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On this day, how do the Brits feel about America?
July 4, 2006 3:14 PM   Subscribe

Anti-Americanism So, on this July 4th, how do the British feel about America? A yougov poll from 2 July found that most Brits have great doubts about the USA. The Daily Telegraph, a conservative newspaper reported the poll and in its leader told them off saying "Hate America, Hate Mankind." Forbes thinks it is all envy while this German thinks it's lonely at the top...
posted by A189Nut (73 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
We've seen the Katrina pictures. Envy has nothing to do with it.
posted by Space Coyote at 3:17 PM on July 4, 2006


"To Europeans, the new United States looks like Gulliver did to the Lilliputians: a giant whose intentions are uncertain and whom they would prefer to see bound by a thousand little ropes. "Their motto is: let him be strong as long as he is in harness, be it self-chosen or imposed," he writes."

Wow, that sums it up wonderfully.
posted by geoff. at 3:28 PM on July 4, 2006


There's something in the first link that sums it up pretty well.
While staring into an abyss of disillusion, many in the Third World began to wonder: Was the colossus the new apostle of freedom or merely the heir to the throne of Western imperialism? That it could be a bit of both was a subtlety lost on the many to whom the sight of white men killing the natives never had more than one meaning. Fighting the scourge of communism was a worthy cause. But at what price? To make up for all of its dictator-propping interventions in Iran, Guatemala, Indonesia, Greece, Chile, etc, how many democracies did the US help spawn during the Cold War? Sadly, not a single one. Today, for all his talk of freedom, Bush is busy emulating Saddam by filling graves with dead Shiites. Meanwhile, with 725 bases overseas and troops in 70 percent of the world's countries [17], the US military footprint is large enough to ensure that, for millions around the world, Americans are people in uniform. Rambo's paternity rights are hardly Hollywood's alone.
The qualification of the 'third' world is unecessary. If the US lives up to its rhetoric anti-Americanism disappears.

If the US behaves like an empire, it will be treated as such.
posted by sien at 3:32 PM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]


I love the United States. Americans are great people. Sure, things like the Suez crisis are regrettable, but we did the same kind of thing when we were in charge. Happy Independence Day, and best wishes for the future.
posted by alasdair at 3:36 PM on July 4, 2006


Exactly. This 'anti-Americanism' is just about seeing reality.
posted by stinkycheese at 3:37 PM on July 4, 2006


Ugh.

re. sien -

If the US lives up to its rhetoric anti-Americanism disappears.

If the US behaves like an empire, it will be treated as such.

posted by stinkycheese at 3:38 PM on July 4, 2006


Paul Johnson, what colour is the planet you live on? What a load of spineless, Blair-esque, arse-licking wank.
posted by PurpleJack at 3:43 PM on July 4, 2006


This is what makes my blood boil:
A spokesman for the American embassy said that the poll's findings were contradicted by its own surveys.

"We question the judgment of anyone who asserts the world would be a better place with Saddam still terrorizing his own nation and threatening people well beyond Iraq's borders," the paper quoted the unnamed spokesman as saying.

posted by Flashman at 3:54 PM on July 4, 2006


Patrick Stewart once said, when asked why the UK doesn't celebrate July 4th:
How do you want us to celebrate it? "Who cares - we didn't want that continent, anyway."?
We prefer burning an effigy of a Guy who tried blowing up the government. Maybe the US could do the same. Call it "Zack Mouse's Day" or something...
posted by bruzie at 3:59 PM on July 4, 2006


Paul Johnson, point by point:

1) The U.S. is the world's most successful democracy?

France is not a democracy, he says.

2) An astonishingly high proportion of European elites know very little about U.S. history or culture and even deny that they have a separate existence apart from their European roots.

If Jeb Bush can help it, Americans themselves will know very little about their history.

3) Are American spritual interests free of consumerism?
posted by pwedza at 3:59 PM on July 4, 2006


Here in Canada we're no stranger to anti-Americanism. But I would guess that the US's current low standing in the world is primarily due to Bush, American unilateralism, and the war in Iraq. And this is dangerous territory.
... real power is always something far greater than military power alone. A balance of power is not a balance of military power alone: it is, rather, a balance in which military power is one element. Even in its crudest aspect, power represents a subtle and intimate combination of force and consent. No stable government has ever existed, and no empire has ever become established, except with an immensely preponderant measure of consent on the part of those who were its subjects. That consent may be a half-grudging consent; it may be a consent based in part on awe of superior force; it may represent love, or respect, or fear, or a combination of the three. Consent, in any case, is the essential ingredient in stable power--more so than physical force, of which the most efficient and economical use is to increase consent. By using physical force in such a way as alienates consent one constantly increases the requirements of physical force to replace the consent that has been alienated. A vicious spiral develops that, continued, ends in the collapse of power.
Louis Halle, The Cold War as History.
posted by russilwvong at 4:04 PM on July 4, 2006


