Third Avenue has a post at the Sharpener on defining anti-Americanism. Interesting stuff, with some points well-made. TA’s main contention is that “anti-Americanism” is actually “anti-Bushism”, but that many of Bush’s critics have a tendency to refer to “America” rather than “the current US administration”, effectively ignoring all the great stuff we can all laud in American society. Which is probably fair, but still it got me pondering (largely because I’ve been fairly intensively focussed on Europe over the last month or so). Thusly, the result – originally posted there as a comment:
An added problem being, of course, that the prominent ï¿½leftï¿½ in American politics often comes across as little more than cringe-makingly rubbish: Howard ï¿½Yeeeargh!ï¿½ Dean, Michael ï¿½selective and dubious factsï¿½ Moore, the Jane Fonda/Tim Robbins/Susan Sarandon ï¿½Hollywood liberalï¿½ axis, and even Chomsky (not for what he himself says, as so few people actually bother to read his often turgid prose, but for how his stuff is so often adopted by sympathetic, more extreme maniacs). None of these are exactly the finest proponents of the ï¿½otherï¿½ America, but they are pretty much the only ones we hear about outside the States.
Itï¿½s the Peter Cook thing again – ï¿½in America youï¿½ve got the Republicans, who are like the Conservatives, and the Democrats, who are like the Conservativesï¿½ (paraphrased, obviously). Although the Clinton era is now looked back on like a Golden Age in certain quarters, many people outside the US who object so much to Bush also objected to Clinton – albeit not quite so passionately. Because, by European standards, Clinton was also on the right.
I do get the impression that, over the last 4/5 years in particular although also under Clinton, there has been on the non-US left an increasing tendency to dismiss the States as a hopeless case, purely because what seems to count as ï¿½leftï¿½ on that side of the Atlantic would be considered at best centrist over here. The constant reminders of the rise of the religious right only compounds the problem, as even when sensible leftish voices are heard they always appear to come primarily from the east coast or California, and so are dismissed as unrepresentative of the average American, who we all, secretly, imagine to be some fat, inbred redneck from the midwest. (Itï¿½s probably also worth pointing out that almost all of the people I know of, and I include myself here, who fall into this category would also hold up the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution as two of the greatest political ideals ever created – but these are considered as ideals never delivered upon, a potential never realised.)
Add to that the ridiculousness of a situation where the term ï¿½liberalï¿½ can be used as an insult and the fact that the only time we really hear of domestic US politics is when something insane happens, often harking back to pre-Civil Rights era politicians who are still knocking around or the neo-cons or similar, and although few people in Europe who express a dislike of America would actually consider themselves ï¿½anti-Americanï¿½ rather than merely ï¿½anti-Bushï¿½, the longer this situation continues, the more the lines will become blurred.
At the moment, however, the fact that most people think of McCarthyism – and all the rabid witch-hunting imagery that conjures – when they hear the term ï¿½anti-Americanï¿½ means that few people accused of such a mentality will even consider for a moment that they could fall into that category, and dismiss such claims as mere lunatic-fringe ranting. Which, despite all Iï¿½ve said above, they usually are.