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Deeply shameful protest context

David Frum has a strong editorial in today’s Telegraph writing about the anti-Bush demonstration in Lincoln’s Inn Fields in London last night.

The war on terror has glaringly exposed the moral contradictions of contemporary political radicalism: a politics that champions the rights of women and minorities, but only when those rights are threatened by white Europeans; a politics that celebrates creative non-violence at home but condones deadly extremism abroad; and, perhaps above all, a politics that traces its origins to the Enlightenment – and today raises its voice to protect militantly unenlightened terrorists from the justice dispensed by their victims.

He talks about how obtruse the ‘protesters’ were about answering his questions or generally engaging with him, warning each other about how he is bound to misquote them or quote them out of context. This is what he has to say to that:

I agree that context is everything, and the context of this week’s events is that many thousands of British people intend to converge on central London to protest against the overthrow of one of the most cruel and murderous dictators of the 20th century – and to wave placards calling the American president who ordered the dictator’s overthrow “the world’s number one terrorist”.

It’s a deeply shameful context, and though I would not quite endorse the verdict of the taxi driver with the poppy stuck in his dashboard who dropped me off at the demos (“Not many of them traitors out tonight, I see”), he at least saw something that they, with all their apparently abundant education could not: that the two leaders they most scorn are the latest in the long line of Anglo-American statesmen whose willingness to use force to defeat evil secured them their right to make bloody fools of themselves in Lincoln’s Inn Fields and through the streets of London to Grosvenor Square.

Although there is no love lost for Bush on this blog and we do endorse the taxi driver’s verdict, the article contains sentiments that we hope are shared by more people in Britain than the current coverage seems to suggest.

96 comments to Deeply shameful protest context

  • Bill Felton

    Sheesh — Frum is an *IDIOT*.
    Sadly, he’s a very very dangerous idiot. Notice how carefully he crafts his screed, shaping the context of the “debate” in as dishonest a fashion as could be. This is not a ‘debate’ about whether or not Saddam Hussein is/was a monster, a moral evil of the first water. (Although hardly that — 3rd rate moral evil was probably as high up that ranking as he could expect to rise.)
    The issue is whether or not this is a world whose moral outrage is to be guided, directed, and enforced by the state.
    Had a group of private individuals chosen to overthrow the bastard, more power to them. And the crowds would have nothing to complain about.
    But the lies, the abuse of power (itself an abuse, but raised to new and monstrous heights by B&B) is a crime against genuine humanity.
    Why isn’t Frum, or ‘Frum Jr’, on the front lines?
    Oh, yes, it is far more moral to send others to address the issues one is concerned about than to take action onesself. Pfeh.
    A final note — would the Iraqis be better off had we not overthrown Hussein?
    Well, we’re killing 20% more of the population, in victims/day of involvement, than he did.
    Some improvment…

  • S. Weasel

    The issue is whether or not this is a world whose moral outrage is to be guided, directed, and enforced by the state.

    Ha! I think you better tell that to some of the radical Muslims marching alongside you. Their issue is bringing shar’ia law to Britain in our lifetime. And I suspect the Stalinists or Trotskyites don’t have much problem with guiding, directing and enforcing every little aspect of your life via the state, either.

  • llamas

    Bill Felton wrote:

    ‘Well, we’re killing 20% more of the population, in victims/day of involvement, than he did.’

    Please provide data to support this assertion.



  • Patrick W

    I think Frum’s analysis is spot on. I also agree with Gabriel’s hope that the relatively quieter majority of Brits share the taxi driver’s sentiments.

    It is interesting how the mass movements of the left (with all their rent-a-loon / loser sidekicks) can mobilise large numbers for their cause (without ever achieving anything) but the taxi drivers of the world who represent the majority rarely get anything more than a handful together to demonstrate support. One unknowingly prescient joker quipped that that is because they have jobs to go to! So how many tof the mob out today (a working Wednesday) are unemployed / unemployable I wonder?

  • S. Weasel

    I don’t know if it’s as true in the UK, Patrick, but in the US, street demonstrations are almost entirely the domain of leftist causes. I don’t think we did them at all before Vietnam (rioting and looting, yes. Marching up and down with placards…eh…the Prohibitionists or the Suffragettes, maybe).

    So any game of “my protesting mob is bigger than your protesting mob” is going to be pretty lopsided, even if they don’t march on a work day.

  • snide

    87.4% of all statistics are made up on the spur of the moment.

    Bill Felton takes the position that any effective way to remove a mass murdering tyrant is morally bad. Bill Felton is 98.2% full of shit.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Bill Felton, answer the challenge and say where you got that 20 pct figure from.

    In other words, spell it out or we’ll fact-check your ass, as we say in bloggerville.

  • llamas

    Johnathan Pearce wrote:

    ‘Bill Felton, answer the challenge and say where you got that 20 pct figure from.

    In other words, spell it out or we’ll fact-check your ass, as we say in bloggerville.’

    Easy, there. It wasn’t a challenge. It was a polite question. I said ‘please’.

    As it happens, I cannot square what he said with data from various sources, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. But I’m quite prepared to believe that he bases the assertion on data which I am too dumb to find. Before we go off all half-cocked – let’s give him the opportunity to back up what he said – shall we?



  • Julian Morrison

    There are tons of reasons to disapprove of Bush, absent Saddam-love. (1) his rampant destruction of the Bill of Rights in the USA (2) his war on terror, consisting of a dogged attack upon symptoms while ignoring causes*, and providing a great excuse for many other governments to join him in stomping upon civil rights (3) the lies leading up to the attack on Iraq, the contemptuous lack of effort with which these were disguised, the obvious agenda** to start an Iraq war, the wilful sabotage of diplomatic efforts to avert it, the refusal to consider less murderous options (4) the entirely avoidable mass death of people in Iraq.

    * eg: Saudi monarchism, victim disarmament on aircraft.

    ** Its presence was obvious, its nature less so. I suspect a combination of strategic positioning, revenge, example, crony contracts, and wag-the-dog.

  • S. Weasel

    Rampant destruction of the Bill of Rights…?

  • Kelli


    Have you any idea what is contained within the Bill of Rights? I thought not. Let’s see, shall we, which of the freedoms enshrined therein has been “trampled” ‘neath Bush’s jackbooted feet. Freedom of assembly? Nope, plenty of opportunity for loons to march on the mall here in DC. Freedom of worship? Last I checked, no FBI thugs burning down churches, mosques or synagogues (no, you have to go to France or Turkey for that). How about freedom of the press? Hey, if Ted Rall and Michael Moore are still in business and making a few bucks, I guess there’s not much censorship to bitch about.

    People keep blathering about the grave danger in which the poor Constitution and Bill of Rights are in, as if they’ve been suspended and martial law imposed. I’m waiting. Still no signs of it. In fact, I defy you to name one US citizen besides Jose Padilla who has been held without charges (oh, and that terrorist from Saudi Arabia, born in Lousiana doesn’t count, but we’ll throw him in as well if you like). Poor Padilla, caught red-handed trying to plan a dirty bomb attack. So, in two years of a war on terror we’ve got two US citizens who (I’ll concede) need to get a fair trial so they can go to jail for the rest of their natural lives on charges of sedition and attempted murder.

    Give me something more, Julian, or give me a f**ing break.

  • There is an idiot in relation to this post and comments that followed…it sure as hell ain’t Frum.

    Anyone going to the protests are in fact supporting/condoning the activities and beliefs of the organisers.

    They are not “ordinary” Britons but far-left loons, terrorist supporters and Muslim extremists.

    Don’t believe me, why not pop over to Harry’s? He is from the left and disgusted by the rabble in the streets.

  • Even here, the discussion quickly turns away from the subject at hand, and becomes a “think of reasons to bash Bush.” Brits can/should be focused on how Bush’s policies impact foreign policy, not home policy, that’s our business.

    The message the protestors are sending, at least the one I’m hearing loud and clear, is that Americans are no longer welcome in Britain and that they’d prefer Hussein in power, murdering innocents and terrorizing the Iraqi people.

    The war against Iraq was a lawful from a legal perspective. Congress gave the President the Authority he needed. We The People gave Congress the go-ahead.

    When a nation protests what our President is doing, on our behalf, it is a protest against all of us.

    The peaceniks here had their chance to make their case. The People chose differently and the majority support the President’s efforts.

    We will not be going to Britain again. Not for a long time. Message received, loud of clear.

  • Kelli

    Mrs. du Toit,

    I’m entirely with you regarding the prerogative of US citizens and their representatives to control US foreign policy (thank you very much, rest of the world). However, you seem a bit premature in throwing the UK over the siderails as our bestest friend in the whole world. Last I checked there wasn’t a lot of competition for the honor, but more to the point, that MORI/Guardian poll that came out yesterday gives the special relationship pretty high marks, and so far the protests are a non-starter (despite BBC and Guardian cheerleading on their behalf). Let’s see what tomorrow brings shall we?

  • Biased Observer

    I loved the quote (hopefully accurate and in context):

    “When you have a mass movement like this, it’s impossible for it to be captured by a small group.”

    Its straight out of Monty Python. It reminded me of the Popular Peoples Front of Judia, or was that the People’s Popular Front of Judia? Whatever.

  • Aarvark

    Good grief! A bunch of pro-fascist idiotarian slimebuckets slither down the street in London yelling ‘Down with Bush’ and that has a greater impact on Mrs. Du Toit that the British solders putting their lives on the line in Iraq every frigging day? Damn, do you think just maybe you might have your priorities just a mite jumbled up there, Lady? Don’t worry guys and gals, I’m sure as hell not going to stop visiting Britain!

  • The other day there was much commentary about the fact that the Mayor of London was just a loon, and we should discount what he says, when he likens Bush to Hitler as ‘the most dangerous creature on the planet.’

    Why should we discount that and assume he speaks only for himself? Were his politics and positions a secret before he took office? Has he revealed a secret underbelly that the ignorant masses were ignorant to while they cast their ballots?

    Did he come by his office by lottery draw? Of course not. He came by his office because he was elected by The People of London.

    Don’t assume ONE story would keep me away from London.