Incidentally, it is killing recruitment to American Studies programmes in the UK. Recruitment nationally is half what it was three years ago, Departments are closing left, right and centre and the decline in applications this year was worse still - 31% down on last year. If it goes on, in a few years there will be very few academic locales left for the undergraduate study of the USA. A shame, given the power of America in our lives.

But then Film Studies students would not study their subject if they hated movies, or English students if they hated novels...
posted by A189Nut at 4:08 PM on July 4, 2006


And fuck you, Joffe. Europeans opposed the invasion of Iraq because it was patently wrong, not because they were afraid it would make the U.S. stronger. It was stupid and wrong and just gets stupider and wronger.
Anti-Americanism equals anti-Semitism? W.T.F?!!!
posted by Flashman at 4:14 PM on July 4, 2006


Heh. They should have asked what Brits think of Portugal.
posted by bardic at 4:15 PM on July 4, 2006


But I would guess that the US's current low standing in the world is primarily due to Bush, American unilateralism, and the war in Iraq.

You would guess?
posted by dobbs at 4:18 PM on July 4, 2006


Hell, I have "great doubts" about the USA. Or at least the current regime.
posted by Doohickie at 4:19 PM on July 4, 2006


The US's low standing in the world is entirely due to the fact that Fox News can now be seen outside its borders, by people. They were expecting respect for that, perhaps?
posted by Sparx at 4:28 PM on July 4, 2006


Bush's Foreign Friends Fading Fast
"Most of the leaders who defied criticism at home to stand with him on Iraq and win his friendship are no longer players on the world stage, or are on their way out. And it was a small band of brothers to begin with." more...
posted by ericb at 4:33 PM on July 4, 2006


Fox News can now be seen outside its borders, by people

“The Real Victims Of Fox News Weren't The Liberals It Attacked But The Conservatives Who Believed It”...
posted by ericb at 4:34 PM on July 4, 2006


I think Americans tend to be naive, and most refuse to believe that evil men have gained control of American power.


Samar Hassan, 7, cries seconds after U.S. troops shot and killed her parents in Tal Afar in northern Iraq in January 2005.


posted by The Jesse Helms at 4:37 PM on July 4, 2006 [2 favorites]


dobbs: You would guess?

Sure, there's other factors. American pop culture, for example. An interview with George Kennan:
Richard Ullman: It isn't only our military power that makes us number one. For better or worse, our cultural impact is equally profound. The world flocks to American popular culture.

George Kennan: This, alas, appears to be true. We export to anyone who can buy it or steal it the cheapest, silliest, and most disreputable manifestations of our "culture." No wonder that these effusions become the laughingstock of intelligent and sensitive people the world over. But so long as we find it proper to let millions of our living rooms be filled with this trash every evening, and this largely to the edification of the schoolchildren, I can see that we would cut a poor figure trying to deny it to others beyond our borders. Nor would we be successful. In a computer age, it is available, anyway, for whoever wants to push the button and receive it. And so we must expect, I suppose, to appear to many abroad, despite our military superiority, as the world's intellectual and spiritual dunce, until we can change the image of ourselves we purvey to others.
posted by russilwvong at 4:39 PM on July 4, 2006


Actually, in retrospect, there may be more than some truth to that. The reason Hollywood has been regarded as classically liberal is because they must pander to the comparative liberalism that exists in richer, english speaking countries overseas. Most people get their ideas of America not from the net or the newspapers, but from television and movies. Fox News and its ilk clearly demonstrate that the encompassing social liberalism of Hollywood is not the same across the board and America's stock goes down.

(I am, of course, aware, that I am speaking in generalities, but I find the thesis thought-provoking)

On preview: thanks for the link ericb
posted by Sparx at 4:39 PM on July 4, 2006



Did you know...

"The United States is not only stronger than its largest potential enemy, it is also stronger than all potential enemies combined. This is a state of affairs unknown in human history."
posted by youlikeme at 4:41 PM on July 4, 2006


Really America, do you care?

