cites those Arabs he saw acting like jumping beans, and automatically assumes it’s their national pasttime.

Now the New York Times nonetheless will often give you a pretty good idea about what America will end up doing, which brings us to the next point.

Since the average American places little importance on the outside world, he or she is usually at least acquiescent about letting the pros run this. He may complain, or be downright xenophobic, but it’s not a factor when that person goes to the voting booth.

So if you read ten people saying, “Nuke ’em,” it’s not like Colin Powell is speaking, or that those ten people are going to tell Colin Powell what to say or do.

Email Ed

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