Highlights

 
Quotable
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised "for the good of its victims" may be the most oppressive.
C. S. Lewis
Original Letters Blog US Casualties Contact Donate

 
December 13, 2006

Is the USA the Center
of the World?


by Norman Solomon

(Author's note: Some things don't seem to change. Five years after I wrote this column in the form of a news dispatch, it seems more relevant than ever.)

WASHINGTON – There were unconfirmed reports yesterday that the United States is not the center of the world.

The White House had no immediate comment on the reports, which set off a firestorm of controversy in the nation's capital.

Speaking on background, a high-ranking official at the State Department discounted the possibility that the reports would turn out to be true. "If that were the case," he said, "don't you think we would have known about it a long time ago?"

On Capitol Hill, leaders of both parties were quick to rebut the assertion. "That certain news organizations would run with such a poorly sourced and obviously slanted story tells us that the liberal media are still up to their old tricks, despite the current crisis," a GOP lawmaker fumed. A prominent Democrat, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said that classified briefings to congressional intelligence panels had disproved such claims long ago.

Scholars at leading think tanks were more restrained, and some said there was a certain amount of literal truth to the essence of the reports. But they pointed out that while it included factual accuracy in a narrow sense, the assertion was out of context and had the potential to damage national unity at a time when the United States could ill afford such a disruption.

The claim evidently originated with a piece by a Lebanese journalist that appeared several days ago in a Beirut magazine. It was then picked up by a pair of left-leaning daily newspapers in London. From there, the story quickly made its way across the Atlantic via the Internet.

"It just goes to show how much we need seasoned, professional gatekeepers to separate the journalistic wheat from the chaff before it gains wide attention," remarked the managing editor of one news program at a major U.S. television network. "This is the kind of stuff you see on ideologically driven Web sites, but that hardly means it belongs on the evening news." A news magazine editor agreed, calling the reports "the worst kind of geographical correctness."

None of the major cable networks devoted much air time to reporting the story. At one outlet, a news executive's memo told staffers that any reference to the controversy should include mention of the fact that the United States continues to lead the globe in scientific discoveries. At a more conservative network, anchors and correspondents reminded viewers that English is widely acknowledged to be the international language – and more people speak English in the U.S. than in any other nation.

While government officials voiced acute skepticism about the notion that the United States is not the center of the world, they declined to speak for attribution. "If lightning strikes and it turns out this report has real substance to it," explained one policymaker at the State Department, "we could look very bad, at least in the short run. Until it can be clearly refuted, no one wants to take the chance of leading with their chin and ending up with a hefty serving of Egg McMuffin on their face."

An informal survey of intellectuals with ties to influential magazines of political opinion, running the gamut from The Weekly Standard to The New Republic, indicated that the report was likely to gain little currency in Washington's elite media forums.

"The problem with this kind of shoddy impersonation of reporting is that it's hard to knock down because there are grains of truth," one editor commented. "Sure, who doesn't know that our country includes only small percentages of the planet's land mass and population? But to draw an inference from those isolated facts that somehow the United States of America is not central to the world and its future – well, that carries postmodernism to a nonsensical extreme."

Another well-known American journalist speculated that the controversy will soon pass: "Moral relativism remains a pernicious force in our society, but overall it holds less appeal than ever, even on American campuses. It's not just that we're the only superpower – we happen to also be the light onto the nations and the key to the world's fate. People who can't accept that reality are not going to have much credibility."


comments on this article?
 
Archives

  • These Colors Cannot Run… Afghanistan
    3/25/2009

  • Freeing Up Resources... for More War
    2/26/2009

  • Why Are We Still at War?
    2/4/2009

  • 44 Years Later, LBJ's Ghost Hovers Over the 44th President
    1/27/2009

  • A Hundred Eyes for an Eye
    12/30/2008

  • The Silent Winter of Escalation
    12/9/2008

  • Finally, the Story of the Whistleblower Who Tried to Prevent the Iraq War
    9/26/2008

