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Weapons of Mass Distraction: Soft Power and American Empire [NOOK Book]


In its march to becoming the world's first hyper-power, the United States has been as dependent on its soft power - the allure of American lifestyles and culture - as it has been on the hard power of military might. In Weapons of Mass Distraction, Matthew Fraser examines the role of American pop cultural industries in international affairs.

Fraser focuses on the major areas of soft power - movies, television, pop music, and fast food - and ...
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Weapons of Mass Distraction: Soft Power and American Empire

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In its march to becoming the world's first hyper-power, the United States has been as dependent on its soft power - the allure of American lifestyles and culture - as it has been on the hard power of military might. In Weapons of Mass Distraction, Matthew Fraser examines the role of American pop cultural industries in international affairs.

Fraser focuses on the major areas of soft power - movies, television, pop music, and fast food - and traces the origins, history and current influence of these on U.S. foreign policy. He describes how the American film, television, and music industries enjoy a ubiquitous global presence that has made them indispensable to the U.S. government, which has often gone so far as to fund them directly, including the White House-sponsored radio station in the Middle East launched with the hopes of winning over Muslim youths with American pop songs.

A Coca-Cola lobbyist once famously declared that "The best barometer of the relationship of the U.S. and any other country is the way Coca-Cola is treated." Fraser proves this claim isn't to be taken lightly. He charts the global spread of the fast food industry, the role of Coca-Cola and McDonald's in American foreign policy and the recent rise of their opponents: the anti-globalization movement.

Do things really go better with Coca-Cola? Fraser's answer is a resounding yes. While American soft power remains a contentious issue, he believes it promotes values and beliefs that are ultimately good for the rest of the world. Still, what are the future implications of American soft power? Will national identities decline as the world order is transformed into a state of "electronic feudalism" where there is no central power? Weapons of Mass Distraction provides an engaging, enlightening, and provocative look at the future of American foreign policy and popular culture in the 21st century.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
From Disney to McDonald's to MTV, American popular culture is found throughout the world. Its spread is under attack, both figuratively and occasionally in violent reality. Fraser, editor in chief of Toronto's National Post, examines how American political and business leaders have used America's entertainment, beverage, and fast foods industries to win friends and influence people worldwide for nearly 100 years. Providing extensive historical background on negotiations between the United States and countries whose industries struggled against the popularity of American products, the author shows that the game was usually weighted in America's favor but that local populations ultimately decided what pleased them. Fraser's analysis remains balanced, and he does not bash the influence of American popular culture. He points out that in places such as South America and India, local developers imitate American formats and business practices to produce competing and often more successful forms. As Fraser concludes, "American soft power-movies, television, pop music, fast food-promotes values and beliefs that, while contentious, are ultimately good for the world." Scholars may find attribution inadequate, but the historical and anecdotal information offers an intriguing look at the wide influence of American popular culture. Recommended for academic and public libraries.-Jill Ortner, SUNY at Buffalo Libs. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Do things really go better with Coke? Given the alternatives, writes journalist and Toronto National Post editor Fraser, the answer is yes. The title has been overused, but everything else here is fresh: Fraser offers a smart, searching look at the role of "soft power" instruments such as movies, fashion, and pop music in spreading American cultural values and, by extension, empire across the world. These instruments, he writes, are distinct from "hard power" military applications, and they've been more successful than bombs. Fraser cites Mao Zedong as having called American pop cultural artifacts "candy-coated bullets." Adds Fraser, "One can only imagine how Mao would react today upon learning that one of his successors . . . confessed he'd seen, and enjoyed, the Hollywood movie Titanic." Though the intelligentsia has criticized soft-power incursions from the start, people around the world have found it hard to resist America's sugar-water confections and entertainment extravaganzas, even when they have been naked tools of cultural-imperial power-as, for instance, when Walt Disney put Mickey, Donald, and Goofy to winning the hearts and minds of Latin America, or when his successors labored to install Disneylands in Paris, Tokyo, and Shanghai. Pop culture often trumps politics: "It is easily forgotten that socialism once had a chance in America," Fraser writes, adding that "the Hollywood moguls would have none of it. They used all their powers-including the choice of movie subjects-to back capitalism against the 'red menace.' " In the end, much of the world has been culturally terraformed to suit American desires, though this does not necessarily carry over into the political sphere.Fraser notes that alternative visions of the world-"where Vandals and Visigoths are Islamic fundamentalists in hijacked jetliners" or members of murderous drug cartels-are horrible enough that resistance to Big Macs and Madonna amounts to a something like a blow against global stability and world peace. Arguable at points, but a provocative, intelligent view of pop-culture politics.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781466865440
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 3/4/2014
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • File size: 420 KB

Meet the Author

Matthew Fraser is Editor-in-Chief at the National Post. Previously he was a professor at Ryerson University and a faculty member in the York-Ryerson Joint Programme in Communication and Culture. His book, Free-for-All: The Struggle for Dominance on the Digitial Frontier, was a Donner Prize runner-up for best book in Canadian public policy. He lives in Toronto.

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Table of Contents

1 Movies : the power and the glamour 34
2 Television : Lotusland as global empire 112
3 Music : pop goes the world 170
4 Fast food : Coca-Colonization and McDomination 222
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