Mixed Signals

Ralf posted a few days ago about anti-Americanism. Unless I’m completely off-target here, he claims that the stuff we read or see in the foreign media isn’t really how people feel, that the effect is superficial. He also states that it simply isn’t as bad as we perceive it. The comments to the post seem to bear this out.

That’s fair enough, and I thank him for his input. But then there’s things like this that keep cropping up. (Go ahead and click the link, read the post. I’ll wait.)

The question that pops into my mind when I see things like this isn’t why the people of France hate us, or even if the sentiments expressed so blatantly and repeatedly in French rags like Le Monde is actually how the average Gallic citizen really feels. Instead I wonder what they think will happen if they piss off enough of the American voting public.

The cartoon and article that Gregory so kindly points out to us makes it plain that the authors think America is a violent, war-mongering country just looking to invade and kill innocent people. If they were even half right then I know which country we’d invade next, which odious culture we’d wipe out.

This is, of course, ridiculous. The US is benign and a force for good in the world or else the European powers wouldn’t be so quick to dismantle their militaries. But there’s other ways that America could make it’s displeasure plain, such as by looking elsewhere for partners in international trade or defense agreements. This wouldn’t even be done as a form of retribution, but more as a way to avoid those that have expressed a hatred of America’s people, government and culture. Considering how Socialist entitlement programs and extremely poor planning have kicked them in the teeth, I don’t think they’d like it too much if we washed our hands of them.

As I’ve mentioned above, Ralf claims that anti-American items in the foreign media really don’t have that great an impact. What I’m wondering is why Europeans have such a Euro-centric and short-sighted view. The United States is ahead of the every European country in any meaningful measure (prevalence of culture, wealth, military dominance, technological innovation, global influence). Who gives a flying fig if some guy sipping coffee in a bistro in Paris has a distorted view of the US? It can’t hurt us one way or another. But they should be supremely worried if a truck driver drinking a coke in a McDonald’s in Columbus, Ohio is pissed off at Europe.

But that would mean that Europeans would have to accept a truly global view, and I don’t think they’re capable of that.

(Hat tip to Prof. Reynolds.)

10 thoughts on “Mixed Signals”

  1. Simply put, socialism is a faith. It is a religion. Period.

    It has it’s secular saints, but, most importantly, it has it’s Satan. The Satan has ALWAYS been fundamental to the core of socialist thought, back to it’s pre-Marx origins. Satan has changed form, of course, from the bourgousie to the plutocrats to the capitalists to the kulaks to the running dogs to the Republicans to the Americans to the Jews. But “SATAN” has ALWAYS been there, imperative to overcome, crush, and destroy that socialist “heaven” may be reached. Always.

    Always, always, always. Not for five minutes of the last hundred and fifty years has socialism existed without it.

    Look at the Euro-left throught this prism, and much becomes clear. It does not matter that socialism fails and rots everything it has ever touched. It is right and good. Period. Nothing more to discuss. No proof will alter, no record matters, no heresy tolerated. And if it appears to be failing, the reason is clear. It is the fault of the…. bourgousie…. plutocrats …. capitalists…. kulaks…. running dogs…. and now today, the Republicans …. Americans …. Jews.

    Convince an Islamist that Mohammed was just some nutjob shreiking in the desert, end of story. Convince the Euro-left that socialism is just one more catastophic utopian philosophy doomed to failure foisted upon the masses by those convinced they are destined to rule.

    You will get the same reaction in both cases. Should we be surprised by their de facto alliance?

  2. I think that most European anti-Americanism results from their intense cultural parochialism and ethnocentrism. They believe that their experiences are the universal human experiences and that their solutions are the universal solutions.

    The nation states of Europe are unique in the world in their overlap between national borders and culture/language groups yet they persist in trying to cram everybody into their mold. This fails with most non-western nations and backfires badly when they try to analyze America. The try to view America as an ethnic group instead of an ideology.

    For example, the French seem to believe that everybody had the same relationship to their nation state that a French person has to France. They seem to believe that Americans are just as chauvinistic and obsessed with cultural identity as the French. Viewed this way, their anti-Americanism makes more sense. Imagine how concerned we would be with a giant chauvinistic France producing a third of the worlds GDP and possessing the only global spanning military. The French just project onto America how they would behave in a similar circumstance.

