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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

90-minute Moanathon

The BBC has a great, big monkey on it’s back and that monkey is America. The nabobs who run that state broadcast organisation just don’t understand how a country that (in their eyes) does everything wrong can end up so supremely dominant in terms of power, wealth and influence, while a country that does everything right (such as France) seethes and whines impotently about the unfairness of it all.

You can see the tension in their news reportage, torn as it is between a horrified revlusion of America and, at the same time, an unquenchable fascination. That was very much on display tonight in a 90-minute TV special run on BBC2 and called ‘What the World Thinks of America’.

Despite all the negative polling data that was apparently gathered from all around the world and a studio in London that consisted of people like firebrand British leftie Claire Short and former French Culture Minister Jack Lang, it was not the belligerent anti-American hate-fest that I thought it was going to be. What amused me most was general agreement that the USA was rich because of its economic model and, at the same time, a complete rejection of the idea of copying it.

In fact, it was rather dull, equivocal and not quite sure of itself. The underlying theme was largely one of self-pity and petty jealousy culminating in a morose admission that America was the unchallengable world superpower and there isn’t much the likes of France can do about it except whine and bitch. They may as well have called it ‘Inferiority Complex – The Movie’.

Over on the BBC website (and doubtless in anticipation of forthcoming EU regulations) they have provided a forum for Americans to answer back, hosted jointly by the respective Chairmen of Democrats and Republicans Abroad.

Perhaps some Americans might waggishly suggest an US TV special called ‘What Americans Think of the EU’. Now that I would pay to see.

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57 comments to 90-minute Moanathon

  • MLD

    Most Americans don’t give that much thought about the rest of the world at all, even post 9-11. Not so much self-centered……as, well, centered on the things that matter most immediately to the self (such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness).

    Well, you know what I’m trying to say anyway. Both good and bad in that tendency to turn ‘inward’.

  • RyMaN600

    “What America thinks of the EU”

    likely “American Street” reaction:

    >“The European Union? Who cares?”

    …and that’s exactly what the political elites in Europe can’t stand. They want to build a powerful, wealthy and relevant superpower to fill the void left by the USSR. How close the next superpower “conterweight” to the US comes to the former USSR remains to be seen.

  • steve carroll

    What do the US think of the EU? hahaha. I don’t think you’d be interested. I took an Italian geography class this past semester here in the midwest. The eastern european TA couldn’t believe that about 50% of the students didn’t even know what the heck the EU is. She was also horrified that very few students knew about the Marshall Plan and such.

    Americans don’t think about other countries unless those countries try to kill us. I personally don’t care for the attitude much, but i do understand it and i don’t get too up in arms about it.

  • Perhaps the way the question is asked reveals the problem. I rather suspect my fellow Americans [mfA] rather think in terms of specific people, organizations, things and not in terms of rather odd, theorized collectives like the EU.

    This isn’t (I think) government v markets because one can think rather poorly of some private organizations (AOL jumps to mind immediately) and rather highly of some governmental organizations (Darpa comes quickly to the fingers). Rather, I think that in the life of ordinary people, these are easier to appreciate.

    One shouldn’t think too poorly of mfA’s knowledge of the EU; after all, most of us probably didn’t understand the role of the electoral college until just recently. And now we’re got to worry about the rules under which recall elections are held in California. Now THAT makes a difference. If I’ve got this right (that’s a big IF) then Arnold should be the next governor of California.

    Then mfA get nasty!

    grin!

  • Kevin

    I personally wish Americans would think more about the EU. I suspect that the prevailing opinion among those who actually have heard of it is generally favorable, in a UN sort of way; that is, the EU is probably perceived in the same non-specific, warm-fuzzy way the UN is.

    Or was. A couple of years ago, a small town in southern Utah (I think it was La Verkin) passed one of those silly, symbolic ordinances that small town councils are wont to pass, making the town a “UN-Free Zone” and forbidding the display of the UN flag, among other things. At the time, most Utahns were quite embarassed about it. The Great Powers in the Salt Lake City Media and Utah Government conspired to marginalize the town and its council, and the ordinance was eventually repealed.

    However, after Utahns saw how diplomatic sausages were made at the UN during the preparation for the Iraq War, their opinions have definitely changed. Many people here now perceive the UN to be, at best, a group of feckless, albeit well-intentioned, bureaucrats who really can’t (and shouldn’t) be trusted with anything.

    If Americans would pay more attention to the EU, then I’m sure most would come to the same conclusion.

  • Doug Collins

    In view of what has been said in the Samizdata comments over the last few months, it appears to this American that the British man in the street doesn’t really know much about the EU either.

    If he does, why aren’t angry mobs gathering around 10 Downing Street?

  • S. Weasel

    The British view of the US as a lawless, cowboy place of contempt for government, free access to guns and wide-open markets isn’t true any more. Possibly never was all that true. And I’m so very sorry.

    I’d give anything if we really lived up to the BBC’s bogeyman caricature.

  • It surprised me how many of the folks here in Oregon thought that the EU was strictly related to conversion to the Euro and basically is NAFTA with a funny accent.

    Captain Euro and the Arian heroes of the EU fighting the crooked nosed evil genius of . . . somewhere else . . . helped highlight the fact that it is not just about monetary policy and economics, it is also very much about trying to forge a nationalist identity while maintaining the underlying culture.

  • What do Americans think of the EU? They probably think it’s a U2 cover band.

