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How not to win friends and influence people

Sean Gabb, who has been involved in libertarian circles for many years, will be well known to many readers of this blog. His personal website and his Free Life Commentary are always a cracking good read, even if one disagrees with some of what he says. Sean has never allowed his fierce passions thus far to break elementary good manners, as far as I can tell, until now.

Mr Gabb opposes the Coalition powers’ overthrow of Saddam and his regime, which he deemed as essentially harmless to Britain and the West, and considers the venture of seeking to transform that injured nation into some form of pluralist, liberal haven to be an act of folly. The plight of the people living in Iraq under Saddam, while obviously awful, was not deemed by Sean to be reason for overthrowing Saddam’s vile rule. Fair enough. A lot of people whom I hold in esteem share that view – mistaken though I think such ‘realists’ to be. But by now the arguments on both sides are well known and I will not go into them again.

What I really dislike about so much anti-war commentary to date has been in many cases its pompous anti-Americanism, a sort of drawn-out sneer. The likes of Times journalist Matthew Parris and Sir Max Hastings are particularly egregious sinners in this respect. Well, in his latest commentary, Mr Gabb comes out with a paragraph of breathtaking rudeness at the expense of Americans and their country, of the sort that might possibly give even those gentlemen a moments pause:

It is, I admit, inappropriate to ascribe one state of mind to a nation of more than 250 million people. But Americans remind me increasingly of someone from the lower classes who has come into money, and now is sat in the Ritz Hotel, terrified the other diners are laughing at him every time he looks down at his knives and forks. I suppose it is because so many of them are drawn from second and even third rate nationalities. The Americans of English and Scotch extraction took their values and their laws across the Atlantic and spread out over half an immense continent, creating a great nation as they went. They were then joined by millions of paupers from elsewhere who learnt a version of the English language and a few facts about their new country, but who never withheld from their offspring any sense of their own inferiority. The result is a combination of overwhelming power and the moral insight of a tree frog.

The reference to ‘paupers’ who ‘never withheld from their offspring any sense of their own inferiority’ is particularly vile. Some of the people who have made their home in the relative freedom and prosperity of America did so by successfully fleeing despotisms similar to Iraq.

I have known Sean for such a long time and enjoyed talking to him down the years that it would seem churlish to get too outraged at something like this. But it would be dishonest of me not to record my disgust at what was a particularly oafish piece of writing, all the less forgiveable for coming from one of the finest writers I know.

129 comments to How not to win friends and influence people

  • R C Dean

    Yet another attempt to insult Americans that will fail.

    Just like we Americans are proud of being cowboys, we are also proud of being from the lower classes. We regard knowing which fork to use as a sure sign of effete snobbery, and consequently take pride in grabbing whatever fork is handy and digging in.

    Way to totally miss the reason that America has eclipsed the UK, Sean. Oh, and I would guess that more Americans take pride in having an Irish heritage than Scottish or English. Funny how Mr. Gabb left the great migration from Ireland out of his recital of the cultural roots of America. I guess the Irish are too lower class to merit any of the credit for the American character.

    What a tool.

  • Yeah… we Americans just inherited our wealth. We never worked for it or nuffink, and the freedoms which we enjoy were just “there” when we needed them, so we could get all that loot.

    Dean called it correctly: Gabb’s a tool.

  • Jeff

    Every American knows he is as good as anyone, and better than most – and assumes that everyone else feels the same way. There’s no shame to being from a “second- or third-rate country” in America – one is expected to assimilate, of course, but also expected to be proud to be Irish or Hmong or Persian.

    Mr Gabb’s quoted paragraph is both offensive (paupers, inferiority, third-rate, etc) and likely to be completely incomprehensible to most Americans. Certainly I can’t figure out what American people he is talking about.

  • thefoxisinyou

    What a card.

    The reason for the entire trans-atlantic rift is contained within this gem of European naivite.

    It is impossible to be labeled a “racist” for blatant anti-Americanism, because of the great diversity there. However, people (especially white, Christian Europeans) are downright, blatantly PREJUDICE nonetheless. Mr. Man says he will refrain from assuming a nation of 250,000,000 all acts the same way, and then goes on to say precisely that. If he were a principled objector to the Iraq war he would at least credit the substantial anti-war movement in the U.S.

    But he doesn’t. Instead, sounding like a first-class passenger on the Titanic, or a 18th century French Dandy flailing his hands wildly about, he declares an entire region of people culturally inferior to himself for a lack of cutleryly sophistication.

    In my brash, uneducated American twang, I declare, “Hater!”

  • Hank Scorpio

    Damn those untermenschen who comprise my family tree! Why, if not for them I’d know how to tie my own shoes, make Jello, or coax the fire monster to life in my fireplace with the magic spark sticks.

    This is what happens when you don’t adopt societal-wide eugenics programs, people.

  • “It is, I admit, inappropriate…”

    Then maybe you should shut up, before you embarrass yourself.

    “But Americans remind me increasingly of someone from the lower classes… because so many of them are drawn from second and even third rate nationalities…. joined by millions of paupers from elsewhere who learnt a version of the English language…any sense of their own inferiority. The result is a combination of overwhelming power and the moral insight of a tree frog.”

    And who, pray tell, are you to be declaring levels of “moral insight”? Who made you the arbiter of right and wrong? The parts the paragraph I have left uncut above demonstrate your inequality to the task.

  • Being an American both by birth (all Puerto Ricans are American citizens from birth) and by chioce, it’s quite entertaing to see a true elitist snob rattle off some nonsense about how my ancestors “never withheld . . . any sense of their own inferiority”. Sounds like an ole case of envy — if I’m misjudging, it must be because of my overwhelming power combined with my tree frog’s moral insight.

  • Amelia

    R.C. Dean is correct this insult actually made me laugh. If anything I am proud of my peasant heritage. My great-grandfather was a Slav who came to America and worked in the coal mines of Penn. Just as proud of him as I am of my Scottish border war refugee ancestors. My understanding is that they weren’t all that polished either.

  • Sean Gabb has just exposed himself as an oaf of far greater magnitude than any American.

    Spot on, Jon !!

  • Anonymous

    Wow… I can’t imagine what Sean was trying to accomplish with this diatribe.

  • My only point on this (and I would recommend any reader to digest the entire piece before making comments) is the use of the tree frog as a measure of moral insight. As a rhetorical device this did not work for me, on the grounds that tree frogs are not associated with morality in any shape or form. The sense of indignation petered out.

    As most libertarians have skins of rhinoceri, personal insults are pointless. Call someone a tool and, in normal English, pejoratives aside, this means that they are useful.

    Sean Gabb is one of the most informative constants on the English libertarian scene, and has always championed freedom in this country. At the end of the day, it is only England that he cares about.

  • Sean

    I’m embarrassed to share the same name. I’d like to ask a question of him though. Exactly when did the Europeans lose the baggage of their two attempts at collective suicide in the last century? And what, in American history, even remotely compares to their self-slaughter? Now who are the barbarians?

  • Hank Scorpio

    Figured I’d revisit this thread and share a little story. In the late 1800’s my great-grandmother immigrated here from Poland. She spent her first night in America sleeping in a doghouse. Around 5 years later she married my great-grandfather, who was a German immigrant. He later became the first chief of police of Plymouth, Michigan.

    Yeah, these were people who were on the lower strata of society of their home countries, and the reason they came here is precisely because of the stultifying, static atmosphere of Europe. They came here and they flourished because they believed in busting ass and they believed in America. The kid they raised eventually became captain of the University of Michigan track and football teams, and then he joined the Marines and fought against people who used to be his father’s countrymen in the first world war. His son fought in the second.

    This is just my grandfather and father. There were countless other Americans just like them, and most of them low class mutts and the refuse of European society. I’ll gladly accept that pedigree any day.

  • James

    Hmm….so all Americans are crude, except those of Scots and English descent.

    I suppose it’s just pure coincidence that Mr. Gabb happens to be…oh, what was that…oh, why English, of course. 🙂

    Reminds me of that line from Lord of the Flies “We’re English, and the English are best at everything!”

    Ya gotta smile…

    PS – What about the poor Welsh?

  • Mário Vilela

    Dear Sir,
    What really intrigues me in Mr. Gabb’s piece is the term “third rate nationality”. A “third rate” country or even nation is something I can understand, but a nationality? I wonder how I should make myself out. I am a Brazilian of old Portuguese extraction, which means I am probably part Celtic, Germanic and Latin and certainly part Jewish, Moorish, South American Indian and Black. All very third-rate, I suspect, but, in spite of that, my forefathers opened up Africa, India, China and Japan, conquered half the territory of South America, defeated ferocious and quite able American Indian tribes (a vile business, but no piece of cake), created vast kingdoms in Africa to supply us with slave labour (again, a vile business; again, no piece of cake), expelled the oh-so-first-rate French, Dutch and English (yes, English: pirates and the like) invaders and created a country whose people, though living nowadays through a particularly messy phase of their history, have almost always had the good sense and the good taste of taking persons like Mr Gabb for what they are: sanctimonious, unimaginative boors.
    Oh and just another thing: I have just visited Mr Gabb site and, if that photo is any guide, then I can confidently state we are much better looking than he is.
    With kind regards,
    Mário Vilela
    Ribeirão Pires, Brazil

  • Pete(Detroit)

    the moral insight of a tree frog
    Well, if England and Scotland hadn’t rounded up ever decent, moral, uptight and morally outraged individual in the UK and sent them HERE 400 years ago, we might have a few nude beaches here, too, eh? But NOOOOO…..
    All the PRUDES came here, the NUDES went to France..

  • ernest young

    They say that ‘when the drink is in the wit is out’. He must have had a skinful…

    It is this total lack of understanding by Europeans of American history and culture, that causes so much of the dissension between the two.

    American culture is totally unique, and every bit as good as the Euro culture, but without the snotty class system that Gabb seems to think so fine.

    So much for his libertarian theories being based on personal freedom, the man is a hypocrite.

  • Eric Jablow

    Sean Gabb’s rant reminds me of the writings of Houston Stewart Chamberlain, one of the leading lights of the eugenics movement in the 19th and early 20th century. We know what that line of thought led to.

    If you believe in the dignity of man and the potential worth of every human being, then you must reject Mr. Gabb and everything he stands for. If you aggree with Mr. Gabb’s thoughts, then you must accept dictatorships and oligarchies and you must have contempt for mankind. Who do you want to be?

