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The world reacts

Hot on the Web

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on October 12, 2001
(Issue 1941, The Global Community)

During World War II, Americans by and large heard only the Allied version of events. While both Germany and Japan had well-funded propaganda machines, those were aimed mostly at their own people and our soldiers.

The Allies, of course, had even larger propaganda budgets, and Japanese and German civilians were more likely than their American counterparts to hear the enemy's version of things. (Of course, civilians in Britain and France, being far closer to Germany, were more likely to be exposed to the English-language broadcasts of the Nazis than anyone living in, say, Illinois or Arizona.)

In this new war we've suddenly had thrust upon us, though, the fight over defining the "truth" will be very different than in past wars. With the Internet, anyone can now air their grievances, and reach people on both sides of the conflict. (Vietnam, of course, was different from WWII in that there were many Americans who were opposed not only to our involvement, but who seemd to find democracy itself offensive. There was plenty of stateside propaganda portraying Ho Chi Minh as some kind of warm and cuddly Asian version of Fred MacMurray instead of the brutal Stalinist thug who murdered tens of thousands of political opponents in the 1950s.)

It can be interesting – instructive, actually – to visit news organizations from different areas of the world and see how the coverage of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington are portrayed for different audiences.

The best place for finding web sites of foreign newspapers is at Yahoo's newspapers page. (, which has a similar list, has now gone to a subscription-based service – which is a bit silly considering it's no more than a age of links, all of which can be found elsewhere. Somebody find them a real business plan ...)

What's interesting about the Yahoo list is that it mostly includes English-language papers – and that the list is still fairly comprehensive geographically. English really is becoming the international standard.

The European papers mostly adhere to the coverage we've seen here in the United States - outrage and shock. Get outside the West, though, and the tone changes. The shock is still there; what's missing is the outrage – replaced in many cases with outright anti-Semitic racism. The U.S. got what it deserved for its support of Jews was the angle in the Lebanon Daily Star in the days immediately after the attacks.

Yet, the Iran Weekly Press Digest, a site serving as a roundup of Iranian news, showed that proximity to the lunatics behind the bombing may bring a certain wariness – the Iranian media, which is more free of late under new reforms, is portraying the Afghan Taliban in a rather unflattering light.

And the mainland China Daily was as aghast at the terrorism as any of the Western press – one might have expected the same from the Taiwan-based China Post, but it was not nearly as predictable coming from the mainland paper.

None of the Indonesian newspaper Web sites would come up the day we checked – makes you wonder if they shouldn't stop worrying so much about their jihad and a little more about building an infrastructure that actually works.