Saturday, April 14, 2007

Anti-Americanism has Always been in Vogue

With how bad the world--and many Americans--hate America today, you'd think it was all George W. Bush's fault. In reality, it's mostly democracy's fault. A lot of people don't like the fact that America taught people to think for themselves.

We protest not just against any nuclear weapons. We protest against America's.

We protest not just against any death penalty. We protest against America's.

We protest not against fanatic Jihadists who think it nothing to kill their fellow Iraqis and Muslims. It's America's fault.

Why? People have hated America nearly since its inception, because they despise liberty and free markets. The BBC delves into this fetish in a piece called "Death to US: Anti-Americanism Examined".

In the article I read on the subject, the author said

...this is not a recent migration brought on by Mr Bush. In May 1944 (just weeks before American GIs landed on the beaches of Normandy), Hubert Beuve-Mery, the founder of Le Monde newspaper - certainly no mouthpiece of the right - wrote this: "The Americans represent a real danger for France, different from the one posed by Germany or the one with which the Russians may - in time - threaten us. The Americans may have preserved a cult of Liberty but they do not feel the need to liberate themselves from the servitude which their capitalism has created. "

It is time that we understood that this attitude, this contempt for what democracy can do, is at the heart of at least some of the anti-Americanism we see in the world today.


Elizabeth said...

Frank, I think you misunderstood this. It isn't "America" per se that people hate, but as your cited source notes, it's capitalism. The US happens to be the world's greatest capitalist power and our multi-national corporations wreak havoc all over the world--environmental havoc and political havoc.

Frank Staheli said...

That's one point of view. I thought you told me on your site that you didn't like Noam Chomsky?

Elizabeth said...

I don't like people who stick to a narrow ideological framework. Deep down I probably agree with Chomsky on a lot of things, but I also think that there are usually a variety of reasons for why things happen.

y-intercept said...

Anti-Americanism is extremely complex, and not all criticism of America is bad. The United States was built on the premise that free speech (and criticism) is good.

I believe that, if there had been better deliberation before invading Iraq, we would have either avoided the war, or we would have been better prepared for the grueling years needed to rebuild the government.

America is built on the notion that open discourse makes the nation better. The administration should have done more than just trying to sell us on the invasion. We should have been engaged in much deeper diliberations on the future of the middle east before the invasion of Iraq.

Some self criticism is good. Manic anti-Americanism is something els.

Unfortunately, most of the anti-Americanism that we see comes from bizarre Marxists fantasies of what the United States is and what the free market is. The fact that the label capitalism get placed on all American actions shows that there is something wrong.

As for elizabeth's commenet. I believe that she is off base. It isn't "capitalism" that is driving people to hatred, it is what people believe capitalism to be that drives them to hatred. There is a detachment between what we think and what is going on.

Hatred is not created by actions but by thoughts. Elizabeth's profile says that she is a psychotherapist. I imagine that a pschotherapist would be aware that many people love their abusers, and hate those who are kind and supportive.

This mass hatred is driven by the _perception_ that the United States is trying to establish an evil capitalist empire.

Whether or not that perception meshes with reality is a big debate.

Elizabeth brings up environmental havoc. The environmental havoc done by both China and the USSR was far worse than the capitalist counter part.

When you look at environmental havoc in the third world, you often find combinations of corrupt governments, corrupt local business leaders, corrupt unions working in conjunction with the company.

In most areas that really take to the free market, you see tremendous improvements in the quality of life and the local environment.

Most economic seems to show that elizabeth's havoc statement is the result of a manufactured perception.

There are bad things in reality. Unfortunately, our perceptions are separate from reality. Hatred is driven by perception and it is more often than not directed at the wrong parties.

Amercians have a difficult path to follow. We should criticize the government when it does bad, but have to avoid letting those criticisms become manufactured perceptions.

Frank Staheli said...


I like what you said about "manic anti-Americanism". There are those (although Elizabeth seems to be generally open-minded on this issue) who will blame America for everything. It is the attitude that I see a lot on in calling George W. Bush a terrorist.

I completely agree with you that Bush, however, should have encouraged more debate before going into Iraq, rather than "selling" it the way he did.

y-intercept said...

I was trying to be harsh on Elizabeth's idea and not on Elizabeth. The base of the virulent anti-Americanism is the perception that people develop in their minds.

The strength of America is that we can criticize the government. Criticism of the government can lead to better government. Criticisms, of course, always come from one's perceptions. So it is possible for people to get so caught up in the act of criticizing that their criticisms become divorced from reality.

The fact that people's perceptions are divorced from reality usually isn't that terribly bad. In a time of war, it can be extremely destructive.

This war on terrorism is a war on an idea (Radical Islam). Unfortunately, all of the false perceptions of capitalism and the United States as an empire stand in the way of combatting this extremely destructive idea.

Frank Staheli said...

In an effort to restate:

I think our political glasses get in the way too often. Instead of trying to see what really is good and bad on both sides of the aisle, we have a tendency to look across the aisle and say '(S)He did something wrong, therefore (s)he can do no right.'

I like the point that you bring up, that our perceptions are probably often divorced from reality in today's politically charged climate. The problem is when that incorrect perception prevails on the way we look at war.