  • Ric Locke

    And, in the same spirit —

    Europe increasingly reminds me of a threadbare, impoverished aristocrat, confident in his own mind that he deserves attention and deference but totally unable to support that with any empirical evidence of superiority, making pompous pronouncements in a thin, reedy, frustrated whine. When the American continent opened for settlement the pitcher of Europe tipped, spreading the energetic, mobile cream of its society across the Atlantic and leaving behind a thin, bitter bluejohn of idle wastrels and nonsensical intellectualists. Naturally the new settlers prospered, not least from hybrid vigor as immigrants from every clime sought the best in one another, and the Old Countries stagnated, having lost the few percent of active participants in society and lacking the wit to seek recombination across ethnic lines. Today Europeans pontificate to emptiness, harking back to eighteenth century socioeconomics with the serial numbers suitably filed off as the New Order to whom all must submit, because that was the last time they were of superior importance in the world. Britain hung on longer than most, at least partly by absorbing immigrants both physical and ideological from the wide swathes of red on the map, but even Albion is not immune. Sunk in the swathing swaddles of Continental bureacracy and Continental infighting, exhausted from trying and failing to participate in the bloody to-ing and fro-ing of the descendents of Richelieu and the Habsburgs, she, like the used-up continent she hugs, sinks increasingly to impotence, implausibility, and irrelevance.

    Hey, I can go on for hours. Shall we have a contest?


  • David Mercer

    Ok Philip C., I read the whole damn thing, and it contains lies such as “Their military is degenerating by the day into an armed rabble, killing civilians apparently at random.” Donald Rumsfeld, call your office!

    Sean appears to have, in addition to a poor grasp of American culture and history, and being an apparent bigot, swollowed quite a bit of lefty poison with his ‘libertarianism’ regarding the progress of things in Iraq.

    So while I can agree with his point near the bottom that the ‘enemy within’ in the West is rampant multi-culti nonsense, I can’t agree that ‘the enemy without’ (disaffected Arab’s, mostly) are harmless.

    And I double dog dare him to read the paragraph quoted here out loud in any bar in the US outside of New England, NY or CA (those being the areas here most infested with ‘the European disease’ of class bullshit, and the multi-culti crap which he decries).
    He seems to me to be the British version of the doctrinaire wacko libertarians in the US.

    Oh, and ‘less secure than at any time since the early 1940’s’? Maybe ‘the herd’ in his neck of the woods in more riled up than since then, but has he forgotten what of the 20th Century he lived through? Less secure than the whole world was during the Cuban missle crisis? Less secure when he walks down the street right now than he was when the worst of the IRA bombings were going on?

    WTF is he smoking, I want to know so I can avoid it.

  • chuck

    Heh, heh. If he had watched many american movies, he would have noticed that over civilized europeans are presented as figures of fun: snotty, pretentious, and silly. Yep, the prejudices run both ways, though by and large americans don’t pay much attention to Europe, and why should they? Why are europeans so obsessed with America anyway, don’t they have a culture of their own anymore? Guess not.

  • Johanthan

    What I feel now is disappointment. Sean’s opposition to the war is okay with me, and some of the arguments he gives are respectable, if mistaken. But I was really struck at the venom this time around and the pomposity of it the whole piece.

    From what I recall, he’s never been to America.

  • I’m surprised that Sean Gabb wrote that or indeed thinks that way about Americans.

    It reminds me of one of the little quotes on the back off his book “Dispatches From a Dying Country” where one contributor wrote something along the lines of – “Mr. Gabb has been too long in the sun and it shows in his writing”.

    I didn’t agree with the sentiment then but in this instance I do. It has been rather hot lately.

  • Such idiocy must have been meant as satire. Otherwise it’s just pretty silly stuff.

  • Verity

    I too am a great admirer of Dr Gabb’s writing and was disappointed by this extract. It is indeed gratuitously rude about a generous and kindly and very clever people. Clearly, he has never visited the United States and experienced the vigor, helpfulness and graciousness one constantly encounters there.

    As to effete 18th Century Europeans someone referred to above as being disapproving of the US, wasn’t it Montaigne (or another Frenchy beginning with M) – who was much taken with American characteristics and wrote about them with admiration?

    The only time Americans begin to take themselves too seriously is when they, as in some posts above, think you are interested in the fact that their great grandmother was from Co Cork and came over pinned to the mast and their great grandfather was a one-legged runaway slave who went on to invent nuclear power and changed his name to Guggenheim blah blah blah.

    I love America, but I do not understand why they always assume foreigners have the faintest interest in their family history. We all came from somewhere. Who cares? When two American are alone, do they bore each other thus, or do they think their family histories (of which they are rightly proud – I’m not trying to take that away from them) are particularly fascinating to foreigners for some reason?

    Anyway, Dr Gabb was way out of line and the quoted paragraphs reek of ignorance and, frankly, unalloyed spite.

  • Perhaps these Americans should stop bawling like spoiled babies because they didn’t like what the nasty man said and try a bit of British stiff upper lip.

  • Shaun Bourke

    This polemic by master Sean Gabb is not about the war in Iraq, but a crude attempt to broaden the fields of ignorance under the flag of Marxist claptrap. His primary vehicle here is the class warfare of envy, resentment and embitterment, not only of his fellow Englishmen but across the Atlantic as well. To bolster his case he resorts to a lorry load of lies surrounding the coalition’s considerable successes in Iraq, normally found being peddled by the hard left and mainstream media.

    Some of Wretchard’s comments simply leave master Sean’s diatribe in ruins.


  • Theodopoulos Pherecydes

    OK, because I’m a rich, handsome, dual-national, transoceanic cosmopolite, I shall bend down and offer a little rare personal criticism of the United States.

    It is sadly true that many Americans think they are better than others merely because they inherited:

    1) a sparsely populated land of virtually boundless resources; and,

    2) a liberal political system suffered and died for by generations of others.

    “We” would have had to have been extraordinarily stupid to ferg it up completely.

  • llamas

    I laughed. I cried. I had another coffee.

    Hank Scorpio wrote:

    ‘Figured I’d revisit this thread and share a little story. In the late 1800’s my great-grandmother immigrated here from Poland. She spent her first night in America sleeping in a doghouse. Around 5 years later she married my great-grandfather, who was a German immigrant. He later became the first chief of police of Plymouth, Michigan.’

    The fine city in which I sit, this very instant.

    I’d like Sean Gabb to define, please, which nationalities it is, exactly, that he sees as ‘second- and third-rate’. Then at least we’ll know where he’s coming from, and know which surnames we should leave off the guest-list for the next at-home, so as to save the silverware.

    Elitist, myopic, xenophobic prick.

    Ooops, sorry, that old American inferiority slipped out again.

    I like the tree-frog analogy, because it shows Mr Gabb’s stupid, thoughtless vapidity quite nicely. It’s tree-frog season here in MI right now. They are harmless, useful (eat lots of bugs), fun to have around, and endlessly productive – just cock your ear around any pond or swamp in the Lower right now. And the varieties which are truly dangerous (although we don’t have those here) at least have the good grace to advertise their danger clearly – they come in a variety of DayGlo colours which clearly say ‘look, but don’t mess with me, because I’ll f**k you up real good’. It’s not a bad natural-world analogy for Americans, as it goes.

    Mr Gabb falls into the same trap as the other scribes mentioned, and millions of other Europeans besides, to wit, of thinking that Americans, as a whole, give a toss about what anyone like them thinks. There’s a saying, in the US, that ‘if you can do it, it ain’t bragging’. The US does while Europe dreams and postures, and Joe Sixpack can figure out which of the two choices works best.

    I wish him well in his blinkered prejudices, but think he should realize that he is bobbing in the wake of the world’s progress.



  • llamas,

    I laughed. I cried. I had another coffee.

    I wailed like a schoolgirl stood up on prom night.

  • Sean can write some very good things now and then. Of late, he has produced more of this sort of rubbish and less of the good stuff. I believe Johnathan is right that he has never been to the US.

    This is a rather like the load of pompous rubbish that is written daily by any of the Guardinista anti-war left. How very sad…

  • Verity

    Andrew I-D – Yes, it reads like a piece by someone who “knows” the United States through TV shows and has never actually been there. And it really is the most embarrassing claptrap.

    A side thought: It is very difficult for those who aren’t very familiar with both countries to judge people on an individual basis. For example, it is obvious to every Brit, including many who voted for him, that Tony Blair’s an obsessive, rather dim showoff who loves having people sweep his path with palm branches. Yet the Americans (most of them) think he is wonderful. They have no clues to guide them and they take him at his own estimation of himself.

    Conversely, anyone who has lived in Texas for any amount of time knows exactly where George Bush is coming from and is aware of the strengths which he keeps very quiet about. But the British, having no cultural clues, judge him a moron.

  • Millie Woods

    How reassuring to have confirmation that in the UK it’s still all about class. All these idiot journos are still trying to one up one another and lesser breeds by displaying their classy credentials. Sean Gabb not only reveals his ignorance of the New World but also dispenses misinformation about tree frogs, which is grossly unfair to the tiny amphibians. I’ve frequently put uppity Brits in their place by remarking blandly after they offer their uninvited opinion that they could never live in America because they’d miss the culture, that they’ve missed it in the UK so of course they’d miss it in the new world. Since all of us who are not of Scots or English descent (notice how the Irish are out of the mix) are supposedly knuckle dragging neanderthals, the Brits I dump on with such innocent drollery get quite incensed.

  • Paul Zrimsek

    What I liked best about the article is that it contained both of the following:

    The last time I wrote about Iraq, I suggested that we had no choice but to continue with our share of the occupation. The escalation of violence there and the revelations of torture have now changed matters.


    As it happens, I was right from the beginning.

  • H.

    His insults are pretty mild stuff compared with what I’ve read about the French here.

  • Verity

    Millie Woods – Most waggish, I’m sure.

    You may have noticed that all the British who have posted on this thread have defended the United States and condemned Dr Gabb for his churlishness and ignorance on this particular point. None of us felt it necessary to cast slurs on another country to make a point.

    As we say in Britain, which Americans who don’t know us believe is all about class, you sound just the tiniest bit chippie.

  • toolkien

    As an individualist I neither buy into the put downs of the ‘lower class’ by the effete, nor do I buy into populism trumpeting the ‘salt of the earth’. I’ve had people look down their nose at me from on high and I’ve had some of the low-self esteemed ‘salt’ dismiss me as a dandy. All such preconceptions are means for an individual to define an ‘us’ and a ‘them’ and grab as much axiomatical moral high ground as possible.

    It becomes a laughable mix of cross purposes when you find a Statist who elevates themselves into their positions by asserting they are better than the unwashed masses and turn around and praise the same mass ‘the salt’ to justify their meddlings. I find such dichotomies in all forms of Statism and is its shining feature.

