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In ‘Immigrantsville,’ U.S. media seen as propagandists

DISCUSSIONS | June 05, 2006

Arben Kallamata, Mississauga

1993 Nieman fellow; from Albania, now a free-lance writer in the Toronto area

I live in Immigrantsville, Ontario, Canada. Geographically, I operate in Mississauga, which is Canada’s 6th largest city, but also a part of the Greater Toronto Area. The GTA is Canada’s largest concentration of immigrants – perhaps 80 percent of immigrants land there. Or, as the 2000 Census indicates, more than 50 percent of the population of the largest city in Canada are born somewhere else.

I work as a Coop instructor for an Adult Education School that prepares foreign-trained professionals to enter the Canadian workforce. These are the people that populate that part of the GTA that I call Immigrantsville and with whom I am in everyday contact.

They mostly come from India, China, Pakistan, Sri-Lanka, South America (Colombia, Brazil, Peru, and Venezuela), Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Nigeria, Egypt and a few from Iraq, Iran, or Afghanistan. I teach three classes of 30 students every two months. In one year I deal with around 700 different students, with whom I discuss everything, from Present Perfect Tense to

George Bush. We talk about America when we discuss National Stereotypes, and every time one of them has got anything to vent out.

Most of the people of Immigrantsville have never been to the United States. This is the part of the population that finds it hard to make a distinction between the Americans, as people, and the U.S. government, in general, or the Current Government and George Bush, in particular. They perceive Americans as arrogant, self-centered, ruthless, violent, loud, ignorant, aggressive, and brutal. For them, an American is obsessed with money, oil, and expansion. They interfere everywhere, and they are to be blamed for everything that goes wrong in the world. For example, if a country is not rich, this is because the Americans do not want it to be rich. If a country is at war, or goes through a period of civil unrests, this is because that’s what Americans want.

However, those who have visited the U.S. and stayed there for a while talk with sympathy about the American people, describe them as warm, open-minded, generous, and helpful, especially compared to Canadians. They are able to make a clear distinction between the people in America and the American government.

How much this perception has changed since 9/11?

For Nancy Chang, America has always been like this. Brought up with the teachings of Chairman Mao, she has always hated everything American without giving it too much thought. Americans are aggressive and bloodthirsty. She supports her beliefs with the examples of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Vietnam, Korea, Nicaragua, Iraq, or Afghanistan.

The Indians and the Pakistanis of Immigrantsville have changed their perception significantly since 9/11 - both toward the negative. Hassan doesn’t believe that what happened in 9/11 was a terrorist attack. He is convinced that it was organized by the U.S. government, so that they could get an excuse to attack somewhere in the Middle East. Or, even if it was a terrorist attack, this doesn’t matter much – it was still an excuse to attack in the Middle East. Like most of the people who come from Muslim countries, he believes that the way the U.S. government and the U.S. economy have reacted after 9/11 shows that the U.S. is very fragile and in decline. The Chinese of Immigrantsville, who have always seen the U.S. as an empire in decline, also supports this. Rajiv, the Indian, on the other side, doesn’t support this belief, but he likes to make fun of George Bush. Everyone in Immigrantsville likes to make fun of George Bush. Making fun of the American President is one of the most significant changes in the attitude of the people of Immigrantsville after 9/11. This doesn’t mean that they sympathize with Dick Cheney or Rumsfeld.

Modupe, who comes from Nigeria, doesn’t like the US. But I think this is because she has heard, read and seen on TV that African Americans there are discriminated against.

South Americans – Brazilians, Peruvians, Venezuelans – have mostly positive feelings towards the U.S. Rafael, who is from San Paolo, Brazil, listens politely as the majority of Immigrantsville pass their judgments. When he speaks about anything American, it’s not difficult to notice admiration. Fabio has left Venezuela because he hates Hugo Chavez. He is definitely pro-American. He has always been and 9/11 hasn’t changed his perception. But things are different with Albeiro, a Colombian. He blames the U.S. for everything that goes bad in his country. He admires Castro and his free health system.

Russians, Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Romanians and all other East Europeans are generally pro-American. But most of them don’t like Bush and consider him a buffoon.

It is very interesting to note that most of the Immigrantsvillians have no sympathy at all for the U.S. media. They consider CNN to be a propaganda tool of the Government, Fox TV as a channel owned by the Republican Party and all other media serving the interests of the political parties in the U.S. They don’t believe that there is such a thing as a free media.

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