    Consider this: Can you promise me, with absolute certainty, that I could take my three teenage children to Britain, travel the back roads and cities without risk that someone will question them or us on the policies of the U.S. government and not spout off some Bush=Hitler meme? And if that did happen, if we did see signs of anti-Americanism on our trip, should we sit silently, not defend?

    There’s a lot more at stake than stupid protest posters.

  • R. C. Dean

    Julian sez:

    (3) the lies leading up to the attack on Iraq, the contemptuous lack of effort with which these were disguised, the obvious agenda** to start an Iraq war, the wilful sabotage of diplomatic efforts to avert it, the refusal to consider less murderous options

    What on earth are you talking about? I have yet to see one lie hung on Bush or his administration concerning the runup to the war. Mistakes, sure. Differing interpretations, you bet. Lies? Not a one that I have seen documented.

    I got news for you – there was no Bush agenda to start at Iraq war. There was a Bush agenda to end the Iraq war that began in 1991. Of course, there was also a UN agenda to end that war, by giving Saddam the victory. You apparently confusing winning a war with starting a war.

    As for willful sabotage of diplomatic efforts, you seem to be overlooking the fact that Bush got a UN resolution that authorized the use of force. If any sabotaging of diplomatic efforts was going on, it was by the French, who leaned on their colonies and the Turks to try to undermine the alliance in favor of deposing Saddam.

    Less murderous options for getting rid of Saddam? They were tried for 12 years and failed.

    (4) the entirely avoidable mass death of people in Iraq.

    WTF are you talking about? I tend think that the entirely aviodable mass deaths were those that occurred from 1991-2003, at Saddam’s hands. We have avoided any further mass deaths at Saddam’s hands.

    How on earth was Saddam going to be deposed without fighting? Has a war ever been fought with more concern for the civilians of the aggressor nation (Iraq, which started this war in 1991)?

    Jeebus. With apologies to our departed friend Kodiak, I have rarely read a comment so unmoored from reality.

  • James Stephenson


    1) you are right, he did sign that bill to get rid of Automatic Weapons, trampling my Second Amendment right to totally decimate a deer. But damn that is the only bill signed that restricts any of our freedoms.

    2) Maybe the Iraqi war was part of the Saudi problem you mentioned. You do realize that America kept forces in SA to protect from Saddam. Well now those forces will move to Iraq and SA can have its little civil war.

    3) “wilful sabotage of diplomatic efforts to avert it”, oh you mean like France, Germany and Russia all trying to protects the Oil Contracts signed with Saddam? But wait, that would not be Bush’s fault. You do realize had the above Countries jumped on Board with that last chance at UN support, there never would have been an invasion.

    4) oh you mean like those 200,000 people that we are sure Saddam killed, or maybe those children prisons. Or maybe the Children Mass Graves, some with little girls still holding onto their dolls. Or are you talking about the 6000 Iraqis that died because their leader was crazy?

    Please enlighten this crude American. It is obvious I do not see how you actually have a valid point, except to point out that Bush was right, with 2 and 3. Thanks for the help

  • Aarvark

    Consider this: Can you promise me, with absolute certainty, that I could take my three teenage children to Britain, travel the back roads and cities without risk that someone will question them or us on the policies of the U.S. government and not spout off some Bush=Hitler meme? And if that did happen, if we did see signs of anti-Americanism on our trip, should we sit silently, not defend?

    Lady, I can’t promise you that in Massachusetts! Are you seriously saying you would not go somewhere for fear someone might say something you think is anti-American? I have seen jerks shouting Bush=Hitler in Seattle and DC! You want to teach your children something useful? Teach them to shout back but do them a favor and don’t wrap them in cottonwool because of the big bad world out there. I have never, not once, in all the many times I have been to England had a single person insult me because I was an American. So tell me, do you avoid states which elect Democrats too? Do you avoid certain counties in Texas as well because you reackon the people who voted Democrat there have ruined the good name of everyone else there too? If “The British People” all want to piss on Uncle Sam, how do you explain this blog then?

  • veryretired

    I hate to be the one to break this to all of you who are so energized, either pro or con, about this Bush visit, about Iraq, about Kyoto, about anything and everything, but we here in flyover country in the US really don’t care too much what you think one way or the other.

    We appreciate the support, and sympathize with the families of those who are serving with the British forces. We are especially mindful of those who have been wounded, or killed, in the course of this fight. There will be some very long term consequences for the Axis of Weasels, none of which they will understand or reflect upon.

    But I must tell you frankly—Europe has used up whatever credibility it once had, and has overdrawn its account of our patience and understanding. An entire century, from the Spanish war to the collapse of the Soviet Empire, has passed in which the primary task of the US has been cleaning up the messes that the more “civilized” cultures of Europe have made around the world and within their own continent.

    Now, when confronting another authoritarian, or fascist, or whatever designation one wishes to use, movement from elements within the Islamic world which threatens us and our citizens around the globe, we hear little more than condescending blather from many who should be our allies.

    Do you seriously believe that we are going to take advice from the same societies that brought us 2 World Wars, the Kaiser, Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, Petain and Vichy, Marxism, socialism, fascism, and appeasement that cost the lives of 100 million people?

    This is not about Bush, or Iraq, or any protest marches. This is about a continent that has used up any forebearance, any claim to respect for its opinions, any moral credibility, that it might have once had in the distant past. Spend a day fasting and communing with your inner voices at Bergen-Belsen or Auschwitz, and then get back to us about your alleged cultural and moral superiority.

    I know this is hard for you to understand, but we are really very tired of of you right now. March around if you feel better because of it. Maybe you can expend some nervous energy and not start another World War because you don’t like Jews, or want somebody’s land, or whatever. It will be worth something, then.

    But try not to be too upset if we don’t pay very much attention. You see, you just don’t matter that much any more.

  • Aarvark, quit attacking me. I stated an opinion and a position, stick with that, refute that, show me evidence or information to the contrary, but quit with the personal attacks and insulting forms of address.

  • A_t

    >>If “The British People” all want to piss on Uncle Sam, how do you explain this blog then?

    A plot to lure Americans into a false sense of camaraderie, so they come visiting & we can insult them & their kids? :p

  • Verity

    Mrs du Toit – What an extraordinary post! First, let me point out that we are pretty indifferent to whether you come back to Britain or not. Statistics that I just made up prove that 99.9999999% of the British public thinks life will go on without you.

    Second, a few moonbats come gliding out of the rafters to hold a protest against a visiting statesman and you’re going to write off a country of 59m people who have been the staunchest ally you’ve ever had? (When did you take a poll that indicated the British electorate would have preferred Saddam to remain in power? I must have missed that.)

    During times when the American president isn’t here, where exactly are you and your children going to be exposed to anti-Americanism – and why? The focus, in case you missed it, is the Bush visit. When he’s gone, even these moonbats will waft back to their rafters. Most British people spend 24 hours a day not having a single thought about the US. But if something bizarre happened, and you encountered anti-Americanism, should you stay silent? No. Freedom of speech was guaranteed in the Magna Carta 900 years ago. We’re pretty relaxed about it. You’d be expected to fight your corner.

    Mrs du Toit, there’s a rafter over here with your name on it.

  • Front4uk

    I certainly will welcome the Main Man to UK and will wear the Stars and Stripes pin on my suit to show solidarity with our traditional allies in their hour of need. If some peacenik would like to challange me to a discussion of US Fiscal/Foreign policy I am more than happy oblige.

    For the Stop The War Coalition – You tell me how to stop a genocidal 3rd world tinpot dictator by “peaceful” means and then I reconsider my
    support to the war. So far I have not seen or read or heard any suggestions. It is time to either put up or shut up.

  • Tony H

    I’ll try not to let the news from “veryretired” that America (on whose behalf he has been appointed to speak, it seems) is going to write-off my continent distract me from the impending England-Australia game.

  • Sage

    It’s interesting how different people draw completely different things out of a text. What I noticed was the focus on what an “odd” set of contradictions are on evidence in this “new” politics of the left.

    There’s simply nothing odd about it. This same pedigree of radicals has been marching in support of tyranny for a long, long time, and their contradictory conclusions are nothing new. They’re right there in their transnational socialist doctrine, and hve been all along.

    The only thing novel about it all is the number of people who are seeing through their pose. The marchers themselves will never, of course, see through their own rhetoric. But the response to them is more activist than it has been in a long time, maybe since the 30’s (a sobering thought in itself).

  • A_t

    I’m bored of this “you’re a moonbat or for the war”, “if you opposed the war, you love Saddam” bullshit.

    I’m not sure how to stop a genocidal dictator by peaceful means either, but there might be ways… & even if there aren’t, if the US & UK are suddenly going to become noble countries which liberate poor oppressed people from their misery, and this was why we invaded Iraq, then could our leaders tell us so honestly? Would that be too much to ask? Do you think the people of Britain & the US would be disgusted by such a concept? I don’t.

    Therefore, I certainly don’t believe the liberation of Iraq from Saddam’s evil regime had much to do with concern for the plight of the Iraqi people on the part of our leaders. The interesting question is, what *was* the real motivation. There are clearly a set of real reasons, some of which *may* have been covered here. My main source of anger with Blair & Bush is that they are treating the people of their countries like children; feeding them an idealised version of why we went in, which many of you seem to have bought into wholesale, & concealing the real reasons. I am suspicious that the real reasons may not be to my liking, & I certainly don’t like the idea of the British people being dragged into conflicts & lied to over the reasons.

    Many of the anti-war protesters are fools, no doubt. But that doesn’t mean you can just write off the entire “dissatisfied with the war” group as a bunch of ignorant fools. I think there are very valid reasons why we should continue to give our leaders a hard time over this issue.

  • Kelli

    Some of my fondest memories of England are of people hurling insults at me about Ronald Bloody Reagan (no friend of mine, I assured them, to no avail). And I’ll say this for Europeans (including, in this instance, Brits) they respect sparring partners who stand their ground. I got a lot of grudging respect (“you’re not REALLY American”) and more than a few propositions out of these little skirmishes (an odd turn on, that).