  • slimedog

    …every time he looks down at his knives and forks

    he thinks “What the f*ck were they thinkin’ when they set the table here? No one with a lick of sense eats ribs and corn on the cob with a knife and fork. I bet that Gabb feller would tie himself in knots eatin’ a taco or a kolache.”

  • Verity

    slimedog – As he lives in the city that has the largest variety of ethnic food in the world, Dr Gabb will know how to order and eat curries, and after you’ve mastered that, holding a taco (which is, after all, a sandwich) wouldn’t be too demanding. As to ribs, they are too sweet for British tastes. We don’t think honey goes with meat. Mais, chacun a son gout, eh?

  • We don’t think honey goes with meat.

    I beg to differ… I often cook pork with a honey and mustard sauce. yum.

  • I’m an American who came from what Dr Gabb might call third-rate stock, Polish immigrants who came to America and by the next generation were prosperous beyond their wildest dreams. As the comments above have shown, this is no unusual thing.

    But yeesh, people, calm down. So Dr Gabb has come out with some funny anti-Americanisms. Big deal. It says more about him than it does about you, and really, it’s not about you. I wouldn’t take it so seriously.

    I’ve met Dr Gabb and found him very nice and interesting, and while I disagree with him on many matters, these paragraphs aren’t worth getting too upset about, and he’s certainly not worth turning into some sort of hate figure.

  • atlas

    johnathan writes well to decry an poor article which makes unworthy slurs on a people who have achieved so much… and many of the comments reply by making unworthy slurs on a different people who have achieved so much. somehow i don’t think many of the commenters really understood a word of what johnathan wrote and in reality would have sat there grinning dumb and happy like bevis and butthead if sean gabb wrote the same thing word for word, but about the germans or french rather than the americans. people so often mistake what they feel for what they think. very unedifying.

  • Nancy

    When I lived in England, I found that often the people with the most intractable snottiness (and silly misconceptions) about Americans were those who had never been there. My mother in law was like that. American doctors have neon signs outside their offices! Americans routinely shoot one another dead over arguments about gardening! (“For the last time, I said compost heaps!” BAM!) Americans drink wine from water glasses! Every accusation came from the same toy box of sins, and each seemed to be assigned relatively equal egregiousness. She was also of the oft stated opinion that people should live in their own countries, although she was from Scotland and lived in England, and I was from America and lived in England, both of which were okay.

    She and her husband never went to the states, supposedly because she was afraid to fly, but I always thought that it was because she was terrified that the set table of her views on America, in which she had invested untold hours, would be upended by an actual visit.

    She told me repeatedly that she didn’t like Americans. Even though I pointed out that she had never been there, had no American friends or business associates, and in fact knew and liked me, she would not be dissuaded. I loved her, and I miss her. She was a trip.

    Mario V, I think you can confidently state that just about anyone, anywhere is better looking than Mr Gabb. I would imagine that’s part of the problem. All those superior genes to so little effect. : )

  • Verity

    Jackie D. I agree with you, but I think the people on this side of the pond were shocked that Dr Gabb would write so intemperately.

    Perry – Yes, ham and honey is a tradition. I should have written “beef”.

    Atlas – I think most readers understood Jonathan’s points very well and most of us felt Dr Gabb had been, unprovoked, very rude about Americans. Had he written the same ignorant and spiteful things about the French or Germans, which he wouldn’t have done because there’s no resentment there, many Britons would have ridden to their defence, too. I remember making some sweeping and stupid condemnation of French civilisation in general and Perry parachuted in immediately with a strong (and informed) rebuttal.

  • Eamon Brennan

    Not to forget Lamb chops glazed with honey and rosemary.


  • I find pouring a jar of honey over a large chicken while it is roasting gives it a lovely flavour.

  • llamas

    Jackie D. makes good points – but then, what would one expect?

    But the issue with what Sean Gabb wrote, and with much of what is written in Europe in similar vein, goes deeper, and it points up a very telling difference between Europeans and Americans – in these matters, at least.

    If, as suggested, he had written something like this about the French, or the Germans, I like to think that I would have found it just as offensive. Because the slurs that come across as so uncivilized, and unjustifiable, are not about what people do – their deeds – but about where they come from – their antecedents.

    When Americans, for example, poke fun at the French (such and easy and inviting target, after all) the thrust of their jibes is aimed at their behaviour. Their hypocrisy about Iraq, for example, or their offensive rudeness to foreigners, or their machinations in international trade. Not merely the fact that they think differently – Americans, after all, have to be used to people who think differently – but that they act differently.

    By contrast, so much of what Europeans sling at Americans has to do with who they are and not what they do. Much of it is unqualified opinion, and mostly of the schoolyard variety – Americans are all stupid, and boorish, and so forth. In the instant case, the complaint is that America is somehow inferior because the population contains a large number of decendants of inferior nationalities. That’s why I’d like to know which nationalities Mr Gabb is referring to – I wonder whether he would stand up and call those same nations (which probably include Ireland, Italy and several Eastern European nations) second- and third-rate today.

    I was recently in Europe for the first time in several years. I was stunned by the appalling ignorance that most Europeans happily display about the lives of most Americans. Their opinions seem to be based entirely on an amalgam of ‘Sex and the City’, ‘Friends’, ‘Cops’ and ‘Survivor’. There is a whole litany of hoary old canards about America and the Americans which have simply passed into the received wisdom even though none of them are true. George Bush is a congenital idiot – everyone knows it’s true. The 2000 election was stolen from Al Gore – it’s simply a given. Americans all carry guns (hah!) and shoot each other dead over parking spaces every day – after all, it was in the Daily Mail, so it must be true! Michael Moore films are an accurate, documentary potrayal of everyday American life and mores – after all, he got an Oscar for one! 40 million Americans can’t afford health insurance and will die in the gutter if they get sick – the Guardian said so! And so forth.

    Americans are about-as-ignorant about the day-to-day life of Europeans, to be sure. But the effect of their ignorance tends to show itself in questioning what Europeans do – and not what happens in the other direction, where Europeans seem less interested in what Americans do than in who their forebears were, or whether they are ‘PLU’. They seek to set a worldview in which America and the Americans are automatically assumed to be always intellectually and morally inferior, and thus allowing the soi-disant superior to wallow in the comfort of the familiar – ‘our ways may not do any good, but at least we’re better than the Americans!’

    Snot-nosed, supercilious nonsense like Mr Gabb’s essay certainly doesn’t help.



  • Johnathan Pearce

    I was wondering whether Sean was trying to be satirical and just winding folk up. But his article read like he actually believed what he said. Hence my broadside. At least the late Auberon Waugh, who was a crashing snob, was actually quite funny. Sean’s piece was just awful.

    Anyway, next time I see him I’ll buy him a beer and tell him to calm down and take a vacation to somewhere educational, like Texas. Heh.

  • Verity

    Paul – a whole jar?

  • Johnathan,

    It couldn’t be satire. Sean Gabb posted the article on Airstrip One as well, presumably for the thousands of comments ensuing.

    For those who decry rudeness in debate, Sean is an unreconstructed C18th Whig, and that century was the paradise for civil and uncivil discourse.

    I am not sure, personally, whether he leans more towards Burke, Fox or Sheridan.

    All Whigs are factionable, but which Whig does he wear?


  • Jim Bennett

    I have given Sean a lot of latitude over the past several years because I know his attitudes about the war and the US role come from a sincerely-held if (in my opinion far too fundamentalist) “realist” foreign policy perspective. FWIW I think everything we have learned about the Saddam regime since we’ve been rifling though his desk drawers has confirmed the fact that we couldn’t have affored to let him continue. But I have to say Dr. Gabb has gone way, way over the top. Does he consider his own wife’s background to be third-rate? Or Adriana’s?

    Then again, Lynndie England’s background is almost certainly from the Anglo-Scottish border; holding a naked enemy on a leash is probably something her border-raiding ancestors of five hundred years ago would have thought uproariously funny.

    American and British media have made a minor industry out of exaggerating the (rather minor) differences between the countries and playing up the most grotesque extremes and stereotypes of both sides. Given the thought-police of the race relations bureaucracies in both countries, it has become the last safe prejudice. Sean’s piece carries on in this tradition; given that he has never been to the States, I suppose he can claim willful ignorance as some excuse. Of course, being a book-oriented type of fellow, he could try reading some of the literature on the issue. But I suppose that’s not as much fun as firing away.

    I’ve been a fan of Sean’s writing for a long time. I was sorry to see this piece.

  • Paul Coulam, as well as being an accomplished polemicist and fashionista, is also a dab hand with a chicken and a jar of honey. Who knew?

    I have to come back to what H posted — considering some of the stuff that’s been written here (with hearty approval) about the French, the outrage over Dr Gabb’s piece is somewhat amusing. I don’t think it makes Dr Gabb look bad to have people taking what he’s written far too seriously, and — in the eyes of some — it may make his criticisms ring a bit more true than they otherwise would have done.

  • Alice Bachini

    Sean Gabb’s offensive views on America and the war on terror have been obvious for some time. I recall similarly uncivilised, irrational and insulting comments on the LAF some time ago.

    Why anybody would consider the moral ideas of such a person worth taking seriously in any sphere is quite beyond me.

  • WJ Phillips

    We mustn’t be too hard on the Americans. After all, more than half of them now agree with the four-fifths of Iraqis who think that US armed forces should be getting out of Iraq.

  • Uncle Bill

    Dean called it correctly: Gabb’s a tool.

    Not so, Gabb is a wedge, a dull tool.

  • M. Simon

    It should read:

    ‘paupers’ who ‘never held any sense of their own inferiority’

    Over 70% of all Americans consider themselves upper middle class.

    80% of us are above average.

    How do we do it? Well all I will say is that it is the secret of our success.

  • M. Simon

    W.J. failed to mention that American opinion holds that 18 months to two years would be soon enough to get out of Iraq.

    Timing is every thing.

    In essence the American people (a majority in any case) hold that it is too early to make a decision.

  • Susan

    Most Europeans I’ve met have very little knowledge of American culture or history.

    I remember a conversation I had with a young Dutch man. Trying to find some common ground, I mentioned the Dutch settlers in old New York and how their lives had been chronicled by the early American author Washington Irving. He had never heard of Washington Irving;he had never even heard of Irving’s most famous chacter, Rip Van Winkle; he did not realize that the two Presidents Roosevelt were descended from these same Old Dutch settlers. A complete blank. Moreover he wasn’t even interested in the subject matter — it was more like, yawn, let’s get back to discussing how terrible the US is and what a great guy Michael Moore is.

    I also tried to explain to a Swedish friend that Americans have their own versions of European fairy tales. I tried to talk about American folk tale characters such as Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed, John Henry and “Steve” from the Wreck of the Old 97 — and what they say about US history and culture. Zero interest and zero knowledge.