    Seriously, Anthony Downs explained it all 46 years ago: rational ignorance. Why should anyone in America give a damn about an organization whose sole impacts on American life are restricting the market for grain exports and whining whenever the U.S. does something that almost always turns out to be in the EU’s self-interest, neither of which make much difference in your life unless you work in Foggy Bottom or the USDA.

  • JorgXMcKie

    Well, most Americans I know seem to think that their plates are already so full they don’t have time to worry much about “pointy-headed intellectuals who couldn’t park their bicycles straight” to steal a phrase.

    Look, we’ve all got plenty to worry about at home without taking time to consider the delicate feelings of those supporters of human rights, the French, the Germans, and the Belgians, who have brought so much freedom and prosperity to the rest of the world.

    Wait just a sec. {off stage} [What? They did what until 1950/60 or so to who? The places they *left* are like what? Their total contribution to world peace appears to be illicit weapons deals, crooked oil deals, building chemical and nuclear facilities for WHOM(?), and indicting anybody from anywhere in the world for supposed crimes committed anywhere except in their own child-molesting country??? WTF?!?!?!?]

    Never mind. (Emily Litella)

  • Incidentally, the ignorance cuts both ways. I’m sure most Britons think that George Bush could completely eviscerate the rule of law in America by executive fiat, just like Tony Blair has over the course of his government.

  • JorgeXMckie wrote:”Well, most Americans I know seem to think that their plates are already so full they don’t have time to worry much about “pointy-headed intellectuals who couldn’t park their bicycles straight” to steal a phrase.”

    What is he talking about? That is definitely “old think.” The problem with Europe is that they don’t have intellecutals any mroe like they used to. The intellectuals are in the USA where most of the world’s great universities are. That is the secret beneath all of this–economy, culture, etc.
    The Americans the Euros hate really are intellectuals. They’re not. They’re thinking like fifty years ago, desperately clinging to old ideas.

  • JorgXMcKie

    Sorry, I should have turned the /sarcasm/ off. As much as I disliked George Wallace, he had a point about how the average American felt about those who believed themselves to be their superiors by dint of education or achievement in the intellectual sphere. Americans in general, and especially Midwesterners and Southerners don’t like being talked down to or dismissed as ‘simplisme.’ Just a point.

  • Stephen M.

    Well, why don’t “most euros” waste their time thinking about water-rights issues in Oregon or cultural clashes between Texas and Louisiana?
    America is a damned big place. And it’s an assemblage of once-unique, although never completely sovereign, states. Why should any American expend any mental energy thinking about the EU when we have our own long-lived version of it right here?

  • Steve in Houston

    Addendum to Roger L. Simon’s post: “Intellectual” does not necessarily mean “smart”.

    A lot of the smart people (some of whom are actually intellectuals) over here actually leave college and go into the grubby world of private enterprise where they can exercise their sordid ambitions for a higher station in life. Nice that they have that outlet … not sure the same outlet is quite as available in Europe.

    That leaves the intellectuals (some of whom are actually smart) in charge of the higher education system. It sucks that they rule the roost with such vigorous preening, but at least they are physically and socially removed.

    I think the observations about American attention spans are on the mark. Generally, if it’s not in front of our faces, it doesn’t matter much. Some of that is geographic, I imagine: We haven’t been shoved on top of each other for centuries like the English, French, Germans, Italians, etc. We haven’t generally had to know much about the neighbors because we haven’t really had neighbors, beyond Canadians and Mexicans. Outside of a series of Manifest Destiny dustups with Mexico a century and a half ago, we’ve generally gotten along passably with both.

    We’re generally pretty hard to stir from our mundane interests and duties. However, if we do get “woken up”, we tend to cut a pretty wide ensuing swath through the world, for better and worse.

    As for the EU, I think another train of thought over here is that, well, it’s kind of Europe’s business what Europe wants to do. It’s akin to how states here feel towards each other – we in Texas may think California is a bunch of holistic green nutballs, but hey, if it makes sens there, go for it. Conversely, California may see us a bunch of large-hatted wackos who bathe in oil with our guns … but they tend to leave us alone outside of general cultural ridicule.

    The impression we have over here is that most Europeans seem to be in favor of the union; and that the biggest impetus behind the effort has been largely economical, and that largely devoted to competing with the US … in which case, bring it on. We like a good fight, obviously. And it could mean cheaper BMWs and scotch and Italian porn, er, um, erotica. And a source for all of our genetically unmodified food, if that’s what floats one’s boat. We’re a bit put off by the incessant – and increasingly personal – criticism of EVERYthing we do, but the defene mechanism seems to boil down to either “Eh, screw you Frenchie” or – more often – a vigorous shrug.

    We generally don’t get the darker reports here – at least from big media – about the web of punitive bureaucracy that’s being spun, thread by thread. After all, we have this creeping terror known as the Patriot Act that’s FINALLY starting to get people’s critical interest.

  • The Europeen Union? Naahhh. I was a Teamster for a while. Unions are kind of crooked, I think. Besides, my boss treats me okay.

    Whadda Europeens need a union for anyway?

    Now leave me alone. Dog Eat Dog is on.

