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Monday, March 28, 2011

Understanding International News

Kirk Johnson writes at The New York Times:

Many Americans find themselves scratching their heads about America’s military intervention in Libya, and part of the reason, they say, can be summed up in one word: overload.

People interviewed across four states said that at a time when the world seems to stagger from one breathtaking news event to another — rolling turmoil across the Middle East, economic troubles at home, disaster upon disaster in Japan — the airstrikes on military targets in Libya can feel like one crisis too many.


Cara Vonderbruegge, 23, an event coordinator and actor in Los Angeles, said the earthquake and tsunami in Japan had simply absorbed all the attention and emotion she could spare these days. She feels remiss about that, she said, and plans to catch up soon on what she has missed about Libya.

“I’m still concerned about people in other parts of the world, but with everything that’s going on in our lives, we only have so much time,” Ms. Vonderbruegge said.


“One day it’s this story, and then, oh, more information comes out — if there was one or two things going on, it would probably be easier to get caught up,” said Kevin Kilgore, 34, who works at a smoking lounge in Dearborn, Mich. “As one backs up to another that backs up to another that backs up to another, it’s just really difficult.”


Greater connection or familiarity with some parts of the world than others also plays a role.

Woody Wiginton, 45, a coffee roaster in Birmingham, Ala., who said he relied on Twitter as his main news source, said he knew Japan and the Japanese, with whom he does business. Libya feels much more remote.

“I don’t know anyone who’s been to Tripoli,” he said of the Libyan capital. “You just don’t know anybody there. North Africa has always been this mysterious place.”


Eric Heisser, 21, a student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, said he was relying on friends to keep him in the loop on Libya.

“My roommates are kind of keeping me informed,” he said. “They have a little more time to watch Jon Stewart than I do.”