Beware:  Garbage In, Garbage Out

If you’re a long-time reader of my blogs, you know that I spent about two decades living the life of an expatriated American.

I am proud of that time in my life.  I first went abroad as a Peace Corps Volunteer, to Poland, not long after the collapse of the Soviet system, and then lived in the UAE, Turkey, and Egypt.

Prior to my leaving America to serve the good people of Rzeczpospolita Polska as an educator and educational consultant, I was a typical ethnocentric American. 

I can share an interesting example of this.  The Peace Corps folks in Washington, DC, prepped me for my service overseas by sending me a bunch of educational materials so I could start learning about Poland, a country I knew little about, prior to my departure.  Those materials included the responses to a questionnaire given to Poles.  One of the questions asked was the open-ended “What do you think of Americans?”  A good number of Poles responded by saying that they had a favorable view of those hailing from the United States but also found many Americans naïve.

I remember feeling a little upset while reading that.  How dare the Poles think Americans are naïve!  After all, as everyone knows, America is the greatest country in the world.  It is a shining city upon the hill, a beacon to all, so how could those hailing from such a perfect place be naïve?  Furthermore, Americans had sent other Americans to the moon where they had actually walked upon the lunar surface (as well as planting an American flag).  And that was only one notable example of how exceptional Americans are.  So, Americans naïve?  No effing way!

Of course, my knee-jerk response was proof positive that the Poles had hit the nail on the head.

I currently live in the United States with my Egyptian wife.  I miss those jet-setting days of my former life, and I often worry that I will slip back into old ways of thinking, including becoming too American-centric in my outlook.  To guard against the occurrence of such a regression, I make sure that I am careful about the sort of news I consume.  After all, it can be argued that humans are little more than a physical body plus the thoughts they think and the values they live by.  If this is true, then we must all be careful about the information we take in and how we process it.

I get most of my news by reading, especially foreign sources.  For example, for the very best reporting on Russia and Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, I read Meduza.  (More Americans need to be aware of what’s happening in that part of the world because Ukrainians are at the front in the global war against the forces of totalitarianism.)  And when I want to get my news via television, I favor Al Jazeera in English.  (If my Arabic were better, I’d watch the Arabic-language version.)  Just for the heck of it, click on the link I’ve provided and note, by either reading the site or watching the live telecast, how different Al Jazeera’s coverage is from any other American news source.  If you are an American and watch only American news, you couldn’t be faulted for thinking that the world ended at the borders of the United States. 

With this being the case, is there any wonder that Americans are as naïve as the Poles told me they are?

Thanks for reading!

13 thoughts on “Beware:  Garbage In, Garbage Out

  1. I cannot tell you what other European people think about America(ns)! Great post Troy, I enjoyed it a lot!

    1. This anonymous reader it’s me Troy, Cristiana! It’s the second time today it happens to me! I will call the helpdesk.

      1. Hi, Cristiana. Thank you. That is strange. Yes, contact the helpdesk or perhaps log out of your WordPress account and then log back in. That might help.

  2. Thank you for this blog. I was born in Europe and I think that the Americans are naive. They don’t mean to be, of course. But they are not connected enough with the rest of the world. Because they are isolated, their thinking is often one-sided. It is interesting that once they start travelling, like you did, they do understand what the rest of the world means by them being naive. Great post!

  3. In New Zealand, we get a very distorted view of the USA. It is typically quite polarising, and we are meant to take sides in the Trump Vs whatever debate. Other than that, it’s all about shootings or whatever

  4. Thank you, Troy, for sharing this wonderful post. It was great to learn more about your background, and also about some of your beliefs regarding the distorted views that are offered at the media cafeteria to those who consume whatever is being offered.

  5. Most Americans will probably remain America-centric and somewhat naïve, but I doubt that most of them still believe that America is the great shining example to the rest of the world that they used to be able to believe.

  6. You bring up a very good point Troy; it’s crucial to know who is writing your news. News is typically biased so it’s important to take a look at both sides of the story to have a better idea of what is actually happening.

  7. Yeah, traveling and/or living abroad for an extended time makes it hard to regurgitate the “America is the best at everything” rhetoric we’re fed. Although I never felt that way, I was nervous going to certain countries. Our “News” is biased, our politicians are beyond biased, our education system is biased, and people that have never gone anywhere have a means of spreading their biased ignorance through social media. As a result we are either stagnant or in decline in areas we should improve upon.

  8. A former coworker of mine is from Australia. And while she enjoyed living and working in America well enough, she would tell me story is about how her family back in Australian you so much more about what was going on in America that we did.

    The American news media is an absolute joke.

  9. When my anyone makes negative comments about the US, I struggle to refute them. I usually end up replying that there have been contentious and discouraging times in our history, and the good times always followed. I surely hope that I am right!

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