News About The Rift.

David at Dialog International has an interesting review of a new book by Anrei S. Markovits, Karl W. Deutsch Collegiate Professor of Comparative Politics and German Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, The book is called “Amerika, Dich hasst sich’s besser” (America, it’s easier to hate you) and tries to give the popular recent Bush-related European “anti-americanism” (and anti-semitism) some historical context. Apparently, the core arguments of Mr Markovits’ book are available to English readers in this Harvard European Studies working paper.

I haven’t read the paper yet, so I will only say that I find the – recently often heard – comparison of the European left’s anti-Americanism with its (possibly anti-semitic) anti-zionism not too compelling beyond the not too surprising realization that many on the left have an inherent bias to morally favor the weak over the strong (although it’s certainly possible to believe that the “power”-argument is simply masking old-style anti-semitism – “what Daniel Goldhagen so aptly calls the Shylock Jew (which is unacceptable in contemporary Europe) to the Rambo Jew (a highly legitimate perception).” (p13)

You should read Dialog International’s review for a bit more detail, but let me just note that Mr Markovits’ claim thats “anti-Americanism had been perhaps the only prejudice in Europe which correlated positively with the respondents? level of education and social position” (p14) is interesting not just because this does further weaken his anti-semitism comparison, but also because he claims that the opposite is true with respect to American anti-Europeanism, which is – if at all – a phenomenon of the lower social strata. According to Mr Markovits’ “‘European’ invariably invokes positive tropes among Americans (elites and mass alike) such as ‘quality,’ ‘class,’ ‘taste,’ and ‘elegance,’ be it in food, comfort, tradition, romance, eroticism (as in European massage, European decor, European looks and the list can go on). … The risible ‘freedom fries’ had zero traction in any segment of American society.” (p5)

In a way, this view mirrors Timothy Garton Ash’s brilliant article about the phenomenon in the NY Review of books during the “Axil Of Weasel” blogosphere-battle last year

“[i]n fact, the predominant American popular attitude toward Europe is probably mildly benign indifference, mixed with impressive ignorance. I traveled around Kansas for two days asking people I met: “If I say ‘Europe’ what do you think of?” Many reacted with a long, stunned silence, sometimes punctuated by giggles. Then they said things like “Well, I guess they don’t have much huntin’ down there” (Vernon Masqua, a carpenter in McLouth); “Well, it’s a long way from home” (Richard Souza, whose parents came from France and Portugal); or, after a very long pause for thought, “Well, it’s quite a ways across the pond” (Jack Weishaar, an elderly farmer of German descent). If you said “America” to a farmer or carpenter in even the remotest village of Andalusia or Ruthenia, he would, you may be sure, have a whole lot more to say on the subject.

Certainly. And maybe even more when I have read the paper (or the book).

9 thoughts on “News About The Rift.

  1. It sounds like the complete archives of Lindenstra?e and Musikantenstadtl must be urgently beamed into Kansas to brigde the knowledge gap. 🙂

  2. One claim which Dialog International’s review didn’t remark on struck me as off the mark:

    Prof. Markovits points out that ant-Europeanism ? to the extent that it even exists in the US ? is primarily a phenomenon of the uneducated lower classes ? fueled by right-wing talk radio and the Fox television network. The educated class in the US admires all things European.

    I don’t think anti-Europeanism in the US is a class phenomenon. It’s a political phenomenon. It’s an attitude that comes with adopting and justifying to yourself certain views regarding the nature of international affairs (or having someone else justify them for you.) While it’s true that people with post-graduate degrees are less likely to be found muttering something indistinct about the French under their breath, one can find essentially the same opinions expressed more articulately by Instapundit or William Safire, or countless others. I think in Western Europe the closest parallel might be observed in Italy, where bad vibes towards the US seem to me (perhaps incorrectly) to be almost exclusively an expression of political activism, though on the other end of the spectrum.

    One related contrast that I think hasn’t gotten enough attention is the one between (y’all can put your hands down now) “Old” and “New” Europe. It is frequently mentioned by right-leaning American authors, but the explanations given generally invoke “freedom” and/or “gratitude”, and I think these are rather jejune.

    I notice a similar state of affairs in Russia. There is political antipathy towards the US, following the drumbeat of “America is trying to keep Great Russia down,” and generally limited to a circle analogous to Rush Limbaugh’s audience. There are feelings carried over from the old days of soviet propaganda (on the eve of the Iraq war, relatives in Moscow were telling me about a radio interview with Iraq’s ambassador, during which old ladies were calling the station to send their love to Saddam and wish him speedy victory.) But there doesn’t seem to be anything resembling the anti-American sentiments one finds in Western Europe. The emotional impetus just isn’t there. Stereotypes of Americans have the same status in public consciousness as any other familiar national stereotypes. Tentatively, I would suggest that something similar appears to hold true throughout ex-communist Europe. I hope some inquisitive mind decides to investigate this question further.

  3. >by Instapundit or William Safire

    LOL, I avoided mentioning those two on purpose… they might not like what the study tells them about their social status 😉

  4. You would do well to differentiate between “anti-semitism” and “anti-israelism.”

    And that’s ignoring the fact that Arabs are Semites.

  5. Silly neocon thesis.

    Since the Renaissance, and long before America was anything to think about, Europeans had been developing notions of civility based on Roman civic virtues. America for many Europeans was less civilized than India and China if for no other reason than it had no cities. Indians and Chinese no doubt would have seen the Americas as backward and barbaric (as they viewed the Europe when they thought about at all). This is because America was a place where only the poor and outcast went. This is true for aristocrats without inheritance and religious heretics.

