Monday, 2 February 2009

Just Like Starting Over: Channel 4's Jon Snow Comments on Obama and the Remaking of the American Dream

Last Friday, Jon Snow, the renowned anchor of Channel 4 News' night show, spoke to attendants to the Hay Festival in Cartagena, Colombia. My feelings about his speech were mixed. On one hand, Snow was extremely generous to the audience by offering us lots of anecdotes about his extensive coverage of world news, for he covered the U.S. of America in different moments of history, under very different circumstances.

But on the other hand, I was let down by his excessive faith and trust on Barack Obama. It sounded to me that a serious journalist of his stature and reputation was being too indulgent to a politician that has so far done nothing than giving speeches full of hope. Well, this is another matter -- I know, -- but I was surprised by such fact, that a renowned journalist who was never easy on politicians was being so.

I discussed this with a few people I met at the festival, and their opinions were mixed too, just like my feelings about Snow's speech. While there is no doubt that the world shares a great deal of Snow's optimism about Obama, the landscape looks terribly challenging for the president, citizens are getting very anxious about the crisis and history isn't on the side of the optimists that America's external policies can change. The Colombians I talked to were very straight: there is no way that Obama will help push forward the bilateral free-trade agreement, nit under the current circumstances.

Let me share a few excerpts of Snow's speech with you, dear reader. Judge by yourself. To me, this is a sign of the times -- we are building huge expectations out of an assumption that things can only get better from this point, that the worst evil is gone and that, now with a different man in charge, solutions will be much less tough. I call it a phase of denial. But Snow made a great contribution to this festival -- that was, bringing a message of hope from a reporter that has learned to know America from different perspectives in different situations: as press reporter in Cambodia, China, El Salvador, Iran; as corespondent in Washington D.C., as interviewer of many U.S. policymakers ...

-- ''We all feel some jealousy, envy and admiration about the U.S. During my span as a reporter, I have identified these three elements, resentment, jealousy and admiration, when people talk about America.´´
-- ''Obama has reconnected me with the America I love.´´
-- ''The greatest mistake of America's foreign policies is that you can't fix a regime you don't like by ignoring it. The consequences of this behaviour has been disastrous.´´
-- ''Obama is a break from that type of activity.´´
-- ''I am sure he is capable of sparking that tremendous sense of solidarity that we saw in the aftermath of 9/11.´´
-- ''Even if he isn't a good president, he is a good writer,´´ said Snow, referring to the publication of ''Dreams from My Father,´´ Obama´s book.
-- ''If you couple the worst financial disaster we have ever had with the end of the war in Iraq, which I believe he will end, and couple it with the will of people for Obama to succeed, something will change.´´
-- ''History is not on our side, but if we are not to give Obama a chance, then offer me something better.´´

I never saw a famous journalists voicing out his political preferences in such an open way. Later, in a chat with a friend of mine and I, Snow confessed his editor would be pissed off had the latter listened to Snow's speech. Lesson No. 1: let's not get too excited about what Obama can do for the world. It's still too soon.

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