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What do foreign correspondents think of the US (The New Yorker)

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The New Yorker

Link to video

Journalists from around the world are reporting on the 2020 Presidential race—and offering perspectives not found in American media coverage.

Released on 10/26/2020

Transcript

[reel winding]

[Woman] Look at that!

[Reporter] We’ve just heard, just moments ago,

that a grand jury in Jefferson County…

[man speaking in foreign language]

[woman speaking in foreign language]

[man speaking in foreign language]

You know, sometimes, you have days

when there’s not much going on around the world,

but there’s always something coming from America.

[orchestral music]

It feels like America is at the fault line.

This is the end of an era.

It is turning for me, as an African reporting on it,

that the same things

that America has been lecturing Africa on

appear to be happening right here at home.

A lot of it is genuine fear

and worry about where the U.S. is headed,

and the other part is a kind of a car crash situation.

You don’t really want to watch,

but you have to because it’s so outlandish,

and crazy, and insane.

Ready whenever you are.

[clapper clicking]

I see my job as translating America

for the rest of the world.

[woman speaking in foreign language]

A lot of us in France or in Europe

are dreaming to be a correspondent in the U.S.

Holland is so small

that there’s not many international media

who are foreign correspondents in the Netherlands,

but there are a few.

They see things that maybe we don’t see

because we’re part of the same society,

and I think that’s what

an international journalist has to offer.

All right, so, next thing is makeup.

So, you gain weight in the U.S.

but also you gain bags under your eyes in the U.S.,

[chuckles] ‘cause sleep can be an issue.

And that’s what I’m trying to hide.

As a journalist, it’s an enormous challenge

and in some ways exciting because you realize

I’m probably never going to experience this again

in my career.

Any election I will do after this one,

if I ever gonna do an election, is gonna be boring.

Foreigners think they know the U.S. and Americans,

and they really don’t.

I mean, they think that someday Americans will wake up

and realize that, oh no, it’s not good

to have all those firearms.

And it’s not gonna happen.

I’ve reached the conclusion that we don’t understand them

and they don’t understand us,

which is why it’s great working in this country,

because it is fun to keep being baffled by what happens.

[orchestral music continues]

I’m doing TV and Americans are made for TV.

I don’t know what’s in the milk that you…

If you’re breastfed or in the school milk you get.

[speaking in foreign language]

[soft music]

[speaking in foreign language]

American people are very friendly.

They are very good at answering a question

with a good punch line, so…

And they are not afraid of expressing themselves,

even though what they say is very politically incorrect.

Don’t be a Trump supporter.

We have to impeach Trump again

and begin the greatest show on Earth.

I think it’s probably easier for us foreign correspondents

to talk to certain elements of Trump’s space,

because there’s less mistrust…

Is it distrust or mistrust?

[speaking in foreign language]

[Man Off-camera] Mistrust.

Yeah, I guess that it’s less mistrust.

Americans are incredibly generous with their time,

and you tell them that you’re a foreign reporter,

they’re like all right, well,

let me tell you what the American media

aren’t telling people.

[soft music continues]

Hi guys, I’m a journalist from the U.K.

Do you mind if I ask you a couple of questions?

[indistinct response]

You wanna talk?

[indistinct chatter]

Because of the way Donald Trump

has spoken about the media over the years,

he’s created this us versus them mentality.

It doesn’t really happen with me.

I’m such an oddity to them.

I start speaking in British accent,

they immediately open up and start talking to me.

Inside the country Americans here are very partisan view

of their own country.

What we offer that’s slightly different

is a kind of detachment from these two sides.

[indistinct newscast]

It’s just kind of a scene piece.

Yeah, so Joe Biden’s stopping in Johnstown

at the end of a train tour.

This is what he’s trying to do.

This is what people said.

It’s seeing how a sausage gets made,

it’s not a pretty sight.

[piano music]

[woman speaking in foreign language]

[indistinct chatter]

[piano music continues]

Access to the President by foreign journalists

is much more than it was previously the last two Presidents.

I can definitely say that.

[indistinct chatter]

He comes to us sometimes, I think,

when he wants to change the subject.

He kind of runs the White House

like an advertising company.

He repeats the same lines over and over again,

so that they stick.

[indistinct chatter]

The largest number of stories

appearing in the foreign section of the Indian press

is from the United States of America itself.

There’s huge interest in India about who is going to win.

There’s interest in India what the next administration

is going to do with China.

Also what implication that will have.

[dramatic music]

This election is the most critical election of our life.

