As Others See Us

American blogger Michael J Totten travelled to Libya towards the end of last year.

He relates a story about how distorted a view some citizens of the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya have of American life:

I had a cup of coffee with one of my guides in Ghadames, Libya back in November. He sheepishly wanted to know if a particular rumor about us was true.

“I have heard,” he said, “that European and American men have sex with other men’s wives on Christmas. Is it true? Libyan people don’t like that.”

“American people don’t like that,” I said. “No, it isn’t true. We don’t do that. Europeans don’t do it either.”

“You don’t do it? Really?” he said.

“No,” I told him. “Where did you hear that?”

He looked around the room at people sitting next to our table and shrugged. “Everyone in Libya thinks this.

A journalist friend of mine had a similar experience in Iran. He was told with great sadness by a taxi-driver that in the Islamic Republic sex in restaurants and waiting rooms was against the law.

My friend told him that it was the same in the West. The man behind the wheel was incredulous. His entire view of European behaviour had, until then, been based on a bizarre combination of fire and brimstone religious sermons and smuggled-in Danish video pornography.