    In short, Mrs. du Toit, I very much look forward to exposing my two young children to Britain next year. My six year old can find Iraq on a map (take that, Michael Moore), argue the root causes of the Civil War, discuss the leadership qualities of a Churchill and a Gandhi–bring on the anti-Americans, he’s ready to take them on.

  • Mrs. du Toit expects to wander through any country never being asked about American Foreign Policy; what kind of a dream world is that. It’s never happened before and never will in future. Her children sound as though they’ve been wrapped in soundproofing, if they’ve not heard all that stuff at home.

    Perhaps the UK would be best off to hope she does stay home.

  • Mrs Du Toit your logic makes about much sense as an Englisman who goes into one pub in Boston only to see IRA battle flags on the roof and a collection bucket for “the cause”. (Its called the Black Rose and its near Fanuel Hall, not in South Boston.)

    He could then go to a monument for the “Irish genocide” (paid for by taxpayers) allegedly committed by the British. If he is really lucky he could attend a Republican Party event with Irish-Americans from New Jersey, New York, Chicago and Masschusetts who brag to you at a drop of the hat that they raise money for the “Irish resistance”. People who resent the fact that the US helped Britian in the Second World War and understand why De Villiers was a big fan of Hitler.

    He then concludes the Americans hate the British.
    Most British going to the US find nothing but a friendly reception and I would bet you would here.

    Don’t you think it is the slightest bit insulting to those families who have loved ones who have died or are still in active service alongside US soldiers in Iraq and Afganisatan?

    Furthermore, unlike Americans, the British are much less likely to jump down someone’s throat merely for their accent.

    Ken does not speak for Londoners and the protestors do not speak for England, Scotland, Wales or NI.

  • Well veryretired, I think you will find that, contrary to what it might seem like in ‘flyover country’, that is pretty much the way it works here too. People do not feel Britain ‘owes’ the USA anything, because whilst we remember who was with us in North Africa, Italy and Normandy, we also remember Suez… It is just that the USA culturally makes (a bit) more sense to the average Brit than most European cultures do. If the USA pulled up the drawbridge, people would just shrug and find a way to live without them politically in the certain knowledge that if US interests were threatened by threats to the global trading system (for example), in which Britain is also a huge player, the USA will no doubt be back on ‘our side’ again regardless of how much indigestion that causes in ‘flyover country’.

    I I was at university in the USA, I was often perplexed how many people asked me something along the lines of “So what do people in England think about the USA?” I usually replied “Hamburgers… Silvester Stallone… Cowboys… but mostly they don’t really think about it at all”. I really cannot imagine an American being asked that question very often when they are visiting a foreign country. As Verty pointed out, 99.9% of Brits spend 99.9% of the time not giving a flying whatever about what goes on outside Britain. In the absence of a threatening Soviet Union just across the border of East Germany, all the USA is to most Brits is a place to go on holiday (Florida) and somewhere we do a great deal of business with.

    We write about things here on Samizdata.net because we are cosmopolitan Anglosphere weirdoes… the rest of Britain is far more concerns about kicking the shit out of the Aussies in rugby that what George Bush has to say to Liz Windsor.

  • Aarvark, Verity, Kelli, Dodge and Jeannie: Thank you, you are doing a sterling job!

  • I do not think that veryretired meant Britain when he said flyover country was tired of all that crap out of Europe. Or at least, that’s not the mood I get from the gunrack set around this part of it. Note that all of his list of horrors that 20th Century Europe begot were all products of the Continent. We have long since gotten over our beef with The Crown that flared up lo these 228 years ago.

  • Rob Read

    Just for Mrs Du Toit (and because Mr Du Toit has a impressive collection!) I picked up a leaflet handed to me by the pro-saddamites screwed it up threw it back in their face and said you disgust me.

  • Chris Josephson

    I don’t look at it as one entire country vs. another any longer. I view what’s happening as factions within multiple countries finding common cause with their fellows in other countries. The slogans that are chanted by foreign Anti-US/Bush protestors are exactly the same as those chanted by their American comrades.

    Instead of writing off an entire nation of people, realize other nations have elements that dislike the US and they are identical in ideology to their ‘friends’ here.

    We still have countries with borders. However, it seems as if the borders matter less and less. I find common cause, ideologically, with people in various countries. I tend to view whatever struggles we have as struggles between ideologies
    and not so much as struggles between traditional countries.

  • Susan

    Veryretired, before the US came on the scene, who do you think cleaned up all the messes in Europe before us? Right, it was Britain. They have stood against the periodic degradations of the Continent for several hundred years. They gave asylum to French refugees during the Terror, got rid of Crazy Napoleon and stood alone or (nearly alone) against the Kaiser and Hitler for a number of years.

    I agree with you about the Continent but Britain doesn’t deserve to be lumped in with them.

  • ed

    Hmm. I’ve got to cut down on my posting here. So I think I’ll take a break and just read for a week or so.

    1. “People do not feel Britain ‘owes’ the USA anything, because whilst we remember who was with us in North Africa, Italy and Normandy, we also remember Suez… ”

    Hmm. So you mean that preventing Britain from occupying, and effectively stealing the Suez canal, is equivalent to America fighting to defend Britain during WWII? I had no idea the canal was so important to you UK types. Well if it’s that important then I’d say go right ahead and nick it.

    2. “the USA will no doubt be back on ‘our side’ again regardless of how much indigestion that causes in ‘flyover country'”

    This is the popular view on the continent isn’t it? That no matter how obnoxious and repugnant we find Europe that we’ll always come running to help out. Now that is very obnoxious. And probably explains a great deal. Frankly I think you’re banking on a lot of goodwill that doesn’t really exist. I know a lot of people in my area that are fed up with Europe and want nothing to do with it at all. *shrug* maybe you’re right and we will come running. But the delicious thought is, what if you’re wrong.

    3. “along the lines of “So what do people in England think about the USA?”‘
    Not too perplexing really. We ask people that all the time, even if they’re American to begin with. When I lived in North Carolina I got asked questions about New Jersey. I don’t think we really care about the answer. No matter what I said I always got a “that’s cool” response.

    4. “Furthermore, unlike Americans, the British are much less likely to jump down someone’s throat merely for their accent. ”
    Interesting. I’ve never personally seen a situation where an American jumped down anyone’s throat over an accent. Want to illustrate this and share some details?

    5. “Some of my fondest memories of England are of people hurling insults at me about Ronald Bloody Reagan ”
    Yes that terrible ogre who ended the Cold War, liberated hundreds of millions of people and made the world safe, for a time at least, for democracy. What a nasty, nasty man. We should hope for a leader like Mao, who murdered 100 million Chinese, or perhaps Stalin, who murdered 20 million Ukrainians, or Pol Pot, who murdered 4 million Cambodians.

    sigh. The dearth of talented and moral leaders in America is a terrible thing indeed.

    6. “if the US & UK are suddenly going to become noble countries which liberate poor oppressed people from their misery, and this was why we invaded Iraq, then could our leaders tell us so honestly?”
    Actually they did. If you recall the WMD’s were only a small portion of the reasons given for the liberation. They were included primarily for the legal aspects, i.e. there were already UN Security Council resolutions oustanding. Considering that there have been liberations previously based on humanitarian grounds (Balkans, Kosovo, Somalia, Haiiti) why would Iraq be any different? Why wouldn’t you believe that humanitarian reasons weren’t a major part of why we invaded?

    One seriously problem is that the Liberal press likes to rewrite history. So while they will scream about WMDs you don’t hear a lot about the humanitarian reasons for Iraq. Even though Bush strikingly outlined those very issues.

    7. “The interesting question is, what *was* the real motivation.”
    What amazes me more than anything else is how many people ascribe some sort of duplicitous meme to Bush. That somehow he is dumb, stupid, unlettered AND a scheming villain who is underhandedly seeking to rule the world. A sort of Texas style Dr. Evil with a funny hat and spurs.

    From what I’ve seen Bush is surprisingly straightforward. He says what he means and means what he says. Perhaps the problem is that people don’t really understand Bush. I’ve found that he is more a Texan turned President than anything else. Clinton was a President from Arkansas, so his administration’s approach to things was based more on what was perceived to be the requirements of the office. Bush however is a Texan first and President second, so the definition of the office has been changed to conform to the attitudes and beliefs of a Texan.

    Unless you’ve actually met a Texan or gone to Texas, it’s really hard to explain it. I was once a US Marine and had a number of comrades from Texas. While all individuals are different and no stereotype is perfect, I found that those guys were great to have around. Honest, tough and not willing to take crap from anyone. Not above stealing a girl, if you’re not paying attention, but will be there if someone throws a punch. Ready to lend you his last dollar, but also willing to borrow one too. And definitely someone you shoudn’t play poker with unless you’re serious about the game.

    Hmm. It’s curious really. Bush does seem more to be a Texan than a President. Perhaps that’s why he grates so hard on some nerves. If you ignored all the hype, hysteria and conspiracy theories and based your perceptions simply on actions and accomplishments, I think just about anyone, aside from Saddam and Osama, would like him. But there are people who are literally waiting for the shoe to drop. For the mask to be lifted and for a Stalin to somehow be displayed for all to see.

    All in all. It’s rather amusing really.

  • Suez… so trying to stop the nationalisation of private property is theft, eh? Right. Got it.

    The US will intervene in Europe or anywhere else IF IT IS IN AMERICAN INTERESTS. The emotional componant of your argument is simply irrelevent. The US ‘defended Britain’ (once Germany and Japan declaired war on it) because it was in US interests, not out of some sence of altruism. Shrug all you like but sorry, that is how nation-states work. Hurt feelings really have very little to do with it.

  • Actually, I’m more concerned about being mugged in Knightsbridge or South Kens than some lefty blaring the same old tired propaganda nonsense at me. I think the concern voiced by The Mrs. has been misunderstood, as you’ll see in a moment.

    Apparently, our favorite place (as above) is now regarded as Mugger Central by the locals (can’t remember where I read it — but I have a photo of one of our favorite neighborhoods, taken when last we were there, but which is now gated and under guard by a private security firm).

    Most distressing.

