General

Sound Familiar?

Here’s Edward Said, author of ‘Orientalism’, in 1980. Over 30 years ago, and over 20 years before September 11, 2001:

So far as the United States seems to be concerned, it is only a slight overstatement to say that Muslims and Arabs are essentially seen as either oil suppliers or potential terrorists. Very little of the detail, the human density, the passion of Arab-Moslem life has entered the awareness of even those people whose profession it is to report the Arab world. What we have instead is a series of crude, essentialized caricatures of the Islamic world presented in such a way as to make that world vulnerable to military aggression.

4 Comments on “Sound Familiar?

  1. Isn’t it s a curious fact the the US, with all their prosperity and travel and communication technology, is content over such a large percentage of the population, to remain ignorant of the rest of the world. Of course we can make the same accusation of the Muslim world in their view of the West, but they get Western TV and have fewer chances to travel.

    Do you have any insights from living in North America what might have caused that shut-in mentality there?

  2. (by saying They get Western TV, I was mentioning it as a force to put people off the West, which is perhaps a bit flippant)

  3. I think partly it’s what Said says: it’s not so much the citizens as the media that is failing. Where, in mainstream media, do we see any sort of nuanced portrayal of the ‘Other’… even in terms of charity programs, the only stories of Africa are of wars and starvation, for example. Oh, and wildlife sometimes. And so on.

    Not easy to figure out an answer, but more tolerance for complexity and ambiguity, and less of an appetite for the over-simple and superficial, might be part of the story.

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