    I’ve heard nonsense from a Norwegian woman who waxed on and on about America’s “Chrsitian fundamenatlism culture” and how American women were so oppressed by “American family patterns.” When I pointed out that American women got the vote decades before most European women, she flew into a huff and began to babble about small enclaves of polygamist Mormons in Utah.

    Yet the same European people will often tell us how much they “know” about our culture and our history, and presume to lecture us in that annoying know-it-all tone on how we should behave.

    Unfortunately, thanks to the Internet, I now have a rather poor impression of most European people, where formerly I had a rather positive impresson of them.

  • Sean

    Question? If the US is populated by the lower classes of the old-world how come they now run the world?

  • Sean:

    Answer: Hard work and dedication. And the tyrants Lincoln, Wilson and FDR usurping the sovereignity of the States, but that’s another matter.

  • WJ Phillips

    “W.J. failed to mention that American opinion holds that 18 months to two years would be soon enough to get out of Iraq.”

    It’s a start. The neocon cabal want them to stop in the ME for the next 20-30 years, knocking off Iran, Syria, Lebanon, etc. Fat chance.

    Given that most citizens of the obesitocracy only get their info from controlled media such as Faux News, it’s promising that their natural isolationism has already reasserted itself somewhat. The spirit of Washington’s valediction to Congress still flickers, despite all the perversions of the original republic into a warfare/welfare state alluded to by the previous poster.

  • Verity

    Dylan T Lainhart – Nor just hard work and dedication, but America’s secret ingredient: boundless optimism. I think that’s partly what did the trick.

    The people who emigrated to start a new life in a country they’d never seen placed their faith in the future. We forget today what a tremendous act of faith it was to leave home, family and the land of one’s birth, in an age when being “well-travelled” meant you’d been to the nearest large town, and to invest the tiny amount of money one had managed to put by for passage to a country they had only heard about.

    Unlike Dr Gabb, I think it was the quality of immigrant that was the making of America, and they passed that resourcefulness and optimism down through the generations. Yes, it was a vast, virgin and bounteous land, but the energy and will it took to tame it and endure the hardships could only have been expended by people who were absolutely certain that the future was going to work for them.

  • Shawn

    ” The neocon cabal”

    Cabal is a word that historically has most often been used in conection to Jewish conspiracy theories. When a paleo uses the term “neocon cabal” what they really mean is ZOG, Zionist (Jew) Occupied Government. This is a faveourite term amongst the KKK, slinhead Neo-Nazis and other paleo groups.

    “Given that most citizens of the obesitocracy”

    Ahh a Gabbism. The little sneer at those lower class and fat Americans. We are all fat of course, all us church going patriotic Americans. For this and other myths turn to chapter one of your free book ‘Anti-Americanism for Dummies’, personally signed by Michael Moore himself

    “get their info from controlled media such as Faux News,”

    Of course Fox is controlled. Its the only large scale media that gives voice to conservative, libertarian and patriotic Americans. Its the only major news outlet that tilts to the Right amongst a sea of liberal-left media. So therefore it MUST be controlled by the secret ZOG media cabal. Right?

    The fact that a few weeks ago I read an article on Fox by a libertarian criticising Bush on government spending and even, shock horror, foreign policy, was just a figment of my imagination. Damn those tricky Zionists!

    “The spirit of Washington’s valediction to Congress still flickers, despite all the perversions of the original republic into a warfare/welfare state alluded to by the previous poster.”

    Ah yes, the Welfare/Warfare state. Such a neat little term that just trips off the tongue and covers so much sloppy thinking.

    But wait a minute. There was no welfare state during the War of Independence. There was no welfare state during the War of 1812. Nor during the Civil War, the Spanish-American War or even World War One.

    But surely the welfare state and war go together right? Dont they? Oops. Mabey not.

    Mabey Osama bin Laden really did declare war against America. Mabey Saddam Hussien really did want to turn the whole Middle East into one giant Arab Fascist state and destroy Israel and set himself up as the new Saladin so he could teach the world a lesson by squeezing the oil supply.

    Of course unlike WJ I’m not wearing my special paleo-isolationist tin foil hat to keep out the mind control ray beams that ZOG, ahem, sorry, the “neocon cabal”, is beaming into all our heads, so I might be wrong.

  • ernest young

    It would seem that the once mighty ‘ice-berg’ of Libertarian thinking, has suffered a mental melt-down, and is now reduced to a puddle of socialist snidery and rectitude. Typical academic! – he believed his own publicity, and thought that he could do no wrong.

  • Dave

    Gabbs comments seem weird to me.

    Beef and Honey? I thought ribs were always pork? Chicken and Honey and Worcestershire sauce is a fantastic mariade.

    US civilisation has made enormous progress in the last 5 years, you can decent beer practically everywhere now! 😉

  • Dave

    Gabbs comments seem weird to me.

    Beef and Honey? I thought ribs were always pork? Chicken and Honey and Worcestershire sauce is a fantastic mariade.

    US civilisation has made enormous progress in the last 5 years, you can get decent beer practically everywhere now! 😉

  • Sean Gabb’s libertarianism has always been more than slightly flavoured with Engish nationalism but I detect no socialism in anything he writes.

    If Americans are going to support their government in waging immoral wars then they should expect that even people as civilised, educated, well mannered and saintly as Sean Gabb may be tempted to start calling them names.

    That some of them then choose to sulk and whine like spanked children is indicative of a narcissistic vacuity that is breathtaking.

    Sean Gabb – more and faster please.

  • A_t

    🙂 hahaha Paul.

    And to all the offended Americans, get over it. Many worse things have been said about the French in this blog, to hearty approval, & if you want to see equivalent anti-European snobbery & misunderstanding, you can find it every week in the Right wing american press. Sean Gabb is wrongheaded on this one for sure, & to my mind it exposes a deeper thread of insular closed thinking in his writing, which i’ve objected to before, but damn… grow some thicker skin!

    (oh, & striking back with simplistic disses towards Europe doesn’t make you look smart btw)


    “Mabey [sic] Saddam Hussien really did want to turn the whole Middle East into one giant Arab Fascist state and destroy Israel and set himself up as the new Saladin so he could teach the world a lesson by squeezing the oil supply.”

    hmm… maybe so!

    But equally maybe my next-door neighbour would like to see a world-wide socialist revolution, & be in charge of the people’s bureau for repression of greed & capitalistic thought. Fortunately my neighbour’s route to power is rather unclear. As was Saddam’s.

    You’re surely not loony enough to believe Saddam stood any chance of achieving any of those goals you claim he cherished, are you? We would’ve utterly kicked his sorry ass as soon as he stepped outside his borders.

  • llamas

    Paul Coulam wrote:

    ‘If Americans are going to support their government in waging immoral wars then they should expect that even people as civilised, educated, well mannered and saintly as Sean Gabb may be tempted to start calling them names.

    That some of them then choose to sulk and whine like spanked children is indicative of a narcissistic vacuity that is breathtaking.’

    A perfect exmaple of what I was thinking when I wrote ‘soi-disant superior’. Thank you for providing it and illutrating my point so well.

    The war in Iraq is simply defined as ‘immoral’ – no discussion is even required. It’s simply a given. After all, since the Americans started it, it must be immoral – right? Not like those nice, moral wars started by Europeans – can we spell ‘Yugoslavia’, boys and girls?

    When you simply assume the mantle of moral judgement – as is so often the case with Europeans – I suppose it’s pretty easy to delude yourself into deriding any opposing opinion as being the result of moral deficiencies.

    Mind, you, I suppose that, since the mess in the Middle East is largely the legacy of European colonial and post-colonial meddling (primarily the Brits and the French), it’s only natural to try to blame the present mess on others. Nice way to leave a mess for someone else to clean up, there.

    As to sulking and whining – who is doing the sulking and whining here? You don’t have any cogent points to add to the debate – you’re just engaging in personal insults directed at anyone who has the temerity to disgaree with you. Americans, daring to disagree with my ideas about them? Why, the very idea! Your increasingly-petulant posts point up the exact mindset among Europeans that I have been trying to describe. Thank you again for demonstrating my point so well.

    You are spot-on in one thing, though – Sean Gabb’s bloviations are very aptly described, by you, as ‘name calling’. And they are nothing more. Coming from a person who, by all accounts, has never been to the US – well, the expression ‘narcissistic vacuity’ springs to mind.



  • llamas

    A-t wrote:

    ‘You’re surely not loony enough to believe Saddam stood any chance of achieving any of those goals you claim he cherished, are you? We would’ve utterly kicked his sorry ass as soon as he stepped outside his borders.’

    You mean, like last time? Where we stopped short, left him in power and in control, and gave him another decade to marshal his forces and make his plans while UN officials became rich beyond the dreams of avarice on ‘oil-for-food’ money and the ‘international community’ wrung its hands and told him that he was very, very bad, and not to do it again? Or it would stamp its foot and show him how mad it was?

    Like that time, you mean?

    If the previous President Bush had not been swayed by the whining and puling of the European-led ‘international community’, and had instead let General Schwarzkopf finish the job – as he was more-than-able, and ready, to do – we wouldn’t be trying to clean up this mess now. Again.

    Your next-door-neighbour may indeed harbour all the dreams you describe. But I suspect that he doesn’t have a vast standing army, huge stockpiles of weapons, both conventional and WMD, and a demonstrated willingness to pursue protracted and bloody wars against his neighbours – does he? If he did – wouldn’t you be a bit worried about him, and inclined to do something about it?



  • A_t

    wo…llamas, I thought the only people who believed Saddam was like, all powerful ‘n stuff were peaceniks before the war started, going on about what a hard slog it’d be invading Iraq. Now, let’s look at that hard slog again, shall we?

    Given that he had “another decade to marshal his forces and make his plans”, Saddam’s army was a bit of a f**ing pushover, wasn’t it? Was this the fearsome army which was going to take over the middle-east? Defeat Israel?

    Try harder please.

  • llamas

    A-t – try harder? My pleasure.

    The flaw in your argument is one of relative capacity.

    Saddam’s armed forces were indeed a pushover for the coalition. Both times. One would expect no less, considering the rag-tag assembly of hardware that he was buying, and the general quality of his conscript troops.

    But when he used them against either his neighbours, or his own people, they had quite enough capacity to do tremendous damage, and to destabilize the region. He overran Kuwait – which had no defence capacity to speak of – in days. He used them against his own – the Kurds – with devastating effect. And he prosecuted a seemingly-endless war against Iran for decades without seriously impacting his own territory or his ability to continue.

