how the world sees america

May 2007 Archives

May 4, 2007 12:00 AM

Press Release

Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive’s PostGlobal Launches
“How the World Sees America”
Site Explores the Love-Hate Relationship with America through Unique First-Hand Global Commentary

WASHINGTON, May 16, 2007 – Armed only with a journalist’s curiosity, a digital video camera, a starting point, a rough itinerary and few seconds to capture a compelling story; Amar Bakshi wants to know what individuals around the world really think about America – why some love us, why some hate us and how we affect their lives day-to-day. Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive (WPNI), the online publishing subsidiary of The Washington Post Company, today announced the launch of “How the World Sees America,” a new multimedia blog on PostGlobal, the online conversation on global issues moderated by Washington Post Columnist, David Ignatius and Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria. (

Through daily 30-second video clips and blog entries, PostGlobal correspondent and videographer, Amar Bakshi, 23, will ask readers to help guide his itinerary, interviews and questions as he puts a human face on what the global community really thinks about America.

“With ‘How the World Sees America’ we are promoting a new type of global commentary. By combining in-the-field reporting and emerging technology, PostGlobal can now share multimedia stories about people and places in the news. We can connect America and the world in a new way, and explore the reasons for America's growing unpopularity in many countries,” says David Ignatius award-winning journalist and moderator of PostGlobal.
“Bakshi has the opportunity to get behind the rhetoric and interview real people for insight into how U.S. policy, events and culture affect the world.”

The first leg of Bakshi’s exploration takes him to the United Kingdom, Pakistan and India. Subsequent destinations will be dictated by world events and reader suggestions; perhaps Egypt and Iran, China and Japan or Mexico and Venezuela. One day Bakshi may feature interviews from a protest rally on the streets of Islamabad, another may offer perspectives from an underground rave in Manchester, and on yet another day, he may share insights from a factory worker in Bangalore.

“This is a significant break from other forms of online journalism where a videographer spends three weeks making a 5 minute clip,” states Amar Bakshi. “Everyday readers can follow my journey in detail. The idea is to get them involved in some of the decision making that goes into ‘How the World Sees America’,” he adds.

PostGlobal provides a running discussion of important issues among dozens of the world's best-known editors, writers and journalists. Now, through the “How the World Sees America,” project, PostGlobal offers readers an even more immediate response to those issues. Through glimpses into interesting lives, reactions to world issues and events and diverse perspectives on the United States from shopkeepers, students, small town officials, entertainers, booksellers and carpet makers, readers can interact with a cross-section of the global community.

“The goal of ‘How the World Sees America’ is to foster a global community of users who wish to create an open dialogue with one another. Not just about politics, but also about each other’s everyday way of life.” says Bakshi. “It is an opportunity to explore and engage in conversation about topics that may otherwise not receive exposure in mainstream media. Ultimately, this project will show the humanity of distant populations.”

Since its launch in June 2006, PostGlobal has offered a dynamic running discussion of important issues. Each Monday and Thursday, they post a question for responses from members of a diverse network of more than 40 commentators from 32 countries in six regions around the globe— from China to Iran, South Africa to Saudi Arabia, Mexico to India – wherever news is happening. Natalie Ahn is PostGlobal’s Editor/Producer.

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Media Contacts:

Kris Coratti
Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive
Office: 703-469-2763
Mobile: 571-236-7035

Donna Drew Sawyer
Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive
Office: 703-469-2965
Mobile: 240-505-5382

May 6, 2007 4:09 PM

Blog Roll

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May 6, 2007 11:59 PM

Songs About America

Heard any songs about America sung by non-Americans. Share them here. Use the comment thread to put link to music clips or YouTube videos. I'll keep updating the list. I just found this Mr. Perfect about his request for a visa to the U.S. being denied.

