Global Hollywood

We are all experts at understanding Hollywood movies. We have to be, given their presence on most cinema and television screens. Global Hollywood is a site for discussing the success of Hollywood around the world, drawing on the work done by a group of people to produce the books Global Hollywood (2001) and Global Hollywood 2 (2005), and updating it.

Sunday, February 12, 2006



by Toby Miller

It’s a crude measure but an irresistible one. A visitor to who entered ‘Anti-Americanism’ and ‘popular culture’ as search terms on 9 October 2005 received 51, 500 hits—up 30,000 from 15 June 2004. There has been a flurry of debate recently about the connection of these themes for some time, much of it brought on by the plaintive cry uttered by a woman as she made her ashen way from the falling towers of September 11, 2001: ‘Why do they hate us?’ Her words were used by George W Bush in his address to Congress on September 20 of that year, and finding an answer has been a preoccupation ever since.

Some representative US responses include the following:

· former CBS TV news anchor Dan Rather said that the US was attacked ‘because they’re evil, and because they’re jealous of us’

· the European Audiovisual Observatory warns that regardless of its cultural messages, Hollywood was “involved” in the 2001 attacks because of the part it played in an international economy that excluded and dominated most of the world’s population

· Standard & Poors’ 2002 survey of the film industry refers to it as an ‘expanding global empire’

· former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich blamed Hollywood for the country’s abject world status, calling for a new public diplomacy that would ‘put the world in touch with real Americans, not celluloid Americans’

· then Chair of the House of Representatives International Relations Committee Henry Hyde referred to the ‘poisonous image’ of the US overseas

· novelist Don DeLillo told readers of Harpers Magazine that ‘the power of American culture to penetrate every wall, home, life and mind’ was the problem; and

· The Next Generation’s Image of Americans project from 2002 interviewed 1200 middle-class teens in a dozen countries, including 5 that are Muslim. The study found views of US residents as selfish, domineering, violent, and immoral. It attributed these views to popular culture

But the writer Arundhati Roy has powerfully queried the claim that September 11 was an assault on the US as a symbol of freedom, asking why the Statue of Liberty was left untouched, while symbols of military and economic might were targeted. She suggests that this should encourage us to understand the attack as a brutal critique of power, not of liberty, and that subsequent responses would illustrate much about the US and supposed anti-Americanism.

The hard data support her claim. A study by the International Federation of Journalists in October 2001 found blanket global coverage of the September 11 attacks, with very favorable discussion of the United States and its travails. Gerhard Schroeder announced ‘unconditional solidarity,’ NATO described it as an attack against all its members, and Le Monde simply stated ‘Nous sommes tous américains’ (We are all Americans). But shortly thereafter, the giant advertising firm McCann-Erickson’s evaluation of 37 states saw a huge increase in cynicism about the US media’s manipulation of the events. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press’ study of 42 countries in 2002 found a dramatic fall from favor for the US since that time, while follow-up encountered even lower opinions of the US nation, population, and policies worldwide, with specifically diminished support for anti-terrorism, and faith in the UN essentially demolished by US unilateralism and distrust of the Bush regime. In 2004, the advertising giant DDB declared that the US Government had ceased to be a ‘credible messenger’ in the Middle East.

In 2004, Zogby International found dramatic reductions across the Middle East in favorable ratings for the US since 2002, especially over Palestine and Iraq. ‘Which country poses the greatest danger to world peace in 2003?,’ asked Time magazine of 250,000 people across Europe, offering them a choice between Iraq, North Korea, and the United States. Eight per cent selected Iraq, 9% chose North Korea, and … but you have already done the calculation about the most feared country of all. A BBC poll in eleven countries in mid-2003 confirmed this. It found sizeable majorities everywhere disapproving of the Bush regime and the invasion of Iraq, especially over civilian casualties.

Studies of the image of US film and TV in the Middle East in 2004 reveal that they are almost the only sources of positive feeling in the region engendered by this great, tumultuous state. There is also, of course, massive variation across the region. The US-enabled and -allied society of Saudi Arabia is much more opposed to US popular culture than Morocco or Jordan, and everywhere, the much-feared youth of each country are more positive than their elders. The Saudis receive almost no US films or TV drama for public screening, but are the most determined haters, whereas those most-exposed to US TV were most positive about the country. Across the board, reactions to US imports of entertainment are effectively unrelated to the questions that really make people angry: Washington’s policies on Iraq and Palestine.

This should come as no surprise, since:

  • popular culture’s contents are not clearly and demonstrably key contributors to anti-Americanism
  • the role of the US state in the success of popular culture is vastly greater than normally recognised
  • the corporate power and foreign and commercial policies of the US, notably its militarism, are key sources of anti-Americanism; and
  • the efforts of public diplomacy to eschew popular culture, to counter-balance it, are fated towards a high-culture bias that will not address ordinary people’s needs

So what needs to be done to learn more about the global impact of our popular culture?

Recommendation 1

Unlike other First World nations, then US is not renowned for collecting, analyzing, and freely distributing information about the culture industries. Most of that information is only available on a propietary basis by for-profit firms that “sell to the trade.” For example, US companies spend US$6 billion annually polling foreign public opinion, while the Government spends just US$5-10 million. Scholars, activists, and policy-makers need access to much more detailed results of such studies than is hitherto possible. In addition, unlike European nations and the other British white-settler colonies, national US research funding for addressing these industries is severely limited, and in two senses. First, there is almost zero access by academic cultural-industries researchers to the National Science Foundation (unlike, say, anthropologists, sociologists, and political-scientists). Second, much of the extant research has been conducted in a very limited frame, focusing almost exclusively on the US, rather than its function abroad. We need an Audiovisual Observatory specifically dedicated to measuring and evaluating overseas US output and its reception and interpretation plus links between the US government.

Recommendation 2

The new public diplomacy needs to be conducted with due regard to material objections to US foreign policy, rather than being predicated on the notion of “misunderstandings” caused by popular culture explaining “why they hate us.”


Blogger Jorge Villacorta Santamato said...

"Recommendation 2

The new public diplomacy needs to be conducted with due regard to material objections to US foreign policy, rather than being predicated on the notion of “misunderstandings” caused by popular culture explaining “why they hate us.”"

Dear Mr. Miller,

Well, it is possible that we are missing the essence of the topic:


In fact, the World Trade Center demolition was part of a psychological operation developed by the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. intelligence community.

The U.S. media (movies in particular,) controlled by the U.S. intelligence community was used to condition the perception of the American (and foreign) audience in such a way that the audience would accept the feasibility of the whole situation ("the attack").

The by-product of "the attack" would be "profits" for all the people involved in the psychological operation in addition to political power.

"Popular culture" /(information operations - psychological operations) is part of the American public diplomacy.

This explanation shows the real process, I think.

Thanks for your time and patience!!


3:59 PM  

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