America was once thought of as "A shining city on a hill" whose values were recognized by all as timeless and appropriate for all mankind. We attempted to broadcast those values to the world and influence them with our words. Now a cacophony of alternative "values" are being transmitted into the Middle East. Values that Americans should be ashamed of, values that make Iraqis distrustful of America, and values that run completely counter to our expressed intentions of achieving liberty for the people of Iraq.
Not long before coalition forces invaded and occupied Iraq, America shut down its Voice of America broadcast in the Arabic language. Shortly thereafter, the Farsi-language broadcast ended as well. In its heyday, Voice of America broadcast American values, democratic values, and deeply meaningful discussions about social and political issues.
In the transition, what remains of VOA broadcasts, according to a former VOA director, is a putrescence of alternative American values. Ones that I'm embarrassed by. Ones that do nothing to endear Arab and Persian Muslims to the American way of life.
In the Spring of 2003, Robert Reilly, a former director of Voice of America, was in Baghdad. A young Iraqi journalist ran up to him and asked:
Why did you stop broadcasting substance and substitute music?
Instead of lessons on civics and social issues, what do people in the Middle East hear on Voice of America?
Britney Spears. Justin Timberlake. Eminem. Snoop Doggety Dog or whatever his name is this week. Iraqis are looking for freedom, not licentiousness.
That kind of filth masquerading as music irritates me to no end, but I live in a society that has been conditioned to accept it. Can you imagine how much distrust such broadcasts engender among the Iraqi people (not to mention others) who have never even heard such drivel, and who once believed that America represented things positive, like charity, public service, strong families, and devotion to God?
We do not teach civics to American teenagers by asking them to listen to pop music, so why should we expect Arabs and Persians to learn about America or democracy this way? The condescension implicit in this nearly all-music format is not lost on the audience that we should wish to influence the most — those who think.I think there are entertainment forces in America who are subverting the morals of American youth, so the Arabs and Persians are probably not too wrong in their suspicions. The Iraqi people are much smarter and more civilized than we give them credit for. They know what America is supposed to stand for, but they can easily see that great swaths of American culture are decaying.
Some, of course, suspect that the United States is consciously attempting to subvert the morals of Arab youth.
If we can't even keep our own society from failing on so many fronts, the Iraqis must think, how can we expect to help them? If this is the kind of help we're giving, I suspect they won't want it much longer.
If that's the best America has to offer, then we deserve to fail in Iraq.