    The reason I’m concerned is that if someone were to try and mug me or mine, we’d fight back — I never travel unarmed (no details necessary), and I wouldn’t just “give him what he wants”.

    He’d get what I want to give him, which would be at best a severe thrashing (at worst, you don’t want to know).

    Which would probably end up with me getting charged with assault or whatever.

    Anyway, our planned trip to Blighty in February is being reconsidered, and we may substitute Budapest or Interlaken / Tirol instead.

    Maybe we are being over-sensitive; but quite frankly, we’re getting a little sick of the constant stream of invective being thrown at our President, Over There. We like him, we voted for him, and we support him more often than not.

    And for conservatives like ourselves, it galls us all the more that a genuine presidential scumbag (that would be Bill Bastard Clinton) is still regarded with something akin to worship, Over There.

    Well, we’ll see.

    More importantly, I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts that we aren’t the only American family weighing holiday alternatives right now.

    Actions have consequences. Yes, Britain has troops in Iraq, and we will be forever grateful for that. But we also know that Blair’s stand is enormously undermined by his own party — it strikes me that the British presence in Iraq is but one House vote of “no-confidence” away from ending.

    Forgive us for being jittery.

  • rkb

    I don’t find the emotional claims of Britains vs. the US over Suez, or of the US for its role in WWII or whatever all that convincing. Not that there aren’t interesting and important issues there, but they’re not central for me. I do think that the past history is important for the lessons it teaches, though.

    One lesson I take from WWII is that determined totalitarian types require a joint effort to defeat. Those who stay on the sidelines are likely to be picked off piecemeal. I add to that my father’s family’s history under the tyranny of Stalin to demonstrate how courageous people may still be unable to overthrow a tyrant themselves once he assumes power.

    Re: agendas for going to Iraq, it seems pretty clear to me. There is a network of murderous Islamacist terror groups who have made it clear they wish to destroy, first the US and Israel, and then the West as a whole unless it becomes part of the restored Caliphate. In Hussein’s regime they found a potential source of money, safe refuge and access to at least research quantities of nerve agents, poisons, biological materials … and in the foreseeable future, sufficient radiological materials to construct dirty bombs.

    My daughter was less than a mile from the Twin Towers on 9/11. Seeing as I really do not intend to see either her or myself in a burqa, and since I have a pretty clear idea of just how much murder can be accomplished by a small amount of, say, nerve gas delivered correctly in a central city area, I was unwilling to allow Hussein more time to continue to gnaw his way out of the sanctions from the last of several wars he had launched.

    Frankly, I personally don’t care whether or not we find lots of missiles armed with chem warheads. The evidence is clear, and was clear for a good while before we entered Iraq: Hussein was at a minimum attempting to maintain research programs in WMD. His regime’s increasing contacts with al-Qaeda leaders, his succor of Ansar al-Islam and his quest for additional nuclear capabilities was enough to convince me that he posed a serious threat to me and my way of life.

    That’s pretty much what I heard Bush say on the subject too. Yes, there were concerns about the Iraqi people and yes, there was(and still is) the possibility of WMD in quantities.

    SOMETHING must be done to stop the downward spiral of the Arab states into poverty, hatred and futility. Iraq was both a threat to us and also offers perhaps the most likely country in that region to be able to bring themselves, with some help, into the wider economic, cultural and technical community. I make no apologies for including that as a goal for our presence in Iraq. But we never would have gone in if the other threat were not there, and growing.

  • rkb

    Oh yes, and with regard to anti-American attitudes in Britain, my husband and I have encountered it, moreso during our last trip there last year than a decade before.

    Only one incident was hostile, the rest were merely condescending in ways that were pretty funny, actually. You know, assuming that neither Roger nor I spoke any other languages (3 between us, with 2 more we can read to at least a basic level), nor were educated (chances are I’ve read more of the classics than mine hosts, based on their B&B bookshelves and their conversation). You know, that sort of thing.

    Our hosts in Scottland were uniformly pleasant and interesting to talk with, we had some great conversations in pubs and restaurants in cities and overall enjoyed our trip as much as we generally do. Except for some lout tourists, a few of whom had American accents, some of whom were from the continent and one memorable couple of whom were in the Lake District from Kent.

    Overally, while cultures do differ, I find sterotypes of the emotional sort that have popped up here to be unuseful. Peace, y’all. But if not peace, then death with honor.

  • Chris Goodman

    We have been on this roundabout quite a few times now. Yes 1) The Anglosphere has generally encouraged free societies (probably because of the Common Law). Yes 2) The Anglosphere is diverse (For a start we are separated by a common language). Yes 3) Some on the Left hate the values of the Anglosphere and prefer to side with our enemies (Most in the London BBC hate what is called “Middle England” will every bit as much passion as the New York liberals hate “Middle America”) Yes 4) Some Americans are Anti-British (Many of those who opposed the independence movement in America [a movement not driven by hostility to oppression by the way but largely by a desire [especially among the rich and powerful] to get a bigger slice of the pie) were either murdered or sought refuge in Canada) and the treatment of the Irish Catholics in Ireland, many of whom left for America and Australia, was hardly exemplary. Yes 5) Some British are Anti-American (The thousands of corpses left by IRA bullets/bombs and near assassination of our Prime Minister was largely funded by American money [although most Irish Americans are actually descended from the Protestants who suppressed Catholic freedoms]. Indeed we could go on all day about the wisdom/betrayal of this or that policy (the burning of the White House, the massacre of the Indians, the support of the British government for the South in the early phases of the American Civil War, the oppression of the blacks, Dickens snooty writings about Louisiana swamps)……….But hey could we stop squabbling for a moment and decide which turning we are going to take on the roundabout i.e. towards the light or towards the dark. To use an American expression “I hate to remind you guys” but there is a war on – all this is just indulgence. If you must know while the British [insofar as there is such a thing] generally [and with good reason!] tend to distrust foreigners, Americans are not counted as foreigners, and you may be loud, mercenary, and prone to occasional bursts of Anti-British sentiment, but believe me on September 11th the reaction of nearly every British person [yes even most on the left] was that a family member had been attacked. Unlike some people (he says gesturing over the channel) most British people see the USA as [generally speaking!] a force for good in the world.

  • ed

    1. “Suez… so trying to stop the nationalisation of private property is theft, eh? Right. Got it.”

    LOL. It is a basic aspect of law that all land controlled by a nation belongs first to that nation and then to individuals or corporations. It’s how things work here in the US and I’d bet it works that way elsewhere. Since the Suez Canal is located within Egyptian territory I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet that they absolutely have the right to nationalize it. That Britain attempted to steal it doesn’t make it right. I’m sure if the situation were reversed you’d be arguing the other side as your point is utterly indefensible. If Bill Gates bought Manchester and wanted it moved to Idaho you’d be entirely within your rights to block it with the Royal Navy.

    If we’re going to continue in this vein then let’s also include Lloyd’s of London. The British government colluded with Lloyd’s to safeguard the fortunes of high ranking members of the government and other wealthy members of British society. By doing this Lloyd’s was able to illegitimately pass on it’s bad debts, particularly those associated with asbestos, to those names that weren’t covered by the change in law. This ruined thousands of innocent people all over the world who were not contractually bound to cover those losses until the British government allowed it. Theft anyone?

    2. “The US will intervene in Europe or anywhere else IF IT IS IN AMERICAN INTERESTS.”

    And you’ve repeatedly ignored my point, though I won’t resort to capital letterrs. I’ll just try again. (Perhaps I was being too subtle) America will intervene if it is in our interest to do so. If the rewards and benefits of intervention outweigh, or at least reasonably equal, the costs and risks of intervention. But my point is that the balance of risk vs reward is shifting in a very steady pattern. Because aside from the gross risk/reward analysis is the opinions and desires of the voting public. American politicians are rarely other than they seem, self-aggrandizing craven fruitloops. So if public opinion is in favor of an action it will change the balance of the risk/reward analysis. If the public opinion is against an action, then it too will make adjustments to the risk/reward.

    My point is that public opinon, the thumb as it were on the scales, is shifting from a pro-Europe to an anti-Europe on a regular and accelerating basis. There is precious little news coming out of Europe that seems like it would change any of this. The recent spate of books and authors attacking the root causes of anti-Americanism is a hopeful sign but that seems limited. Instead what is apparent is that there is a great deal more poison left in Europe that Americans have not yet been exposed too. Once that does, by alternative news media or not, then the swing in opinions will change even more.

    Let’s face facts. The anti-Americanism can be seriously over the top and incredibly lurid. Once that breaks through the conciousness barrier to the American public, it will have an effect. Additionally this business with Iraq has not just caused a shift by itself, but fundamentally altered the basis by which Europe is judged. Instead the base view of Europe is highly negative. In such a state it is much easier and simpler for it to get worse while improving it will be very difficult. That difficulty coming at the cost of counter anti-Americanism which is popular in many parts of Europe. There was a time, nearly six decades by my count, where America was willing to accept whatever crap was thrown at us by Europeans. That time has ended and the endless mulligans have stopped. Now you’re being judged on a constant basis and this rate, that judgement will be negative.

    There are a lot of Americans who are completely disgusted with Europe. A lot of families are pushing to have our WWII and WWI dead dug up and returned. These are not isolated incidents and they will only get stronger as issues continue to separate America and Europe.

    a. Europe is unwilling to foot the bill for it’s own defense.
    b. Europe is unwilling to fight the War on Terror and is willing to let America do the work.
    c. Europe is untrustworthy except for a very few specific nations.
    d. With the EU any meaningful bilateral relationships America has with specific European nations will mean bupkis.
    e. Europe is unwilling to stand with America like a true ally and friend should. Many people feel that if Europe had been attacked that America would have stood with Europe regardless of the cost. That this is not reciprocated just points to how rotten the relationship is.
    f. Europe is unwilling to offer America anything but insults. Perhaps it makes Europeans feel better of themselves to insult Americans. But it does nothing for us.

    etc etc etc.

    While realpolitik might pass for normal in Europe it’s unappealing to the average American. Strangely enough we tend to admire people who are underdogs and still fight on. This is why we admired Britain for so long. We admire people who stand by their friends no matter what. This is why we’re always running to help Europe out. This is why we forced the issue of the Balkans when Europe wanted simply for it to just go away. We admire people who honor their word. This is why we despise France for their backstab in the UN.

