What the World Thinks Now

by Nancy Snow

Dissident Voice

December 8, 2002



What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.

                                                                                    --Jackie DeShannon



The world is not a happy place. The just released Pew Global Attitudes survey measures the attitudes of nations from A (Angola) to V (Vietnam). 38,000 people in 44 countries reported that they’re mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore. The “it” in question is the state of the world (famine, disease, war, poverty) amidst growing dissatisfaction with how governments and their friends in high places are controlling everyday lives—militarily, economically, culturally.


The winter of our discontent includes a mood swing toward global gloom and growing anti-Americanism. “At a time when trade and technology have linked the world more closely together than ever before, almost all national publics view the fortunes of the world as drifting downward. A smaller world, our surveys indicate, is not a happier one.” Quick, notify Disney.


Despite an outpouring of global sympathy after 9/11, the world’s superpower today fares poorly in image and reputation. The majority in most countries “see U.S. policies as contributing to the growing gap between rich and poor nations and believe the United States does not do the right amount to solve global problems.” Those problems include the spread of AIDS and other infectious diseases impacting mass populations, followed by fear of religious and ethnic violence, and nuclear weapons proliferation. As we sit on the precipice of war in Iraq, we also might want to consider the following finding: “The war on terrorism is opposed by majorities in nearly every predominantly Muslim country surveyed.”


Given all this gloom and despair, where are the world’s people turning for solace? The military as an institution rates highly in most countries, which may be a natural outgrowth to rising global angst and need for security. In addition, television news networks like CNN and Al Jazeera may have something to crow about: “Despite displeasure with national and international conditions around the globe, there is no evidence of an international shoot-the-messenger syndrome. Lopsided majorities in just about every country surveyed say that news organizations have a beneficial impact on their societies. In almost every country, the media rates higher than the national government.” (These results may change now that Charles Barkley has been hired as a CNN commentator.)


What to do about those happy Canadians? Canada was the only Western country where a majority expressed satisfaction with national conditions, which makes one wonder about the skating controversy at this year’s Olympics. Seems those Canadian pair skaters would have been good sports after all about winning the silver medal. They had national healthcare at home. Canada and Britain are two friendly nations with majorities opposing the spread of Americanism in ideas and customs. This should confirm, once and for all, that anti-Americanism is not a Muslim global export. “Many people around the world, especially in Europe and the Middle East, believe the U.S. does not take into account the interests of their country when making international policies.”


The follow-up survey about Iraq gives some insight besides Bob Woodward’s about Bush at war. It indicates an “Iraqi Divide” in global public opinion. There exists no global consensus about using military force to remove Hussein from power, and “huge majorities in France, Germany and Russia oppose the use of military force to end the rule of Saddam Hussein.” The Europeans in general view U.S. intentions in Iraq with suspicion, with many suspecting a covert war-for-oil motive over the overt war-for-security position that the U.S. touts.


What does President Bush think about the Pew Global Attitudes survey results? When asked if he were concerned that his message, war on terrorism is not a war on Islam, is suffering in translation, the President responded that he hadn’t seen the Pew report but that he remained “skeptical” about polls. “I don't run my administration based upon polls and focus groups. I'm running this war against terror based upon freedom and doing my obligation to make sure our children can grow up in a free and safe society...I understand the propaganda machines are cranked up in the international community that paints our country in a bad light. We'll do everything we can to remind people that we've never been a nation of conquerors; we're a nation of liberators…The Muslim world will eventually realize, if they don't now, that we believe in freedom, and we respect all individuals -- unlike the killers, we value each life in America. Everybody is precious. Everybody counts.”


Everybody is precious. Everybody counts. So glad to hear the President speaking in favor of world peace. We’ll do everything we can to remind him.


Dr. Nancy Snow is assistant professor in the College of Communications at Cal State Fullerton (nsnow@fullerton.edu) and adjunct professor at USC. She is the author of Propaganda, Inc. and the forthcoming Information War.