Why Americans Don't Care

Why Americans Don't Care

Compare the covers of the different editions of the latest issue of Time. In most of the world, the cover of the magazine features a striking image of an Egyptian rioter in a gas mask. But the U.S. edition reduces the unrest to Egypt to small print and leads instead with a general series on “Why Anxiety Is Good for You.”


The cover is the main thing that’s different. The article on the ongoing revolution in Egypt is still in the U.S. edition. But the fact that the magazine ran a different cover for the U.S. edition is nevertheless telling. As David Airey shows, it’s not unusual for the U.S. edition to feature some story on marriage or family relationships while burying international news. Of course, you don’t have to go far back to see that there are also times when it's the U.S. edition that features the hard international news. At the end of October, for example, the cover of the U.S. edition was about the real estate bubble in China, while the international editions all led with the release of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson’s new Tintin movie.

The international release of a blockbuster movie about Tintin—who has iconic status in much of the world—is at least news. But the Time series on anxiety is an evergreen, which means that because it’s not tied to current events it could run more or less at any time. Evergreen pieces are typically used to fill in during weeks when the news is slow. With the recent unrest in Egypt, news is hardly slow.

As Airey says, Time's decision to devote its cover to a series on anxiety rather than to the riots in Egypt is not censorship, as some are suggesting. Americans can still read about Egypt in the pages of the magazine. The editors of the magazine—and it is certainly not just Time that makes these decisions—simply made a judgment about which cover was likely to sell more magazines. It's not that Americans don't care about what happens to Egyptians, but that it simply doesn't personally affect them that much. The truth is that Time's editors are probably right to think that another piece on rioting in the Middle East won’t sell many magazines in the U.S.

It would be easy to complain about how self-involved and shallow Americans are. But our relative lack of interest in foreign news primarily stems from the fact that historically Americans have rarely had to worry much about what was happening overseas. Isolationism has for much of our history been a luxury we could afford. Our strength and geographic position have generally made an attack on U.S. soil unlikely. And our large economy has insulated us to a large extent from fluctuations in the international economy. Globalization has changed this to an extent, although international trade is still a relatively small part of the U.S. national economy. Nevertheless, this insularity has a cost. Unrest in the Middle East and financial crises in Europe affect us more than now than ever before. It is time we started paying more attention.

Photo is an edited version of the Time Magazine cover (Timothy Fadek/Time Magazine)

Were the ancient Egyptians black or white? Scientists now know

This is the first successful DNA sequencing on ancient Egyptian mummies, ever.

 

Ancient Egyptian Statues

Getty Images
Surprising Science

Egyptologists, writers, scholars, and others, have argued the race of the ancient Egyptians since at least the 1970's. Some today believe they were Sub-Saharan Africans. We can see this interpretation portrayed in Michael Jackson's 1991 music video for “Remember the Time" from his "Dangerous" album. The video, a 10-minute mini-film, includes performances by Eddie Murphy and Magic Johnson.

Keep reading Show less

Why professional soccer players choke during penalty kicks

A new study used functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to measure brain activity as inexperienced and experienced soccer players took penalty kicks.

PORTLAND, OREGON - MAY 09: Diego Valeri #8 of Portland Timbers reacts after missing a penalty kick in the second half against the Seattle Sounders at Providence Park on May 09, 2021 in Portland, Oregon.

Abbie Parr via Getty Images
Mind & Brain
  • The new study is the first to use in-the-field imaging technology to measure brain activity as people delivered penalty kicks.
  • Participants were asked to kick a total of 15 penalty shots under three different scenarios, each designed to be increasingly stressful.
  • Kickers who missed shots showed higher activity in brain areas that were irrelevant to kicking a soccer ball, suggesting they were overthinking.
Keep reading Show less

Changing a brain to save a life: how far should rehabilitation go?

What's the difference between brainwashing and rehabilitation?

Credit: Roy Rochlin via Getty Images
Mind & Brain
  • The book and movie, A Clockwork Orange, powerfully asks us to consider the murky lines between rehabilitation, brainwashing, and dehumanization.
  • There are a variety of ways, from hormonal treatment to surgical lobotomies, to force a person to be more law abiding, calm, or moral.
  • Is a world with less free will but also with less suffering one in which we would want to live?
Keep reading Show less
Surprising Science

How to fool a shark using magnets

A simple trick allowed marine biologists to prove a long-held suspicion.

Quantcast