  • Tom Hoffman

    The thing that bothers me most about the Eurotrash is their almost cosmic hypocrisy on so many issues. Two fairly recent interactions I’ve had with Europeans really seem to display an almost laughable ignorance and self-righteous arrogance. On Thanksgiving two years ago, my brother’s Spanish girlfriend invited two European cancer specialists that were attending an international cancer symposium to have Thanksgiving dinner at my brother’s house. At one point, one of the other guests asked the Spanish doctor if they had something like Thanksgiving in Spain. He smugly chastised us with the remark that, “No, just as the Spanish never slaughtered the Indians”. Yes..that’s right..The SPANISH….of all people, NEVER killed any Indians. Here is a very smart and sophisticated Spanish man who apparently wasn’t taught about the Spanish conquest in the Western Hemisphere. Either that or he chose to excuse it because..well…hell..anything Europeans do is naturally good somehow. Just a few weeks ago in a bar in Florida I had a conversation with two rather drunk English guys about all that is wrong with America. I almost fell off my chair when one of them used the example of the Salem Witch trials to make the point that, ” Americans have always been religious hysterics and prone to an irrationality that is contrary to British character and just couldn’t happen with us Brits.” Of course, I had to shoot that crap down by pointing out that every single person in the Salem Witch trials was, in fact, British. Those events happened nearly one hundred years before the USA existed. It goes on and on like that with issue after issue. It’s the Europeans that are insular, arrogant, and ignorant. But alas, Europe was always the problem..and still is.

  • My favorite is when Europeans claim we have no culture, and we are completely ignorant of the rest of the world – then they turn around and complain about how we are obsessed with exporting this culture we don’t have to this world we never pause to think about.

    And then when we properly respond to this idiocy by ignoring their opinions, they get miffed.

  • So . . . wait . . .

    Are we saying that California is NOT a bunch of holistic green nutballs?

    Because, that is sort of the view in Oregon, at least up here north of Eugene. Glad to hear we have something in common with Texas.

    While I’m always willing to bash the EU, California still holds a special appeal.

  • Brian

    My favorite is when Europeans claim we have no culture…

    As a great man once said: “Heh.” They’re singing an old song though; try to guess the Euro politician behind these choice quotes:

    —-> “Their greatest technical accomplishments are refrigerators and radios. They cannot believe that there are cultural values that are the result of centuries of historical development, which cannot simply be bought.”

    —-> “There is certainly much that is at first glance impressive in this new part of the world still in its adolescence. The height of the skyscrapers is, however, no measure of the level of culture.”

    —-> “The U.S.A. has no poets, no painters, no architects or composers of world stature. Whatever culture it has is borrowed from Europe. The land lacks its own language, culture and civilization. It has borrowed everything, generally debasing it by Americanizing it, never improving it.”

    —-> “Americanization is a kind of kitschification that gives every cultural value an American stamp, turning a mature language into slang, the waltz into jazz, a work of literature into a crime
    story.”

    —-> “We would not say anything if the U.S.A. were aware of its intellectual and moral defects and were trying to grow up. But it is too much when it behaves in an impudent manner toward a part of the earth with a few thousands years of glorious history behind it, attempting to teach it moral and intellectual lessons, whether out of innocence or a complete lack of genuine culture and learning. We can forgive the mistakes of youth, but this degree of arrogance gets on one’s nerves.”

    Click on the little birdie to find out. The whole speech is a riot. (No, it’s not by De Villepin. (It’s not Osama either.))

  • Tom Hoffman,

    Thanks for those very enlightening stories. The one about the Spanish doctor is particularly breathtaking.

    I will say that the BBC show did not indulge in any of that kind of towering ignorance but one wonders how many of the people polled by the show wallow hip-deep in it.

  • veryretired

    Over the course of the last century, roughly starting with the Spanish-American War, and continuing through the two world wars, the cold war, the wars for Asian control (Korea, Vietnam), and, since 1973, the war for Mideast control, the US has confronted several variations of statist absolutism. In concert with a fairly fluid group of allied nations, the US has dismantled, or encouraged the dismantling, of the Spanish, Ottoman, Hoenzollern, and Hapsburg Empires. In the wake of WW2, the US became increasingly entangled in the reduction of the British, French, Dutch, and Belgian empires also.

    It has confronted the rise of Fascism, first in Italy, then in Germany, and in the Japanese variant, as this unabashedly statist doctrine atempted to replace those collapsed Empires with enlarged dominions for these expansionist, authoritarian/totalitarian regimes. Nature abhors a vacuum, and the fall of the Eagles led to the march of the jackboots.

    In a truly life or death struggle, the concepts and principles embodied in the Constitution were pitted against the romantic siren call of the “Utopian” communist state, and its many socialist variations. This conflict was indeed the most dangerous, as there was a powerful faction within the culture of the West which supported and defended the socialist dream at all costs, even to the point of closing their eyes to the well documented slaughter of millions upon millions in Europe and Asia. Many newly liberated countries either experimented with variations of socialism,as has happened throughout Africa, or were subverted by “bolshevik” takeovers, as in SE Asia, Cuba, or Angola.

    The common theme in all this conflict is the attempt to control the fragmented shards of the great European empires by imposing some type of political system that will produce stability. As the current situations in China, Cuba, Zimbabwe, or North Korea so clearly show, for some, the only stability that is acceptable is that of iron fisted control, regardless of the effects this policy has on the population.

    The moving line of contention has now centered upon the Mideast, the former Ottoman Empire and then British Mandate. The Islamic fundamentalist construct is a mixture of religiously based fascism and economic socialism. Composed of numerous artificial nations carved out of yet another collapsed empire, the trigger for this latest antagonism is the presence of Isreal, a nation created by non-Arabs for non-Arabs to appease the enormous guilt felt by Europeans over the Holocaust.

    Thrust into a prominent role in the world due to the oil that was found and developed for them by the West, the Islamic countries took control of this resource after the 1973 war resulted in yet another defeat by the Israeli army, supplied and supported by the US. Now, in another episode in this long, weary process, the US has begun to respond directly with military action against those states and groups who participate in, support, foment, and encourage violent action against the citizens and interests of the US.