The U.K. is a tiny country many miles away from you. We share a common language and sometimes we come along with you on stupid geo-political missions.

That's all. Repeat after me...

You don't need us to like you.
You don't need us to like you.

In fact, it's a miracle we like you as much as we do. We're like the puny little friend you need to come crying to whenever you get tired of being a bully. "Validate me... Tell me I'm not as bad as people say... You're my friend aren't you..."

Jeez.
posted by seanyboy at 4:42 PM on July 4, 2006


I think Americans tend to be naive, and most refuse to believe that evil men have gained control of American power.

Dude, WTF? Can't you see the beacon of freedom? Its right there, mounted on the barrel.
posted by c13 at 4:42 PM on July 4, 2006


I think Americans tend to be naive

True. Thinking they could break away from England and actually win a war against a vastly superior force was the height of naivete.

"The United States is not only stronger than its largest potential enemy, it is also stronger than all potential enemies combined. This is a state of affairs unknown in human history."

Which is why 3,000 civilians weren't killed by a group of Saudi fanatic death-cultists. Oh, wait.
posted by bardic at 4:46 PM on July 4, 2006


*Saudi*
posted by Flashman at 4:49 PM on July 4, 2006


Americans find themselves damned either way. If they remain within their own borders, they are isolationist hicks who are shirking their responsibilities. If they intervene, they are rapacious imperialists.

False dichotomy, anyone? Somehow, I suspect if we'd gone to Darfur instead of Baghdad, we would not be seen as rapacious imperialists.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:01 PM on July 4, 2006


Sure, there's other factors. American pop culture, for example.

I've never understood this. No matter what overheated rhetoric people use, we're not forcing our pop culture on anyone. For the last century, and especially since WWII, the world has been gobbling up American pop culture (and regurgitating it in nativized forms) because it likes it. Not everybody, obviously—the elitists and fuddy-duddies you have with you always—but lots and lots of people like it. They liked ragtime and Charlie Chaplin and swing and Clark Gable and cowboy movies and Elvis and bebop and rock-and-roll, and now they like today's equivalents. If there's one thing America's good at, it's pop culture. And the Brits have gobbled it up and regurgitated it more than anyone, no matter how they grouse about it. Verdict: straw man and red herring.
posted by languagehat at 5:12 PM on July 4, 2006


I suspect if we'd gone to Darfur instead of Baghdad, we would not be seen as rapacious imperialists.

Hah. If we'd gone to Darfur, we'd have fucked it up as badly as we did Somalia. Pop culture we do well; humanitarian intervention, not so well.
posted by languagehat at 5:13 PM on July 4, 2006


--we're not forcing our pop culture on anyone.

That's not the issue. The problem is that it makes Americans look like idiots. Think of "Married ... with Children."
posted by russilwvong at 5:19 PM on July 4, 2006


lh: perhaps, but nobody accused us of wanting to add Somalia to our glittering string of vassal states.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:20 PM on July 4, 2006


That's not the issue.
Or, more precisely, if that was the only thing we were forcing on anyone, it would not be an issue.
posted by c13 at 5:21 PM on July 4, 2006


The problem is that it makes Americans look like idiots.

But that's not the issue either. The argument being made is not that it makes Americans look like idiots but that it shows how the US evilly stomps all over the world with its jackboots, and that's just silly. Also, what's so idiotic about pop culture? Do you consider "ragtime and Charlie Chaplin and swing and Clark Gable and cowboy movies and Elvis and bebop and rock-and-roll" (to quote my partial list) signs of idiocy?
posted by languagehat at 5:22 PM on July 4, 2006


...
posted by Debaser626 at 5:25 PM on July 4, 2006


"The United States is not only stronger than its largest potential enemy, it is also stronger than all potential enemies combined. This is a state of affairs unknown in human history."

Well, this is meaningless. Stronger how? By having more weaponry? Watching the US go to war reminds me of Data from the Goonies going to fight strapped with 400 gizmos, and then getting knocked out with a real punch before he can fire his hydronisingshock-o-matic.

Seanyboy: Actually, they do need other people to like them. Because like russilvwong points out, consent matters. As do other things, like not calling in the national debt.

It pisses me off that it's all gone so nastily wrong in the US. They had this great constitution, and they had this brilliant, liberal cast-off-the-shackles outlook, but within 200 years they were as class-ridden and monarchical as the countries they left behind.

The founders wrote in checks and balances and still the government became corrupt -- while the lawmakers were pointing to the letter of the laws whose spirit they were selling. Their government listens to its citizens' phonecalls while they shoot one another with the guns they keep to protect themselves from tyranny.

