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Transatlantic Paranoia

Has global paranoia crept into even the most diplomatic places?

March 6, 2003

Has global paranoia crept into even the most diplomatic places?

Scene 1: We are on the phone with the Belgian Embassy in Washington, DC to inquire about potential cooperative partners in Belgium for one of our major educational products, The Globalist’s Explorer Channel.

After we had explained the nature of our call, this "diplomat” literally falls over laughing at us: “What do you Americans have to teach us Europeans?”

Never mind, we quickly replied, that our editorial can hardly be cast as “American.”

Our staff hails not just from the United States, but also from Germany, France, Russia, Vietnam, India and China — with editors having lived in such places as Singapore, Spain, Israel and the United Kingdom.

None of that was any consolation to a diplomat gone mad not just about the Bush Administration — but any and all Americans.

To us, it seems high time for the Belgian Foreign Service to offer a refresher course to its own diplomats. They, after all, are the ones who are supposed to keep cool under even the most aggravating of foreign policy circumstances.

But then again, the very fact that this explosion happened is a clear indication of just how profound the current disagreements between the United States and Europe are on a human level.

On to scene two: We are also working on the next “Globalist Salon” event, where we feature outstanding authors in a discussion group. The upcoming Salon will have Akbar Ahmed as the guest of honor.

This highly distinguished anthropologist, filmmaker, diplomat, professor and author will discuss “Islam vs. Islamicism.”

The topic addresses what surely is one of the key strategic questions of our time. Alas, due to an accidental twist in the fax number for one of the invitations sent out, our event manager gets a phone call from the U.S. Treasury Department.

A highly irritated staffer breathlessly asks why she received an invitation to the event — and expresses indignation since some of her colleagues who had seen the fax accused her of terrorist leanings.

Terrorist leanings? Come on. Since when has dialogue designated to promote global understanding — albeit at a nerve-wracking time — been deemed terrorist? And that in Washington, the long-time citadel of liberty and civic tradition?

In the end, both of these incidents — occurring in the same town within a span of two days — underscore the degree of extreme nervousness, if not beginning paranoia, the world has reached. That is a truly worrisome sign of where we might be heading.