Dear Limey’s: Buzz off Posted by: McQ
on Monday, October 18, 2004
On October 13th, the Guardian, a left-leaning newspaper in the UK, decided it might be fun to try to influence the US election by having its readers directly contact some US voters in a swing state (Ohio). So it ran a series of articles that day beginning with this one. They explained their idea thusly:
The result of the US election will affect the lives of millions around the world but those of us outside the 50 states have had no say in it - until now. In a unique experiment, G2 has assembled a democratic toolkit to enable people from Basildon to Botswana to campaign in the presidential race. And with a little help from the folks in Clark County, Ohio, you might help decide who takes up residence in the White House next month.
As one might have expected, the reaction was swift and the Guardian was quickly deluged with "feedback" from Americans who were not reticent in the least about giving their opinion on the subject. Some of them are hilarious, some angry and some, just sad.
The one with the best read on the attempt, in my opinion, was this one:
Dear Guardian folks, While I empathise with your plight, this attempt to influence voters by sending letters from foreigners will have a negative effect on your ultimate goal. You will cause people to empathise with the president, not the other way around. People will read these letters and say, "John Le who? Never heard of him, but who is he to tell me who to vote for?" Ohio
The most succinct was this one:
Mind your own flipping business. United States
The most elegant threat came in this one:
Gentle folks at the Guardian, In your plea to get your non-American readers to write to voters in Clark County, Iowa, you are correct that events in the US have had, and will have, effects on world events. For example, we have pulled your chestnuts out of the fire in two world wars that were occasioned by European diplomacy. Maybe you'd like a vote in which American president will oversee the next rescue. The next time you have elections in Great Britain, I shall endeavour to send names of your citizens to people in France, Iraq, India, the United Arab Emirates, Botswana, Pakistan, China and Argentina so that they may attempt to influence your election. It's only fair that everybody in the world should have a say in the selection of the prime minister. California
From California no less ... who'd a thunk. From New York, a little advice:
As an American who is very anti-Bush, I applaud your letter-writing campaign. I have read some of the letters that you published, and while I agree with most of the content, I also believe they will not be persuasive. This is because they are too aggressive and, as stated on your website, you don't know anything about these voters. If they happen to be leaning toward Bush, these letters will not put them off. New York
Here we have a modicum of sarcasm from Ohio:
My dear, beloved Brits, I understand the Guardian is sponsoring a service where British citizens write to Americans to advise them on how to vote. Thank heavens! I was adrift in a sea of confusion and you are my beacon of hope!
Feel free to respond to this email with your advice. Please keep in mind that I am something of an anglophile, so this is not confrontational. Please remember, too, that I am merely an American. That means I am not very bright. It means I have no culture or sense of history. It also means that I am barely literate, so please don't use big, fancy words.
Set me straight, folks! Dayton, Ohio
And a plea from a reader in the US:
I enjoy reading your paper and agree with your politics, but this is really too much.Your plan, if carried out, will hurt the Bush opposition TERRIBLY. We cannot afford to have this associated with John Kerry or anyone else. It will be; the press is going in for a kill, days before the election. United States
Of course there was the typical Texas response:
Real Americans aren't interested in your pansy-ass, tea-sipping opinions. If you want to save the world, begin with your own worthless corner of it. Texas, USA
As well as the typical California response:
Right on! Just wanted to say thanks from California for your effort and concern. This IS a very important election ... There are so many people here in the States that care about the impact America has on the rest of the world. I am personally saddened for the loss of all innocent lives. The best statement Americans can make to the rest of the world is to not elect Bush for president. Thank you so much for getting involved in our world. California
But the one that best captured how I suppose most Ohioans and most Americans felt about the Guardian venture may have been this one:
Dear wonderful, loving friends from abroad, We Ohioans are an ornery sort and don't take meddling well, even if it comes from people we admire and with their sincere goodwill. We are a fairly closed community overall. In my town of Springfield, I feel that there are some that consider people from the nearby cities of Columbus or Dayton, as "foreigners"- let alone someone from outside our country. Springfield, Ohio
I'm not sure this is the reaction the Guardian was looking for, but I would say that the reaction seems like a pretty typical American reaction to such a thing. Any guess as to its impact if any?