Letter from London: A Brit visits the RNC, finds — shock! — media bias
Last week, I attended the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. There, I had a chance to witness speeches from the great and the good of the the Republican Party, ranging from Ann Romney to Chris Christie to Marco Rubio and Mitt Romney.
As an American who has lived overseas for over 20 years, my perspective is very different from most. With Europe forever awash with an underlying anti-Americanism, I spend a lot of time defending the United States and what it stands for. But in the United States, I also see a country that desperately needs to re-assert the values that made it great, rather than apologize for its very existence.
With that, here are some of my observations from the Republican convention last week…
1. Invoking the Forgotten American Dream
The “American Dream” — that likely lured your great grandparents from a foreign land to the United States, led them to work hard, and eventually to succeed — was invoked by virtually every speaker at the Republican convention. It dove-tailed well with the “we built that” banners decorating convention hall, and evoking President Obama’s dismissive comment during the summer about small business and self-reliance.
Yet, this overarching theme was completely ignored by the media. It was also explicitly disdained by President Obama when he observed that “you could have watched the convention on black and white TV.” It’s as if the “American Dream” was a passing fad like the 1950s TV show “Leave it to Beaver.”
Yet the “American Dream” is part of the essential fabric of American identity. It’s what has drawn immigrants to the United States during its entire history. It’s what makes the United States different from rising economic powers like Brazil or India or China.
After all, no one has ever risked his life on a makeshift raft to Cuba.
Yet it’s a sad comment that searches for the words “American Dream” on Google have halved over the past eight years.
2. Apocalypse Delayed
The hullabaloo surrounding a hurricane that I don’t think even came within 100 miles of Tampa left me scratching my head.
Yes, last Monday was a little windy and I did see some occasional showers. And maybe it’s just because I live in cloudy London, but this hardly seemed like a reason to cancel the first day of the convention.
Yet when I turned on the TV, apparently I was living through the apocalypse — or a divine sign that God is a Democrat.
3. A Remarkable Left Wing Media Bias
Immersing myself in the mainstream U.S. media, I found the left-leaning bias startling.
On one level, I had already known this. In his book “Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind,” Tim Grosclove struggled to find a single county in the United States that was as right leaning as Washington political reporters are left leaning.
On another level, I had never realized what this meant in practice. I was flabbergasted at the way the U.S. mainstream media spun every Republican convention-related news towards the negative.
One story I read warned of the nightmare of a “split screen” convention for the Republicans where on one side, New Orleans, was being hammered by a hurricane, while on the other, Republicans heartlessly partied on, unwilling to cancel the entire convention in solidarity with the hurricane’s suffering victims.
Kudos for the media’s creativity, though. I’d struggle to even make stuff like this up.
4. The British Perspective
As a general rule, Europeans don’t like celebrations of American exceptionalism. Much of this is just cultural snobbery, as Andrew Markovitz argues in his book “Uncouth Nation: Why Europe Dislikes America.” All the talk of “this is the greatest nation the world has ever known” irks even sympathetic Europeans to no end.
This is particularly true of the British, who view themselves as “Greece” to the United States as “Rome.” Yet considering how the British press took apart Mitt Romney on his visit to London, the coverage of the Republican convention in the United Kingdom has been surprisingly restrained. In this morning’s Financial Times, columnist Gedeon Rachmann even declared “Republicans … have just had a very successful convention.”
In Sunday’s Financial Times, Rachmann reflected more on the surprising wealth of Tampa than on Clint Eastwood or the hurricane that never hit. Rachmann was as startled to see how well some Americans live as Americans are startled to see what the Brits are willing to put up with.
Oddly, Rachmann was smitten not only by Tampa’s wealth, but also by Mitt Romney’s looks. How could a guy 16 years his elder look better preserved than he does, he wondered.
To be clear, it’s often painfully obvious that even the business press in the United Kingdom like The Economist and Financial Times columnists Ed Luce are big supporters of President Obama and his policies.
That said, much like the the Sherlock Holmes story where the biggest clue was “the dog that didn’t bark,” the absence of the complete disdain with which the British media covered the Republican convention could be a hint that Europeans may be becoming less enamored with President Barack Obama than, say, the New York Times or the Washington Post.
There were other things I could write about. The security and lock-down of downtown Tampa reminded me of a scene from one of those post-apocalyptic disaster movies. I came back ever more convinced that the United States needs to go on a diet. Looking around the beaches, it’s hard not to agree with the European stereotype that Americans are eating themselves to death.
Overall, though, I thought the convention was impressive; the speakers were polished; the message optimistic; and the prospects for a return to what made the United States an exceptional place solid.
After the eight years of “War on Terror” and four years of “Change You Can Believe In,” the country deserves it.