THORMANN: Partisan Media Undermines America’s Reputation Abroad


Monday, November 2, 2020

YouGov recently released a poll showing overwhelmingly support of the Democratic nominee Joe Biden among Europeans. He’s favored in Denmark, Germany, Spain, and France over the incumbent president by more than a 50 percent margin. You might ask: Who cares? After all, other countries don’t get a say in the US presidential election.

But the world’s view of the president affects the reputation of the United States around the globe. Unfortunately, partisan news coverage only exacerbates this low opinion of the president and the US as a whole.

Obviously, Trump shares some blame given his aggressive rhetoric and staggering insults but polling data from Western Europe shows similar sentiments about both Trump and former Republican President Bush, despite their diametrically opposed style and foreign policy. Meanwhile, Democrat Obama enjoyed record-high confidence. And the same is true on polling about a favorable view of the United States itself. You can see a rather significant up and downtick every time a Republican or Democrat respectively has been elected in the last years. There’s a marked distaste for Republican presidents in general, not just for Trump.

Without a doubt, media, not the policies of these presidents, plays a role in their low favorability. When self-styled objective media outlets routinely vilify the president as some fascist strongman or Russian puppet, that’s more than just the usual criticism. And this affects foreign news media coverage.

Take the DHS deployment in Portland, Oregon, for example. Using federal law enforcement to protect federal buildings from violent attacks is not a legally controversial decision. Nonetheless, US media characterized it as an autocratic crackdown. Many foreign outlets get their news directly from American mainstream media and so run headlines like German FAZ’s “When the president sends unmarked troops”–accompanied by a photo of federal officers. It goes on to report that “Donald Trump sends his own troops to Portland to crackdown on protests… These are images that Americans have never seen before from their country.”

This is the result of partisan hacks in the American media landscape framing federal police officers, even if they are acting in a defensive role protecting buildings, as “stormtroopers” or some kind of Gestapo. Pictures of heavily armed US officers shooting tear gas went around the world, while the media omitted news about the violent mob that attacked them, claiming those were “peaceful protests.” Portraying the US government as authoritarian does no favor to the political debate but instead complements foreign propagandists who work tirelessly to do just that in order to damage America’s standing in the world. 

Foreign dictators frequently use these narratives to incite anti-American hatred among their population, organizing marches with chants of “Death to America!” and burning the US flag. Now, the anti-American narrative pushed by many journalists drives some Americans to do just that in American streets. If that’s how some Americans are made to think of the US, no other countries similar consider America to no longer be the beacon of freedom.

How the world thinks about America matters, especially in the West. People will base their policy preferences on that. They will vote for leaders with pro- or anti-American stances based on that view. This can be seen in Latin America for example, where far-left populists like Hugo Chavez have utilized anti-Americanism. If the American journalists from CNN to the editorial pages of the NYT care about the international order, they should reconsider the comparisons of Republicans to foreign dictators or false accusations of GOP collusion with the Russians.

Sebastian Thormann is studying Information Systems at the University of Passau, Germany. He is interested in US and German politics as well as economics. His other hobbies include coding, skiing, and playing the piano.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.

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About Sebastian Thormann

Sebastian Thormann is studying Information Systems at the University of Passau, Germany. He is interested in US and German politics as well as economics. His other hobbies include coding, skiing, and playing the piano.

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