America's Communicative Arrogance toward the Arab World

Paul Fallavollita

There has been much discussion about America losing the public relations war in the Arab world. Various pundits and politicians have come before the cameras, calling for a renewed "Voice of America" and "Radio Free Europe"-style operation directed toward the public in the Arab world. They believe such efforts will better communicate America's "message," although it is unclear what exactly we plan to tell the Arabs as our military shuttles about their ancient and hallowed lands. These budding propagandists have apparently forgotten, while wallowing in their arrogance, to inquire whether the average Arab already knows all he wants to about America, and that it might be better if we stopped forcing our message upon unreceptive ears.

The notion that American principles and values are universal, or worse, that they should be made so, is one of the most persistent flaws in the prevailing political discourse today. One stuffed shirt on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer suggested that Hollywood and Madison Avenue were made in America, and that we should be able to sway the Arab public with the same success seen in the United States. Of course, our stuffed shirt forgot to mention an important distinction: Hollywood and Madison Avenue may be geographically in America, but in all other respects bear the stamp of the denizens of Tel Aviv.

This arrogance and lack of realism on the part of our leadership toward understanding the differences between American and foreign, particularly traditional cultures, is astonishing, at first glance. However, it becomes easier to comprehend these failures of our elites when viewed against the background of the idea that the United States is a universal nation, and that multiculturalism is destined to reign supreme. America's decadent elites are increasingly prisoners of their own narrow assumptions, and left unchecked that will bring about their ultimate demise. The elite view that the United States is simply a successful, microcosmic version of the United Nations will prove untenable. One can only hope that some day Americans will learn this without paying too high a price in blood and treasure.

Reliance on Hollywood and Madison Avenue to make America's "case" to the average Arab is unwise, simply because Arabs are not Americans. In our "diverse" society, it seems Americans have forgotten what foreigners are, that non-Americans might see things in fundamentally different ways. Surely, we cannot tout that forgetfulness as one of the elusive "strengths" of diversity we always hear about. Indeed, our leadership is proving itself hypocritical. Far from respecting the differences of others, it plans to intensify the blanketing of the Arab world with American news and culture to stamp out diversity and pave the way to forced homogenization.

The average Arab is much different from the average TV-addicted American. Those who live in traditional cultures, where life is lived a little more slowly and in consonance with enduring values, have much longer memories. America may give the Arabs more radios, and even TVs and remote controls, but no matter how many times we invite them to click through 500 channels, the Arabs will see the same thing: American materialism and decadence. They are also unlikely to forget the many injustices generated by America's hyper-interventionist foreign policy over the years.

Pouring new money and effort down the rathole of a new "Radio Free Europe" project in the Arab world is useless, not to mention dangerous. As satellite technology beams MTV and Skinemax around the world, replete with programming increasingly reliant upon gratuitous and blatant sexuality and looseness, traditional peoples are not likely to be convinced of American virtues. Indeed, such a sharp contrast (brought to you by the Jews of Hollywood and Madison Avenue), will only heighten suspicions of American Machiavellianism as we attempt to seem good, rather than be good.

A true demonstration of American virtues, the kind that typified the Old Republic, would be quite different from the current plan to step up our propaganda in the Arab world. Rather, America should end its open-ended military adventurism abroad, including in the Afghan theater, and cut off all types of aid to that rogue regime most responsible for inciting Arab ire: Israel. On the cultural front, America is better off shutting its mouth rather than building new megaphones and broadcasting towers. It is high time to clean up America's popular culture that so revolts those more spiritual peoples overseas (and plenty of Americans here at home). Pulling the plug forever on borderline pornographic media products, including Sumner Redstone's MTV, should be a priority. Such a bold, America-First plan is sure to eliminate the primary cause of terrorism against us: the pushiness and projection of American decadence.


Paul Fallavollita holds an M.A. in political science from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. He can be reached at


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