    When compared to the forces of the coalition, he was underwhelming. But when compared to the forces in his immediate region, he could be overwhelming. He continually sought both the expand his capacity to wage war and his chances for doing so. He tried to annex Kuwait and (as is often overlooked) threatened Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other defenceless nations in the area if they did not fall in line with him. He tried for 20 years to annex Iran. And let’s not fool ourselves that he wanted these things so that he could spread democracy and the rule of law to these (admittedly troubled) places.

    If the coalition had had the fortitude to winkle the bugger out the first time, a whole lot less people would have been dead and a whole lot less misery and suffering would have stalked the region. But the ‘international community’ – always ready to wring its hands and snatch defeat from the jaws of success – didn’t have the stomach for it. And that was after all of the hard work was done. And one of the reasons that they lacked the fortitude was that the coalition was led by the Americans, and the soi-disant superiors of Old Europe just couldn’t accept the possibility that American arms could succeed where their morally-superior but ineffective handwaving had failed.

    Both times.



  • ernest young


    Still can’t see the forest for the trees can you?

    Isn’t English nationalism, socialist by nature? I thik that it is so imbued in the English psyche that they fail to recognise anything different – or better.

  • A_t

    llamas, demonising Europeans (whether rightly or wrongly) for not having sufficient guts to “finish the job” and pointing out that Saddam was a ruthless man don’t really suffice.

    I know Saddam was a bad man who was willing to kill, & I also agree we should probably have pushed on & got rid of him in the first Gulf war. I think it would have been easier to deal with the fallout, as the essential difference was that we hadn’t started that war, & our actions were percieved quite differently. (yes, you’ll probably say something about provocation, or how the war never *really* stopped due to various UN resolutions etc., but in most people’s eyes, in the middle-east & round the world, it did. That’s the reality you have to contend with.)

    You say he could have overridden Saudi… with the US military based there? You really think so? Wow.

    When he invaded Kuwait, no-one was particularly expecting that, & we got him out of there quickfast. This time however, with us expecting potential hostility, & him weakened by 10-odd years worth of sanctions, he would’ve stormed straight through the whole Arabian peninsula, correct? Amazing.

    *Perhaps* if he’d managed to retain power for several years more, & circumstances changed, maybe he might have become more of a threat again, but come on; be realistic about this. His ability to threaten other countries at the time our governments declared it imperative we invade was pretty minimal, judging by the pathetic defence the Iraqi army put up.

    You’d assume it would be easier to defend your own country against US invaders than to invade other countries protected by the US. From the way the Iraqi army performed defending their own country, I’d guess that any invasion would probably have faltered within a few kilometers of the Iraqi border.

    & I say again, the idea that Saddam was in *any way* capable of overrunning Israel, even a few square kilometers of Israel, is laughable in the extreme; an insult to the Israeli armed forces.

  • A_t

    “Isn’t English nationalism, socialist by nature?”

    err… why?

    I think too many people conflate anti-Americanism with socialist thinking. America and free market Capitalism are not interchangable. It is possible to love the second whilst hating the first (or vice-versa, if such is your bent).

    But yes, if you’d care to elaborate on your quoted statement, i’d be curious to know how you arrived at this conclusion. Further, is US nationalism socialist by nature? If not why not? What about umm… Russian nationalism? Serbian nationalism? Australian nationalism? explain explain!

  • Susan

    Paul Coulam:

    Quite right — we Americans ARE learning many lessons from the unceasing blasts of Eurobigotry directed our way (which started long before the invasion of Iraq BTW) over the past few years.

    The trouble is, the lessons we are learning are not likely the same ones that Europeans like you think you are teaching us.

  • llamas

    A-t – you make good points. But most telling are the points you omit.

    Even with a US military presence in Saudi Arabia before the first Gulf war, yes, Hussein could well have overrun the country. He certainly intimated a desire to do so. While US military power is awesome, there has to be a meaningful amount of it. I remind you that it took 7 months to put the US military in place to kick his sorry ass out of Kuwait and back to Baghdad. If he had made good on his threat to invade SA, he would have been successful – especially considering that the UN response would have been another round of witless handwringing and attempts at negotiation. The only way to resist him would have been with boots on the ground, and those boots would have had to come from the US. Even a large contingent of air power (which was the primary US presence in SA at the time) would not have been able to stop him by itself. It’s axiomatic that you cannot win a war of any sort with air power alone, and it’s axiomatic because it’s true.

    This time around, I remind you that the US has pulled out of SA – in response to Arab nationalist pressures – the excat same pressures which Hussein used to use to further his ends..

    As regards Israel, I remind you that Iraqi ballistic missiles were falling in Israel during the first Gulf war as a regular occurrence. How many more missiles do you suppose he could build or buy with a few more years of illicit ‘oil-for-food’ money? Answer – as many as the Syrians, of the Chinese or the French could build for him. His purpose would not necessarily be to overrun Israel, simply to destroy as much of it as he possibly could. The IDF is an awesome froce, to be sure, but if Hussein had attacked Israel in ways other than a classic land invasion – do you suppose that the IDF would be able to stop him? Even if the ‘international community’ would have allowed it?

    Hussein alone probably could not have overrun Israel, as you suggest. But I think there’s a lot of validity in the idea that, if he had seriously taken up arms against Israel, he might well have been the catalyst for a combined attempt by all of Israel’s enemies, internal and external, to fulful their ultimate aim of destroying the nation and killing all of its citizens.

    I don’t ‘demonize’ Europeans – that’s your word, not mine. I just observe what they do and draw conclusions. Europe, as a region, cannot abide the ascendancy of American power and the accompanying waning of their own. They have lost the moral fortitude to recognize and deal with evil and barbarism, preferring instead to wallow in a slough of equal parts moral relativism, blame-shifting and opportunist corruption.

    Ask yourself these questions:

    – Why does the European media fall all over a corruption story like Enron, and use it to foster stereotypes of America, while the enormous fiscal corruption that pervades the EU – or the UN, for that matter – goes more-or-less completely uncovered?

    – Why are photographs of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers fit fodder for the front page of every European media outlet for weeks at a time, while images of an innocent American being beheaded alive by Arab terrorists are considered too unpleasant, and the story has a life of about 36 hours in the same media?

    – Why will every media outlet in Europe uncritically repeat claims that President Bush ‘stole’ the 2000 election, while none ever mention the independent investigations which prove that he did not?

    – Why do Europeans idolize Michael Moore, a filmmaker whose ‘documentaries’ have been endlessly shown to be equal parts fiction and make-believe and who is answerable to noone for what he says?

    – Why does every editorial voice in Europe cry that the war in Iraq was all about the US gaining access to Iraqi oil, and yet none report that the US was perhaps the only nation complying with UN sanctions on Iraq, and that the nation which had all the oil-development interests in Iraq (and God-knows-what-else besides) was – France?

    And a hundred other examples besides. I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but if you beat me over the head with enough examples of rabid, fact-free, unreasoning, self-serving anti-Americanism from Europe, even I can eventually figure out the plot. That doesn’t mean that I ‘demonize’ Europe or the Europeans. I merely recognize it/them for what it/they are – a region, and a population in cultural and economic decline, bobbing in the wake of progress.

    And I was born there, for heaven’s sake.



  • ernest young

    After sixty years of socialist government – whether of blue or a red hue. The ineptly run Welfare system. the even more ineptly run, ‘Jewel in theCrown’, The whole concept of the Nanny State, the encroachment on personal property rights, etc, etc, every single one a socialist idea, and all voted for by the great English electorate, plus many other instances of socialist thinking, too numerous to mention.

    While there is a lot of whingeing about any of the items mentioned above, no-one really ever does much about it, and that is another English trait. Yet people say they are ‘proud to be English’, surely a sign of nationalistic pride, ergo they must like socialism and all that it entails. That most people like to think that they are ‘caring’, but feel that it is the State’s job to do the actual caring, – isn’t that a socialist trait?

    As I said, most people seem to be reasonably happy with the way things are being run, – the war being the major ‘bone of contention’, As I mentioned, ‘you folk cannot see the forest for the trees.’

    It is not unreasonable to think of the English as being ‘socialist’ by nature, in much the same way as the Swedes or Danes are, and yes, even the Russians.

    No doubt, you are now going to nit-pick my contentions, in the manner of most socialist debates, using ‘straw man’ arguments to cloud the issue.

    You may think that socialism is the best system, which makes it all the more surprising that you wish to deny that it is a part of the English national culture, I would have thought that you would have embraced the idea wholeheartedly.

    I happen to feel that socialism, as practised, is one of the greater evils in this world. The England that I was taught to feel proud of, – i.e. to have nationalistic pride in, is a very different place to England today.

  • A_t

    Ernest, how kind of you to anticipate my “straw man” arguments. I didn’t even realise I was going to use them, but now that you’ve anticipated it, there’s clearly no point, so you’ve spared me the bother of even thinking about them. Astounding, you know my mind better than I do (or was it the socialist indoctrination campt the evil british government sent me to as a child?).

    I think the casual throwing around of the term “socialism” is somewhat ambiguous…. Where does one cross the line into socialism? Why is the UK socialist whereas the US isn’t? The US has some level of social provision, which the majority of the population believe is right… you have taxation to pay for more than just the obvious functions of defense/law & order.

    If you’d like to know what my personal beliefs are (as opposed to pulling out some standard set that I could squeeze into, with a few alterations), I’m not one of these people who are certain a particular system is better than another; I have my preferences for sure, but i’m open to suggestion/debate. That’s why I hang out here. Generally, I’m for a free society with some “socialist” safety nets, and i’m hardly demonising capitalism; it seems to me that people who are “anti-capitalist” are anti-life really, since “capitalism” is just another word for “the way things work when left to their own devices”.

    So yes, i embrace some ‘socialist’ ideas, as do most Brits; you’re correct. However, I feel sure I could dig you up English nationalists who are as un-socialist as you’d like. Ergo English nationalism is not socialism, & I see no point in your comment. Arguing that Sean Gabb is a socialist is pretty strange. He’s clearly irrationally anti-american, & a snob to boot, but a socialist? nope.

    What’s more, if you think that socialism as practiced in moderate European countries is one of the greatest evils in the world, your model of the rest of the world must be pretty darn rosy.

  • Verity

    Susan – Despite his taste for chicken with a jar of honey poured over it (I’m assuming he goes on to cook the chicken), Paul Coulam is British, not European. It’s a constant irritation that Americans think anything on the other side of the Atlantic is Yurrop.

    Also although I normally, as you know, enjoy your writing and have sprung to your defence on more than one occasion, are these dark threats that “the lessons we are learning are not likely the same ones that Europeans like you think you are teaching us” designed to make the British and Europeans who have a bone to pick with America quiver, shrink back and reconsider? Frankly, that way lies bitter disappointment.