    There was no historical ?anti-Americanism? just a ?they are not a civilized as us? observation which was plain for all to see. Generally this attitude did not end until the decline of the European aristocracy in the 20th century. As the aristocracy faded from the scene European ?elites? dismissed and embraced base culture. Not just American jazz but also European avant-garde art (not much liked in the US) and popular theater. It was the long battle of aristocrats and the bourgeoisie.

    Perhaps Markovits has forgotten but there is a huge august anti-European literature in the United States. American ?elites? particularly of the populist and socialist persuasion have long been suspicious of the imperialist anti-democratic nature of European governements. Americans have long been critical of the destitution the old European aristocracy presided over. Markovitis should read Mark Twain. Twain is exemplary of Americans. He was at once critical of European despotism and happy to indulge in the delicacies it afforded.

    Resentment is the operative word in Markovits not because Europeans suffer from it but because neocons are primarily interested in prestige, national or personal. He robs Robert Kagan and does him one better by saying that Europeans saw their power draining at the time of Tocqueville. Bull. Then he does the real nationalist number by saying the United States is irresistible and attractive to the entire world. Does Markovits travel in South America much? Could it be that Europeans (and just about everyone else on the planet), great and small, are not anti-American but anti-authoritarian? Or could it be that they are not ideologically opposed to America (not the political entity but the romantic embodiment of a national soul) but to American policies? Could it be that Europeans dislike the nationalistic (and imperial) impulse in America that they have come to dislike in their own tradition? No it is resentment. Markovits confounding America and European Jews is historically wanton and irresponsible. He actually charges Europeans are anti-modern. By his arithmetic America=Jews=Modernism. Has he ever heard of John C. Calhoun and has he read the platform of the Texas Republican party?

  6. When I think of anti-europeanism I usually think of Steven den Beste. When I did read him, _every_ article just had to have some form of snarky dig at Europe or Europeans.

  7. In my experience, there exist in Europe a whole set of anti-american prejudices and many Europeans are just to happy that G.W.Bush gives them the chance to rationalize these prejudices.

    Though I wouldn’t agree that these prejudices are limited to the intelligentsia, it certainly _is_ true that being anti-american on principle is one of the few prejudices a member ot the European intelligentsia can express freely without being considered politically incorrect.

    Don’t get me wrong: the Bush administration certainly is less than brilliant in many respects.

    Yet I am just sick and tired about all those long evenings I sat around a (European) table together with some smart, modern and generally open-minded people expressing their supposedly well grounded opionions about “the” Americans.
    Often it appears that a political act done by the USA is a crime, done by someone else it’s ok.
    And often it appears that any perceived defect in American society is put under much heavier scrutiny than anything happening in Europe.

    I do not agree with the idea that anti-americanism is the same as anti-semitism. Yet for some reason it appears that these prejudices are held by the same kind of person.

    “And that’s ignoring the fact that Arabs are Semites.”

    Begging your pardon: That statement is just pedantic bullshit.
    According to standard defintion Anti-semitism is generally defined as hostility towards Jews. Look it up in the dictionary if you have to (or here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisemitism).
    I don’t like the arabs-are-semites-too-argument because it is generally forwarded to imply something like: “Look, just because I don’t mind Palestinian car-bombs doesn’t mean I am anti-semitic. After all, I have sympathy with the semitic Palestenians”.

  8. Florian, you are right about how anti-Americanism is cloaked in criticism of the US Govt and that the US is often attacked for acts when done by other govts, including European ones, are ignored. Case in point was last week’s shooting of Ivory Coast civilans by French troops. An event that passed with little comment even though, according to some accounts the civilans were unarmed. Can anybody imagine what the international outrage would have been if the troops had been American or Israeli? But they were French acting under UN authorization, so it passed with little notice.
    Note: Not always, but a lot of times, Anti-Zionism is a cover for Anti-Semitism or if you will anti-Jewishism. Though lately in Europe anti-Semities hardly bother to hide under the cover of anti-Zionism.
    Further Note: Bush Administration with its philosphy of “Diplomacy is for French-speaking, Wimps,” does seem hell bent on proving every belief of the anti-Americans regarding USA as land of crazy reckless cowboys!

  9. David All, that shooting happened in early November, not last week – last week only allegations and counter-allegations came. (The French colonel denies the use of heavy weapons and claims they collected Kalashnikov cartridges to prove they were shot at.)

    While I can agree that there was little comment (a little is on my blog), let’s note that on the Ivory Coast, ‘President’ Gbago is the one who drives events, not the French who when they originally came saved his power as the rebels seemed to win.

    Gbago came to power after an ‘election’ held by a military dictator, who barred most rival candidates from the race including the two most popular, whose followers boycotted. But the dictator lost even these rigged elections, against third most popular Gbago, whose followers swept the general from power when he tried to stop vote counting. So Gbago seized power, and continued as his predecessor against the parties of the barred candidates (and France stupidly was first in recognising Gbago, now they got their ‘stability’…). This ultimately led to the rebellion. The pro-Gbago militias aren’t a joke either: after a peaceful march of the supporters of one of the disenfranchised candidates was dispersed this March, these militias, in cooperation with police units, raided organisers’ houses and killed 120.

    One good news here is that Gbago, while trying to get the USA into the conflict to ‘balance’ France, has now opened the way for the participation of the most popular barred candidate, Ouattara, in the next Presidential elections.

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