Ever wonder what our nation looks like to folks from afar? Here we look at how a uniquely American story--the kind of news we have trouble explaining even to ourselves--is being told overseas. Want to see a particular topic covered here? Let us know.
If you were on the Internet last Friday, you saw some of the jokes: the release of the Palin emails had a whole class of journalists pretty excited, and they made sure darned near everyone knew about it. If you thought it was weird to see grown men and women charge Juneau over the emails of someone who is neither a standing politician nor a candidate, and whose private life has already been picked over pretty thoroughly, and whose emails were being redacted anyway, well, just imagine how it looked to the overseas crowd.
"Did Sarah Palin leave some saucepans in Alaska?" asked Marie Simon's article for the French L'Express. Mohammed Ali Saleh in the Arabic-language Asharq al-Awsat writes of "an army of journalists mov[ing] to the capital," and German paper Die Zeit went with the headline : "You have 24,199 new messages." An excerpt from the L'Express coverage:
What interest could these documents have, given that Sarah Palin's private and public life have already been examined under a magnifying glass, and that the Alaskan administration may perhaps have redacted the less bland elements? American journalists ask that, but can't keep from hoping that some nuggets may have slipped through this correspondence... and that it's their motivated Internet readers that will find them first! Will we have details for her support then opposition to the 'bridge to nowhere' and its federal financing, a story that came up in 2008 during the presidential campaign, for example? Suspense...
And Sarah Palin, who didn't hesitate to do a guided visit of her gubernatorial office in the 2008 campaign, could she profit from this media attention ahead of announcing her candidacy in 2012? This Sunday on Fox News, she warned against 'elements taken out of context.' Prudent.
To this slightly smirking take, add Chloé Woitier's breathless opening for Le Figaro about the "Anglo-Saxon media" getting all worked up:
Who will find the nugget? The American but also the British media have launched themselves on a path to dissect the 24,000 pages of professional emails ... as quickly as possible. ... Live blogging, special Twitter accounts ... the heavy artillery has been brought out, but to what end? Twenty-four hours after the publication of the Sarah Palin emails, no really thrilling information has been discovered. Sarah Palin's love for neologisms and familiar style ("unflippinbelievable," "what a goof," "yurk," "thank the lord," or "we love the mobster in ya" [Le Figaro has printed these in their original untranslated form], decried by her political enemies is therein confirmed. The importance of religion in her work, as well ...
But don't worry: it's not just the French making fun of us and our British fellows over at The Guardian. The folks down south in Argentina are doing it too: "The publication of the conversations sparked a huge uproar among the American media," runs the coverage for La Nacion, "which mobilized entire teams of reporters and volunteers to Juneau, the capital of Alaska, for analysis. The Washington Post even created an account on Twitter (@PalinEmails) to announce the most important headlines."
There's also something cute about Matthias Kolb for the Sueddeutsche Zeitung's wording, here (emphasis added):
As the ultraconservative Tea Party movement's idol has not yet decided whether to challenge Barack Obama in 2012, and right now is undertaking a bus tour of America's historical states, the prospect of spectacular findings is electrifying the American and even some international media.
Thus the British Guardian sent two reporters into the far north and reported from London in a liveblog.
"Far north?" Guys: this is Juneau, not Greenland. Geographically correct though the phrase may be, it's not like the Guardian sent them out there with a tent, a shotgun, and a MiFi (though we would totally read a liveblog about that). Nevertheless, the Danes piled on, too: "Media dug in vain through thousands of Palin-mails," reads the headline on the Jyllands Posten site. Fair enough. Aside from re-stoking the dying embers of Trig Trutherism, the emails didn't do that much. The Danes win this round. We won't concede to the Germans, though, cause they're a little too close to home on the ridiculousness of the bus tour. And we definitely won't give points to the French. They've just been a little too cheeky, lately.
Heather Horn is fluent in written German and French, and proficient in written Arabic. All other languages are muddled through with the help of Google Translate.