Now they're making the same sort of Empire-building mistakes we made in the 1800s and 1900s. We fucked up in Iraq and Afghanistan while they were still depressed, and the history books could have told them this would be a disaster.

All the same, I'm typing this on an American computer, listening to American music, wearing an American T-shirt and drinking an American drink. They've already had their empire, they're better than this nonsense.
posted by bonaldi at 5:27 PM on July 4, 2006


The argument being made is not that it makes Americans look like idiots but that it shows how the US evilly stomps all over the world with its jackboots, and that's just silly.

Where did I say that?! (I agree that it's a silly argument.)

Do you consider "ragtime and Charlie Chaplin and swing and Clark Gable and cowboy movies and Elvis and bebop and rock-and-roll" (to quote my partial list) signs of idiocy?

No, I'm thinking of today's pop culture. The Martha Bayles op-ed makes the point that during the early years of the Cold War, pop culture was a strength of the US rather than a weakness.
In his book, "Cultural Exchange & the Cold War," veteran foreign service officer Yale Richmond quotes the Russian novelist Vasily Aksyonov, for whom those VOA jazz broadcasts were "America's secret weapon number one." Aksyonov said that "the snatches of music and bits of information made for a kind of golden glow over the horizon . . . the West, the inaccessible but oh so desirable West."

... who could imagine such a reverent, yearning listener in the Middle East, South Asia or anywhere else today? The difference is not just between short-wave radio and unlimited broadband, it is also between Duke Ellington and 50 Cent.
posted by russilwvong at 5:29 PM on July 4, 2006


George_Spiggott: --nobody accused us of wanting to add Somalia to our glittering string of vassal states.

Actually, al-Qaeda did. In fact they fought the US there. (But your point stands, since the rest of the world would certainly have regarded intervention in Darfur in quite a different light than the invasion of Iraq.)
posted by russilwvong at 5:35 PM on July 4, 2006


Anti- one's own point of view is a very common false dilemma.
posted by Brian B. at 5:40 PM on July 4, 2006


Most of the world is more socially conservative than either the US or Europe.

Whether being 'forced' or not, American pop culture stinks on ice for many societies. Entertainment is one thing, but they sure don't want their own kids turning into Ozzy or Britney. One might enjoy for example, either a gangster or gangsta movie, but have zero desire to raise actual thugs, prostitutes, or drug addicts. And that's who they think is standing right behind the line of soldiers.

The problem in part, is that for economic reasons we allow our teenagers to determine what hollywood produces and so that's what outsiders see, an adolescent-minded people.
posted by scheptech at 5:44 PM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]


Charlie Chaplin was British, and half of Hollywood is Canadian or British or Australian or New Zealander or Chinese... not that we have enough movies set in those places. We need more movies set in the exciting metropole of Toronto - and car chases down King street that don't turn the corner onto Bloor!

The poll itself is much more interesting than the articles - it shows a much more graded feeling. The majority of people think that the current US foreign policy isn't a good idea and isn't going well, but it's just about equal on whether the US is a good ally. Basically, the poll reads as damning of the current government, but not of the country. (It does say the US is class ridden and dominated by business, but it doesn't say how many would say the same thing of Britain and many other places).

And I have to say - I've encountered about a hundred times more anti-French feelings from Americans than anti-American feelings from the French. They have too much to do over there - eat great bread, worry about unemployment. They even forget to remind the States that the States would not even exist on this fine 4th of July without the hefty help of Lafayette and his French troups, not to mention the French attacking the British elsewhere. But don't worry, I can do it for them.
posted by jb at 5:55 PM on July 4, 2006


"Hate America, Hate Mankind", eh? Good to see that the Daily Telegraph's grasp of elementary logic is as embarrassingly childish as ever.
posted by Decani at 7:12 PM on July 4, 2006



They hate us 'cause they're all a buncha cheeze-eatin' surrender fags.

And they hate Jesus too.
posted by jason's_planet at 7:32 PM on July 4, 2006


This polling is nothing new. When India and Pakistan obtained nukes, I recall polls of Europeans indicating many saw the USA as the world's largest threat.

A few months before 9/11, an International Herald Tribune article ran a survey of various European nations regarding President Bush. I don't recall the exact wording of the survey, but the respondants viewed Bush very negatively because he was seen as governing from the American point of view (apparently this is a bad thing for an American president to do?). Depending on the nation, the negatives were anywhere from 60%-90%.