Mr. Perfect: "Amerimaka":

Hugh Laurie: "America":

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May 7, 2007 12:00 AM

American Living Abroad? Share Your Stories

Are you an American living abroad. Have you had experiences that are a result of your being American, both good and bad? Share them with me and your fellow readers. Thanks! Amar

May 8, 2007 12:00 AM

Link to How the World Sees America









May 8, 2007 12:05 AM

About How the World Sees America

America inhabits an increasingly hostile world. Polls show anti-Americanism reaching all-time highs. This project aims to put a human face on hostile numbers through snapshots of individual lives around the world that are affected by America economically, politically and culturally.

What does America look like out there?

Each day I'll post short text entries and embed videos that take viewers from a madrassa in India to a pub on game day in Manchester. What does a young cleric in Britain think of the U.S.? How about a craftsmen in northern Pakistan? A pop musician's mother in Iran?

Readers are essential to the success of this project. I'll move around the world offering glimpses into the lives of interesting people with diverse perspectives on the U.S. I'll rely on you to guide fellow readers to in-depth material, flesh out complex debates, and pose questions to my interviewees. I'll provide a schedule of my formal upcoming interviews. I’ll bring some of the most interesting people I meet online to answer your questions live. And I'll happily follow your leads on where to go and whom to visit.

Through these travels, I hope to foster a community of global users who ask and answer questions of one another, not just about politics, but also about ways of life. The goal is to create conversations, to show the humanity of distant populations, and, perhaps, to promote diplomacy led by citizens and journalists together.

To start off, I'll be visiting the United Kingdom, Pakistan, and my parents' country of origin, India. Let’s see what we find out about how the world sees America.

May 14, 2007 3:16 PM

A One-Way Ticket: Starting the Trip

The last time I was in the UK, I was a college kid on my way home from senior thesis research in Zimbabwe -- and from five days in jail. Needless to say, I was shaken up.

Amar en route to Manchester.

In that African dictatorship I first experienced the downside to being an American, especially a curious one with a video camera asking too many questions about state propaganda. But that wasn't all. During my five days in detention, the guards who harassed me with cookie-cutter anti-American rhetoric also treated me as an object of fascination, asking questions about American obesity, the White House, and Michael Moore.

Now I’m headed back across the Atlantic, this time to explore other peoples' views of America and their stories of how my home has impacted their lives.

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May 16, 2007 5:34 AM

Goodhart: Britain Inches Left, Away from U.S.

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Today's high anti-Americanism in Britain is just skin-deep, says PostGlobal panelist and founder of Prospect Magazine, David Goodhart. “This sentiment will disappear in five seconds,” he says, when American leadership changes hands. "Come Obama, everything changes."

But this doesn’t mean America should ignore increasing differences with its ally across the pond. It should just look more closely: “The unsung aspects of the last ten years [are that] Britain is becoming increasingly Europeanized.” Its government is moving philosophically farther away from the American model. Since acquiring power, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and the New Labour Party have pushed for myriad social protections, growing increasingly attuned to continental trends and policy experiments.

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May 16, 2007 5:58 AM

Ivy League Workaholism

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Problem sets, quizzes, quarterly exams -- that is the U.S. to Daniel Goodkin, a Brit who studied at Harvard University. The work ethic of the place nearly drove him to a shrink.

Harvard is known to be a relatively hands-off university, but compared to what he was used to -- a UK system of year-long study followed by one month of intensive testing -- it was overbearing. So when deciding where to attend law school, he chose home.

From the gates of Middle Temple, where barristers train themselves to don wigs and annunciate eloquently on minutiae, we compared notes on our learning experiences in America. Daniel argued that because of burdensome pedagogy and hyper-testing in the U.S., kids don’t learn to think for themselves.

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May 16, 2007 6:43 AM

TV in the American Language

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Jerry Springer cat fights are so much better in America! Everything over there is bigger and more dramatic, so when British drama students play Americans, they don't worry about over-doing it.

Six students in Manchester's drama school spend Tuesday evening perfecting their American accents for the “America bloc” of their theater training. They perform scenes from Neil Simon’s play California Suite in which, among other assorted disasters, a wife returns to her room at the Beverly Hills Hotel to find her husband’s hooker passed out in bed.

