Regarding Alan Wallace's A Page of Books column “How the world sees us” about Martha Bayles' book on American cultural exports, “Through a Screen Darkly”: I'm afraid the data simply don't back her contention that the world hates U.S. movies and music. The Pew Global Attitudes Project, for example, shows more consistently high measures for American cultural exports than for virtually any other metric relating to our country.
There are plenty of other indicators to contravene the conventional, but false, wisdom that American culture is reviled abroad. For instance, Disneyland Paris is the top tourist destination on the continent. In other words, the No. 1 tourist destination in Europe is American. The second-largest national market for McDonald's after the United States is France. And out of the top 50 American films by box office, 48 made more than half their receipts overseas.
I won't deny that there are political consequences to American cultural dominance, but these are mostly ginned-up political hack jobs. Have we heard from Jose Bove, the anti-globalist, during the last decade? What happened to the French theater director who called Disneyland Paris a “cultural Chernobyl”?
As for the difference between 21st-century Disney and 20th-century American jazz, I guarantee you our political enemies made no distinction. After all, during the 1950s, the East Germans likened jazz to “poison gas,” which is incredible if you think about it at all.
James Thomas Snyder
Falls Church, Va.
The writer is the author of the book “The United States and the Challenge of Public Diplomacy.”
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