    The reason the EU, and much of the governing class in other parts of the world influenced by a European education and intellectual heritage, is so befuddled by the US is because to understand what we have been doing for the last century would require them to confront the catastrophic legacy they have left behind them in the rest of the world they once tried to dominate. Until they understand that any perceived threat to the freedoms that Americans claim as a birthright will be met with a ferocity similar to the response of a mother grizzly protecting her young, they will continue to be befuddled. It really doesn’t matter. They have had their day.

  • Kelli

    I think a good many Americans with any sort of historical sensibility would agree with my dear old Granddad, who maintained that any institution that kept France and Germany from each other’s throats couldn’t be all bad.

    If they’re too busy arguing about how many varieties of apples can be grown and sold within the EU, they’re not trampling over Belgium en route to another bloodbath.

  • A_t

    Kelli & all the others…. you’re reminiscent of the spanish doctor further up the page… equally ignorant of how Europe really is. Germans for the most part have no desire to dominate much except their own destiny. Same with most French people. The last bloodbath kinda put a definite stop to all that rubbish, at least for a few generations anyway (we’ll see how the memory holds up).

    …and veryretired, are you indulging in that simplistic old assumption that only Americans are interested in freedom? And that Americans are significantly more free than anyone else? You certainly seem to be implying it. Believe me, other than taxation, which most Europeans seem happy(ish) to accept as a necessary evil in order to provide social safety nets etc., we’re about as free as Americans over here, & would be out on the streets if people tried to limit our personal freedoms .

    Oh, and I (and judging by the polls in the show last night, most of the world) don’t buy this ‘benign USA, just dismantling evil regimes’ line… Certainly, there have been moments when the US’ engagements have been noble & seemingly motivated primarily by a love of freedom, but most of the conflicts you mention had much more to do with self-interest, and any “good” that’s come out of them has been more a product of random chance than any deliberate plan. During the 20th century, the US government exerted sometimes heavy-handed control over democratically elected governments, and supported evil corrupt dictatorships. How does this fit into the world-improvement, always-just masterplan?

    I’m not pulling a michael moore etc., & claiming the US is all evil; not at all, just suggesting that self-interest has a lot more to do with it than the stated ideals of peace & democracy, and you should realise that most likely, most of the population of the globe believes this too.

  • Guys, consider this….

    Listen to the stuff the anti-American EU is spouting off. They’re constantly warning that the US is the Big Bad Guy, that we’re bigger terrorists than any dicatator on the planet, that we’re about to KILL THEM ALL!!

    So far we Americans don’t really give a shit. But what if they annoy us a little too much? What happens if we START to give a shit?

    Sure, we’re not about to actually run around and open the death camps. We’re not Communists or Socialists (heh). But what do you think would happen to all of these creaky, unstable, broke countries with toothless, laughable militaries if the US decided to engage them in some fair competition?

    How many could stand up to some economic warfare without seeing their entire conomies collapse? How much influence would they have with the Arab world if we decided to let Israel do whatever it took to stop the terrorism and suicide bombing? How much influence do they REALLY have outside their own borders if we decide that they really don’t matter?

    The course these guys are taking is far from wise. It won’t help regain any faded glory, and it might just bring the end to any prosperity they now enjoy.

    James

  • Kelli

    Dearest A_T,

    You deliberately misconstrue my message, thereby widening, ever so slightly, the gulf that separates our continents.

    I don’t give a crap if France and Germany have kissed and made up permanently or merely for a generation. I am so pleased that Europeans have joined hands for an extended chorus of “Kumbayah”, and applaud as they ride off into the sunset of history. Really, I do.

    My point, quite simply, is that Americans are utterly fed up with Europeans declaring themselves the most righteous people on the planet (look at us! no gm crops! Look at us! no capital punishment!) while looking down your collective noses at us rubes in the states. You want to exercise leadership in the rest of the world? Go ahead. We’re all waiting, breathless with anticipation.

    Oh, what’s that, you don’t want to actually spend more on defense? Or make sure your generous aid doesn’t end up in the hands of terrorists? Or do more to integrate your disaffected immigrant masses so they don’t turn their hatred towards us? Righto, just checking.

    We Americans really hope you have solved all your problems this time round, and that you save the world from our bloodthirsty ways. But in case that doesn’t happen right away, know this A_T, my sons are not dying to save your sorry ass from any threat that might arise from within or without the EU’s borders. Have a nice day!

  • james

    There is to much information to know everything. What is important to one group of people is irrelevant to another. When the EU starts to effect US lives, people will make sure they know about it. Until then its just another piece of information.

  • D2D

    A_T,

    “We’re about as free as Americans over here.” Huh? Then I’m real happy not to be over there. Your right, we fought the cold war out of self interest (supporting some right-wing dictators against your beloved left-wing dictators, this is true) at great expense in American lives and money, and hey, thanks for holding our coat. That social safety net has now begun to crush the economies of Europe.

    The real differences that I see between the U.S. and the rest of the world are stark. Almost every nation on planet Earth except for the U.S. is socialist or democratic socialist. Those that aren’t can probably be counted on one hand. That and a constitution that the American people have unshakeable faith in and refuse to give up.

