I've been building up a theory on resentment of Americans over the last few months. This comment is less to do with middle eastern resent and more to do with general resent, but I think it's still relevant so I'll post it.
I can't comment in detail about dissent in countries such as those in the Middle East. If the opinions I've heard are correct, it's at least partly to do with the US Federal Government's foreign policy. It's not helped by some people feeling that George Bush and his friends are loonies for various reasons, but I won't go into that because there's been plenty of it on k5 already. I can definitely comment on more developed countries though.
For economic reasons and being a small country, New Zealand markets itself a lot overseas on tourism and getting foreign investment. As a result there are lots of different cultures here. I'm lucky enough to get to meet people from all sorts of different places.
So often, people here learn about other countries by meeting people who've travel from them. You don't necessarily learn about things like historical facts and political situations, but you do get to know the people who live there... and that means a lot for how people look at a country. As soon as you get to know someone on an individual level, they're about as likely to be as respectable as anyone you'd normally meet locally.
Because this country's so small (3.8 million people), the communities often intermingle with each other, meaning that relatively everyone normally meets everyone in some way. In fact, I'm probably lucky to live in a country with one of the most integrated mixtures of different international cultures in the world. For example:
- There are lots of Chinese students coming here for postgraduate study at New Zealand universities.. albeit after their compulsory year of political training that they have to take before they can study overseas. There are students from lots of other asian coutries, too, as well as people who just choose to settle down.
- Three of the lecturers in my department are Canadians, and they come through every so often on trips. I'm quite interested in going to Canada because most of the Canadians I've met have been really nice.
- New Zealand is about as far away from Europe as is possible to get, and lots of young people from Europe come here on overseas experience and holidays.
- There are big communities of people from middle eastern and african countries, sometimes as refugees or overstayers, or just making a new life on their own terms.
- We have regular international sporting links with countries like South Africa, India, Pakistan, Australia, Argentina, France, England, etc. Apart from just competing with them though, there are lots of people following the teams around the world so everyone meets up with each other, they have drinks with each other downtown, and so on.
- There's an abundance of Australians and people from various Pacific Islands. (Geographically they're neighbours.
One of the biggest differences between the USA and the rest of the world that I notice from here though is that I never really get to meet any people from the US. If there's one thing that the USA doesn't export internationally in bulk, it's people. As a culture, people from the US just don't travel that much internationally. Consequently almost nobody here really gets to know US people as they really are.
What the USA does export very visibly is media, and the USA exports it more than any other country in the world. Virtually everything that people here see of the USA and US culture comes from television, movies and news reports from sensationalist networks like CNN.
People's views of the US often come from watching shows like Jerry Springer, which is obviously a very niche collection of some of the worst representatives there could be, but it's what people see. It shouldn't be that much of a surprise if people outside the states joke about the US as being full of some of the dumbest and most ignorant people in the world.
Whether or not this is actually true is irrelevant, because from the outside it looks true. Virtually all of the television and movies that the US supports are US-centric, and don't acknowledge that the rest of the world exists. Whereas most of the world at least has some international relationship going with each other, the USA has heavily marketed events like the World Series that it's nearly impossible not to hear about internationally and yet it's a completely US-domestic event.
So anyway, several months ago I started playing Ultimate in my spare time. I still suck at it, but it's heaps of fun. In New Zealand, Ultimate is a very low-key sport and therefore I enjoy it, because the whole thing's very laid back. At least in the league I play in, the game's competitive but everyone's much more interested in enjoying it than in winning. One of the cool things about it is that a significant proportion of the Ultimate players here are migrants with strong North American accents. Some are from Canada but lots are from the US.
For a change, I'm actually getting to meet some people from some parts of the US. It doesn't change my attitude towards US foreign policy or the the US federal government as a whole, and I still laugh at all the "only in America" jokes. But it is reassuring to actually meet people and confirm that they're not like what we get on TV.
In answer to your question, I don't think the net will make a jot of difference. What would help to change things is if US citizens start travelling more around the world and meeting people in other countries. In doing so, they'll get to know the US as it really is, too, and might get a bit more respect for it. The net is just another media, and is already being polluted immensely by an awful signal to noise ratio. (Just look at the trolling on slashdot, for example.) In my opinion you don't experience other people in the same way or take things in the same context.
jesterzog Fight the light