Today I came across a very interesting article in the New Zealand Herald newspaper entitled “US power and influence warrent careful scrutiny” by columnist Barbara Sumner Burstyn. She starts off by explaining why she writes about America so much (and gets flack from her readers because of her perceived anti-American stance):
“So why do it? The answer is simple: America matters. Politically, economically and culturally, the United States is the paramount world influence.
Every day we, out here in the colonies, are affected by America. From the television we watch, to the runaway films our creative community must make to stay alive, to the rules that influence our food, medical and education systems and standards, to the shoes we choose to wear and the coffee many of us drink.”
I often wonder how much the so-called “blogosphere” is a product of American culture. This is a question, not a statement. When I look at my blogroll, I see a good variety of countries represented: Italy, England, New Zealand, Sweden, India, Canada. The rest are American. But my point is actually not about where people are located, it’s about how people on the blogosphere communicate and what we write about – which seems to me to be very Americanized.
I include myself in this. I write mostly about Web technology and subjects like Individuality and blogging – very US-centric topics. I use mostly American-produced software to write, read, converse and rank in the blogosphere. My RSS Aggregator is overflowing with bloggers writing about Howard Dean, Orkut, IT outsourcing, Janet Jackson, etc – stories that mostly originate and propagate in America. It’s not just the blogosphere of course, it’s tv and movies and the rest of modern western culture. But I’ve not seen anyone else in the blogosphere raise this as a concern. Is it a concern?
That’s not to say that little countries on the bottom of the world don’t have any influence on American culture. Look at this year’s Academy Awards. The New Zealand-made film The Lord of the Rings is widely tipped to rake in the Oscars this year. Wellington lad Peter Jackson will probably take out Best Director. Another kiwi is up for Best Actress – young Keisha Castle-Hughes. Us kiwis are rightly very proud of New Zealand’s success in the highly Americanized movie industry. But shhh, actually Lord of the Rings is a very American movie. It’s a big budget Hollywood blockbuster. An incredibly well-made one, to be sure. But we cannot escape the fact that it never would’ve got made if it weren’t for US money and the Hollywood studio bigwigs who gave it the green light. And those decisions were made based on whether the studio bosses thought American audiences would pay to see it.
Having said that, Whale Rider is a beautiful New Zealand movie (starring Keisha Castle-Hughes) that has little American influence. It’s uniquely kiwi. So I’m not saying that American culture blocks out the chance for other cultures to be heard or seen. But US culture does tend to dominate creative output – be it movies, tv programs, weblog posts.
I’ll leave you with a final bit from the Herald article:
These columns are not anti-American; they are an attempt to create dialogue, to raise consciousness of the consequences of the globalising, systemising and McDonald-ising of our culture and how US domestic and foreign policy affects us all.
Unsurprisingly, most of the disgruntled letter writers are either Americans living here or with business connections in this country, or New Zealanders with business in the US. Take from that what you will, but to them and others who disagree with the contents of these columns, I have one comment – question authority; everything on television or the radio that purports to be fact and everything you read (including this column).
Well I guess that’s what the blogosphere is good at – creating dialogue and questioning authority. But I ask you: is the blogosphere a self-perpetuating system, in love with the sound of its own voice? Are we all trying to grab our own piece of the American Dream? Is the Blogosphere a virtual avatar of America herself?