    And realistically speaking that’s what the rest of the world wants, isn’t it? For the U.S. to share the fruit of our labor without sharing the sweat. To have enlightened European bureaucrats to redistribute the wealth of America to less productive socialist hellholes. But in order for that to happen America can’t be a military badass and the citizens have to disarm. And dammit we just won’t do it for you. Be honest, it’s the first step to recovery.

    I’ll will admit, though, Europe does make the best porn. Truly stuff of legend.

  • Stephen Hodgson

    What I find most alarming about last night’s programme and the BBC’s accompanying press releases is that they’re convinced their polls were representative of world opinion.

    The BBC surveyed 11,000 people from 11 countries. The current population of the world is in excess of 6,000,000,000. There are 191 countries who are members of the United Nations, therefore the BBC polled less than 0.0002% of the population of the world from less than 6% of the countries which belong to the United Nations (of which almost every country in the world is a member).

    Yet the BBC have repeatedly tried to make out that their polls prove that “56 percent” of the world was against Bush’s war in Iraq.

    I got two things from the programme: Andrew Marr really is a presumptious and ill-mannered anti-American fool and Clare Short is even more arrogant, pretentious and down right rude than I’d previously thought.

  • A_t

    D2D… wrong on all counts. Paranoid too. Most of Europe doesn’t want to steal America’s wealth. Or well, I don’t anyway… really not bothered. We’re not nations of thieves & scroungers… you have the most f**ing ridiculous ideas. All this talk of “the french don’t start businesses” etc…. what the fuck? do you really think they’d be able to boast the best health system in the world, and a pretty prosperous western lifestyle if they were all sitting on their arses waiting for handouts? Have you ever met a french plumber? electrician? lawyer? Try telling them they haven’t started their own businesses. Perhaps explain that they have no word for entrepreneur while you’re at it. On the other hand, you could try engaging with reality… or not talking about stuff you clearly know very little about.

    And when did I or anyone else say we supported leftwing dictators? I have no trouble condemning Stalin as evil in the same breath as Hitler; none at all. Don’t put words into my mouth. If i feel in the mood to support dictators, i’ll let you know.

    And hard though it may be to conceive for you, socialism doesn’t have to equal dictatorship… that’s the equivalent of saying being at all right-of-centre means you’re a fascist.

    >>We’re about as free as Americans over here.” Huh? Then I’m real happy not to be over there.

    errrrr… whaaa??? is there some incredible loop of misunderstanding here?

    What i meant was, there are very few discernible differences between the level of freedom enjoyed by the average European & the average American in my humble opinion. I think most Americans & Europeans who’ve lived on both continents would agree. Some Americans seem to believe we’re living in Rumania circa 1980, from the way they go on about their freedoms, as though they’re unique in the world.

    It’s like, listen! most liberal democracies offer pretty similar benefits… sure, there are some differences; in the US you pay less taxes, so can choose how to spend more of your income, & it’s easier to set up a business, but on the other hand, you’ll be in trouble if you like to relax by smoking marijuana. Holland will let you smoke happily, provided you don’t disturb others, but you may find it slightly more difficult to set up a business. From my own personal perspective, given what i enjoy, i’d be more free in Holland than the US….

    No democracy’s perfect, but we’re basically on the same side on most issues. Anyone, on either side, trying to pretend we’re not, is in my opinion v. foolish; there are plenty of properly dodgy regimes to criticise if you fancy having a pop at the way someone else’s country is run.

    Stephen, agree with you about Claire Short tho’… she came across as perma-grumpy with a huge chip on her shoulder… just regurgitating the same old guardian stuff again & again, & not engaging with the realities of the situation.

  • A_t

    Actually, regardless of the various bickerings going on here, I thought the most interesting thing in the show was the poll on whether people felt their country was “culturally superior” to the US.

    A large number of Australians did, which made me laugh lots….

    …but more interestingly, more Brits than French felt that their country was superior. Are you listening carefully? More loyal allies than surrender-monkeys look down on the US. This seems to tally with my experiences; growing up in France in the 80s, you could make a stars & stripes decor into a selling point for a burger bar; many people were fascinated with US culture… in the UK, for as long as i’ve known it, there’s been a snidey superiority complex going on.

    Certainly goes against the popular perception in the US anyway, dunnit?

  • Susan

    Brian, I’ve seen that Goebbels piece before. Where, you may ask? On The Guardian’s talkboard — posted without retribution. It was cheered by the “leftists” quite roundly. Then the poster revealed the author.

    Makes you think, doesn’t it?

  • Susan

    Whoops! Am I embarassed. I meant “posted without ATTribution” of course!

  • eric

    I was appalled by this diatribe, The Biased Broadcasting Corporation has gone even lower that I thought possible.

    I am an Englishman who cannot call himself British
    The media and the politicians in this country are tarnishing the word British

    please do not think that that programme reflects the majority view in England

    that programme was just the BBC keeping faith with its partner Al Jazeera

    eric

  • John Docker

    Boring! The whining reminds me of a 13 year old who wants all the spoils of adulthood, without doing any of the work. In spite of the opinions of people I don’t know and who don’t care about my country or my family, I will continue to enjoy the opportunities and freedoms, and accept the responsibilities, that I am blessed to have as a (proud) citizen of the greatest nation the world has ever known.

  • Catherine

    What annoys me about the constant whining that we don’t know enough about Europe. Europeans only think they know what America is. It’s all pretty shallow and usually wrong. Sounds like the BBC show was more of the same.

  • veryretired

    Dear AT,

    I generally do not bother to respond to indignant statists who dislike my ideas, but since you have gone out of your way to misrepresent what I posted, I will clarify. The various value judgements you place in my comments are yours, not mine. I was discussing the relationship of the US to Europe and the coming formation of a more powerful EU.

