Some points on anti-Americanism

Mitch writes in his post below about Anti-Americanism. Since it would take some books’ worth of material to cover the issue comprehensively, I’ll just list some points here (feel free to add your won in the comments):

-While anti-Americanism is a very real phenomenon, it needs to be pointed out that articles like those Mitch links to constitute published rather than public opinion. The steady barrage of such articles does color the opinion Europeans have of America, but the effect is rather superficial, and does not stand up to substantiated information to the contrary, at least not after the usual period of denial. Once blogs and other alternative media start to gain status in Europe, things should start to improve.

-Anti-Americanism also usually is not as bad as Americans perceive it. Both liberal and conservative media have an incentive to overemphasize its extent; liberals because it seems to affirm their claim that W is bad for America, for his policies allegedly make the country hated all over the world, while conservatives hope that tales of hostility abroad help to close the ranks, i.e. encourage Americans to stand behind their government.

-While anti-Americanism is a quite irrational sentiment, those who propagate it have a rational if not very nice reason to do so: Unlike economic activity, politics is a zero-sum-game. Political influence is very much relative, so that influence for one party or country means less influence for the others. Anything that helps to make the most powerful less popular and influential conversely increases the influence of their competition.

-Many Americans tend to react to anti-Americanism by asserting that they are different than anybody else, in ways that those others won’t even be able to understand. This is self-defeating, for it works into the hands of those want to marginalize American influence in the world. It would be much more productive to ignore the loudmouths and engage the moderate majority which actually is open to honest debate (even if it isn’t an easy thing to do).

-This kind of exaggerated resentment should also be taken as a kind of back-handed compliment, for those who disseminate this kind of nonsense implicitly acknowledge that they regard their target as top-dog.

-Projection also is a major factor. We all remember how our respective countries behaved when they could pretty much do as they wished (I don’t want to go into the gory details here).

-The concrete level of anti-Americanism also depends on circumstances and whoever is President at the time. Bill Clinton did some things that could potentially have led to similar levels of resentment as George W. Bush. The reason why they didn’t was that Clinton has an exuberance and a charm (Republicans may interpret these characteristics differently) which Bush simply is lacking, and because he gave his European counterparts plenty of rhetorical pats on the head. Europeans also can’t really be angry at somebody who is that open a hedonist, while Bush tends to rub most of us the wrong way.

11 thoughts on “Some points on anti-Americanism”

  1. Ralf, your post is why I read Chicagoboyz.
    Thank you for puttin’ it out there.

    I have one critique of your post, however. You mention Clinton’s style as a reason for a reduced European animosity towards us during his term. I disagree. I contend, rather, that it was the substance of his policies, and not his style.

    My distinct impression of his presidency was that he was contentedly leading America towards Old Europe’s statist model. Here are some examples. He committed Nato to do Europe’s housecleaning in Kosovo, and he parroted their adoration for the stifling Kyoto Accords. He tried to import their Nationalized health care model, and in Somalia, subordinated our military procurement priorities to a UN demand for force-parity that cost us soldiers. He vocally supported the creation of the ICC. He coopted Old Europe’s Middle East “peace process”, called the Oslo Accords (we all know where they went), and he believed El Baredei’s pigeon-like cooing to ingore Iran’s nuclear build-up. Let’s not discuss North Korea.

    So, Ralf, I take this anti-intellectual hate-speech as you suggest. It’s a “back-handed compliment”. But since copying is the sincerest form of flattery, I’d rather see France’s welfare system privatized, and Europe’s Dan Rathers put out to pasture.

    I agree with you that when analyzing anti-American rhetoric it is essential we consider the source. The bulk of it is emanating from the same suspect: a multi-headed Hydra, screaming for its life – with a megaphone. Der Spiegel, UK Telegraph, The Mirror, Le Monde are essentially leftist political party organs and so are heavily invested in the current, hide-bound, socialistic status quo of Old Europe. Their American equivalents, Dan Rather’s CBS, the NYTimes and LA Times, amplify and repeat these opinions. They sympathize with their “big government” friends at these Eruopean publications and openly propagandize for their domestic political patrons, the American Democratic party.

    Why is this many-headed Hydra screaming so loudly. Bush cut taxes to grow the economy. This is antithetical to the lethargic European socialist (statist) model. If Bush’s model succeeds, and it looks like it has, European voters WILL notice, and Chirac, Schroeder, British Labor and its Irish allies will be sent packing to beg Universities for speaking engagements. Their patrons, from the London School of Economics professoriat, to Yassir Arafat’s cronies, may have to buck-up and get day jobs.

    Bush’s foreign policy is another reason for indigestion among this crowd. He is actively undermining the Anti-globalization and Transnational Progressive movements. He refuted the UN’s Conference on Racism by calling our representative home early. In addition, Americans have rejected “Reparations Payments” implicitly by voting its proponents out of office. Our “unilateralist” President bypassed the corrupted UN Security Council and enforced its own resolutions, effectively disqualifying this feckless organ from performing any duty more important than lawn-chair arranging.