  • llamas

    Verity wrote:

    ‘….Paul Coulam is British, not European. It’s a constant irritation that Americans think anything on the other side of the Atlantic is Yurrop.’

    At the risk of starting a firestorm – this is, increasingly, a distinction without a difference. The Brits may think that they still possess a cultural and social heritage which is distinctly different from their European partners, but as matters of law, regulation and actual practice, the differences are shrinking every day. The homogenizer which is Brussels will not be denied. If you’ve ever seen a homogenizer – what they use to process milk – you’ll know exactly what I mean.

    Americans increasingly see everything on the other side of the pond as ‘Yurrop’ becasue, in any matters which affect Americans, that’s exactly they way it/they behaves. So the Brits drive on the other side of the road – big deal. Pretty much all of ‘Yurrop’ is driving in the same lane.




  • GCooper

    llamas writes:

    “Americans increasingly see everything on the other side of the pond as ‘Yurrop’ becasue, in any matters which affect Americans, that’s exactly they way it/they behaves. So the Brits drive on the other side of the road – big deal. Pretty much all of ‘Yurrop’ is driving in the same lane”

    And that would include fighting beside you, with the majority backing of the British population (notwithstanding the BBC’s atempt to portray it otherwise), would it?

    You’re not wrong in your analysis of what the Europhiles are attempting, but you are woefully ignorant of the current reality in this country.

    On a more general note, I suspect that the UK and USA are, under the skin, rather more similar than different and that all the yah-booing about Europe vs. USA would be more truly relevant if the former generalisation specifically excluded the UK.

    There is historical tension between the two (and it’s mutual, clearly), but (outside the Graduina-reading classes) it is absolutely nothing whatsoever like you will find sur le continong.

  • Verity

    I don’t know whether English nationalism, pace A_t, is socialistic, but certainly I think the English are, and so are the Scots. They both pose as robust fighters for “their rights” – meaning, more opportunities to screw more money and benefits out of the Exchequer, aka as the taxpayer. And they have taken to carey-sharey like ducks to water. And they appear to feel comforted by the idea that “the state” cares about them. I think they like being ruled and controlled.

    Following up on the story of the little girl who was pregnant and her school arranged an abortion for her without telling her mother (note, the story did not say without telling “her parents”, so presumably the mother was a single mother) a journalist – if that is not too strong a term – in The Independent wrote of a similar experience with his own 14 year old daughter.

    Once they found out the child was pregnant (her sister told the parents) they scheduled a meeting with the school/social worker/nurse/outreach counsellor, who can remember? For some reason, the appointment had to be broken and, as he wrote peevishly, “There was no follow up”. The caring state had neglected to get back to the father and mother of the pregnant child with their plan for what should be done about their daughter. And he was aggrieved.

    Says it all. Beatrice and Sydney Webb struck a chord. As did Bernard Shaw. This is why the British are allowing the state to nationalise their children and their salaries. Now, even if you earn £60,000 a year, you can apply for credits from the state, making you a client of the state, who will decide whether your “benefit” is legit. And all children must now have passes for all exams. In some schools, ‘A’ now stands for ‘Almost’. In other words, you get an ‘A’ for failing.

    Except in independent schools, competitive sports are banned in case losing “damages” a child. They’re supine. Universities are being forced to take in people with inadequate intellect and perserverance otherwise their state funds will be withdrawn – all are equal.

    They have allowed their homogenous country to be carely sliced into different “ethnic” communities, all of which have rights in competition with each other [they’re building an eight story “retirement home” in Tower Hamlets for Asians -read Muslims – only, as these have “unique needs” (one being that they don’t speak English after 40 years in the country)].

    British pensioners who have been compelled to pay into the system all their working lives and may also need to live in sheltered housing are nowhere.

    Yet there is no popular uprising. They voted an obvious charlatan with a personal agenda in twice and it’s not inconceivable that they will vote him back a third time – because he seems to be “caring”.

    Vast swathes of Britain are socialists down to their toes. It will be very, very hard to winkle them out now that they are burrowed in with the help of all the EU “directives” to which the socialists have signed them up without debate.

  • Llamas,

    You appear to be falling into the same pit that Sean Gabb was accused of creating: imagining some creature called, with unimaginative description, ‘Yurrop’ and ascribing some general simile concerning milkto the continent.

    Of course, if you were to examine British history, instead of pontificating, you would understand that common law countries where national consciousness is based upon institutions (Parliament, Crown, law, RN etc.) rather than language, culture and race, are peculiarly vulnerable to the regulatory maw that is Brussels. That is why we enact more of the directives than the French and the Germans, because we still instinctively follow the ‘rule of law’.

    Still, it’s easy to badmouth an ally and judge all books by the same cover. Opening them up and appreciating the differences requires some thought.

  • Susan

    Verity, thanks for the past defenses. My statement was simply one of fact, not a threat as you perceived.

    I came into this struggle with radical Islam as the world’s greatest Atlanticist and NATO backer; I’m not anywhere near that today. To my way of (former) thinking, the West must stand united to defeat this menace same as we did in WWII and the Cold War. To my disappointment, I am beginnning think that Eurabia (from this I exclude Britain, for now) scarcely qualifies as The West anymore.

    It’s a fact that the main thing that Americans are learning from the huge blasts of Eurohatred coming our way is simply to pay Europeans back in their own coin, except even more virulently, as we Americans have never been fond of subtlety. There was zero anti-Europeanism in the US four years ago (except for the occasional twit at the French for their inexplicable devotion to Jerry Lewis movies); you certainly can’t say that today.

    I myself make it a point not to buy any EU products except those produced from Britain, Denmark, Italy and Poland. The last time I purchased a car, I test-drove a Volkswagen Passat (tough ended up buying a Toyota); I would not even consider a German car today.

    Europe today thinks that George Bush (and Ariel Sharon) — neither of whom have ever remotely threatened Europe — are a greater menace to it than Al-Qaeda and its affiliations. Under those circumstances, I can’t help but wonder why we keep footing the bill for Europe’s defense when our own budget deficits are soaring out of control?

    Quite frankly I have had it up to here with Euro-hypocrisy and Euro-nastinees. Call us Nazis to our faces, but squeal like Ned Beatty in “Deliverance” when we talk about moving our troops out of Germany or moving NATO HQ out of Brussels. The governor of Bavaria sent a delegation to the US to plead against even the modest troop deducation that Rumsfeld had proposed recently. Not to mention how loudly the Brussel Sprouts squealed when Rummy floated moving NATO HQ to Eastern Europe to save on administrative costs.

    Oh no, we have to have the $$$$ that the Nazi American troops pump into our pathetic, dying socialist economies. Please stay Mr. Nazi American Troops. But don’t expect us to stop calling you names in the meantime. What conclusions do you think that I, the former uncritical Atlanticist, are drawing from all of this?

    Do you really think that Americans aren’t marking accounts to be settled with Europe sooner or later? Just because we don’t burn EU flags and parade around with giant puppets ridiculing Chris Patten doesn’t mean we aren’t paying attention. We are. And that’s something that Europe clearly doesn’t seem to understand — not at all. I see the same “Europe hates America” articles run in the Euro-press again and again — I haven’t seen a single article in the Euro-press pointing out that Americans (now) aren’t exactly fond of Europe either. Blinkers firmly attached to the side of the head and anchored securely under the chin.

    Regarding beef with honey glaze — ick! However, a slice of Virginia-cured ham with honey/dijon mustard sauce is nice.

  • Verity

    G Cooper, I agree with you. Britain is still America’s most dependable friend. Never mind the BBC – which Melanie Phillips has now taken to calling the Quisling Broadcasting Corporation. Never mind Al-G’hard’ayan. The British (meaning most British, including a percentage of our 6% “ethnic minority” population) still feel a cousinship with the US.

    But they are confused by the poisonous resentment being poured into their systems regarding the US, by the hissing Marxist/Islamicist (yes, they have common cause and there is ample proof they work in tandem) vipers. Personally, I don’t know why they’re confused. Did the Marxists fly over hundreds of thousands of fighting men and millions of dollars to help them conquer Hitler? Were the Marxists on the beaches of Normandy? Did the Islamo-fascists organise the Berlin Airlift?

    What the hell is wrong with these people?

  • Verity

    Well, llamas, nnice to see you back, but the British do “possess a cultural and social heritage which is distinctly different from their European partners” – although the word “partners” is EU socialist-speak.

    We have almost 2,000 years of history which has more to do with us than them. OK, Guillaume, but he was a Viking, looked good, neat clothes, lots of interesting new words, which we colonised, and was into conservation. The rest of the time, it was all about us.

    But you are rright. Britain, the greatest colonial power the world has ever know, has allowed itself to be colonised by the dwarfs of Yurrop.

  • Nancy

    Philip C, this is driving me round the bend. What does RN stand for, please? All I can think of is Royal Navy or registered nurse.

    Susan, I share your frustration with the breathtaking hypocrisy of the Germans regarding American military forces. The South Koreans are the same. Remember the wailing that ensued when Rumsfeld suggested that American troops might be taken away? They took time off from protesting against our evil presence to get very upset, indeed.

    I don’t think that there has been much of a change in the breadth and depth of anti-Americanism in Europe, or in Britain, since shortly after WWII. I remember well over a decade ago buying an issue (maybe the only issue) of Robert Maxwell’s ill fated “European” rag. I read a long interview with a Dutch minister regarding America’s then woeful domestic situation. The gloating interviewer was chirruping away that America was done, dusted, would have to buy every vehicle from Japan forevermore mwahahahahaha. The Dutch minister’s replies were mostly in the realm of, “ahem, well, I wouldn’t write the Americans off just yet”, because he was hooked into reality rather than the eternal wishful thinking of the journalist left.

    In 1986, when we hit Libya with air strikes, the caterwauling was deafening.

    What has changed is that America started to notice it, and respond in kind. It was easy to dish it out from Europe, however gratuitously and irrationally, when there was no having to take it in return.

    However, I don’t think that you are quite right in your assertion that the “Euro-press” never comments on the frustrations and anger of Americans. I read the FT on a regular basis, and find that there are often articles on that very subject. Granted, even they seem to be giving undue attention to UN mouthpiece Philip Stephens. One can barely tiptoe through any article he writes about Iraq without stumbling over crisis, chaos, debacle or catastrophe. That said, there are routinely fair and balanced arguments presenting different sides of various contentious issues.