    All relationships are part of a historical continuum, not merely isolated events that occur without rhyme or reason. The major focus of US foriegn policy in the 20th century has been the consequences in the world of the dissolution of several European intercontinental empires. One after another, the English a bit more a structured withdrawl, the French and others more suddenly and violently, the political formations that had organized much of the world fell to pieces.

    After the US was dragged kicking and screaming into WW2, it found itself massively committed around the globe in deadly conflict with Nazism, Fascism, and Japanese militarism. While the Italian threat was minimal, the German and Japanese states presented a deadly military peril which would have meant, if victorious, the beginning of a dark age beyond the comprehension of most ordinary people. Treblinka and the Bataan death march multiplied a thousand times, and more.

    As was stated by an historian in a documentary about WW2, the final battle of the centuries long European civil war was decided by armies from Asia and the New World. If you think it is simplistic for me to have preferred this outcome over a victory by the European(Axis) powers, go right ahead. I am, after all, an American cowboy, incapable of the deep and subtle thought used by Europeans to construct such wonders as Nazism, Marxism, Fascism, Socialism, et al, and their accompanying gulags, camps, and final solutions.

    I never stated anywhere in my earlier posting that there was some master plan for the US to save the world. I stated that the numerous military actions of the US and a group of varied allies was almost totally in response to the vacuum left by the collapse of the empires. It is true that the US made many mistakes, omissions, commissions, and blunders in this long, twilight struggle, as Kennedy described it. Humans are fallible, and humans attempting to deal with a series of crises around the world, especially when there is a relentless and unscrupulous antagonist attempting to create and benefit from each situation, are prone to all types of error.

    The saving grace for the US in all of this is that we actually regret our mistakes, as opposed to the European mentality which merely shrugs and makes some comment about filthy peasants getting what they deserve. The problem of European thought is not its complexity, but its smallness. Just as Napoleon and Hitler could not comprehend the vastness of the Russian steppes, Europeans cannot comprehend that the world is so large. They put on these fantastic airs of being so cosmopolitan and sophisticated, but the historical record shows that Europeans will kill millions for a few vineyards and farms.

    Provincialism at that level is akin to the line of Thomas More’s (pardon the paraphrase), that one shouldn’t sell one’s soul for the whole world, and you did it for Wales.

    I have stated in another context my opinion of Europe and its historical legacy. The phrase I used then was” a plague upon the Earth”. You want simplicity, AT, there it is. Are you free now? Good. You did little to deserve it. Enjoy it as a gift of that misguided, imperfect, simplistic, and very dangerous, US you find it so easy to roll your eyes at. As I said before—you do not matter that much any more. We are busy. Try not to get in the way.

  • Liberty Belle

    A_T – veryretired has very ably answered some of your points.

    Another point: You abjure us not to tell you that the French don’t start businesses and cite the number of plumbers and electricians and so on. MAJOR HINT, so please pay attention: these are invariably one man or two man (Dupres & Fils) businesses. They will not have office help. Actually, they won’t have an office at all. They’ll have an aswering machine and they’ll return your call around 6:30 after they’ve got home. They will never expand their company. Why? Because in France, once you’ve hired someone, that person is on board for life. The French government doesn’t want them on the unemployment roles, so it makes it all but impossible to fire someone. Given that the wrong person can do major harm to a business, small businesses (which are thus deprived of a chance to expand) don’t take the chance. I’ve said before, this is why doctors and dentists here answer their own phones during consultations, take their own payments and print out your official receipt for you themselves. You hire someone who turns out to be short tempered and is rude to patients, and you cannot fire that person whether they chase your clients away or not.

    The other thing is the 35-hour week, endless public holidays and mandatory four-week annual vacations during which these people still have to be paid and it makes having an employee (who you cannot fire) on board too expensive for a small concern.

    Napoleon called England a nation of shopkeepers, which suggests that individual commercial initiative was noteworthy to the French even then.

    BTW, I liked veryretired’s last paragraph because it was well put and absolutely true.

  • D2D

    A_T

    Thanks for the dime store psychoanalysis.

    Fascism needs a strong centralized state. Sounds like the E.U., dunnit? Hell, they have a rule for everything.

    Socialist always, and I mean always, want to redistribute wealth, especially when it’s not theirs. It’s what they do. And practically all dictatorships in the world today, or maybe every dictatorship, are socialists. So no, not all socialists are dictators, but all dictators are socialists. Or so it would seem.

    I never mentioned anything about the word entreprenuer or about the French starting businesses. You have me confused with another paranoid a-hole.

    Africa and the Middle East are full of the history of Europe supporting brutal dictatorships, usually for financial gain. France’s love of Mugabe and Saddam Hussein are examples of this. Go check.

    And finally, the democracy practiced in the States is wholly different than that elsewheres. In the States, democratic ideals and rights rest within the individual, who may associate freely, and these rights are in spite of the state. In Europe democracy rests in a kind of collective ideal and rights are granted by the state. Europeans don’t have the Bill of Rights limiting the government’s involvement in their lives, instead they have the state bestowing freedoms upon them, at the state’s pleasure. A social safety net can be a nice thing, but it can also be benign slavery. Europe may once again become a continent of serfs.

  • Liberty Belle

    D2D – A_T was using the French entrepreneur thing as a means of claiming that France/Europe equals America as a land of opportunity.

