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“Dereliction of duty”–from the BBC’s John Simpson

The BBC’s John Simpson is an amazing journalist, and someone who writes more convincingly about global perspectives than almost anyone else I can think of. He’s helped inspire our plans for an award for writing (probably an article and also a book) with a global perspective. We plan to name this for W.E.B. Du Bois, a writer/scholar who certainly had one. I discussed this with Thomas Bender, a leading scholar of transnational history at New York University, a few days ago and he pointed out something I hadn’t thought of, though: that Du Bois’s Harvard dissertation on the Atlantic slave trade was one of the first works of transnational history. Here are a few lines from John Simpson, about the media’s responsibility for American ignorance about the rest of the world:

A depressing downward progression has followed. The less people were told about the outside world, the less they could understand it. The less they could understand it, the harder it was to tell them. The harder it was to tell them, the less it became possible to tell them. So they knew less, and could be told less, and knew even less and could be told even less. The circles of ignorance and dereliction of duty became smaller and smaller, until in many cases no one is telling anyone anything of real importance whatsoever.

Here’s an early review of our Global Perspectives on the United States, from Ingrams, one of the U.S.’s major book distributors:

The crowd stands, the drums roll, and the symphony or band begins our national anthem. We rise in our patriotic duty and our thumping hearts swell as the anthem ends. As Americans we listen, perhaps sing, but most importantly, remember our citizenship is a valued treasure and we all should be most thankful for our freedoms. We generally forget the rest of the world does not have this luxury.

What does the rest of the world think about our freedoms and The United States of America? Berkshire Publishing embarked on a mammoth project to determine the world’s opinion of the United States. I had the privilege to speak with publishers Karen Christensen and David Levinson at the Charleston Conference about Global Perspectives. Our conversation included politics, 9/11, our travels abroad, and our experiences at home. This quickly verified the need for this resource. Berkshire enlisted experts undertaking these complex views and opinions. The publisher also gathered comments from their Web site, which provides wonderful sidebars to this multifaceted topic. The articles, divided by nations and regions, include statistics, historical relations, and recent influences along with current events shaping perceptions of the United States. While not all opinions give the United States glowing reviews, collecting all the views into one source makes Global Perspectives a must read for a complete survey. This reference work should be in all academic, public, and high school libraries.–Dr. William R. Taylor, MLS

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