If It Happened There…

Joshua KeatingSlate has introduced a new feature, “If It Happened There…” It is reporting on things happening in the United States the way we would report on them if they were happening in some other country. It’s a great idea, but I’m not sure that Slate is quite the right outlet for it, because as good as they are, they are dedicated to a pretty typical mainstream outlook on thing—as dedicated as they are to the #SlatePitch. But more to the point, it depends greatly what country that we are talking about. I find the mainstream media’s coverage of foreign affairs to be extremely biased based upon whether the country is a “friend” or “enemy.” For example, coverage of the same event in Venezuela and Israel would be radically different.

Bearing this in mind, consider the first installment by Joshua Keating, The Government Shutdown. If it were Israel, we would get a very objective treatment with a discussion of the different sides and little notion that one side or the other was right. “These kinds of disagreements happen in the best of governments and it will all work itself out.” Had it been Venezuela, however, the article would get a much more harsh treatment about the corruption of Maduro government. The whole thing would be told from the perspective of the opposition and some mention would be made of the fact that the opposition has never accepted the last election results (despite the fact that all the international observers have). “What do you expect from a socialist country that nationalized the oil industry?!”

What Slate provided was more or less the “friend” country version. And here’s the shocking thing: it is actually a lot more informative than what the American press has offered. In a fundamental sense, it is a whole lot more objective and less “even handed” than we normally get. Here is the meat of it:

The capital’s rival clans find themselves at an impasse, unable to agree on a measure that will allow the American state to carry out its most basic functions. While the factions have come close to such a shutdown before, opponents of President Barack Obama’s embattled regime now appear prepared to allow the government to be shuttered over opposition to a controversial plan intended to bring the nation’s health care system in line with international standards.

Most of the article is downright poetic. Keating’s writing transcends the parody—many try, most fail at such style. He only really goes for humor in the last two paragraphs. First, he writes, “While the country’s most recent elections were generally considered to be free and fair (despite threats against international observers)…” And he links to a Courthouse News Service article, Texas AG Threatens to Arrest European Election Observers. In American, the humor writes itself!

The last paragraph is a wonderful jab at Thomas Friedman:

Americans themselves are starting to ask difficult questions as well. As this correspondent’s cab driver put it, while driving down the poorly maintained roads that lead from the airport, “Do these guys have any idea what they’re doing to the country?”

That’s how the enormous mustache would put it!


Something occurred to me while writing this. Friedman’s whole thing about “I talked to a cab driver in X” is really an elitist ploy that says, “All cab drivers are represented by this one.” In other words: the little people are all in agreement, or as I like to say, “All Indians walk in single file, at leas the only one I ever saw did.” But my experience is that the “little people” actually do have strongly held opinions and they are all over the place. There is no such thing as “Joe Six-Pack.”

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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