  • A_t

    The basis of US democracy may be slightly differrent, but you’re hardly alone in having a bill of rights. Indeed, here in the UK, we didn’t have any formalised rights until (guess who?) the EU foisted some on us… the bastards! man… what next?

    & really, how important is that stuff? It’s like international law; just a bunch of rules which are understood & respected, but anyone who’s sufficiently powerful could probably bypass them if they fancied it. Admittedly, our lack of a written constitution here in the UK causes us trouble, & in my opinion hands too much power to the government, but most of the other European nations have a formalised constitution. My point was mainly that, regardless of how democracy may have arisen, & the philosophical concepts behind it, there’s little difference imho between life in the US & life in Europe at the moment; gain some freedoms, lose some freedoms. I’d have trouble saying americans are more free in any significant way than us, and most americans i know who’ve lived in Europe would agree.

    Furthermore, I see no evidence that we’re in any way slipping towards fascism. Aside from anything else, that would require levels of fanatical patriotism which just aren’t there in most of our cynical European nations.

    Let’s face it, it’s not really the constitution that restrains the US government; it’s the *concept* of the constitution, and fact that the people would reject the government if they strayed too far from what was considered reasonable. The constitution provides a common framework by which to judge this. Do you think that, without a constitution to tell us what’s right & wrong, the British people would be willing to lay down our democratic rights, wouldn’t protest if the government started doing seriously dodgy things? & more to the point, do you really think the US constitution is a bulletproof guard against totalitarianism?

    As for centralised states… err.. the US government has *far* more centralised power than the EU at present, & despite the bleatings of various moany stuck-record lefties, i don’t see any fascism emerging over your side of the pond.

    Again, i put it to you that your arrogant conviction that your democracy is utterly different from (and superior to) anyone else’s is unfounded & does you no favours.

    BTW.. i respect the US as a country in many respects, & don’t habitually characterise it as a cowboy nation, so please don’t put simplistic opinions in my mouth. If you could refrain from indulging in insulting stereotypes about European countries, and engage in constructive debate about what our differences are, & how they can be managed, your words might command more respect.

  • S. Weasel

    Furthermore, I see no evidence that we’re in any way slipping towards fascism. Aside from anything else, that would require levels of fanatical patriotism which just aren’t there in most of our cynical European nations.

    And there we have it, folks, as explicitly as I’ve ever seen it written: patriotism leads to fascism. Whoever came up with the idea that the wars of the Twentieth Century could profitably be blamed on cultural identity…he was an evil genius, that one. On the one hand, allows its professor to ignore the real lessons of the Twentieth Century (which are many and varied – this isn’t shorthand for any particular issue of my own). On the other, any sign of national pride or cultural identity or can be slapped down as a dangerous precursor to fascism.

  • A_t

    logical inference not your strong point? I never said patriotism led to fascism, just that it’s a prerequisite for it to arise. Deny that if you can.

  • S. Weasel

    Okay. I deny it.

  • S. Weasel

    Well, look, it depends on how much Mussolini you want in your recipe for fascism. Yes, sure, it takes nationalism to have a top-down oppressive authoritarian government based on nationalism. But it sure doesn’t take nationalism or patriotism or anything of the kind to have top-down oppressive authoritarian government. Which is where Europe is headed, be you ever so cynical.

  • A_t

    aaaahwell, if that’s the way it’s gonna go at least i’ll probably have time to chuck a few token molotov cocktails before the iron fist of totalitarianism comes all the way down.

  • S. Weasel

    I suspect you’d find that iron fist image a good deal less amusing if you were, say, an English farmer, or owned a fishing vessel off the south coast.

  • A_t

    on the fishermen front, of course i’m sympathetic with anyone who loses their livelihood, but stopping people fishing in order to conserve fish stocks is hardly fascism!

    furthermore,
    a) if they feel that strongly about it, they could lose that classic English reserve, take a leaf out the French book & stand up for themselves more dramatically. A load of fish dumped near the houses of parliament might bring rather more public attention to their cause.

    and

    b) would you rather see us all with no fish stocks whatsoever? I know in this country, there’s a perception that UK fishermen have been shafted far more than any others within the EU, but I’m not convinced of the truth of it. There’s certainly plenty respectable evidence suggesting that if we don’t fish more responsibly, there won’t be many fish to catch in a few years.

  • S. Weasel

    It is worth standing back and asking why Europe’s fishing fleets are constantly slavering for new waters. Why can they not subsist in their own seas, as their fathers did? There is a simple three-word answer to that question: Common Fisheries Policy. Since 1973, the EU’s North Sea waters – the source of most of its fish – have been declared a “common resource”. As any conservative will tell you, that which no one owns, no one will care for. No skipper is going to tie up his boat for the sake of conservation if he knows that foreign vessels are simultaneously at loose in the same waters. So, for thirty years, we have been hoovering up what ought to have been a renewable resource. Britain has been the big loser. Sixty-five per cent of the fish covered by the CFP fall within our territorial waters; yet, under the EU’s quota system, we are allocated a share of just 28 per cent by volume, or 18 per cent by value.

    Daniel Hannan, MEP

  • D2D

    A_T

    “the U.S. government has *far* more centralised power than the E.U. at present.” The telling part of this quote is “at present”, it does not bode well for the E.U. future.

    Also I’ve never said that the U.S. model is better than the E.U. model. But then again a lot of Germans liked living in the Third Reich. They felt secure.

    Americans living in Europe are still Americans, they will always think like Americans unless they are from Hollywood or are university professors. And unfortunately many Americans take freedom for granted.