If one party and agenda wins,

it could be the sealing of America’s apostasy and judgment.

If the other party wins, it could unleash riots

as we have not seen and the tearing apart of the nation.

I’ve been in the United States for 20 years now

and I’ve seen a lot of division, and divergence,

and controversy.

I have never seen this level of polarization.

Either they are in love with their President

or they hate him.

I obviously never expect it to be like this.

Literally, since 2015, till this day,

the only story there is, is Trump.

[speaking in foreign language]

Business as usual.

[speaking in foreign language]

[tense music]

If what is happening here

was happening in any other part of the world,

the way foreign correspondents would be describing it

would just be shocking.

So the Trump regime and all sorts of stereotypical things

that I used often to refer to the global South

would be completely at home and apply here.

Trump makes it hard on us

because some of the things he does

makes me wonder whether I’m covering an election

in the United States,

one of the oldest democracies in the world,

or whether I’m actually reporting

from almost a failed state.

I mean, I don’t know if it’s completely normal

in a democracy to have armed militias

in state legislatures, multiple state legislatures.

More and more, people in Japan

are talking about what’s the difference of the Belarus

and the United States.

In case these people in rural

do not accept the result of the election.

[tense music continues]

There are so many parallels

between this U.S. election

and elections I have covered in Africa.

There is talk of rigging,

which is not a word that I’d ever thought

that I would hear associated with an American election.

I covered mass protest and revolution in Lebanon.

I covered the downfall of ISIS in Mosul

and the war against ISIS in Syria.

One of the things that I talk about with my colleagues

who are over here now,

who used to report in the Middle East,

is that we were all talking about the warning signs

that were coming from the White House.

The authoritarianism.

Threats to the integrity of the election.

And we all thought they weren’t really

being taken seriously.

And I guess once you’ve reported in a place

where you’ve seen how quickly things can go bad,

that gives you a bit of an insight

and it gives you a bit of a headstart on everyone else.

When I arrived here in the U.S., I arrived from Egypt.

Very quickly I started going all over the country

to different meetings

and I will see how people started insulting media,

and this is all thing I saw in Egypt

and especially the last few years

where back to the dictator in Egypt.

I’m working on a story about voter suppression in Georgia,

which is this, what appears to be,

a systematic approach to make sure that underprivileged,

many of them people of color, black people,

don’t get a chance to vote.

This is something that dictatorial regimes do

in other countries.

They deliberately make sure

that those who are not likely to vote for them,

don’t get a chance to vote.

And here it is, I’m working on it here in the U.S.

There is this notion among Americans

that you seem more free than the rest of us.

And, to me, that’s a huge mystery,

because I don’t regard myself or other things as unfree.

Your unequality is not healthy [laughs].

That’s a very mild expression.

If you look at climate change, look at the wildfires.

The disparities when you see the cost of the healthcare,

the cost of the studies…

In so many ways, you’re the opposite of exceptional.

Well, you’re exceptionally shit.

[crowd shouting]

[speaking in foreign language]

[woman speaking in Japanese]

[woman speaking in foreign language]

[intense music concludes]

[orchestral music]

One thing that I’ve very intimately learned

in my 20 years of being in the United States,

nothing that happens in the United States spares,

whether good, bad, or ugly, the rest of the world.

When America took to the streets

when George Floyd was killed,

in Holland, they took to the streets.

Black Lives Matter became a debates in the Netherlands.

What about our systemic racism?

Trying to disentangle the American influence

from Canadian daily life

is like trying to separate molecules with your hands.

Like, literally, when there’s a forest fire in California,

the air in Canada is hazy.

Japanese postwar history was very much influenced

by the American President the United States.

Sooner or later, what happening in the United States

could happen in Japan, as well.

I’ve loved living here,

but I’ve never been as worried

about the future of this country than I’m right now.

As both sides says,

it is the most important election of the history of America.

Two 70-year-old white men

are trying to lead a multicultural nation into the future

and the whole world is watching.

Voters are not always aware

of how their vote counts a lot.

Not only for them, but for the rest of the world.

This democracy has been a beacon for a long time

and at this pivotal moment,

where it all appears to be up for debate,

whether how America sees itself

and how America moves forward.

The rest of the world is watching this

and kinda holding its breath to see what happens.

[orchestral music concludes]

https://www.newyorker.com/video/watch/the-new-yorker-documentary-what-do-foreign-correspondents-think-of-the-u-dot-s

https://www.newyorker.com/7ae6961c-d410-4529-aa04-616d22922687

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