    Does this make sense to you? Does this come through? Is this thing on? Does the fact that America does more business with India or China than all of Europe mean anything?

    The basic assumption of goodwill is gone. All that is left is a reevaluation of the relationship between America and Europe. It’s not pretty and it’s not nice. And in the end all that might be left of that willingness to intervene might be bupkis.

  • “American politicians are rarely other than they seem, self-aggrandizing craven fruitloops.”


    May I use this most excellent sentence on occasion?

  • Chris Goodman

    Actually “fruit loop” sounds like a good description of Ed.

  • Verity

    rkb – So some British, obviously deeply ignorant, insular people, treated you, when you were here, as though you couldn’t speak English. And? I lived in Texas for several years, and I cannot count the number of times I was complimented because I spoke English real good for a foreigner. I have been asked where I learned to speak English dozens and dozens of times. (Sometimes they referred to the English language as “Amurrican”. But then, there are many people in Texas who will tell you proudly that they have never been “abroad”, meaning, in this context, they have never been beyond the borders of Texas.)

    Kim du Toit, please do go to Interlaken for your vacation. There is a movement in Britain to get tourist advertising overseas stopped because it causes massive inconvenience and disruption to the British to have millions of foreigners using our public transport (especially, stupidly, during rush hours) and our roads and theatres. As the fourth largest economy in the world, tourism’s a drop in the GNP, with only the London hospitality industry and shops and theatres benefitting. Although admittedly, a February travel date wouldn’t incommode us too much.

    If you were coming to Britain armed, you wouldn’t be allowed in the country (personally I abhor Labour’s attitude to self-protection devices, but it’s the current law), so Interlaken is looking for more and more likely for you.

    The Guardian/BBC morons hate the President for no other reason than that he is a Republican and not a tranzi, socialist, one-worlder. They loved Bill Clinton because he is a tranzi, socialist, one-worlder. The Guardian and the BBC no more connect with the thinking of the average Briton than does Barbra Streisand the opinions of the average American. You must have missed the poll that said over 65% of the British people valued the “special relationship” and were either indifferent to, or rather pleased by, President Bush’s state visit. This, mystifyingly, included Labour voters.

    The socialists have allowed London to become a more dangerous city than it was before. If you’re giving it a miss for safety reasons because you’re travelling with children, that’s one thing. If you’re giving it a miss because you think you’re punishing the British people for the views held by the BBC, that doesn’t even raise a yawn.

  • rkb

    Verity, you are right of course about my last post. Long day, full of emotion for other reaons and just after I clicked on the Post button I realized I’d be sorry I sent it. [smile]

    It bothers me to see the corrosion of good will among all sides here and in the wider world. That last bitch session I posted is a small contribution to same, alas.

    I don’t think we should paper over real differences, nor do I think that we should have regular Anglosphere cuddle sessions, but I do hope that while we debate serious issues and speak frankly with one another, we also avoid the temptation either to see ourselves as grieved or to exagerate the degree to which we might share important values.

  • Simon Jester

    “It is a basic aspect of law that all land controlled by a nation belongs first to that nation and then to individuals or corporations.”

    Ed, you’re really on the wrong site here!

  • Yeah its not like having a non-Southern accent can’t get you loads of abuse in the South. I get a hell of lot more hostility for being from New England in the South and mid-West than I have ever gotten in the UK. Ditto my English friends in New York, Chicago and Boston. There anti arseholes in every country (ok in France its most of them) but you can’t judge a entire country on just a few idiots.

    As far as safety in London goes. I still feel safer here than I do in NYC and Boston. I live in Westminster and I feel perfectly safe. Tourists just have to remember that just because you are on holiday does not mean you can leave your brain at home.

    NB: The BBC actually found a black American who was protesting for Bush! I was impressed.

  • Verity

    ed – I couldn’t fight my way all the way through your 10,000 word essay, but we built the Suez Canal. Just like you built the Panama Canal. It should have been yours in perpetuity (or into the far distant future, can’t remember) but tranzi, one-worlder fruitcake and Assigner-in-Chief of White House Parking Spaces Jimmy Carter gave it away. I was in the US at the time and remember the collective heart attack. Had the Panamanians decided to take over the Canal without the fruitcake’s blessing, America would have gone to war.

    Why are you using this blog to detail your grudges against the continent of Europe? Britain is not on the continent and we have spent the last 2,000 years watching them like a hawk. Please either get relevant to the Anglo-American debate or find a French or German blog to lecture to. Most people participating in this blog have a high level of familiarity with both the US and Britain, or at least are well-informed. This doesn’t seem to apply in your case. I can’t think why you think we’d be interested in a wordy harangue about how America judges Europe. Does the average Briton care if America does more trade with China and India than with “Europe”? N-o-o-o-o.

  • Amelia

    I’m going to a wedding in Scotland in January and I am thrilled. I’ll be there come hell, highwater or hippies.

  • A_T

    Verity, it always amuses me when Brits try & claim that their little dividing stretch of sea means they’re not part of Europe. Presumably by the same argument, Sri Lanka isn’t in Asia.

    I’m afraid to anyone from other continents (or thinking about it, anyone not from the UK really), Britain’s definitely in Europe. That’s going to be the perception for as long as i can predict, unless you can build a big enough outboard motor & strap it to the Dover cliffs, scootle us off to the Azores (would that be far enough?).

    Surely the main issue should be “you can’t make credible generalisations about a whole continent’s worth of people”.

  • A_t: Britain is not ‘Europe’ regardless of the EU. There are tremendous legal, cultural and historical differences between the British common law tradition (which some are working hard to erode, admittedly) and those which prevail in mainland Europe. Perceptions to the contrary are simply wrong.

    ed: whatever

  • S. Weasel

    Newsflash, A_t: Mexico is not part of the United States, culturally or any other way, and they’re physically connected. Whereas Hawaii is, and it’s a zillion miles out in the Pacific. Whoa, dude!

    It isn’t that little bit of ocean that keeps Britain from being part of Europe, it’s Britons.

  • A_t

    S. Weasel… woah dude! Mexico and Canada are in North America though… and not part of the US… how confusing!

    I’m talking *continents*, not nations. Of course a nation can be distributed; many have outposts which are on different continents entirely, but I’ve yet to see any classification which defines continents according to political affiliation or self-image. “Europe” is primarily defined as a geographical continent.

    We in the UK could have green skin and a legal system based entirely around the subtle movements of goats’ ears, & we’d still be European. Would you argue that members of pygmy tribes who’ve had little contact with the rest of Africa, and have a culture which is *far* more different from those around them than the British is from the French, are not Africans by virtue of their difference/isolation?

    I also think this sense of ‘otherness’ is misplaced arrogance & snobbery; if you ask a French man, he can probably point you to about as many things as we claim to make us ‘unique’, which make *him* unique & utterly differentiated from an Italian or a German. However, the average Frenchman, even if from Corsica, doesn’t claim he’s not European.

    If you’re in any doubt at all about this, please travel the world… ask people “Is Britain a European country?”, I’d be very, *very* surprised if the answer was anything but “yes”.

  • S. Weasel

    If you’re in any doubt at all about this, please travel the world… ask people “Is Britain a European country?”

    Now, that’s an argument I’d expect to hear from you and few others on this blog. The evidentiary value of traveling the world asking for consensus is…not impressive (using that technique, I don’t think I’d have much trouble “proving” that my dead ancestors pop back for a chat from time to time).

    The one country where I feel quite certain the answer would be overwhelmingly “no” is, of course, in Britain itself. The evidentiary value of that is more compelling.

    Or do you speak from a perspective of purest geological observation?

  • A_t

    I speak from the general, worldwide concensus which appears to define continents on the basis of geography/geology alone, & takes little account of how unique a country thinks it is (or even how unique a country genuinely is). This isn’t some “who’s a threat to world peace, let’s take a poll” rubbish… it’s pretty concrete, & has been a generally agreed way of splitting the world up into easily manageable chunks for some time.

    This whole “Britain’s not in Europe” thing is a dead-end topic. Even our biggest buddies, those most likely to recognise our non-european-ness, the Americans, when they “do europe” include London in their itinerary. As far as I’m aware, George Dubya didn’t exclude us from Europe in his old/new speech, just divided all us little Euro countries into those who were going along with the plan, & those who weren’t.

    Opting out of one’s geographical location, as I said before, is not currently an option, so we’re stuck as Europeans unless there’s technology i’ve only dreamed of stashed away in a warehouse somewhere.

    The idea that we’re somehow incredibly more different than the Dutch, Poles, Spanish, Greeks, Swiss, Latvians, Swedes etc. is an arrogant conceit, nothing more. It’s perfectly possible to be the black sheep of the continent, if that’s the role you fancy, but claiming you’re outside it is like me claiming i’m not part of my family because most of them don’t smoke dope, & dress more ‘proper’. I could never see them, but still they’d be my biological family. This is as inflexible as that.

    Asking only Brits, & taking that as your definition is like taking someone at his word that he’s the world’s greatest magician, without consulting anyone else as to the veracity of his claims.

  • S. Weasel

    Americans very much make a distinction between Britain and “the Continent”. The fact that the two are easily incorporated into a travel itinerary has no bearing on whether there is such a thing as “continental” that we equate with “European” – but not British.

    You can’t define Europe strictly in terms of geographical landmasses and tectonic plates. The word is too overlaid with other meanings. Only a very few of which will comfortably include Britain.

  • Britian is not Europe, whether it be in laws (Common vs Napoleonic/Roman), the fact that Britain has not been invaded since 1066, language, the Monarchy, the first past-the-post political system and the outward looking attitude…etc.

  • A_t

    ” The word is too overlaid with other meanings. Only a very few of which will comfortably include Britain.”

    errr.. yeah, the implication being that all the other countries which i mentioned above *would* be comfortably included? Again, national self-importance, I feel. No-one said a continent had to be consistant; culturally, legally, in it’s systems of government. You wish to be dissociated from Europe, but are you happy placing India & Japan on the same continent? At least we share an alphabet with most of our European neighbours.