Reflecting on rehearsals so far, a student named Rachel tells me “It’s been a culture shock. In school we were never really taught about America.” But they’ve had plenty of exposure: Friends, Will & Grace, Frasier...Sally Jessy Rafael. “If you watched as much British TV as we watch American TV, you’d be able to impersonate us too,” they reassure me as I awkwardly say “Hallo” in a British accent. “We don’t even notice American accents on TV, like we do accents from other countries.”

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May 17, 2007 1:09 PM

WWII Sailor Nostalgic, Disenchanted

"Here's lookin' at you, kid," Bogart told women around the world.
1943: As World War II raged, Casablanca flooded the big screens, and a young British sailor named Sid Grant prowled for a “beautiful, young bird” in Manchester. These were years of romance for Sid, and America’s image was at its heart.

Now Sid is an 82-year-old living in a rough part of Manchester. He’s been divorced three times, estranged from his children, and passes his time researching his genealogy and refereeing professional weightlifting competitions.

Waxing nostalgic, he told me how he admired American soldiers six decades ago. “They were very good looking, smartly dressed, taller than us British, and always eager for a good time.”

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May 18, 2007 7:46 AM

America's Two-Edged Flag

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After 9-11, I hung an American flag prominently at the entrance to my house. Didn't think twice about it. But to a group of young British politics students at Loreto College who visited Washington and New York City last year, the omnipresence of the American flag and unabashed patriotism was “very peculiar.”

In Britain, they told me, it’s very hard to find their flag displayed publicly, especially by citizens. This is in part because the National Front movement, strong in the 1980s, co-opted the British flag for its xenophobic politics. Flying the flag in homes is often understood as a symbol of racism, they explain.

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May 21, 2007 6:51 AM

U.S. Soccer: Betting on Beckham

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Manchester - Global soccer god David Beckham is coming to Los Angeles this summer, playing for the Galaxy, hoping to make Americans love soccer as much as the world loves him. But back in the town where the legend began, patrons of a local pub called Sku tell me they’re disappointed their hero is turning down the European world of real football for nothing but glitz and glamor.

Americans, I’m told by a girl named Emma Crompton, don’t watch football (as they call the sport here) because there are “two halves, and they’re forty five minutes long in each half, and I don’t think they [Americans] have got enough concentration to watch it.” She pulls out an example, and another speculation: “In the '94 FIFA World Cup, when it was in America, they tried to change it to quarters for ads and, I reckon, because of lack of concentration.”

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May 21, 2007 10:49 AM

Ignatius & Bakshi on Anti-Americanism

David Ignatius and I were online live together sharing our thinking behind "How the World Sees America" and answering readers' questions about what we've discovered, and what I intend to explore further through this project. See the discussion transcript here.

May 23, 2007 1:45 PM

Beauty Contestants Love U.S.

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Morecambe - I'm backstage at the Morecambe beauty pageant with a video camera and twenty contestants milling about. Perfect time to talk America. And what I hear is, in short, "We love you!"

The seaside town of Morecambe tries hard to please visitors. It's full of people who've spent their lives working in the city's hospitality industry as arcade managers, ice-cream vendors, hotel receptionists, cashiers, waiters and performers. But since the 1960s, passenger airplanes and package vacations have taken Britons elsewhere, leaving Morecambe’s promenade a litter of abandoned carousels and video game parlors.

They're seeking to awaken their slumbering town, and they turn to America's tourism industry and its tourists for insights. "Americans," I'm told, "are enthusiastic for life, "do things bigger and better" and, of course, they give "loads of tips."

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May 24, 2007 10:04 AM

Big Tippers -- 'Cause You Get What You Pay For

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Morecambe - “The American public treats the people in the service industry with respect and value whereas in England we don't. We treat them as some kind of menial, almost slave labor.”

So says Barry Lucas, a former concert promoter in Lancaster, now a primary school teacher in Morecambe. With his second wife, Mary Lucas, who spent a decade with a traveling German circus dancing atop the head of an elephant and now works for the community arts center, the couple talks about their positive experiences of American hospitality, including the care they received at their second wedding in San Francisco in 1993.

