Sunday, October 10, 2004

"Corrections": A Trans-Int Feature

As noted in the "welcome" post, one of the principal purposes of the Trans-Int blog is to counter the misperceptions about European matters encouraged by the woeful misreporting on Europe in the "mainstream" American media. These misperceptions are often, by the way, shared by at least parts of the "right" and the "left", presumably because "opinion-makers" and indeed policy-makers on both sides of the aisle largely rely on the same basic sources for their (flawed) information. One such "bi-partisan" myth about Europe concerns, for instance, the alleged "pacifism" of Europe: or, more precisely, of the leading European powers, Germany and France, since in the American press when one speaks of "Europe", it is almost always just France and Germany that one has in mind. Prominent commentators from the "right" denounce this alleged pacifism (as, in effect, dangerously utopian and/or parasitic upon American military might); commentators from the "left" celebrate it. But the whole seeming debate obscures the fact that the "Europe" of Franco-German aspirations, as numerous developments indicate and as I will have occasion to discuss in future posts, is anything but "pacifist" by nature.

"The Legend of the Squandered Sympathy" is a sort of "long form" attempt to correct one of these misperceptions or myths. As you may have guessed, it was not written in one sitting. It was written over a couple of years and went through various permutations. In fact, I can tell you that when I first tried to shop an article on the theme a couple of years ago as the "legend" was only first emerging, various traditional print outlets did not want to publish it. One editor, for instance, noted condescendingly that I had merely provided a "digest" of the European press - as if the extremity of the anti-American sentiment being given expression in the French and German press ought not in itself to have been of interest to an American audience! In any case, as I noticed the importance the "legend" was taking on in the context of the US presidential campaign, I wanted to get an updated version of the article out as quickly as possible. (A propos, I did not count all the times John Kerry in Friday's debate again talked about President Bush "pushing away" "our allies". It is not easy to "push away" someone who is already running in the opposite direction.) So, I took the occasion to launch this blog.

Now that it is launched, however, I intend to comment regularly and in a more punctual fashion on mistakes and misrepresentations in the media as they emerge - in the hope that I might be able to contribute a little to their not coalescing into full-fledged myths later on. These commentaries might be considered the "Corrections" section of the Transatlantic Intelligencer. Of course, not being infallible, I have no doubt that I will myself make some errors and I will try my best to correct them too as I become or am made aware of them. But the "Corrections" feature of Trans-Int will consist rather of those corrections which you should have seen in the "mainstream" media but did not. No better place to start than the New York Times and the mind-bogglingly twisted profile of Tariq Ramadan printed in last Wednesday's edition. Back with this first "correction" a bit later.