    I notice you’ve ignored all my counter-examples; would you describe the pygmies I described above as “not African”? What about if they themselves claimed not to be African, would you go along with that? Can we all just decide what we want to be, & demand that outsiders cease to use any useful generalisations? What if personally, I’d rather you didn’t call me an Earthman; i find it limiting & it comes with a whole set of assumptions I don’t like.

    Our roots; geographical, cultural, genetic, linguistic are in Europe, like it or not. Our culture, although interestingly different from say, French, Spanish or Finnish culture, is woven from the same basic threads. The difference between us and any of our European neighbours is extremely slight when compared to say, the difference between us and China or Ghana. Those are the criteria I use to define us as Europeans. Those are the criteria everyone else uses to define us as Europeans. Understand that being European doesn’t tie us down to any particular form of behaviour; we can be in the EU, be utterly out of it & be a libertarian ultra-low tax republic, & we’d still be European. Fact of life.

    Andrew, same point… surely the implication of your statement is that the rest of Europe is homogeneous.. you have an interesting set of requirements for being European too; clearly, must have been invaded since 1066, must have it’s own language (surely Finland ranks higher than us then) etc.

    & do you really think the rest of Europe’s not outward looking? Patronising rubbish, based solely on the fact that we managed to conquer more of the world than anyone else a while back.

  • Yosemite Sam

    Well, since I’m a geographer, I can speak with some authority on this. Europe for one, isn’t even a continent. It is part of a landmass that is called Eurasia. Geographically, the island of Britain is part of Eurasia. In every other way, Britain is not a part of Europe. Geez, people in Britain talk about going over to Europe when they visit France, at least they did when I lived there 10 years ago. Britain has been separated from Europe ever since its schism with the Catholic Church in the 1500’s. Wow, this thread has gotten way off topic.

  • S. Weasel

    If I ignore points, it’s to avoid the blowhard vice of ambling down a post point by point, rebutting every damn one. I bet I’m not alone in skipping over the long ones. This is a medium for brevity.

    But, yes, actually. If one nation in Africa was decidedly different from its neighbors, was off-shore, considered itself not to be a part of Africa and, indeed, had a very long history of considering itself not to be part of Africa, then I would be
    comfortable going along with them on the point, except in the most purely geographic sense of the word “African”.

    Cape Verdeans are a bit like that, in fact. Most of them are of mixed Portuguese/African descent, but the ones I know don’t consider themselves Africans (though not exactly Europeans, either).

    I do, in fact, think Britain is especially singular. Without doubt, she has more in common with her former colonies than she has with her neighbors in Europe. I suspect mostly, as others have pointed out, due to language and English common law, both of which seem especially adept tools to build nations with.

    And I don’t think modesty is necessarily a virtue of nations.

  • Katherine

    Re: America’s reevaluation of our European “alliance”

    This is from an article by VHD:

    “America reads daily about this growing anti-American sentiment and I wonder whether those abroad stop to ponder the effect of all this easy invective on those of us who live here. Americans as never before are re-examining all the old alliances and friendships, from troops in Europe and bases in the Mediterranean to peacekeepers in the Balkans and ships in the Gulf. If privileged Western protesters cannot tell the difference between what Saddam did and what America is trying to do in Iraq, if they think that tomorrow’s Saddams, Milosevics and Kim Jong Ils will be awed by Nobel Prize awards, barristers in The Hague and EU resolutions rather than aircraft carriers, or if they assume in their end-of-history world that their worship of reason is equally shared by all those outside the West, we may be soon entering a far scarier world, when America in exasperation — as it did for most of its history before the European wars — will simply shrug and say: “Good luck to you all.”

    The nature of a threat, as of life in itself lies in its unpredictability. After collapse of the Berlin Wall we took our “break from history”. The 9/11 attack came for most of us completely out of the blue. It demonstrated in most painful way that even if one cannot see a threat it does not mean that it does not exist.

    Perry is right that we will aid Europe if it is in our strategic interest. But the definition of the strategic interest may change.

  • A_t

    ” Wow, this thread has gotten way off topic.”

    🙂 truth

    but yeah, you bring up the same points again; I know most people in Britain refer to Europe as somewhere ‘other’, but I’m questioning if their perception is at all correct. You’re right about the geographical distinction though, but the idea of dividing Eurasia up into Europe & Asia along the cacuausus mountains (am i right there? some mountains anyway) is pretty universally accepted, & has been for a long while now. Claiming that small islands just off the coast of recognised continents are not part of said continents is another matter entirely.

    As for the Catholic church thing, well… plenty of other nations in Europe are predominantly protestant. Furthermore, their churches are much more distinct from the catholic church, as the Anglican church is basically a privatised subsidiary of the Catholic church in much of its’ ceremonial etc., and was not brought about through a desire to change the nature of worship, so much as to change the ownership of the church, and the church’s assets in particular. It’s still basically a top-down heirarchy at it’s spiritual core, which most other reformed churches in say, Holland, Germany, Switzerland or Scandinavian countries, are not. (again, if anyone cares to jump in & contradict me, you’re more than welcome).

  • Yosemite Sam

    Actually, the dividing lines between Europe, Asia and Africa are roughly the Ural mountains, Mediterranean and the Bosporous(sp?), so actually a small part of Turkey is in Europe.
    But anyway, the idea of Europe as a continent is more of a concept than a physical fact, rather like how most Brits do not consider themselves to be Europeans.

  • Chris Goodman

    It never ceases to amaze me how people get confused by simple conceptual distinctions. There is the geographical concept “Europe” which dates back to the ancient Greeks, and was extended to describe the whole peninsula of land (of which Greece is just a part) that sticks out of Asia (including the British Isles and Iceland) and is marked off in the east by the Urals. Then there is the quite different debate about cultural identity. Modern Greeks often view Europe as something to the West of them, as do many Russians. A contrast is sometimes made between a Continental Rationalist and Absolute Government tradition, and British Empiricist and Limited Government tradition. Now of course you may seek to dispute this, but you ought to be aware that you are taking part in a different debate. For what it is worth I do believe there is a contrast between the British political tradition and the Continental European tradition. For getting on for 500 years various Continental Absolutisms have been trying to subdue England/United Kingdom (the Spanish Counter-Reformation French Absolutism Napoleonic Tyranny German Authoritarianism Russian Imperialism) and I am rather grateful that we have so far resisted. Unless the EU is radically transformed (highly unlikely – a corrupt authoritarian bureaucratic structure is just how many European politicians like it) it is inevitable that the UK will gradually disengage from the EU. It is just a matter of how long it takes for the penny to drop (very long in some cases) and this will not bother most Continental Europeans on jot. As one Frenchwoman explained to me we will have succeeded in breaking up the United Kingdom and cutting Britain off from her former colonies, so it is a win/win situation. Which brings us back to the issue of why so many of those who do not have the interests of the UK or the USA at heart want to break up the alliance. It all this too abstract just remind yourself that many still living remember a time when most of Europe was being run by the likes of Hitler, Mussolini, Marshal Pertain. Stalin, and Franco: and you wonder why there is a different political tradition? Greece and Portugal only became democracies only in 1974! Eastern Europe in 1989!

  • Chris Goodman


    “one jot”

    “If this is too abstract”

    “Marshal Petain”

  • ed

    1. *”It is a basic aspect of law that all land controlled by a nation belongs first to that nation and then to individuals or corporations.”

    Ed, you’re really on the wrong site here!*

    I try to do my best to the keep the heart rate up of all participants. I have always held it to be a prime truth that the key to happiness is to irritate or annoy at least one person every single day. 🙂

    2. *”American politicians are rarely other than they seem, self-aggrandizing craven fruitloops.”


    May I use this most excellent sentence on occasion?*

    Please feel free to any statement, comment or one-liner that appeals to you. No attribution required. Like Johnny Appleseed I roam the wilderness of the Internet, passing forth fruits as a go. 🙂

    3. *Actually “fruit loop” sounds like a good description of Ed.*

    Actually I’m many different things. American. First generation immigrant. South Korean. Conservative. Sometime Republican. Veteran software developer. etc. If someone wants to use the term “fruit loop” to describe me I have no objections. As long as I’m allowed to use whatever term I desire in response.

    4. *I was in the US at the time and remember the collective heart attack. Had the Panamanians decided to take over the Canal without the fruitcake’s blessing, America would have gone to war.*

    No doubt we would have. If we had though, it would have been wrong. At the time I was pretty unhappy about it. I felt then that the Canal was a strategic asset that shouldn’t have been handed off. But to do otherwise would have been to continue violating what little soverignity Panama had. Without control over it’s own resources, of which the Canal is one, it was little more than a Terrority of the US without any of the benefits of actually being a Territory.

    5. Britain is not a part of Europe.

    This is an interesting argument but pretty wrong. Duke William, remember 1066 AD, was the Duke of Normandy first. England also waged a number of wars over soverign territory on the continental mainland. Even if we ignore all this the events of the modern world absolutely stipulate that Britain is an integral and integrated part of Europe.

    a. Britain is a member of the EU.
    b. The “Chunnel” which invalidates the argument that the Channel separates Britain from Europe.
    c. The EU Constitution which will largely relegate Britain to the role of member state rather than member nation.

    There are more but it’s not necessary to list them all. All of them are easily found by simply looking. Britain is being inevitably bound into the political, social and economic state that is Europe. So while it might have been true to consider Britain apart from Europe in the past. It is also very true that consideration is no longer relevant nor true. In such circumstance it would be impossible to treat Britain apart from the rest of Europe.

  • Dave

    Well, this Briton thinks Britain is part of Europe, and for various reasons I think the average Brit is probably, language aside, more like other Europeans than they are the average American.

    Mrs Du Toit,

    Can you promise me, with absolute certainty, that I could take my three teenage children to Britain, travel the back roads and cities without risk that someone will question them or us on the policies of the U.S. government

    No. Nor would I expect that. People should have their beliefs challenged.

    and not spout off some Bush=Hitler meme?

    Almost certainly this will not happen.