    And I noticed that in these rights the E.U. has so graciously granted you they neglected to allow you to arm yourselves. So much for self-protection and the citizens’ hedge against tyranny. If anything does happen the best you can hope for is that the European military takes the citizens’ side. If not your screwed.

    And that’s why the constitutional limits on government in the U.S., we don’t trust government to do the right thing when left to its own devices. When governments grant you your rights you know who you owe those rights and your freedoms to, and its not God.

    Besides the Constitution of the U.S. was written by businessmen, ministers, lawyers, soldiers, and farmers. The E.U. constitution was written by bureaucrats.

    Good friggin’ luck, and all that rot.

    Man it sure’s hell been raining a lot here in Georgia.

  • Liberty Belle

    D2D – Thanks for your good wishes. We are aware that the US Constitution is a superb conservator of the rights of the individual. Would that it were being imposed on Britain! And you are correct when you say the EU is “granting us” rights – rather than the English Common Law way of assuming the citizenry has rights except to do what is expressly forbidden. And they have disarmed us. You speak contemptuously as though you think we are not aware of this, and you have good reason. That we let it happen is deserving of your contempt.

    It’s bleak.

    The Brits and the freedom-loving Danes, and maybe the Poles, will eventually rebel, but how much vandalism will be done by unaccountable EU legislators first? How much national fabric will have been unpicked? How many folk memories trashed in the name of “modernity”? How many hundreds of thousands of children indoctrinated to be “good Europeans” – as though this were desirable instead of odious.

    I think we’ve reached the point of pushing to get out of the whole riddled mess now, before the predators pick Britain dry. We have N Sea oil that they want. We need it for ourselves. Let us take our traditional stance of looking to the world for trade. Trade with Europe is not that huge (depending on whose figures you believe; certainly not those of HMG) and they wouldn’t stop trading with us anyway, because they sell rich Britain more than we sell to them.

    Tony Blair is the Jim (? Green?) who 25 years ago persuaded those hundreds of people in Guyana to drink laced Kool-Aid in pursuit of a mad, suicidal dream. Blair’s got his hand on the back of our necks and is raising the plastic cup to our lips. DO NOT DRINK!

  • S. Weasel

    Belle: Jim Jones. And it’s instructive to remember that not everybody drank the Kool Aid. Those people had neat bullet holes in their heads.

  • Liberty Belle

    Oh yes, it was Jim Jones. Jonestown! And yes, the people who refused to drink the Kool Aid did have bullet holes in their heads. Oh dear …

  • A_t

    brrrr…. suddenly my sunny London afternoon seems clouded. I’m off down my local army surplus store to see if they’ve got any flak jackets, plus a pair of binoculars so i can see those EU executioners coming from a distance.

  • bigtroutz

    In general, I think that the points raised by A_t and Liberty Belle provide the best characterization of the EU and European environment. The freedoms enjoyed by Euro’s are largely identical with those enjoyed here (MT, USA) with two major exceptions:

    1) those enforced by the 1st and 2nd amendments of the constitution. The right to free speech and to bear arms ARE significant limited in SOME European countries. Several have restrictions on “Hate Speech” (Bardot was fined for her’s) and criticism of the government is supressed (a citizen of Germany was warned to remove painting on his vehicle saying “The Government Sucks” or face arrest). I think that very few Euro’s understand the large gulf that exists between the typical American who thinks nothing of public criticism employing the basest themes and the built in restraints posed in this regard in Europe. The differing gun control laws in various EU countries are rather well discussed in numerous blogs.

    2) The effects of the growing burden of government and EU regulation of business. This was rather well portrayed in Liberty Belle’s post.

    I think any American’s fear of the immediate rise of Fascism in Europe is misplaced. The more likely outcome of current trends in Europe/EU is creeping collectivism and the resulting economic collapse caused by the two major actvities: over-regulation causing loss of economic competetive capabilities, and the increasing tax burden caused by the growing old-age demographic coupled with overgenerous benefits programs and powerful unions.

    What follows the potential economic collapse is anyone’s guess. There is always some hope that these problems will be resolved by adjusting the government dole as we have recently seen in France. One thing is certain, a federated EU will only compound these difficulties and shows every indication of increasing the speed and pervasiveness of over-regulation in daily citizen and corporate life.

  • A_t

    good analysis overall…. & i’m glad of your restraint; it’s become rare in these parts to see someone who can accurately criticise European policies without resorting to broad smears.

    however,
    “I think that very few Euro’s understand the large gulf that exists between the typical American who thinks nothing of public criticism employing the basest themes and the built in restraints posed in this regard in Europe.”

    I think few Americans understand that most “Euro’s” operate on the basis that they have the same freedoms; i was shocked to read about the German & his car, & i imagine most other Europeans were too. I wrote the episode off as manifesting a backwards bit of legislation that’ll eventually be disposed of, rather than being symptomatic of a lack of freedom on my continent… much like the anti-sodomy or anti-oral sex laws which still prevail in certain US states.

    Believe me, there’s no lack of base criticism of the government over here in the UK or in France (the two countries i’m most familiar with)… if anything, regardless of what one is or isn’t *allowed*, far more vociferous than what i’ve seen in the American media. The French in particular are good at producing scatological cartoons, mocking politicians, which far exceed any Anglo media i’ve ever seen in terms of sheer offensiveness.

    Society & economic pressures can act as a censor just as effectively as any laws too, and censorship in reaction to market forces is, in my view, no more healthy than censorship by the government, although clearly harder to pinpoint the cause of, or fight against. The results are just as insidious.