My First USA Presidential Election as an Expat- A View from Afar

The 2012 USA Presidential Election was the first election I have viewed from afar, I have not been back to the USA in 2 years and have not watched USA based international TV news. I follow the news online, via Twitter and watch some BBC and AJE. But no CNN (CNN International with USA based programming is available in Thailand) and Fox is not available (I don’t think) in Thailand.

My early perception was that Romney was struggling, this perception being based on the international news coverage of Romney’s overseas trip. It seems he had a number of gaffs during that trip, the coverage was overwhelmingly negative.

I didn’t watch the candidates debate, but international news outlets certainly carried stories of Obamas struggles in the first debate. Online news and Twitter made it seem that Obama was vulnerable after the debate.

As the outcome of the election fell into doubt, the emails from the States began- ‘will this be a repeat of 2000?’, ‘it looks like Obama will lose‘ and recently ‘it might be a tie!‘

Ah, the influence of the USA media.

A number of the people emailing these comments are affluent, intelligent and well read, but also influenced by the hyperbole of ‘situation rooms‘ and 24-hour news hyping the election. All the while the BBC, AJE and others put forth articles showing a tightening race, but not making bold predictions. Online news sources and Twitter stuck to facts, much easier to do (so it seems) in print. As the election drew closer, the articles from non-USA based international news sources seemed to be more calm, putting forth probabilities and *not* arguing about methodology and making predictions, simply stating what the numbers showed.

A number of individuals on Twitter, individuals based in the USA, were doing the same.

And so the election has come and gone, and it wasn’t very close. I went to the USA Embassy in Bangkok and voted, very easy.  I don’t hold out great hope for any change as a result of this election, I voted against a candidate more than I voted for a candidate.

What I did learn- based on the stream of emails coming from the USA and tuning in to CNN near the voting date- is that much of the USA media- namely TV- is not responsible.

Apologies, that is unfair to the TV media, the media caters to an audience–no audience, unheard message. I learned that many people want the drama, love the headlines and top level sound bytes and like the suspense. I was a bit surprised that people I respect and that I didn’t think would be influenced by the ratings induced drama that TV news fuels were indeed impacted- the constant dramatic headlines begin to cloud judgement.

I’ll never underestimate the power of focused media again. Oh, I’m also very happy to have been in Thailand and avoided the all consuming focus of the media, I mean election.

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About faranginbangkok

Additional pictures: http://www.tumblr.com/blog/faranginbangkok For more updates about Bangkok, Thailand and other thoughts: www.twitter.com/lilrichardb I began working in Bangkok during 2008- a time that featured a great deal of political unrest in Thailand and particularly Bangkok. I had lived in San Francisco for 15 years and was working on a project in Thailand. Generally I spent 2 weeks in Bangkok and then 3-4 weeks in San Francisco. Did Bangkok begin to feel like home? Yes, and No. Bangkok and the Thai culture forced me to feel many things, the change in culture and environment was so dramatic it forced the decision- embrace or ignore. I embraced and made Bangkok my home and base in 2009. I have enjoyed living in Bangkok, experiencing Thailand and the entire ASEAN region.
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