    And if that did happen, if we did see signs of anti-Americanism on our trip, should we sit silently, not defend?

    Yes, absolutely you should defend your corner! What on Earth makes you think you should not.

    One of my problems with living in the US was the lack of arguments and discussions which took place.

    Its one of the reasons I enjoy my business trips to Seattle – I find them far more likely to engage in heated political debate than other parts of the US.

    I will also bear in mind that the last bar I was in last week in Seattle the discussion was about what an idiot Bush is and why on Earth was he being allowed to come to Britain.

  • Tony H

    “most Brits do not consider themselves to be Europeans” – ? Into what strange waters are we straying here? What the f**k are we, Australasians? One of the nastier and more foolish side-effects of anti-EU fervour – and believe me, Im pretty anti-EU – is the sort of generalised anti-Continental Europe bile illustrated above, so much indulged in by Atlanticist Brits and Anglophile Americans. I’m a fan of America, and have suggested not altogether flippantly that we might join NAFTA or become one of the States. But let’s not kid ourselves: in very many ways we have much more in common with our Continental neighbours (35 minutes on the Shuttle to Calais, same time it takes me from Totnes to Exeter) than with those guys across the Atlantic who happen to speak more or less the same language. A great many Brits travel to the US (proportionately far more than Americans in the other direction: don’t 80% of Americans never leave their own borders?) and most of those I talk to agree that the USA is just as “foreign” as France or Germany, more so in some ways. And there is rather more to Continental civilisation than authoritarian, dirigiste politics… Several hundred thousand Brits own homes in France, Spain and other Continental countries. Let’s not allow our impatience with the anti-Bush/USA demonstrators to spill over into stupid national reflections – after all, the USA has plenty of its own Leftist moonbats.

  • BJW

    Ed – great posts my friend

    Kim – I just returned from Budapest and it was fantastic. I even talked politics with some knowledgeable folks.

  • Verity,

    Terribly sorry that we tourists are such an inconvenience to Londoners, considering that we are, after all, so insignificant a contribution to London’s economy.

    And I had no idea that public transport during rush hour was open to locals only — silly me for thinking that “public” meant “for everyone”.

    Feel free to suggest to your Lord Mayor that Americans should be banned from entering the city at all — hell, knowing Red Ken, he’d probably think it was a GREAT idea.

    Whether your hotels, shops and such would agree might be another thing.

    Yep… Budapest is looking better all the time.

  • Dave

    I’m strangely with Verity on this 😉

    There is nothing worse than trying to get home after a hellishly long London day and missing trains because of various tourist induced factors.

    My personal favourite being American tourists who don’t think that the “Please Stand on the Right” signs on escalators on the tube applies to them.

    It is also silly because travelling in the rush hour when you don’t have to is really really an unwise thing to do.

  • Dave

    I’m a fan of America, and have suggested not altogether flippantly that we might join NAFTA or become one of the States.

    I’d prefer NAFTA myself – especially perhaps coupled to a move to the EEA, that would, I think, be the best of all worlds and should appeal to everybody involved.

    I’m not sure, however, that would play well with the US.

  • Chris Goodman

    See what I mean about the difficulty some people have with simple conceptual distinctions! The word “European” is being used in two different senses – as a geographical term (yes Britain is in Europe!) and as in a word in debate about the differences, or otherwise, between Continental European and British/American political ideologies/practices. You can talk about geography if you like, but that is not what is being discussed. I think you will find close similarities between the cultural practices you find in the British Isles and the cultural practices you find in Australasia. To understand why I suggest you go and have a look at a history book. As for the cultural similarities between the UK and America, it is not the case that those guys across the Atlantic “just happen” to speak the same language. To understand why they speak English, I once again suggest you have a look at a history book. As for the claim that British political culture is closer to France or Greece than it is to North America all I can say is go and read yet another history book, or even better, go and live in France or Greece for a bit and look and listen. In my experience those who identify those who seek to distinguish British political traditions from “European” political practices as “stupid national reflections” do so from a position of objective ignorance.

  • Abby

    This: ” One of my problems with living in the US was the lack of arguments and discussions which took place.”, is a truly remarkable piece of solipsism. Bravo, Dave.

  • Katherine

    Ah, the tourists! They gawk, they crowd the streets, they stop in the most inconvenient places and ask for directions, they drive slowly reading the street names or admiring the views and generally make nuisance of themselves.

    Those Europeans! They think they OWN San Francisco!

    /silly complaints department/

  • rkb

    National identity is a subtle and multidimensional thing in those countries, like both the UK and the US, where several distinct ethnic, religious or cultural groups have blended without losing their distinctions very much.

    I say that with my Welsh great-grandparents, my mother’s mother’s parents, in mind. 😉

    And with my father’s Ukrainian parents in mind, and my mother’s father’s Swiss ancestors who emigrated to the US in 1730.

    I agree that in many ways most Britons have more in common with Europeans than with Americans. But in other ways, the identity is much closer across the Atlantic, it seems to me. In addition to common law traditions and (more or less) the same language, it is precisely the experience of unity with diversity that I think is shared.

    Dave, I take your point about 80% or whatever proportion of Americans not travelling abroad. But it is a misleading point to make in some ways. The sheer size of the US is frankly hard for most Europeans / Brits to really absorb, as is the diversity here. Don’t take my word for it, take that of my German-born brother-in-law, for instance, who has lived here over 30 years after emigrating here as an adult. Heinz says that only now, after many car trips all around the States during those decades, is he beginning to really see what makes this country up.

    Unless you’ve lived, as I have, in 7 or 8 states across the various regions of the country, unless you’ve gotten to know ethnic neighborhoods here, or understood the identity of our south or our western states, or the values of the smaller farm areas in the mid-west, it’s hard to realize that Americans can experience really diverse cultures WITHIN our own national boundaries. I go to my grocery store in an average middleclass town and find, not only a wide variety of ethnic foods on the shelves, but also people speaking several different languages to their children while they shop.

    I grew up in a working class town and attended church services in the language of my ancestors, next to a church of a different tradition where others worshipped in the different language of theirs, and then played with kids whose grandparents came from a different place yet. I had Protestant, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Jewish friends as a child in the 50s, along with the Japanese Buddhist neighbor down the street. My daughter’s friends included girls born in Korea, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Taiwan, India and Egypt, as well as a Black girl who grew up in the deep South. My sister’s kids spend time with their relatives in Italy every year or two, Heinz’s kids have spent 3-6 months living in Germany on several occasions and are fluent in that language … and I could list more examples from our rather unexceptional family.

    Yes, there are “white bread” towns here, but I do think most Brits and most continental Europeans really haven’t much of a realistic picture for just how diverse the US is.

  • veryretired

    Well, Perry, I tried to post a clarification several hours ago, but it apparently got lost in the ether, so I will quickly repeat the main point: I had no intention of including the mass of Her Majesty’s subjects in my comments earlier.

    I intended to post a sort of open letter to the Lord Mayor and his collectivist fellow travelers in Britain and on “the Continent”, but would never dream of belittling the courage the body politic of the British Isles have displayed this last 100 years. Churchill, and the British stand against Nazism, are 2nd on my lists of personal heroes, and displays of national integrity.

    If I was too vague to make that clear before, please accept this response as an attempt to rectify the error.

  • ed: In such circumstance it would be impossible to treat Britain apart from the rest of Europe.

    So then how is it that a British division, British brigade, airmobile assets and sundry HQ, Royal Navy, RAF and assorted SpecOps assets recently went to war along side the US in Iraq? Were you under the impression that the enarques and apparatchiks in Brussels were broadly in favour of the British state doing that? If you think that I suppose there is little point in me adding anything… if you do not think so, then would you concede that your view on Britain being a ‘member state’ rather than a ‘member nation’ are a bit silly given going to war is pretty much the most extreme and positive proof of ‘national decision making I can think of. Your remarks are demonstrably wrong.

    And please… if you actually expect people to read your comments, some brevity would help.

  • Tony H

    Wot is the use, I mean wot is the bleedin’ use… I post what I think is a fairly clear corrective message about our closeness – not just geographically but socially, historically – to Continental Europe compared with the distant and very foreign USA, and I’m patronised by Chris Goodman with snot-nosed injunctions to “read a history book” forsooth… I appreciate you’re a 19-yr-old history undergraduate and rather full of yourself m’boy, but do others the favour of presuming that they might actually have read a book or two. One ought really to ignore the more stupid anti-Johnny-Foreigner stuff I suppose, coming as it does from the Provisional Wing of Anglosphere Fundamentalism…

  • Dave O'Neill

    Sorry, I don’t think I mentioned about the numbers of people in the US without passports, but I accept the point about cross state differences.

    But I’m not so convinced about the idea that staying in a diverse country is quite enough. Where I lived in North London was the centre of the UK’s market garden “industry” in the early 70’s. More than half my class at school arrived with basic spoken English and local churches ran Italian and Polish masses every week. The Irish community which we were a part of was also strong. However, I don’t, for a moment, think that substitutes for living in a place. I’ve only lived for extended periods of time in France and the US (outside the UK) but I travel a fair amount.

    ” One of my problems with living in the US was the lack of arguments and discussions which took place.”, is a truly remarkable piece of solipsism.

    Abby, I can only report on my experience of a year in California and my experiences on various business trips to the east coast and Texas. OTOH, I find Seattle refreshingly “European” in that regard, that it seems normal to have a deep and often loud discussion in a bar.


    I was purely thinking of the UK in comparison to the US and not other parts of the “Anglosphere”.

  • A_T

    Many of the “we’re not European” commentators seem to think that by calling ourselves European, we suddenly must deny the undeniable cultural connections between ourselves and the US, or ourselves & Australia. Perhaps we should deny any connection with India too? What codswollop! Who ever said that had to be the case? Is the implication that by accepting our European-ness, we should follow the rest of Europe into their ‘isolation’?

    Of course, France has no links with former colonies in Africa, nor Vietnam… Portugal has severed all cultural links with Brazil/South america, and finally none of the EU countries aside from the UK interact, culturally or economically, with the US. Of course not! They’re strange, undifferentiated continentals, whereas we’re strong minded island-dwelling independent britons! (well… count the English in for that one really; most Scots seem much happier with being European, & their cultural history places much more emphasis on exchange with other European cultures; the Dutch among others).