    Thanks again, Steve

  2. OH, how the internet has changed everything.

    There’s been bits and pieces over the decades of anti-Americanism in the US papers, plus I seem to remember quite a few marches in the early 80s.

    But now I can read and see for myself.

    A “complaint” over the years has been we don’t listen to Europe.

    Well, now we are and we are responding. We are calling certain organizations/bureaucracies on it and calling their embassies in the US, and they don’t like it.

    And we are talking to the citizens of those countries as well.

  3. “If Bush’s model succeeds, and it looks like it has, European voters WILL notice, and Chirac, Schroeder, British Labor and its Irish allies will be sent packing to beg Universities for speaking engagements.”

    Lord, I hope so. I fear that the welfare model is deeply ingrained in European states though, and that means higher taxes. In addition, Schröder and Chirac are both trying to export their way out of trouble (Schröder with some success, it might be added), rather than stimulate domestic demand. There’s also limited room for manoeuver when you’ve surrended your ability to set interest rates to a central bank.

    In short, I fear the revolution will not be imminent.

    Anyway, that’s off-topic, for which I apologise. Ralf, that was a good post, to which I would add that the most egregious of the examples shown (the French magazine called l’Anti-Americain or something like that) seems to be a satirical attack on French anti-americanism. I’m not completely sure, but it looks like it.

    Elsewhere, I rely on anecdotal evidence and the attitudes of the people I know. I don’t know a single British person who worries about America too much – not a scientific sample, but it says something to me.


  4. It might be that Europe is critical of us because they imagine a threat they’re familiar with:
    The American right today has managed to be solidly anti-leftist while adopting an ideology – even without knowing it or being entirely conscious of the change – that is also frighteningly anti-liberty. This reality turns out to be very difficult for libertarians to understand or accept. For a long time, we’ve tended to see the primary threat to liberty as coming from the left, from the socialists who sought to control the economy from the center. But we must also remember that the sweep of history shows that there are two main dangers to liberty, one that comes from the left and the other that comes from the right. Europe and Latin America have long faced the latter threat, but its reality is only now hitting us fully.

    What is the most pressing and urgent threat to freedom that we face in our time? It is not from the left. If anything, the left has been solid on civil liberties and has been crucial in drawing attention to the lies and abuses of the Bush administration. No, today, the clear and present danger to freedom comes from the right side of the ideological spectrum, those people who are pleased to preserve most of free enterprise but favor top-down management of society, culture, family, and school, and seek to use a messianic and belligerent nationalism to impose their vision of politics on the world.
    The Reality of Red-State Fascism
    by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. December 31, 2004

  5. Mar,

    Bull- pucky!

    The LLL is still trying to suppress the conservative message anyway it can, usually by invoking PC measures or by taking the will of the people to friendly judges and getting them to thwart the will of the people.

    If the right was so much in favor of taking away the liberties of the people then the anti-war movement would not be able to parade around with signs trying to get the lower level soldiers to kill their officers and NCO’s and there would be a whole lot of people put in jail for what they say. In fact, the limitations on free speech at the conventions were far more evident in Boston than in New York with the fenced off areas way out of the entrances to the convention area.

    Your statements go along with the statements of those Hollywood “celebrities” who complain about censorship when the public decides not to purchase their product because of the political statements they make.

    I am a whole lot more worried about the PC rules on the college campuses and the ACLU going to the courts to protest my right to say anything religious than anything the Patriot Act has done. In fact, the main complaint about the Patriot Act, the library reading question, is the result of other laws rather than the Patriot Act but you will never see the MSM tell us that.

  6. –but favor top-down management of society, culture, family, and school, —

    And the difference from the left is?

    Bupkus. It’s just that it’s not the left who’s at the top dictating.

    In another 70 years, it’ll be the commie’s turn again.

  7. Americans don’t want sycophancy, they want honesty. What we get instead from the European press is strident and hysterical anti-americanism, totally separated from any reality. You have to expect some serious blowback from that. Such phoniness deserves the back of the hand.

  8. Here’s the start of an article where some college kids walk around talking to French folk:
    What I learned on ‘The Walk’
    Tuesday, December 21, 2004 – Bangor Daily News
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    I paid a visit to my local mall over the summer, where I noticed a shopper sporting a T-shirt with a nasty sentiment about the French that I had previously seen expressed on a few bumper stickers. I was there to buy camping gear for my college’s annual fall-semester 1,500-mile walk in Europe. France was going to be home for the 26 of us for about half the

    100-day journey on foot.

    I wondered if we would see Frenchman wearing a T-shirt with a similar statement about the United States along the way. I had read and heard a lot about animosity between Americans and Europeans since the war in Iraq started. I had prepared myself to spend 100 days in what I thought might be an anti-American environment, but my experiences there proved to be quite different.

    It’s anecdotal, but …

  9. The anti-americanism is all over the French media. Editorials, political cartoons, the slant of the “news” articles.

    France has been saved by the US several times now. France is an impotent, potbellied, bald, arthritic little country. If any country needed US help, it’s France. So what do they do? Everything possible to piss the US off. Not smart, old man, not smart.

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