  3. Well, because of their relative impotence, cartoons are the best they can do right now. Many of their gov’ts are structured on socialist principles so it shows they never really learned the lessons of the 20th century. I think the only reason they still don’t go to war with one another is still because of the US and Russia. They just can’t stand to be in the back seat, deluded into thinking that after all these years they know where they are going.

  4. Europe is making itself more and more irrelevant. European bureaucratic “leaders” think that Europe’s interests are advanced by promoting the UN and by denigrating and opposing the US. But Europe has no military to speak of, and has mortgaged its future for a crumbling welfare state. Unfortunately, Europe’s welfared population is shrinking so they need to import workers–but no! The imported workers refuse to work, go on welfare, breed like rabbits, and indoctrinate their offspring in anti-european intolerance. Anyone who sounds an alarm is murdered on the street.

    Where is Europe heading?

  5. Maybe it’s just as well.

    Europe’s been more trouble than it’s worth for at least a century; having its military degrade into impotence means one less threat for us to worry about. And their cops are breaking up terror cells, so they’re not completely useless.

    If we can just figure out how to extend our military protection to China, Russia, and Iran, and induce those nations to let their militaries shrivel into impotence as well, we’ll be in really good shape…

  6. Well, it wasn’t like Europe in the late sixties was all that glad to see an American. I got damn tired of remarks that implied we were morally and culturally inferior. And of Canadians self-righteously observing that they put the maple leaf on their backpacks so people didn’t mistake them for, horrors, an American. But, I was also often greeted with warmth. Cultures vary but people vary more.

    I’m pretty fervent, but Rummel, it is best not to claim too much for us. We are not always a “force for good” nor always “benign.” I love our system; I believe in our system. But the essence of our system is acknowledgement that men make mistakes. I think we are better off beginning with that acknowledgement if we want to engage with Europeans at all. And they know we are human and they know they’ve dismantled their systems. That doesn’t exactly make them secure and insecure people are less, well, complacent.

    We always define ourselves, at least in part, by what we are “not,” by our difference from the other. I suspect Shannon is right that problems also arise from projection as well – as much of the worst rhetoric during the last election did.

    I do think that there is more American awareness of European attitudes this time around – and more American anger. Globalization may be part of the difference. And a more globalized culture. But the people who control the media now were the young of the sixties and seventies. That, too, may make a difference. (I do not know how consistently anti-American the media was then.)

  7. –And they know we are human and they know they’ve dismantled their systems. —

    I don’t think they’ve dismantled their systems, I think their system just morphed.

    I call it “mutated monarchy.” It’s what they’re comfortable with. Unelected 1 – unelected brusselsprouts, same difference, it’s just that the peasants have been given a bigger bone to keep them from grabbing the pitchforks.

    They prefer security, we prefer liberty.

  8. We are not always a “force for good” nor always “benign.”

    Don’t remember claiming that we were always positive. But let’s take our track record just over the last 100 years.

    We faced down German imperialism, stood up to both Fascism and Japanese imperialism, stopped the armed aggression of Communists in Korea, provided a blanket of security for Europe and the Americas while standing against the spread of Communist Russia, and we managed to stop a tinpot dictator in his efforts to grab the majority of the world’s oil supply.

    We’ve had to make some deals with a few devils along the way, but the mass graves our opponents kept digging prove that we did the right thing. We might have been forced to choose between the lesser of two evils, but we have an unequalled record of confronting evil. This is something that our critics simply cannot claim.

    The staggering number of innocent dead that some of our opponents have amassed aren’t the only proof. There’s also the point I mentioned in the original post: that large numbers of countries have been more than happy (even eager) to effectively disarm and render themselves helpless as long as they can enjoy protection under America’s security umbrella. That they are willing to do this and then turn around and insult us with impunity is a powerful arguement in favor of our positive effect in the world.

    After all, they wouldn’t dare do this if we were like any one of the former enemies I mentioned above.


  9. Shannon Love’s “American Superman” essay is a nice expansion of the above comment. Go read it.

    Already have, and it’s a great post. But I do have one teensy little problem with it. While many people think Superman is the consumate American icon, I think Spiderman is more fitting. The reason is that Supes doesn’t really have to make any sacrifices to do the right thing, while Spidey can’t get a decent break.

    I came to this conclusion after working with police officers and meeting many people in our military. The sacrifices made by decent people to contribute in some way to making the world a better place are very real.

    It could be argued that there are police officers and people serving in other countries, and they make sacrifices as well. This is true, but then I see the generosity of the average American during the most trying of times and I don’t think any other conclusion can be reached.


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