The American president’s debut on the international stage has been remarkable not only by the change he manifestly represents in the eyes of the world, but by the world at last being brought into America’s living room.
The riots in London and Strasbourg were given extensive coverage, and viewers were actually told what some of the demonstrators’ grievances were. This was followed today by a primer on NATO, for those too young to remember why it was formed (to defend against a possible aggression on the part of the Soviet Union) or why it still exists (to ensure access by the developed world to Middle Eastern and Southwest Asian oil and gas supplies, as spelled out explicitly by Noam Chomsky on Democracy Now, but not yet on CNN).
I suspect Barack Obama knows that a media revolution is necessary if Americans are to understand the world he is grappling with, but access to information will be gradual: it will still be necessary to watch the BBC, the English language news broadcasts of German television (Deutsche Welle), and read The Nation, Harpers and In These Times, as well as one’s favorite blog.
That the president should elicit enthusiasm on the part of French President Sarkozy who a day ago was threatening to walk out of the G-20 if he didn’t get his way, or warmth on the part of Germany’s Iron Premier, Angela Merkl is not surprising if one considers that all three are situated in the political center. What the American public needs to know - but has only been told in passing - is that the reason why the president’s European centrist allies have refused to entertain big stimulus packages to put people back to work, is that ample safety nets and social benefits are part and parcel of their financial systems - even when led by the center right.
Some commentators will continue to remark without too much emphasis on the European refusal to pony up. I suspect the editorial rooms of the networks are aware that the cat is coming out of the bag and that, even as the ridiculous ads against health care reform are paraded across their screens, they are encouraged to let Americans know the kinds of things the rest of the world considers normal.