Exploring U.S. Citizens' Perceptions of Foreign Media's Representations of America: A Systematic Review

Exploring U.S. Citizens' Perceptions of Foreign Media's Representations of America: A Systematic Review

Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9312-6.ch010
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Given their global impact, America's policies have been fueling socio-political and media discourse in countries across the globe. One hardly finds a country where news events involving the U.S. do not attract media attention or represent food for political thought. Media coverage of such events is always a propitious forum to (mis)represent the U.S. In this chapter, a critical review of literature is used to show how foreign media's representations of the U.S. have mainly varied according to three things: periods in history, U.S. presidents, and the U.S.'s ideological and socio-cultural affinities with foreign countries. The chapter equally examines American audiences' perceptions of foreign media's representations of the U.S. It argues that defining such popular perceptions is really difficult due to conflicting theories and the dearth of empirical research on the topic. The available research works however suggests that such perceptions somehow justify myths purporting that American citizens mostly tend not to be open minded towards sources that negatively portray Americans and the U.S.
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Americans are primarily focused on their own domestic affairs, [...] But it would be of great use for Americans and everyone else if they could see themselves through other eyes. It would only improve mutual understanding – Alexey Dubosarsky, cited in The Christian Science Monitor (2018)

We [Americans] should turn to the global media, not because it is any more accurate than our own in the U.S., but because they can fill out our picture of events that involve “them”, whoever they may be, helping us see their causes and potential effects.[...] We can listen to American news about the Middle East and understand nothing about the divisions between Sunnis and Shia, Arabs and Persians, Baathists and the Iraqi people, but it would be impossible to remain in complete ignorance if we had read the media of any one of these groups – Robin Koerner in If you can keep it, (2018, p.29-30)

The U.S. has, for some decades now, represented a dominant, if not the most influential power in the realm of world politics (Beeson, 2004; Dimant, Krieger & Meierrick, 2017; Kazin, 2011; Lacorne, 2005; Meunier, 2016). Though constituting less than 5 percent of the world population, America is believed by many to be the richest economy and the most powerful nation on earth. Its omnipresence in the globe has made it to be on the radars of almost all nations on the world (Bandow, 2018; Costa & Goodkin, n/d). This influential position has made America’s internal and foreign policies to seriously affect the socio-political and economic lives of many countries and peoples across the globe, and to subtly fuel socio-political and media discourses in foreign climes. As noted by Beeson (2004), the “unipolarity” in world politics has immensely benefited the U.S. It has actually made America’s domestic and foreign policies to assume an unprecedented prominence in the affairs of other nations. Almost all the nations of the globe have flexibly learned to tolerate, accommodate, and where possible, benefit from the evolution of U.S.’ dominance or hegemony. As the founder of the site www.WatchingAmerica.com Robin Koerner (cited in Leach, 2005) puts it, most often, people outside the U.S. are more affected by American policies than American themselves. One also observes that, as the U.S. citizens go to polls to elect their president every four years, the rest of the world usually looks on with a mix of hope, apprehension, trepidation and fascination.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Americanism: Attachment or loyalty to ideals, traditions, and institutions of the United States of America.

Orientalism: A point of view which tends to imagine, emphasize, exaggerate, and distort Arab cultures, civilizations, and peoples vis-à-vis those of other continent (particularly the West).

Media Representations: The ways in which aspects of the society notably gender, race, ethnic and social classes among others, are presented to audiences by the media. It is equally the ways in which the media portrays communities, ideas, experiences and genders from a particular ideological, philosophical, or cultural perspective. Media representation entails media “re-presentation” or “re-creation” of reality.

Communism: Social, political and economic ideology whose ultimate goal is the creation of a communist society. Such a society is a socioeconomic order based on common ownership of means of production and the absence of social classes, money, and the state.

Stereotypes: Over-generalized beliefs about a particular social group. It is equally a set of ideas (mostly negative ideas) one has about a particular ethnic group, a race and gender among other social categories. Most stereotypes are racist, sexist, or xenophobic in nature.

Stereotyping: The act of putting people into groups or categories.

Anti-Americanism: A sentiment which combines a dislike or phobia for Americans, American government, and/or its (foreign) policies.

American Exceptionalism: A myth or politico-philosophical theory stipulating that America is unique among other nations in terms of national sentiment, political evolution, adherence to democratic principles and civil liberties.

Capitalism: An economic and political doctrine which advocates that countries’ trade and industries should be controlled by private owners for profit, and not by the state.

Watching America: A site created in 2005 with the vision of helping Americans and national from other countries understand what the world thinks about current issues involving the United States of America. The site provides translations of news and opinions published originally in foreign countries in languages other than English.

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