Throughout the early 20th century, the United States’ employed a foreign policy of isolationism. It was believed that the United States could make it alone, leaving the rest of the world to make decisions regarding peace on their own. We didn’t need the rest of the world and they didn’t need us. This false idea of detachment fueled foreign policy decisions for decades, and almost kept us out of both World Wars. The United States’ non-interventionism was most visible when we created the League of Nations, an organization aiming to unite the world, but then failed to join it ourselves. Eventually it was realized that in the age of digital connectivity, global enterprise, and high-speed travel, it is absurd to believe a modern nation can remain detached from the world. Needless to say, the conflict in Iraq alone shows our foreign policy is anything but non-interventionist or isolationist today.
But the idea still lingers in our media.
Although our government does extensive work with nations abroad, our media rarely steps outside the US borders. But while the news media continually fails to report on world news, in many ways the fault lies on the audience. Quite frankly, the typical American short attention span has no room for international news. And unfortunately, corporate news outlets have to cater to their audiences. The lack of interest has caused the public and the media to re-embrace the idea of isolationism. We find the citizens of America regrettably disconnected from the world, ignorant of the effects their own country is causing.
But does it really matter that many Americans couldn’t care less about what’s going on across the globe?
Yes, the global foreign policy in combination with an isolationist public sentiment creates a crucial disconnect. Many Americans have a false perception about the world, about what is important, and about how America is affecting lives across the globe. When our country involves itself in conflicts abroad but no one here takes any interest in it, those in power are essentially allowed to operate unchecked and uncriticized by those who put them in power back at home. And when we do hear about the atrocities America is causing through the muted US news media, it is merely dishearteningly unsurprising to us. People carry on with their day, untroubled, despite the horrible things happening in the world often in their name. And to think we’re surprised when we hear that other nations don’t like us.
Compare any US news publication other than The New York Times, with one abroad. Notice the difference? CNN and FoxNews will feature maybe one international piece as long as it’s scandalous, sensationalized, or glorifies America. Our news media lacks that mind-opening quality that other organizations value so highly. In comparison, foreign news outlets such as BBC and Al Jazeera feature mostly international pieces. Our media and our public have become irresponsible. They produce and consume cheap, entertaining, and self-satisfying “news”. Because of this isolationist news media trend, most of the United States continues to be uninformed of happenings around the world, even though many of them are relevant to you, me, and the future of America.