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Seeking solace in foreign news reports

Posted at 12:13 PM on October 25, 2007 by Bill Wareham (0 Comments)

My former colleague Martin Kaste, now NPR's Pacific Northwest reporter, offered up an interesting theory last night in a speech at Macalester on what many people hope to get out of reports on calamities in foreign countries. He believes folks are looking for that element of "otherness" in such reports that provides them comfort that such calamities can't happen here.

He says that he used to think that way too, at least to an extent, but that since he returned to the states after five years covering South America for NPR he's adjusted his thinking.

He based much of his observation on what he saw covering the economic collapse a few years back in Argentina. He says there were signs before the collapse that Argentina had built up a middle-class prosperity on delusions. But what he says what he found most striking as he watched runs on banks and eventually riots was that Argentina felt similar enough to the U.S. that he could imagine it taking place on Nicollet Mall.

Now, he was very careful to explain that he's not predicting a similar collapse in the U.S., but he says that since he returned to the states a couple of years ago he's started viewing some events through the lens of that Latin America experience and he's seeing some similarities. He cites the (once) unrestrained optimism in rising housing prices and the culture of pork-barrel spending as two examples with parallels in Argentina.

Good food for thought, as they say.

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