I’ve read that many Americans, and probably others, are obsessively watching the war coverage on television – and that coverage is closer, more immediate, and probably scarier than we’ve ever seen before.
I’m avoiding the television. I get plenty upset just thinking about it all; I have a vivid imagination and don’t need supplemental images. Instead, I read web news constantly, via several sources. news.google.com is my homepage nowadays. It’s a portal, still in beta testing, which displays several different articles on each top story, refreshing every 5 or 10 minutes. It’s interesting to compare how different sources worldwide cover the same news. I receive the New York Times headlines daily by email, with links to the full articles on their website. You have to register to read the articles, but it’s free, and well worth it.
I check CNN.com now and then just to see the all-American perspective. And I’ve been listening to National Public Radio, an American news source I trust, via their site. I keep open the front page of Il Corriere della Sera, the Italian newspaper, mostly because they have a constantly-updated stream of wire feed headlines. Offline, as always, I read The Economist each week.
When I can’t take any more war news, I go to Slayage for articles about Buffy.
One place to monitor public opinion, strangely enough, is the binaries groups on the Usenet. This is where people post music, movies, TV shows, etc. for others to download, generally the most popular music, TV shows, and movies. But these activities can take on a political flavor. Right now some of the music groups feature collections of American patriotic songs. And, in one of the country music groups, someone is posting Dixie Chicks songs with headings like “music for traitors” and “to oppose the war is to support terrorism.” (These statements don’t go unchallenged.)
In the video groups, people are posting excerpts from American news programs, including one titled “This is why we fight – Iraq executions, 1991.” (No, I didn’t download that.) Only two parts of the Oscars have been posted, the “In Memoriam” section, and Michael Moore’s acceptance speech.
Three cars belonging to American personnel have have been burned in Vicenza (near the Aviano airbase). One was a Jeep Wrangler, very obviously the property of an American. (There aren’t many of those in Italy, for good reason: fuel costs four times as much in Italy as in the US, and there are many streets where a car that size simply wouldn’t fit.) A group calling itself “I Nuclei Territoriali Antimperialisti” has claimed responsibility.
Though for thinking people it’s not true, it’s hard not to feel that, for many Europeans, pacifism equals anti-Americanism. The US Embassy emailed yet another warning this week about avoiding demonstrations. I overheard a conversation in our local bar the other day: An American couple living in a nearby building had draped US flags from their balconies. They were asked by their homeowners’ association to remove them, to avoid vandalism to the building.
We’re erring on the side of paranoia, perhaps. Ross bought a trendy new school backpack a few weeks ago. She chose a model with the Union Jack on it, because she’s very fond of England and her relatives there. When the war started, we got a bit worried about that. So she has temporarily traded (for his plain blue model) with a schoolmate who will never be mistaken for a Brit or an American.