Since the 4th July we’ve run our US Season, a season we hope has not only entertained, but also informed and given a different perspective, reminded you of some of the best things, and questioned some of the worst.
It’s a country that is often thought of as being very insular, but who can blame it. It has a land mass of more than 9.8m square kilometers giving it the fourth largest landmass in the world, and a population of 304m, which is the third largest in the world.
Economically, in 2014, it had a nominal GDP of $17,418.9bn, the largest in the world. Even when adjusted to account for purchasing power parity, the adjustment to take into account the different costs of goods and services throughout the world, it still comes in second.
The US is a dominant presence in global diplomacy, media, fashion, finance, food and drink, sport, pharmaceuticals and many, many more areas.
But while we have our opinion of the US, what do the US residents themselves think of not only their country, but also it’s perception by the rest of the world? I spoke to Kettle’s very own US resident and Student Life Co-Editor Alex Veeneman to find out.
You sit on both sides of the pond as it were, living in Chicago and with a strong interest in British media, how fairly do you think the media globally portray the US?
Marshall McLuhan refered to this time as the global village. New technology and the internet are really breaking down barriers, and instead of being limited by land borders and oceans, we are now more connected than ever which influences the way things are reported.
There is a lot of emphasis in the media on the politics of the US and that’s because of its political influence on the world stage, it’s the same for the economics, Hollywood, sports, you name it, American is hugely influential on the global stage, and that’s been a given for many decades. But whether the media treats the US fairly depends what’s in the news and what people want to hear about. Do they want to hear about what Obama said about the deal with Iran, or are they more interested in what Kim Kardashian is promoting. It’s really the media consumers globally that drive what is reported.
With the media choices the internet gives us, we can decide how we look at the news and what we consume, people make the choice about what they hear. Yes you do see the gun toting, crazy Yank element of media reporting, but the reason gun control is so heavily protrayed in the media is it’s such a policital issue and something people want to hear about. Not everyone is interested in every story that comes out of the US, so ultimately, what is covered and how it’s covered is mostly down to the appetite of the audience.
Some US ideals such as lack of gun control despite the number of deaths from gun crime, death penalty and relentless commercialism baffle and horrify us in the UK and many other parts of the world, is there an appetite in the US for change at all?
The culture of American politics, especially in the past few years, has become incredibly divisive, particularly with issues like gun controls, and, unfortunately, political ideology will, at times, trump the issue. It’s not down to lack of appetite for change, there are plenty of people with ideas and solutions, but we have a President who’s a democrat and a Senate that is republican, they aren’t going to agree on much or get much done. We do have an election coming up next year and perhaps this will bring about change. But whether this will bring about change to things like gun control, the things that shock and horrify the rest of the world, we will have to see.
From an American perspective, what are the worst things about the US and what are the best?
The worst thing has to be the politics, it is just so divisive, the political ideology will trump a solution to a problem, it is party before all else and it hinders progress sometimes.
The best has to be the food, you can certainly eat well! We also try to be welcoming. We have some excellent education, that is, unfortunately, increasingly expensive. It’s also incredibly diverse and different. We are and immigrant nation, something we take very seriously, and wherever you go that is reflected, meaning you can have a completely different experience wherever you go, something we feel is very unique to us.