    Particularly on the US thing, I think the UK labours under a delusion that we’re a particularly special favoured partner. Note how little attention Bush’s state visit has garnered in the US press. We’re no more important to them than many other little countries. Useful when we cooperate, granted, but not really very relevant. Of course on our side, the US looms large, both culturally & economically, but do you think this doesn’t apply to Germans? to Italians? Any Western (& even non-western) country has a unique relationship with American culture, because it’s prevalent the world over.

    The US/Australia thing is curious too, because although strikingly different in some ways, they’re basically extensions of European culture, given a new twist. Their basic institutions, values etc. are derived from a culture that is profoundly European. This isn’t to imply they have a debt towards us, or are inferior (or superior), but the original philosophical provenance seems unquestionably clear.

    Back on the European topic, think of all the great British philosophers, scientists, artists etc. The true generators of ideas; the people who built the philosophical foundations upon which our institutions are erected. Whose work did they derive inspiration from? With whom did they share their findings and exchange ideas, even when the governments of their countries were in conflict? Whose languages did they learn, in order to glean wisdom that was not available at home? Was it with Chinese scientists? Ethiopian artists? hmm…nope… it was those dastardly French, Italians, Germans & all the rest of that undifferentiated continental rabble you’re so keen to dissociate yourselves from.

    (Sure, in more recent years, it’s been Americans too, but as I said, this Americasmaller country dialogue has applied across the continent, & indeed across the world; Mies van der Rohe didn’t have to be British in order to define *the* template for corporate America’s buildings)

    The fact is, our formative cultural experiences are intimately tied in with the rest of Europe. Now we’re living in a globalized wold, where trans-continental communication is easy, one can’t view such things in isolation, but to deny Europeanness, both cultural & geographical on the basis of various arguments about legal systems/democracy/whatever is plain weird. For a start, how much effect does the legal system, unless horribly corrupt, have on the life of the average person? As a cultural influence, i’d say it ranked much lower than the type of music enjoyed. It’s interesting that many of you anti-statists, when cornered, are attempting to define culture primarily on the basis of governmental/legal institutions, as though the average Brit, although probably ignorant of the workings of the common law system, is somehow defined at some deep level by said system.

  • ed

    1. *And please… if you actually expect people to read your comments, some brevity would help.*

    Sorry. My style of writing is similar to a mind purge isn’t it? Strange to think that I nearly failed middle school because I hated English lessons. :/

    2. *So then how is it that a British division, British brigade, airmobile assets and sundry HQ, Royal Navy, RAF and assorted SpecOps assets recently went to war along side the US in Iraq?*

    This is now. And for now this will be true. But consider that France, Germany, Belgium AND Britain are creating a command HQ and structure that will parallel NATO and eventually supplant it. Keep in mind again that the EU Constitution is both extremely anti-Democratic and extremely Federalist. There is no question in my mind that all national militaries will be held on a very short leash. Least of all because no member nation will be allowed to maintain a Foriegn Minister.

    Keep in mind that there is a catch-all clause in the EU Constitution that allows the EU *nation* to change the relationship between the EU *nation* and it’s member states. The absolute mark of soveriegnity is the ability of a nation to make and hold treaties independently. If that is no longer the case, as it will be under the EU Constitution, then all member nations will become member *states*.

    sigh. brevity is not in my nature I suppose. :/

  • Simon Jester

    Tony H,

    We have greater historical and social links to the USA and the rest of the Anglosphere, than to continental Europe. The only respect in which we are closer to the latter, is geographically.

  • Simon Jester

    For a start, how much effect does the legal system, unless horribly corrupt, have on the life of the average person? As a cultural influence, i’d say it ranked much lower than the type of music enjoyed.

    How much french rap do you listen to? How much German heavy metal?

    Personally, most of my preference in music is for bands from the USA and UK.

  • Chris Goodman

    Thanks for your “clear corrective message” Tony H. about the “very foreign USA” I was simply pointing out that the reason why there are similarities in the political culture of the USA and the UK is because of very familiar historical facts, and that in my experience those who label anybody who seeks to draw attention to differences between “Anglosphere” and “Continental European” political practices as “stupid anti-Johnny foreigner” do so not because of any interest or knowledge of European politics, but rather the opposite. Quite why there are these political and legal differences given our geographical proximity is indeed a puzzle. But I do not seek to deny them, or keep quiet about that fact that in general I find our political and legal practices to be superior to, for example, Greece, although no doubt it is only a matter of time before those who seek to remove our decision making to Brussels will make such claims illegal. By the way identifying such critics as analogous to a “Provisional Wing” of a terrorist organisation is unfortunate don’t you think? There is much to admire in America and Europe, and much to criticize, and I will continue to exercise my freedom to learn more about the world, and express my opinion about what I discover, so long as I have the privilege of living in a free society – a privilege that is now extended to much of Europe, although not I think as a result of the efforts of European politicians.

  • A_t

    “How much french rap do you listen to? How much German heavy metal?”

    How much French rap do Germans listen to? How much German metal do the French listen to?

    hum… not much; they’re all listening to Eminem & Beyonce too… there goes our special relationship again.

    Also, if this relationship were so special & reciprocal, shouldn’t the question be “how much British rap do Americans listen to?”. Sure, there’ve been more bands from the UK than anywhere else successful in the US, but that’s largely because of the lack of language barrier than any kind of special feeling of kinship Americans get when they hear British music. If anything, many of the most successful British bands have subsumed their Britishness & adopted american idioms & styles.

    As I said, American culture’s a global phenomenon; just because we listen to American pop music, it doesn’t mean we have some unique, special bond with them; if that’s the case, then everyone from Ghana to Singapore has a special relationship (& indeed, thinking about it, they do in a way) with the US.

  • A_t

    If you want to get into popular music… & in a way why this whole “european” tag need not be in any way limiting, the story of the rise of rave/dance music culture goes something like this:

    -Americans invent some music, but no-one’s interested aside from a few people in poor industrial cities

    -Brits get into it

    -Spreads quickly throughout continental Europe (funny that, seeing as we’re way separate… how on earth did they find out? Cultural espionage, maybe?)

    -becomes huge, commercially, all across Europe.

    then, a long time later…..

    -The US catches on, & weirdly re-imports a watered-down European version of the stuff that started off in its’ own industrial cities.

    Now, if the cultural links between the US & UK are so much stronger than those between the UK & France, Germany, Belgium, how come our widespread discovery of this music didn’t bounce straight back to the US, rather than creeping out to the rest of our (allegedly uniform) euro cousins?

    But the point’s moot anyway; even if communication with France was restricted to 2 phone calls per year, & all trade/cultural exchange took place with the US, ‘unique’ cultural traditions notwithstanding, we’d still be a European country in my mind & the minds of every non UK resident…. sorry!

  • Simon Jester

    The US catches on, & weirdly re-imports a watered-down European version of the stuff that started off in its’ own industrial cities.

    How much of this “watered-down European version of the stuff that started off in its’ own industrial cities” came from continental Europe?

    Answer, I suspect: little or none. And there, in your own version of the history of popular music, is the reciprocity you were questioning.

  • Tony H

    Do any of you actually listen to much Continental pop, I wonder? There’s a whole raft of stuff out there that never gets played on UK/US radio, and in France especially there is a great deal of very good domestic pop – I listen to SFR in Montpellier every time I visit (most years) and regard it as one of the best pop stations I know, with an intelligent mix of the more interesting “Anglo” stuff together with very melodic, creative French material. But since mere assertions about the alleged closer ties between the UK and “Anglosphere” countries than with the Continent seem to satisfy some people here, you probably don’t want to know this….

  • A_t

    Simon Jester, pray tell, how much do you know of the world of dance music then?

    If you check out import 12″ sections in specialised US record stores, they’ll stock German, French, Dutch records as well as UK ones. Vocal pop clearly travels better from the UK than anywhere else, for obvious reasons, but as soon as you enter the world of electronic instrumentals, the language barrier no longer applies, & dance music culture is a global phenomenon, with local scenes certainly, but scant regard for language barriers.

    There are creative producers working all over Europe, and as far as I’m aware, American record buyers don’t operate in some jingoistic anglosphere-patriot fashion. They buy the best records, full-stop. In the electronic sphere, this probably means they’ve been buying plenty of German vinyl over the last couple of years. The links are many & complex; for instance, there’s been a link between the sounds fashionable in London and New York over the last couple of years, but also there’s been a striking degree of interchange between West-coast experimental producers, & the minimal sound of a number of major German cities.

    Does this mean that Germany too has a special relationship with the US? Or is it perhaps that the US is a cultural & economic colossus, which you’d be hard-pressed not to interact with culturally? The way to measure the ‘special relationship’ is not to look from the UK, see that the US looms large, and conclude that our relationship is special, but to look from the US, & see if the UK looms significantly larger as a cultural or economic partner than say, Germany, France or Japan. Perhaps you’d find that it did, but I’d suggest the differences would actually be quite slight.

  • Simon Jester

    Actually, the better Continental pop is, the more it makes my point – which was about mutual influence between British and American pop, not about the quality of European pop.

  • Simon Jester

    (Previous post was addressed to Tony H, not A_t.)

    A_t, I have to confess that I don’t spend an awful lot of time in American specialist dance music stores.

    I think your last point is key: “The way to measure the ‘special relationship’ is … to look from the US, & see if the UK looms significantly larger as a cultural or economic partner than say, Germany, France or Japan.”

    Would any Americans care to comment? Come to think of it, I believe a number already have…

  • A_t

    “Would any Americans care to comment? Come to think of it, I believe a number already have…”

    mmmmyeah, but this *is* a site that tends to condone the whole Anglosphere idea; also it’s a uk-based blog, so the selection of Americans who’ve bothered to find out about it & come here may not be representative.

    It’s like say, looking at the issue of gun control, & concluding on the evidence of posts on this site that the majority of British people are in favour of private ownership of handguns (they aren’t).