Barry describes “how nice, friendly and genuine” Americans are in their own country, how one always hears “have a nice day” and receives “help in the supermarket.” Mary chimes in, “Whereas in England you get a grunt and a reluctance” to serve, in America the wait staff really seems to care. And in turn, Americans treat their wait staff well.

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May 25, 2007 6:59 AM

Lancaster Muslims After 9/11: No Politics

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"Is it worth it, having to convince someone you're not a terrorist for five hours in an airport, just to visit America?" After 9/11, Afzal Essa's answer is no.

I have dropped by Lancaster Ilahi Mosque before prayers to ask about people's experiences as Muslims in this Northwest England town. Some tell me they feel completely free to practice their religion where they are. 9/11 doesn't seem to have diminished that here, but it has created more distance between them and America, making some more reluctant to head to the United States.

Which might explain in part why the elderly men I first approach relaxing outside the mosque meet me with some reserve. They tell me to speak with the Imam because they don't care for politics. The Imam later explains, "We try to stay far away from politics. It doesn't concern us."

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May 28, 2007 11:34 AM

Remembering Singer Jeff Buckley

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Sure, Elvis, Madonna, and Puff Daddy influence world melodies, but don’t forget the musician’s musician whose haunting voice inspires far-flung others. For Paul McCartney, Chris Martin, Bono, Elton John and many others, American folk singer Jeff Buckley was that voice.

I first heard Jeff Buckley in a friend’s basement at the age of thirteen, about to succumb to teenage angst. His voice embodied the pain and delight I’d experience through the coming years. From my first kiss to my worst fights, Jeff Buckley was there, though I never dared sing.

So when I heard Karima Francis perform his song "So Real" outside Manchester’s infamous Canal Street bar scene, you can only imagine my astonishment. In this 20-year-old I heard the mystery of Jeff Buckley’s voice, just days before the tenth anniversary of the singer's death.

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May 30, 2007 7:47 AM

Blackburn Muslims Happy, Afraid That Could Change

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Though you’ll see them as a group playing soccer and eating kebabs, you won't see any of these Muslim men from Blackburn talking to my camera. They’re all afraid of saying the wrong thing and ending up a terrorist suspect.

These men live in the tight-knit Muslim area of Whalley Range. Just on the edge of the city center, this hillside community is flooded with sweet shops, halal kebab restaurants, madaris and mosques galore.

Explaining their fears, they tell me their friend was detained for three and a half years by the British government. They were not told why. And just recently he confessed to plotting terrorist activity. “He was a normal, quiet guy – quite friendly,” I was told, “But after three and a half years in jail, you’d say anything.”

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May 31, 2007 11:41 AM

Cambridge, Mass. vs. Cambridge, UK: Battle for the Brightest

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Frances Cairncross, the rector of Exeter College at Oxford University, sits in a 700-year-old chair. Oxford is old, she emphasizes. It's been around far longer than America as a whole, yet America's institutes of higher learning still manage to dominate, pulling the best students in the world to Cambridge, MA often instead of Cambridge, UK.

Consider this: Of the top ten universities in the world (here's Newsweek's rankings), eight of them are in the United States. Cambridge and Oxford are the other two. This staggering number is likely to last for a while, with rising powers like India and China "massifying higher education," as Cairncross says, but still exporting their best and brightest to the U.S. to study.

This is all good for America, says Cairncross. Talented youth from around the world study in America, make lasting bonds with citizens here, and develop "warm cuddly feelings" toward the country. Moreover, they are imbued with "a common way of seeing the world." So many global intellectuals pass through America's East Coast corridor that some level of consensus develops among them.

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PostGlobal is an interactive conversation on global issues moderated by Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria and David Ignatius of The Washington Post. It is produced jointly by Newsweek and, as is On Faith, a conversation on religion. Please send your comments, questions and suggestions for PostGlobal to Lauren Keane, its editor and producer.