Monday, January 28, 2008

1-28-08: False Perceptions

I heard an interesting interview on 60 Minutes with an FBI field agent named George Piro, who interviewed (not interrogated) Saddam Hussein for several months. Piro did one of the best jobs in FBI history at retrieving key information, including facts about the WMD mystery and the genocide against the Kurds.

But one part of the interview really got me thinking. Piro explained how Saddam knew very little about the United States, as we did not know Saddam. We knew he hated the Kurds, that's for sure, and Piro explained that he felt no remorse. But what we didn't know about him was that he respected Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, and feared Iran above all other countries. He hated Iran. And he hated the Bushes. I can't say I blame the bastard, but I'm not on his side.

What Saddam did know about the United States was through, of all things, Hollywood movies. His perceptions of our culture were based on fictional stories about high school life and fancy CIA movies. Can you imagine? This guy was an enemy of the United States, and he had little to no knowledge of the culture. I'm not saying he should have known more; I'm just amazed. But then it got me thinking: so many countries are perceived falsely by foreigners who rely on incomplete, or sometimes false, media, such as films or TV shows. You don't really know what a culture is like until you participate in it. I was surprised at how modern a city Bangkok was when I arrived there. I had slightly different visions of Italy and Japan. I'm happy that they were different, though. It makes me want to travel more.

1 comment:

scycle said...

It is sad, but many perceptions are based on fictional stories, especially those of the USA. The USA being the largest producer of entertainment output has the most falsehoods representing it. I know of one particular friend that upon the first arrival in the USA, what he knew of American culture was via movies such as American Pie. While it does represent the American culture to an extent, it is also an exageration of large proportions. Since the ridiculous and juicy sells, that's the image others have of our culture.