The point here is, this news isn't exactly "new."

Most of it is honest disagreement but an element of jealousy and rooting against #1 is mixed in there as well.
posted by b_thinky at 8:22 PM on July 4, 2006


ha ha, b_thinky said #1
posted by dydecker at 8:24 PM on July 4, 2006


Actually, the poll results are quite interesting. It seems to show a general like for American people and icons (and businesses, like Microsoft), but a very strong dislike for Bush and the war in Iraq. Even Condi has a favorable rating, though just by 1%.

I'm surprised they think we're racially divided. I wonder how much of an affect Katrina has on this. I am surprised because after the subway/bus bombings, a lot has been made about how immigrants and minorities are not allowed to assimilate in European society. We don't seem to have that problem so much here.

The only thing I don't get is the question of "culture." Americans are not cultured in the eyes of Brits. What does that mean, exactly? I think our culture is quite strong and influential. Maybe it's not traditional enough to be considered valid by Europeans?
posted by b_thinky at 8:28 PM on July 4, 2006


b_thinky, i hate to rag on you, but you're mixing your definitions of culture:

Americans are not cultured in the eyes of Brits.

This may or may not be true (and I've met plenty of uncultured British people and many cultured Americans) but you're talking about cultured in the sense of having tastes in art and manners, etc. Think of the fat guy tourist walkshorts talking loudly about Texas on the Tube. But then:

I think our culture is quite strong and influential

you're using a definition of culture in the wider sense, a set of American attitudes and behavior, be they for good or bad, which are strong and influential (though not as influential as many think.)

Happy 4th of July, America. And please remember to wish me a happy Waitangi Day when it rolls around in return ;)
posted by dydecker at 8:54 PM on July 4, 2006


It's very interesting to read your list of positive "American culture" languagehat. As russilwong points out, it's all ancient history to today's youth. I myself used to eat up American culture with a fork and spoon, but, let's be honest - since about 1980, it's been mighty slim pickings if your tastes go beyond boobies, blood and blowing things up. Mainstream American "culture" is evidence of a dying dream; it's the aesthetic flipside to the atrocity stories coming out of Iraq (and the thinking that got us there). Could it really be otherwise?
posted by stinkycheese at 8:57 PM on July 4, 2006


and if you don't know what Waitangi Day is, maybe there's a clue as to why America is percieved as uncultured :p
posted by dydecker at 8:58 PM on July 4, 2006


b_thinky: the brits are very class-conscious, and distinguish between "high" and "low" culture. The strongest & most influential parts of American culture are probably thought to fall into the latter basket.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:00 PM on July 4, 2006


and if you don't know what Waitangi Day is, maybe there's a clue as to why America is percieved as uncultured :p

Hm, that sounds suspiciously like something to do with New Zealand, in which case a big "who cares?" is called for ;P
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:02 PM on July 4, 2006


I'm surprised they think we're racially divided

Part of me thinks this is a legacy of your history more than a reflection of the current state of the US - but then again. although the UK has its debates about multiculturalism and immigration, I get the impression they're not quite as vociferous as in the US. But note the word impression - the only parts of the US I've been to are New York and Washington DC, and while I read US news websites (including Fox, for my daily dose of irritant). watch the Daily Show, have American friends, and generally consider myself clued up about US politics and culture, I'm not really clued up. I don't know what it's actually like. Just as 99% of Americans don't have a really detailed picture of the UK or Europe. Both sides get their details and opinions filtered through all sorts of prisms. So it's easy to take lazy views, which is why I don't pay too much attention to these kinds of polls.
posted by greycap at 10:10 PM on July 4, 2006


I think Americans tend to be naive, and most refuse to believe that evil men have gained control of American power.

Samar Hassan, 7, cries seconds after U.S. troops shot and killed her parents in Tal Afar in northern Iraq in January 2005.


I think you disrespect the country, the soldiers, the victims and the situation in that photo by posting it, entirely without context, in a thread about anti-Americanism.

As if an accidental killing embodies the United States. As if the same thing embodies the military.

Why didn't you post a photo of the Marines or Navy Seals responding to Indonesia after the tsunami?



How about the earthquakes in places like Pakistan? The landslide in the Phillipines? Are you even aware of the fact that we had 16,000 troops, an aircraft carrier group and 100 transport planes like the C-5 assigned to the tsunami-affected areas, and that our military is one of the only organizations in the world capable of carrying out a relief effort like that?