    There may indeed be “huge blasts of Eurohatred” from France or other parts of Europe. Dissident Frogman is a better judge of the true scope of it than I am. But isn’t his mere presence, and also Bjorn of The World After WTC blog and Jacob who sometimes writes here, not to mention the legion of British who do, evidence that not everyone across the pond subscribes to mindless anti Americanism – as opposed to simply seeing the world through different eyes?

    I enjoyed the exchange between A-t and llamas above. Both are intelligent, articulate, even tempered guys who made their points very well.

    GCooper is right: the newspapers in England generally are to the left of British public opinion, but right wing blustering is not in the British nature. They’d rather live with the sneers than the bellows, we tend to go the other way. The main anti-American voices, at least in Britain, are the same Greenham Common types they’ve always been.

    It is of course your choice to go out of your way not to buy European goods. Whatever happens, we have to trade with the rest of the world, including Europe, and they have to trade with us. Fortress America, while a possibility (not to mention a Pat Buchanan wet dream) would be a very cold place in which to live.


  • WJ Phillips

    Nancy: “The main anti-American voices, at least in Britain, are the same Greenham Common types they’ve always been.”

    No, I think it’s broader these days. More British people of all political colours and none are querying the “special relationship” 15 years after the Cold War ended. The anti-Iraq war demonstration in February 2003, the largest ever in Britain, attracted a lot of people who were far from the old leftist rentamob, indeed many had never been on such a protest before.

    Tony Blair’s career is in danger now because so many who thought he was a breath of fresh air in ’97 cannot understand why he has become bound hand and foot to US foreign policy. I live in a rich, non-liberal exurb where it’s hard to find anyone under 50 with a good word to say for American policies. They nearly all like America and Americans, but they think they’re in over their heads in the ME. The Abu Ghraib affair provokes a more-in-sorrow-than-anger response, but it’s felt to illustrate the US habit of shooting first and thinking about post-war reconstruction too late afterwards.

  • GCooper

    WJ Phillips writes:

    “No, I think it’s broader these days.”

    Yes, you’re right – it is broader. But it is very far from the tsunami of anti-Americanism portrayed by the Leftist press and the BBC.

    There have been historic tensions between the US and the UK since the colonials went off in a huff about stamp duty (and it is worth reminding ourselves, occasionally, that the “founding fathers” weren’t ‘Americans’, they were Brits – this was a civil war).

    What we are currently experiencing in the UK is a fashion-statement.

    Get into a pub discussion and scratch beneath that surface, reflexive anti-Americanism. It is as shallow, as mutable and as incoherent as some of the juvenile anti-British rhetoric we have seen in this discussion.

    Shortly after 9/11, I attended a bonfire celebration in an ancient East Sussex town. The resonance of what bonfire celebrations mean will probably be lost on many Americans – as on most Brits – but they have an atavistic importance in that part of the country. They really are living history.

    The flag-bearer, in breach of several hundred years’ tradition, carried a US flag that night. Why? Because several of the society’s members had visited the WTC months before, the bonfire society had US members with fierce ancestral ties to the area and because there was a shared sense of outrage and what had been done to the family. I’ve no doubt that members of that society, or their relatives are, tonight, stationed in Iraq.

    And if people on both sides of the pond don’t understand this connection, wilfully fail to rise above some of the schoolyard drivel spouted by both sides, then the enemy has started to win.

    And – frankly – if we aren’t capable of any better, he probably deserves to.

  • Chris Goodman

    It is difficult to award the “NUMBNUT OF THE WEEK” award in this thread because of the strength of the field, but I offer these as a few of the leading contenders:


    SEAN GABB – “so many of the [Americans] are drawn from second or even third rate nationalities”

    RIC LOCKE – “the pitcher of Europe tipped, spreading the energetic mobile cream of its society across the Atlantic and leaving behind a thin, bitter blue john [?] of idle wastrels and nonsensical intellectuals. Naturally the new settlers prospered, not least from hybrid vigour as immigrants from every clime sought the best in one another, and the Old Countries stagnated”

    WJPHILIPS – “More British people of all political colours…are querying the “special relationship” 15 years after the Cold War ended.”


    RC DEAN – “we Americans are proud of being…from the lower classes. We regard knowing which fork to use a sure sign of effete snobbery”


    LLAMAS – ‘since the Americans started it, it must be immoral – right? Not like those nice moral war started by Europeans’

    LLAMAS – ‘So Brits drive on the other side of the road – big deal’

    ERNST YOUNG – “Isn’t English nationalism socialist by nature?”


    PAUL COULAM – “If Americans are going to support their government in waging immoral wars then they should expect that even people as civilised, educated, well mannered and saintly as Sean Gabb may be tempted to start calling them names”

  • ernest young


    you have taxation to pay for more than just the obvious functions of defense/law & order.

    Only in socialist regimes, not being an anarchist, I realise that some taxation is inevitable, but that is not what we are talking about. We are talking about the extreme version of the welfare state, as practised in Europe and the UK, which actually makes it more profitable, at the lower levels of society, to be unemployed and draw benefits, than to work for a living. It is not the role of society to featherbed all and sundry. It is also definately not their role to have control over most aspects of a persons life or lifestyle, nor to try and spread success in life evenly through society. Why the emphasis on levelling ‘down’, rather than ‘up’?

    I’m not one of these people who are certain a particular system is better than another;

    Well, you just have not been around long enough to experience between a good and a bad system. It does not take a genius to see just how destructive most forms of socialism are, from nullyfying personal rights, freedoms and property, to destroying the very moral fabric that enables a society to function in a civilised fashion for the benefit of the majority. Any society ruled by an elite minority caucus is doomed to ultimate failure, either through moral or fiscal corruption. Of course you like the present system, most of your responsibilties are taken care of, why wouldn’t you like it, you know no better.

    I feel sure I could dig you up English nationalists who are as un-socialist as you’d like

    I’m sure you could, there is always the exception that proves the rule, and we are both generalising in our comments here.

    Arguing that Sean Gabb is a socialist is pretty strange.

    Not so strange really, there are such things a ‘socialist libertarians’, I grant you they are rare. but I have long suspected him of being a closet socialist, most academics are, just some are more overt than others. It is when he flips, as in the article under discussion, that hints of his true feelings are seen.

    if you think that socialism as practiced in moderate European countries is one of the greatest evils in the world, your model of the rest of the world must be pretty darn rosy.

    Why drag the rest of the world into the argument? I was talking about socialism as practised in England, which cannot be considered even remotely moderate, unless you have been duly conditioned to believing that it is so, or perhaps do not know any better. I note that the latest idea of commandeering private property for communal use, has been accepted without too much outrage on the part of the citizenry, and this is the act of a moderate government?

    Socialism at it’s best is tolerable, at it’s worst it is destructive of it’s participants, and corrupting of it’s leaders. It’s growth is a downward path and encourages the worst aspects of human nature, that of greed and self interest, until it finally succumbs to outright tyranny and dictatorship. That such growth is insidious, makes for a general acceptance which is no more than outright bribery and deceit. That is why I call it the it one of the greatest evils.

  • Ric Locke

    For Chris Goodman —

    I was merely trying to compose more or less the same diatriabe from the other direction. My rant is true, or false, in the same way and to the same degree as the original was; which is to say, there is some truth to the surface, but the implications and deeper meanings are profoundly false in both pieces.

    Nice of you to make the point by reacting.



  • Johnathan Pearce

    As the original author, I am rather humbled by the volume of comments! A couple of points:

    Sean Gabb is no socialist. He is an English nationalist libertarian, of strongly conservative leanings, who regards human civilisation reached its high point around 1900. On about 90 pct of issues, I am on his side.

    It is true that Sean was rude about America and Americans. His comments were crude and deplorable. It is also true, though, that a few posts on this blog have been uncomplimentary about the French and other European political classes. But Sean was not just attacking the White House and the political establishment of the USA, he was bashing the whole country.

    And BTW, I have on several occasions here pointed out how dumb it is to bash the French, the “Arab Street”, the “Baby Boom Generation”, and other collectivities.

    Rather sad at the rather childish bickering from some. But on the whole, thanks for the comments.

  • WJ Phillips

    Ric: You quoted me as saying “More British people of all political colours…are querying the “special relationship” 15 years after the Cold War ended.” Why does this make me a candidate for ridicule? I was merely passing on an impression which is general, and trying to account for it. I didn’t say whether I agreed with it.

    At least try to spell the names of those you disagree with correctly.

    GCooper: I think one reason for the disaffection of Britons from the USA is that the ancestral links between the countries are weakening. Village bonfires are more likely to burn Bush in effigy than to carry the Stars and Stripes. America will not even be majority-white by 2050. It feels less and less like a European-descended nation. (There’s another generalisation for Mr Locke to be rude about without actually troubling to argue his objection.)

  • Verity

    WJ Phillips – I’m not sure that the US won’t be majority white by 2050. Don’t forget, once the immigrants get on the prosperity escalator, they stop having clutches of children. How strange to remember that Irish families were once known for having 10 or 11 children!

    I’m not sure that America has grown away from us by becoming less a European descendant, as that we, Britain, have grown away from America, supinely allowing liberties for which our ancestors fought to be removed at the whim of a charlatan. No one asked what we would get in return for giving up freedom of speech, for example. Tony Blair said we had to give it up and put Herr Commandant Trevor Phillips in charge of policing and poof! – gone!

    While shifting us “more in line with Europe” (as though the desirability of such was so luminous as to need no explanation), he has distanced us from our common roots with America.

  • llamas

    Chris Goodman – thank you for my double nomination. Do I get some sort of certificate for my wall?

    The laughable part of the first nomination is that (apparently) you did not track back the original post to which I was responding and catch the irony. It was contributor Paul Coulam who simply defined the Iraq war as ‘immoral’ – no discussion required, the thing is self-evident – and I was merely poking gentle fun at his sweeping generalization. And adding an example of my own, for contrast. If that earns me the ‘Numbnut of the Week’ award – can I please try for the annual prize and silver cup? Because, trust me, I can generalize with a depth and breadth that I feel sure would impress the judges.

