My wife and I just returned from a vacation in Heidelberg, Germany. I'd been there a couple of times on business, and I knew Deb (that's my wife) would enjoy it, so I cashed in some airline miles and hotel points and we went there for a week. Had a great time.
The hotel we stayed at, the Heidelbeg Marriott, is a great hotel with wonderful service. The only drawback is the TV channels. If you don't speak German, French or Arabic, you basically have two choices for news: CNN International and BBC World News. This doesn't count the English language financial news channels they have like Bloomberg and CNBC.
Well, after a couple of days of watching CNN International trash-talk the US, I thought I'd give BBC World News a try. Like many news channels, BBCWN runs a crawl line on the bottom of the screen with headlines from around the world during their news updates. During one report, the crawl line caught my eye with a headline about the price of crude oil. It said, and I may be paraphrasing here, "Crude oil prices rise to record $66 per barrel due to unprecedented U.S. demand".
My first reaction was "Huh?...Unprecedented U.S. demand?". I guess BBC figures the explosion of demand for petroleum products in China and India has a negligible impact on the world supply and demand equation for crude oil. But there it was. According to the BBC, it's the United States that's solely to blame for the run away price of crude oil and its byproducts.
Now, don't get me wrong. I truly believe that we could be doing much more in the US to reduce our consumption of crude oil until we can make alternative energy sources feasible. But this kind of half-assed reporting is really what's hurting America's image in Europe. It's not what we're DOING, it's what Europe is being TOLD we're doing. Yes, our demand for crude oil has increased year over year, but so has that of nearly every other nation, especially China and India.
But guess what? Europe's demand for crude oil through 2004 was also "unprecedented", according to statistics available from the Department of Energy, although a few nations (notably Germany and the UK) have managed to slightly decrease their demand over the past couple of years. But it'll take a brighter mind than mine to say whether those decreases were attributable to vigilant conservation measures or to economic factors.
So, what is it about the European press that spares no effort in demonizing America? Whether it's by focusing only on negative news items, or by outright obfuscation by leaving out key facts, there definitely seems to be a concerted effort to make us out to be the bad guys. The anti-American media likes to say that the US needed a new nemesis after the fall of the Soviet empire and fabricated one. I think the same might be said about the European, and sadly, much of the American media.