I know a Marine who was in the Phillipines for the landslide relief effort and is now deploying to Iraq. He's not alone -- a lot of the people in Iraq are the same people who were digging people out of the mud or bringing food to people who had their homes swept away.

And last I checked, we've spent a shitload of money helping other countries and we aren't asking for a dime back. So maybe it would be a good idea for you to rethink why, in a thread about America's overall image, the first thing you did was post one picture showing one soldier in the worst possible light.
posted by Alexandros at 11:51 PM on July 4, 2006


From the first link: Notch this one up in the cynical column. The US has made two new friends: Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov, whose pastime is to boil his opponents to death [19], and Turkmenistan's Saparmurat Niyazov, whose proudest accomplishment is to have renamed the months of the year after himself [20]. Both of these unsavory crackpots are now the beneficiaries of US largesse: the Saddams of tomorrow.

Add these two to a long list: Noreiga, Batista, Diem, Pinochet, Montt, Somoza, Galtieri. Mobuto, Trujillo - and that list is far from exhaustive.
posted by Neiltupper at 12:00 AM on July 5, 2006


So maybe it would be a good idea for you to rethink why, in a thread about America's overall image, the first thing you did was post one picture showing one soldier in the worst possible light.

Um, because that kind of thing is *exactly* what people are seeing now, and which is most strongly informing their image of America?

Helping out in humanitarian crises is certainly commendable, but is also the kind of thing that people expect, such that doing it earns no brownie points, even though abstaining can be perceived negatively.

Aside from that, the US' public & private contributions to the tsunami relief effort were not really much to write home about, in per capita terms, so it's hardly something to be *too* proud of. (That sounds a bit snarkier than intended. Just saying)
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:21 AM on July 5, 2006


we've spent a shitload of money helping other countries and we aren't asking for a dime back

BWAHAHAHAHA!!! That's just hopelessly naive.

I said the day after Bush's reelection: Fuck You, America. If anything my opinion of America has worsened since then.
posted by salmacis at 12:32 AM on July 5, 2006


I'm not sure that I speak for all brits, but my friends and I, if ever we speak of America in negative terms, do so in the context of "why do they allow their politicians to get away with this?"

But we're no better. We went to war with you, we're reducing civil liberties like you... why do we allow our politicians to get away with this?
posted by flameproof at 3:17 AM on July 5, 2006


flameproof nails it.

The answer is that single minded folk (read lobbyists) with agendas tend to call the shots in democracies. Normal folk- we're too busy to do the necessary, between work and general worry and all.

They (the French) even forget to remind the States that the States would not even exist on this fine 4th of July without the hefty help of Lafayette and his French troups, not to mention the French attacking the British elsewhere.

Not to sound ungrateful to the French, but Louis and his ministers were less interested in helping us than in hurting the UK. Not that it did them any good- they kind of got the short end of that global war, and, of course, their own rather more unfortunate revolution to boot.

But I do like the statue they gave us later on, that's pretty damn good.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:00 AM on July 5, 2006


Oh yeah, the French were fighting to piss off the British - 80 years of on and off again war will do that to you. But then again, the Americans were fighting because they didn't want to pay the taxes that supported the British troops protecting them from attacks by the French and their Mohawk allies. So maybe going too deeply into the motivations isn't the best for anyone involved.
posted by jb at 6:26 AM on July 5, 2006


who could imagine such a reverent, yearning listener in the Middle East, South Asia or anywhere else today? The difference is not just between short-wave radio and unlimited broadband, it is also between Duke Ellington and 50 Cent.

let's be honest - since about 1980, it's been mighty slim pickings if your tastes go beyond boobies, blood and blowing things up. Mainstream American "culture" is evidence of a dying dream

These are simply evidence of lack of perspective (which is perfectly normal; I'm not accusing anyone of being an idiot). Pop culture has always looked sleazy and unworthy in its day to people who considered themselves cultured; only after it has receded safely into the past can it be appreciated for its virtues. Every single item on my list was considered a sign of degeneracy and/or mindlessness by a significant number of tastemakers; in fact, outraging "good taste" is practically a requirement for pop culture to be accepted by its natural consistency, the young. I know you kids will find this hard to believe, since you think of the Beatles as so inoffensive as to be suitable pap for old folks with one foot in the door of the nursing home, but in 1964 they were considered the onslaught of the devil by most adults, and there were burnings of Beatles records and denunciations by politicians and all that sort of thing. And in forty or fifty years the current stuff you think is so clearly inferior is going to sound just as pleasant and quaint (the best of it, that is; time weeds out the crap). Even now, doesn't "Rapper's Delight" sound that way? "I said a hip, hop, the hippie, the hippie to the hip hip hop, a you dont stop..."
posted by languagehat at 6:55 AM on July 5, 2006


And yes, I know the Beatles were British; I'm making a point about pop culture in general.
posted by languagehat at 6:56 AM on July 5, 2006


BWAHAHAHAHA!!! That's just hopelessly naive.

