Guardian Unlimited | US elections 2004 | The last post

Thursday, October 21st, 2004

We had an interesting discussion about globalization and cultural homogenization today (which also included a brief moment of self-doubt as I tried to figure out if those words were spelt with ‘s’ rather than ‘z’ so go figure). Students (from all nations) were very anti-American but, worryingly, seemed to equate government and people as the same thing – that’s never happened before and is somewhat telling.

At one point I stopped the discussion to say that, for all the complaints about America’s apparent aim to homogenise/ize us, we seemed to be doing exactly the same by assuming someone from Texas was the same as someone from New York.

It seems few people stop to consider the USA is 50 states (i.e. countries) or if I remember correctly 46 states and four commonwealths.

Anyway… The Guardian’s Operation Clark County project continues to gaain attention (follow the link to their follow up article from today’s edition). I’d be interested to know if it’s been widely reported in the USA and how it’s been seen. The Guardian’s G2 section, in which this started, is often quite ironic and the whole thing was slightly tongue in cheek. Rather than try to persuade people to vote for Kerry they were, like me, more concerned that people a) voted and b) realised that what happens there affects everyone around the world. That seems to have been lost on some people.

Reading some of the responses makes you glad there’s an Atlantic ocean between us but the problem is, every American I’ve ever had dealings with whether in person or via email – and I’ve ‘met’ lots recently – has been a pleasure to talk to (except one, someone working in an internet store who got my order one Saturday and sent me a bizzarre email telling me he was going to ignore it because it was Independence Day and… well, lots of anti-British invective followed. Irony is, it was July 2nd and even I know that’s not Independence Day. I saw the film, and I know these things 😉

Still, we have weirdos aplenty over here but thankfully few of them know how to write, never mind access the internet so you’re pretty much safe from them.

Guardian Unlimited | US elections 2004 | The last post: “Fox-viewing America was never going to embrace our modest sortie into US politics and we knew full well that any individual voter might take exception to the idea of a foreigner writing to offer some advice on how they should vote – our website explicitly urged participants to ‘imagine how you would feel if you received a letter from an American urging you to vote for Tony Blair … or Michael Howard.’ But you couldn’t fail to be a little shocked by the volume and pitch of the invective directed our way. Most of it was coordinated by a handful of resourceful bloggers – the ringleader of whom is fittingly published on a site called ‘spleenville’ – and much of it was eye-wateringly unpleasant. ‘I hope your earholes turn to arseholes and shit on your shoulders,’ was one, more repeatable example of the scatalogical genre. Another memorable mail asked:

‘How secure is your building that contains all you morons???

Do you have enough security??

ARE YOU SURE ??? Are you VERY sure ??’

Interestingly, one of the recurrent themes running through the onslaught was an ardent admiration for Tony Blair from the kind of people who might feel slightly out of place in even the biggest of New Labour big tents. Another was a curious obsession with the state of British dentistry: ‘MAY YOU HAVE TO HAVE A TOOTH CAPPED. I UNDERSTAND IT TAKES AT LEAST 18 MONTHS FOR YOUR GREAT MEDICAL SERVICES TO GET AROUND TO YOU.’ At times, it felt as though whole swathes of America had suffered an epidemic of Tourette syndrome.

So far, so bad. The email onslaught was pretty unpleasant and inconvenient for the 53 Guardian colleagues whose addresses were targeted by the rightwing spammers – several of us received more than 700 mails – but by and large they were the sort of missives that left you feeling relieved you were not on the same side of the argument (indeed, any argument) as the sender. The same could be said of the news this week that Rush Limbaugh had devoted virtually all of one of his three-hour shows to our Clark County project.”

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