No I Don’t Live on a Remote Island!

Bloomberg News provides only the latest example of a journalistic convention which I’ve disliked for many years:

“SAIPAN – Agents from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation visited an office belonging to the operator of a casino on the remote U.S. island of Saipan that has attracted attention for its huge revenues, according to a local legislator and residents.” [emphasis added].

As a resident of Saipan for nearly a quarter of a century and other islands such as Guam for many others, I’ve noted the unwritten journalistic rule that encourages the use of the “remote” designation for places the institution/news service isn’t familiar with. This also provides a sexy element of mystery to the story as in, “What, they’re running more money through that teeny remote island than Macau takes in!?”

It sure suggests that something sneaky is going on, without having to be more direct.

I must admit that once upon a time, Macau would have seemed remote to me, but that was due to my own ignorance and lack of geographical knowledge.

I am wondering how you can apply this designation to places that have been served by regularly scheduled airlines and cargo ship lines for many decades. And grumbling about the quality of present air service between Saipan and Guam doesn’t make either place remote.

Is “remoteness” defined by communications? Guam and even Saipan have had some measure of local TV programming since the 1950s, though until fairly recently, much of this came from tapes recorded in the states. Satellites, digital underwater cables and ubiquitous internet connections have largely wiped out any quality or cost difference for island residents communicating with the rest of the world.

If you had the money or institutional need, basic phone communication has been available for a very long time, anywhere. As a G.I. on Okinawa in the late 1960s, I never succeeded in placing a phone call home in nearly two years, a complex process then requiring help from ham radio operators to connect with mom and dad. On the other hand, senior NCOs were being court-martialed for selling access to military communication systems on Okinawa. As they liked to brag—a great selling point—“This is the same gear that lets President Johnson make a phone call from the golf course.”

I really do think it gets down to ignorance, starting with an educational system that is totally minimalist when it comes to teaching much of anything about the components and history of the United States of America.

Should it be necessary to hold an MA in American history to know that we have ‘remote’ insular possessions?