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The Eagle's Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World [Paperback]

Mark Hertsgaard
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 May 2003
How can America be so powerful and yet so innocent? So ignorant of foreign lands, peoples and languages yet so certain it knows what's best for everyone? How can its individual citizens be so open, friendly and generous but its foreign policy so arrogant and domineering? And why is it shocked when the objects of its policies grumble, protest or even strike back in anger? How can a nation so clever at business and selling its products overseas be so oblivious to how outsiders regard it? The answers to these and many other questions will explain why America leaves so many observers at home and abroad both admiring and uneasy, envious and appalled, enchanted but bewildered; and what are the choices and challenges facing us in a world that becomes more Americanized every day.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; New edition edition (5 May 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747563950
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747563952
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,744,844 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Author of The Eagle's Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World, Mark Hertsgaard is an American journalist, broadcaster and author whose previous books include On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency and A Day in the Life: The Music and Artistry of the Beatles. Research for the present book involved a trip around the world asking people from 15 different countries what they thought about America.

To say that America is "a place that is very rich and shoots lots of guns" is, according to the author, a fair shorthand for how the United States is seen by many people around the world. Whether the respondents are rich or poor, friend or foe, it seems that foreigners fear America's military might and envy its dazzling wealth. The view of America from the outside provides Hertsgaard with a platform from which to launch his own politically informed and engaged analysis of the United States and its people.

The book is organised around a list of things that "foreigners think about America that American's usually don't talk about". A single chapter is devoted to each of the following propositions. America is; parochial and self-centred; rich and exciting; the land of freedom and opportunity; self righteous about its democracy; the future; out for itself; a hypocritical and domineering empire. Americans are philistines who are incredibly naive about the world. The author makes a sensible distinction between Americans as people and American political, corporate and media power structures before elaborating his case.

It's no surprise that the really interesting and often shocking parts of the book deal with the disparity between American ideals of freedom and democracy and the actuality of America's ruthless, self-serving and hypocritical foreign policy. Of the American press he asserts that Americans have the worst of both worlds: "a press that, at best, parrots the pronouncements of the powerful and, at worst, encourages people to be stupid with pseudo-news that illuminates nothing but the bottom line". To support this view he tells us that corporate news organisations had the chance to report the story of bin Laden's plan to attack the US eight weeks in advance, yet they choose not to run the story because they were too busy chasing money. Other serious problems include the erosion of civil liberties, a ruthlessly divisive economy and a television and shopping culture held up as a model for the rest of the world to follow.

Damning as all this is Hertsgaard is hopeful that--provided Americans start talking again--there is a chance of reclaiming the ideal of democracy and moulding it into something Americans can once again be proud of. It will be interesting to see how The Eagle's Shadow is received in America because, as the author himself points out, books that criticise America's power elite--books such as Naomi Klein's No Logo--are often ignored. Both books deserve better. --Larry Brown --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'Hertsgaard burrows into this raw turn faster and deeper than most' -- The List

'Hertsgaard is important proof, yet again, that being critical of America is neither an un-American activity nor outright anti-Americanism' -- New Statesman

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading 27 May 2003
I cannot do this book justice from a simple review, suffice to say that this should be essential reading for anyone who has an interest in the reasons why America is attacked literally and metaphorically. Hell...let's go the whole hog and put it on every school curriculum in the land. One only hopes that when this book was published in America that it was widely read, but I won't hold my breath.
Written by an American journalist (so this isn't a jealous rant from some "foreigner") the facts are presented in such a calm, reasoned, logical way that it is hard to disagree with anything that is stated. If I had read this before the Gulf War, I would have taken a different almost goes without saying.
Every couple of pages I had to put the book down just to digest the information I had just read, it is that staggering.
I urge you to read it and then tell all your friends. This book deserves a wider audience than it will get.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
When I started reading Mark Hertsgaards book, I was, as many others, puzzled over the American nation as a whole. My own personal friendship with Americans tought me that they were loving, extremely friendly and considerate people. Something that was in big contrast to the, nowadays, constant head-shaking of the American foreign policy. Mark Hertsgaard's book told me, that I was not alone in feeling great affection towards the Americans, and great annoyment towards the American government. Better yet he told me the background on why the Americans can allow their own elected government to carry out foreign policy that in europe wouldn't have lasted a fourth night. It's not positive reading you will engage in, but at the same time Hertsgaard is not constantly critizing USA. He always tries to find the reason behind the, sometimes mindtumbling stupid, choices the US government takes. I feel that I know more about the USA now. Off course you'll never capture the whole of USA in one single book, but it gives you knowledge about the Americans that you most likely didn't knew before. To the American who wishes to know how the rest of the world feel about USA I would recommend this book every day.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required Reading! 5 Sep 2003
Mark Hertsgaard is a journalist, an astute observor and communicator, and a very fine writer. I find it odd that his most recent book THE EAGLE'S SHADOW: WHY AMERICA FASCINATES AND INFURIATES THE WORLD has been released abroad before it is available in the USA! Hertsgaard is an American and his driver for gathering the information for this book appears to be a need to produce a 'wakeup call' for Americans. Well documented with conversations with people around the world, this book sets out to show how the people in the countries of the world relate to (and even mimic) Americans as people while finding our government, our consumerism, and our foreign policy (read empiricism) distasteful. Rather than driving this idea to a dulling end, Herstgaard manages to show how Americans can learn from the perceptions of people outside the USA, can examine the flaws present in abundance in our governmental control of the media, our "dumbing down" of our information about the rest of the world condition (social and environmental) by the corporate emesis of rampant consumerism and "fluff news" that flood not only our films but also our television, magazines and, sadly, our newspapers. He submits strong warnings of the sequelae of ignoring fundamental issues of human rights in our allowing the corporate homogenation of the world, depriving the growing lower class of jobs and much needed medical and monetary support. He writes about the embarassment of the 2000 presidential elections, the rush to war post 911, the frighteningly quick passage of the Patriot Act which dangerously impinges on human rights, and the growing negligence of the Global Warming Effect and other issues of Environmental significance. Read more ›
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4.0 out of 5 stars A careful snapshot of American flaws 7 Feb 2004
Democracy is a work in progress. On that note, "The Eagle's Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World," by Mark Hertsgaard is a careful snapshot of what people outside the United States consider "American flaws." Still and all, the author is quick to report that throughout his travels he discovered a remarkable paradox...that nearly all the foreign critics admired our wealth and longed to come here.
America is a subject that never fails to get people talking, according to Hertsgaard. The world harbors plenty of complaints about us...particularly the Bush administration, he adds. The heavy-handed invasion of Iraq, the withdrawal from the Kyoto Treaty, the withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missle Treaty and our refusal to join the International Criminal Court top the list of complaints. Moreover, the author reports that, "no one wraps self-interest in moral superiority quite like Americans do."
America is without question the richest and most powerful nation in the world...but its glaring ignorance of the rest of the planet reflects badly on the United States, according to Hertsgaard. Include the climate of intimidation orchestrated by the Bush administration and you have the variables that explain why the United States has lost the world's admiration and respect, he adds.
Nevertheless, the critics of America all admit that we are still a land of opportunity. To this end, Hertsgaard examines our shameful treatment of Indians and Blacks...and points out that the world's proudest democracy is too self-righteous. He then concludes that the United States is a democracy in progress and urges Americans to nurture a global spirit of clarity and reason. This book is an eye-opener. It is well written and offers sound advice on how to make this great nation better.
Bert Ruiz
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