Tuesday, February 18
Behind the Great Divide
Paul Krugman, The New York Times, February 18, 2003
There has been much speculation why Europe and the U.S. are suddenly at such odds. Is it about culture? About history? But I haven't seen much discussion of an obvious point: We have different views partly because we see different news.
Let's back up. Many Americans now blame France for the chill in U.S.-European relations. There is even talk of boycotting French products.
But France's attitude isn't exceptional. Last Saturday's huge demonstrations confirmed polls that show deep distrust of the Bush administration and skepticism about an Iraq war in all major European nations, whatever position their governments may take. In fact, the biggest demonstrations were in countries whose governments are supporting the Bush administration.
There were big demonstrations in America too. ...
...but the difference between the news reports Americans and Europeans see is a stark demonstration of his point. At least compared with their foreign counterparts, the "liberal" U.S. media are strikingly conservative — and in this case hawkish.
I'm not mainly talking about the print media. There are differences, but the major national newspapers in the U.S. and the U.K. at least seem to be describing the same reality.
Most people, though, get their news from TV — and there the difference is immense. The coverage of Saturday's antiwar rallies was a reminder of the extent to which U.S. cable news, in particular, seems to be reporting about a different planet than the one covered by foreign media.
What would someone watching cable news have seen? On Saturday, news anchors on Fox described the demonstrators in New York as "the usual protesters" or "serial protesters." CNN wasn't quite so dismissive, but on Sunday morning the headline on the network's Web site read "Antiwar rallies delight Iraq," and the accompanying picture showed marchers in Baghdad, not London or New York.
This wasn't at all the way the rest of the world's media reported Saturday's events, [...]