I said the day after Bush's reelection: Fuck You, America. If anything my opinion of America has worsened since then.


"Bwahahaha" and "hopelessly naive"?

What did you do while the U.S. Marines were pulling Filipinos out of the mud? Sit on your ass in San Francisco?

Nah, man. If you don't have anything better to bring than "bwahahaha" and "hopelessly naive" then maybe you should think twice before you embarrass yourself.
posted by Alexandros at 7:01 AM on July 5, 2006


I think, Alexandros, that the poster was referring to your claim that the US "didn't ask for a penny back". On the contrary, US aid generally has a great many strings attached to it -- financial or otherwise.
posted by bonaldi at 7:05 AM on July 5, 2006


I know the Beatles were British

Chaplin was a Brit, too. and interestingly enough after spending 40 years as US resident, J Edgar Hoover kicked him out of the country in the early fifties because he was not only a limey, but a commie, or a paedophile, or something, too

but you're right, the US excels at producing pop culture, I remember a SF novel set in the future where the only industries left in the USA are entertainment and pizza delivery

anyway: the Torygraph editorial is a bit of a joke, really -- like the paper itself. that Forbes wasn't able to find someone more competent -- or simply more sober -- than Johnson to write that easy "rah rah for the US" piece is also beyond comprehension (the editors there were probably too lazy).

the question is easily answered -- such a large country, with a monster military budget, is by definition -- and probably by design, too -- destined to scare other smaller nations off. the fact is that not much good can come from a leadership madly in love with preemptive attacks (a war crime), torture (another war crime), detention sine die without trial (a most unAmerican idea, if you bother to read, say, Jefferson). just that.

when/if the US manages to switch from GOP/Diebold to another vote-counting outfit, and a change of leadership happens, then we'll see less diffidence abroad (and in the US itself, since the country seems to be pretty evenly split).

but I wouldn't hold my breath, really
posted by matteo at 7:14 AM on July 5, 2006


The pop culture thing was a bit of a derail--I just wanted to answer dobbs' question by pointing out that there's other factors besides the incompetence and arrogance of the Bush administration which account for negative views of the US. (languagehat, I'll have to think some more about your last comment.)

Conversely, there's a great deal about the US which is admirable, and which tends to buoy up world opinion of the US. In many ways the US embodies the Western intellectual tradition of "rigor, reason, and the power of the mind" (Pico Iyer). Hans Morgenthau describes the strengths of the American national character, particularly in conflicts: "individual initiative, gift for improvisation, technical skill." Fred Cuny is an excellent example.

As I've said before, the US has a great many historic achievements to its credit: establishing a liberal democracy, after winning its independence from the superpower of the day; helping to defeat Imperial Germany in World War I, and Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in World War II; containing the Soviet Union, and rebuilding Western Europe and Japan, during the Cold War. And of course there's its many contributions to science and technology.

The US is often accused of hypocrisy for failing to live up to its moralistic rhetoric, but I like Neal Stephenson's defense:
"You know, when I was a young man, hypocrisy was deemed the worst of vices. ... It was all because of moral relativism. You see, in that sort of a climate, you are not allowed to criticize others--after all, if there is no absolute right and wrong, then what grounds are there for criticism? This led to a good deal of general frustration, for people are naturally censorious and love nothing better than to criticize one another's shortcomings. And so it was that they seized on hypocrisy and elevated it from a ubiquitous peccadillo into the monarch of all vices. For, you see, even if there is no right and wrong, you can find grounds to criticise another person by contrasting what he has espoused with what he has actually done. In this case, you are not making any judgment whatsoever as to the correctness of his views or the morality of his behaviour--you are merely pointing out that he has said one thing and done another.

"... Because they were hypocrites, the Victorians were despised in the late twentieth century. Many of the persons who held such opinions were, of course, guilty of outlandish conduct themselves, and yet saw no paradox in holding such views because they were not hypocrites themselves--they took no moral stances and lived by none. So they were morally superior to the Victorians even though--in fact, because--they had no moral standards at all."
(From The Diamond Age. By the way, matteo, the novel you're referring to is Stephenson's Snow Crash.)