  • Deadly 'Diplomacy'
    6/13/2008

  • NPR News: National Pentagon Radio?
    3/28/2008

  • The War Election
    3/5/2008

  • In Honor of My Mother and the Power of Love
    1/24/2008

  • The United States of Violence
    10/19/2007

  • The Pro-War Undertow of the Blackwater Scandal
    10/17/2007

  • Sputnik, 50 Years Later: The Launch of Techno-Power
    10/5/2007

  • Here's the Smell of the Blood Still
    9/13/2007

  • Six Years of 9/11 as
    a License to Kill
    9/11/2007

  • Let's Face It: The Warfare State Is Part of Us
    8/23/2007

  • Backspin for War: The Convenience of Denial
    8/17/2007

  • Let Us Now Praise an Infamous Woman – and Our Own Possibilities
    8/8/2007

  • Media Blitz for War: The Big Guns of August
    8/3/2007

  • Media Spin on Iraq: We're Leaving (Sort of)
    7/27/2007

  • From the Grave, a Senator Exposes Bloody Hands on Capitol Hill
    7/20/2007

  • A Bloody Media Mirror
    7/6/2007

  • War at the Remote
    6/19/2007

  • The Silence of the Bombs
    6/12/2007

  • Deadly Illusions, Rest in Peace
    5/25/2007

  • Bowing Down to Our Own Violence
    4/20/2007

  • MoveOn Whitewashes Hillary's Iran Belligerence
    4/13/2007

  • McCain Walks in
    McNamara's Footsteps
    4/3/2007

  • 'Pragmatism' Is Prolonging
    the War
    3/14/2007

  • Making an Example of
    Ehren Watada
    2/7/2007

  • The Pentagon vs.
    Press Freedom
    1/23/2007

  • The Headless Horseman of the Apocalypse
    1/10/2007

  • Powell, Baker, Hamilton – Thanks for Nothing
    12/19/2006

  • Is the USA the Center
    of the World?
    12/13/2006

  • It's Happening Again
    12/6/2006

  • The New Media Offensive Against Withdrawal
    11/17/2006

  • Saddam's Unindicted Co-Conspirator
    11/7/2006

  • The Pundit Path for Death in Iraq
    10/14/2006

  • Welcome to the Nuclear Club
    10/10/2006

  • 'Quagmire' Isn't the Right Word
    10/3/2006

  • Media Tall Tales
    for the Next War
    9/26/2006

  • The World's View of the US 'War on Terror'
    9/9/2006

  • Spinning the Troop Levels in Iraq
    9/6/2006

  • Bush vs. Ahmadinejad: A Debate We'll Never See
    9/1/2006

  • The Mythical End to the Politics of Fear
    8/25/2006

  • News Media's Love-Hate for Nuclear Weapons
    8/7/2006

  • Applauding While
    Lebanon Burns
    7/27/2006

  • Their Barbarism, and Ours
    6/22/2006

  • Hillary Clinton's
    Premature Triangulation
    6/16/2006

  • The Urbanity of Evil
    6/6/2006

  • How Long Will MoveOn.org Fail to Oppose Bombing Iran?
    4/18/2006

  • When War Crimes Are Impossible
    4/5/2006

  • Blaming the Media for
    Bad War News
    3/24/2006

  • War-Loving Pundits
    3/17/2006

  • Mahatma Bush
    3/1/2006

  • The Iran Crisis: 'Diplomacy' as a Launch Pad for Missiles
    2/7/2006

  • Domestic Lying: The Question Journalists Don't Ask Bush
    1/30/2006

  • Axis of Fanatics – Netanyahu and Ahmadinejad
    1/7/2006

  • The NY Times Fails Its Readers
    12/30/2005

  • NSA Spied on Diplomats in Push for Iraq War
    12/28/2005

  • A New Salvo of
    Bright Spinning Lies
    12/23/2005

  • Blurring Terrorism and Insurgency in Iraq
    12/13/2005

  • Rumsfeld's Handshake Deal With Saddam
    12/9/2005

  • Hidden in Plane Sight
    12/6/2005
  • Norman Solomon's book Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State is out now.

    Reproduction of material from any original Antiwar.com pages
    without written permission is strictly prohibited.
    Copyright 2014 Antiwar.com