Foreign Policy magazine has a great online piece on how the campaigns play on the basic ignorance and fear of foreign affairs by the American people.
The 10 worst foreign policy campaign ads of 2012.
One of the reasons so many political groups and politicians can get away with whoppers on foreign affairs is because most Americans have no clue what is going on in that area. (Other than this war or that earthquake.)
And that is a shame because the American people can be better informed if only more news organizations would look at the connections between Main Street and the rest of the world.
It is all well and good to describe the murder rate in Honduras or the economic melt down in Greece. But most people think: “What has that got to do with me?”
And that is a fair question. There are links if only reporters look for them.
To be fair, with the cut backs in newsrooms, each reporter is now doing the work of 10. The real problem lies with management that stresses Local! Local! Local! and cuts back on staff. So it becomes more important for a reporter to dig just a little deeper to see how the problem at the local bank is tied to the problems in Greece.
And then there is just plain old education.
Most Americans think that 25% of the federal budget goes to overseas’ aid. A majority also think an appropriate amount is 3-5%. The actual number is less than 1%. The ENTIRE non-military foreign affairs budget is about 1.1%. That includes all of the State Department, the Agency for International Development and all the foreign affairs arms of the Commerce, Agriculture, Justice and Labor Departments.
People don’t know how much work is being done for such a little amount and how that work directly affects them because no one is telling the story.
To be sure, the agencies are terrible at telling their own stories. But in an ever globalized world, it is also the responsibility of journalists to explain how those Granny Smith apples at the Safeway got into the States from Chile. Or how American parts get included in a Spanish government-sponsored wind energy development program in Honduras.