One final factor in the world's opinion of the US which I should mention: the degree to which the US successfully meets the challenges facing it. Some challenges that come to mind are the functioning of its political system (the 2000 election is iconic in this respect), public healthcare, fiscal policy, global warming.

As George F. Kennan put it in 1946:
Every courageous and incisive measure to solve internal problems of our own society, to improve self-confidence, discipline, morale and community spirit of our own people, is a diplomatic victory over Moscow worth a thousand diplomatic notes and joint communiqués. If we cannot abandon fatalism and indifference in face of deficiencies of our own society, Moscow will profit--Moscow cannot help profiting by them in its foreign policies.
posted by russilwvong at 7:57 AM on July 5, 2006


Context for The Jesse Helms' picture
posted by banishedimmortal at 3:29 PM on July 5, 2006


Thanks, banished.
posted by russilwvong at 4:00 PM on July 5, 2006


languagehat: Pop culture has always looked sleazy and unworthy in its day to people who considered themselves cultured; only after it has receded safely into the past can it be appreciated for its virtues [etc]

What you say is true, but I think only partly true. You are describing the process whereby a shocking new genre gradually loses its outrage value, and becomes tolerated, and then accepted into mainstream culture.

However, this is a different, almost totally unrelated issue to whether or not this popular mainstream culture can be accepted by elites into the canon of high culture, or "art". Certainly it has happened before: I think it was on the blue that somebody recently pointed out that novels were once considered a weak, lowly form of (non-) literature produced and consumed by women, as opposed to the manly art of epic lyric poetry.

But have ragtime and Charlie Chaplin and swing and Clark Gable and cowboy movies and Elvis and bebop and rock-and-roll become thought of as high culture? I think the answer would be a resounding "no", or at the very best, "not yet". And yet these are cultural products, products of American culture, using the term in its more broad sense. They just do not belong to the kind of "high culture" that people have in mind when asking if somebody is "cultured".

Speaking of popular, mainstream culture, the sheer productivity of Hollywood, the major record labels, the TV studios and so on probably drowns out the more artistic American produce in many people's minds, leading to the impression that Americans are only interested in, only create and consume culture at the massappeal, lowest-common-denominator end of the quality spectrum.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:08 PM on July 5, 2006


To paraphrase Machiavelli, you can either be feared, or be liked, but you can't be both.
posted by funambulist at 5:14 PM on July 5, 2006


What you say is true, but I think only partly true. You are describing the process whereby a shocking new genre gradually loses its outrage value, and becomes tolerated, and then accepted into mainstream culture. However, this is a different, almost totally unrelated issue to whether or not this popular mainstream culture can be accepted by elites into the canon of high culture, or "art".

Huh? Where did I say anything about pop culture being accepted as "art"? Put down that straw man at once!
posted by languagehat at 5:14 PM on July 5, 2006


UbuRoivas: there's also a much more prosaic factor, a sort of Mc Donald's effect. The entertainement business in the US is a massive industry with huge global power, so, because of the sheer volume of overall output, as well as having the resources and experience to produce fine stuff indeed - both the wildly popular and purely entertaining, and the more ambitious artistic stuff, and anything in between - it also ends up pushing a lot of stuff purely because it can. Smaller local pop culture(s) produces a lot of crap too, but it remains local. The crappiest movie with JLo and Ben Affleck in it gets screened in every bloody cinema in the world.

That's why the popularity and appreciation for a lot of American pop culture can coexist with that feeling of cultural 'colonisation' that can create resentment, there are both aspects at play. It's not really all about snobbery or some kind of political anti-americanism. A lot of it is purely the effect of getting so much of it, that it can't be all either 'positive effect' or 'negative effect'.
posted by funambulist at 5:32 PM on July 5, 2006


(That was in resposne to the last paragraph of your comment)
posted by funambulist at 5:34 PM on July 5, 2006


languagehat: Huh? Where did I say anything about pop culture being accepted as "art"? Put down that straw man at once!

No straw man there. If anything, *you* were the one indulging in strawmanism.

Asking if Americans are "cultured" is asking (for pretty much everybody questioned, I would argue) whether Americans like Shakespeare & the ballet & the symphony & Egon Schiele. It is not asking whether hiphop or snuff porn will be looked on favourably in fifty years' time.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:18 PM on July 5, 2006


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