    To address the issues which were being discussed while I was sleeping – it may well be that ‘Britain is different’, and that British attitudes about their relationship with the US diverge somewhat from the European norm. I certainly don’t mean to belittle their strong and valuable contribution to the Iraq coalition. But if this is true – if the people feel considerably differently than what the majority of their representatives and their media present as public opinion – then I suggest that they get off their arses and do something about that. Quoting reasoned and measured debate in the FT is all very well, but the FT is a tiny part of the UK media and read by very few. As with so many things in life, perception is just as important as reality, and for those of us who cannot spend every evening in the pub or on the village green taking the true pulse of British public opinion, the UK media is all we have to form our understanding of what the public thinks. Blogging has been a big help in that direction, but still the overwhelming impression is one of general, expressed anti-Americanism and a strong alignment with the majority of the EU. On my recent visit to the UK, I saw and heard little to change that impression – I saw and heard plenty of examples, such as those discussed above, of knee-jerk anti-American expressions, the wildest untruths about all sorts of things about American life and people, and any number of generalizations which, I feel sure, would have edged me out for Chris Goodman’s weekly awards. I lived in the UK full-time from 1963 until 1984, and can say that these expressions were much more common, and much worse in tone, than anything I remember back then, or when visiting in the intervening time. If the Brits do truly feel that they have a different mindset than the Europeans, then they have a dam’ funny way of showing it, both in their media and in their personal interactions.

    Oh, and Nancy? – thank you, we aim to please.



  • GCooper

    Llamas writes:

    “If the Brits do truly feel that they have a different mindset than the Europeans, then they have a dam’ funny way of showing it, both in their media and in their personal interactions.”

    It isn’t hard to elicit reflexive anti-Americanism in this country if you treat people to a heady mix of nationalistic braggadocio and chip-on-the-shoulder resentment. The same, I’m sure, is true if one approaches Americans with the patronising condescension guaranteed to make them bristle.

    If you are content to judge the British mood from the way people respond to you personally and the rabid drivel put out by some of our media, then so be it. Though you might try reading the Telegraph for a more representative position.

    Were I to form my opinions of America by some of the jingositic babble posted on the Web blended with, say, the ravings of Noam Chomsky (who was being paraded as ‘the thinking man’s American’ by BBC TV last night), I might be similarly ill-informed.

  • llamas

    GCooper – well, fair enough.

    I particularly resent your charge of ‘nationalistic braggadocio’ – especially as one who just won the prize for ‘sweeping generalizations’. Allow me to hand you this artistic plaque . . .

    And, since the contention is that the mood of the British people is significantly different than the lock-step drumbeat of most of the media – pray tell, how better could I gauge the true feeling of the people than by personal interaction? I did not find the great difference between the two which is being claimed here.

    For the record – while I am an American, I was raised in the UK and I speak standard English in the accents of a BBC newsreader of several decades ago. My wife is American and speaks with a standard Midwestern accent.

    Because this was her first trip to the UK and because she had concerns about how Americans would be received there – justified concerns, as it turned out – we were deliberately very low-key indeed. We’re both retiring by nature. Perhaps for that reason, we saw and heard many expressions of overt, crass and (often entirely unsupported) anti-American sentiment – things which, I feel sure, people would not have said had they known where were are from. These ranged from the banal and outdated to the very specific and unfounded. George Bush, I learned, is descended from a family with direct financial and political ties to Adolf Hitler, and enjoys his position (he is, after all, a high-functioning moron, as we all know) due to a secret cabal of neo-con Jewish bankers. This is the sort of thing that one expects to read on some whack-job skinhead Website – and not in the snug bar of the Queen’s Head in Hawkshead, complete with knowing nods of agreement from all of the regulars.

    Let me quote you another example.

    In the early days of the Iraq war, an APC of the British Army was attacked by a US A10 ground attack aircraft. I believe a squaddie was killed. It was one of those unfortunate but unavoidable fratricidal accidents which may be inevitable in ‘the fog of war’.

    In an entirely unrelated incident, a few days before, a British tank had misidentified and fired on another British tank. I don’t believe anyone was killed in that incident. It was one of those unfortunate but unavoidable fratricidal accidents which may be inevitable in ‘the fog of war’.

    The tank-on-tank error was reported as what it was – an unfortunate accident. Mistakes were made, lessons will be learned.

    But the A10-vs-APC accident was reported entirely differently in the UK media. The A10 pilot was branded an ‘untrained, careless, unqualified, trigger-happy cowboy’ who, it was surmised, got his jollies by flying around and shooting at anything that moved. The mistake, unfortunate as it was, was parlayed into a representative example of every American service member, all the way up to the President, and as SOP for Americans. One newpaper actually identified the error as what it was – a tragic mistake – but still managed to place the blame squarely on the shoulders of the American forces. Apparently, it was their fault for having too much effective and accurate IFF kit. If they’d just go back to Verey lights and the colours-of-the-day, the newsaper reasoned, this would not have happened. I’m paraphrasing, you understand, but that is the general drift of their argument.

    Well, what the hell? Why is it, do you suppose, that Americans get so sick and tired of how they are perceived and reported in the European media? The motto appears to be ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t, in fact, damned no matter what’. If an American announced that he had the cure for cancer, I swear to God, the headline in the European media next day would be ‘Cancer Cure Promises Large Profits for American Drug Maker’. We can’t catch a break anywhere in Europe.

    I do read the Telegraph online, every day. In fact, a reader skilled in text analysis may recognize a letter to the editor from Your Humble Servant, not so very long ago. While its war and business coverage is, as you suggest, more even-handed, it is (still) a fine place to catch plenty of the ‘patronising condecension’ which you mentioned.

    Finally, if you can’t see that the BBC presenting the excreable Noam Chomsky as ‘the thinking man’s American’ actually demonstrates my point even more clearly . . . the only way it could be more clear is if he was in a twofer with Michael Moore.



  • A_t


    “‘Im not one of these people who are certain a particular system is better than another;

    Well, you just have not been around long enough to experience between a good and a bad system.”

    There’s absolutely no need to patronise me. Firstly, you have no idea how long I’ve ‘been around’, nor I about you. Secondly, resorting to this “young man, you’ll understand when you’re older, as I am” looks enormously like skirting the issue entirely, & can’t help but give me a dismissive attitude towards any valid points you may make thereafter. Asking if I’ve any experience of different social systems might have been a better use of the wisdom you’ve supposedly acquired during your decades on this planet.

    I believe that an essential component of true wisdom is recognising how little you actually know. This is true of science, where one comes across some seeming absolutes. It is particularly true of any social theory; society is a fluid thing, hard to analyse, where any rule will have an exception. To categorically state that a particular theory is right, no question about it, & not be willing to consider any alternatives, is the sign of a mind that has grown stupid. That is what I meant by my phrase above.

  • Johnathan

    Sean Gabb has just issued a most gracious apology and retraction of his remarks on his latest Free Life Commentary. Good for him. As I suspected, his moral decency broke through.

    Bet he is glad of the web hits, though!!!!

  • A_t


    Sadly, I think you’re right in your assessment of anti-americanism in the UK. I think Brits share in the ridiculous euro prejudices against Americans; that they’re crass, unthinking etc.

    Yesterday on the train home, I listened in on a conversation all about Michael Moore’s new movie & how Bush was incredibly dodgy in various ways. Now, I’m no fan of Bush, but half the stuff they were talking was plain bollocks. This is going on all over the country. The trouble is that the unpopularity of current US foreign policy, is bolstering various stupid prejudices; making them easier to buy into. (not blaming anyone here, just stating the way it looks) The friendly fire coverage you refer to is a perfect illustration of this.

    May I remind all those Brits who wish to make out that we’re somehow totally unlike the rest of Europe in this respect of the poll a while ago, asking whether people felt “culturally superior” to Americans. I can’t remember the exact figures offhand, but more Brits than French felt that they were.

    If we’re honest about the ‘special relationship’, Britain is a useful junior officer, the US is the general. Of course the junior officer (who used to run things) is going to be resentful. Comes with the territory. I just hope it doesn’t get out of hand.

    (but yes, people have been looking down on Americans as crass etc. for years… but don’t get too bothered by it all; at the end of the day, we still all watch friends, buffy & the simpsons, buy levi’s, read micheal moore (ho ho), & buy plenty american rock & r&b. We certainly seem to like the ‘inferior’ stuff they turn out, eh?)

    (btw, on the Moore front there was an excellent anti-moore editorial in the Scotsman yesterday; it should be on their site, although you have to register to read it)

  • Verity

    G Cooper – The Telegraph is getting less representative by the day. (Did you know they’ve fired one of their two finest columnists – Barbara Amiel – by the way?)

    The leaders are almost uniformly slavishly admiring of Tony Blair – the day before yesterday, a leader writer wrote that no one could deny his many political accomplishments. I wanted to ask her to name one. Not “many”. Just one. Please, ma’am, name just one thing he has touched that hasn’t fallen apart in his hands.

    Their sub-editors are all auditioning for jobs on tabloids or at least fashion magazines. Their headlines are mindless, self-regarding attempts at puns which draw attention to the cleverness – if that is the word – of the writer, not the stories. And there’s the occasional audition for raunchy men’s magazines: From today: ‘The Face of A Virgin And The Body of A Whore’. ‘Art Deco Icon: Tamara de Lempika’s Lesbian Chic’. (What is lesbian chic? This headline could only have been written by a wistful man.)

    Now Barbara Amiel is gone, we are left with (besides the admirable, but not always rivetting Janet Daley and Mark My Hero Steyn) Boris Johnson, Andrew Marr, Adam something, whose first sentence always sends me into a deep trance and Vicki Woods and some others whose names I can’t quite drag up. How is that for a pantheon of yawn-o-ramas? Now that Amiel is gone, there is nothing to read on the Opinion page on Mondays.

    I find myself clicking on Opinion, taking one look at the table of contents, and thinking, “Nah.” I wouldn’t know where to go to find a British newspaper that is representative of slightly to the right of centre opinion in Britain today.

  • Verity

    I’ve just read Sean’s apology and it is indeed most eloquent and gracious. The clarification of his thoughts on the EU was interesting, too.

  • Chris Goodman

    WJ Philips wonders why his comment “More British people of all political colours…are querying the “special relationship” 15 years after the Cold War ended” singles him out for contempt. Let me help him out. He makes a claim which if he is a resident of the UK he knows to be untrue (but clearly wishes were true) in order to sow (for his own purposes) dissention amongst allies. The attack upon the “USA” has not led to an increase in “Anti-American” sentiment nor has it led more people in the UK to question their “alliance” with the USA. It is true that there are some who are opposed to the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, but WJ Philips knows full well that those who describe themselves as “Anti-American” have not become “Anti-American” as result of the Afghanistan or Iraq war. In the majority of cases they seem to be Anti-American for much the same reason that they are Anti-British i.e. like Bin Laden they despise Anglosphere values. You have to ask them exactly why they hate Britain and the USA so much – the arguments are usually either something to do with what they call “capitalism” or something to do with a fervent belief that it would be better if we lived in a European State. These people are not representative of the majority of the British people, although it is true that they do form a majority in such organisations as the BBC. I appreciate that it would be unfair to suggest that WJ Philips belongs to this minority. He seems to belong to a minority of a minority – the Anti-American Little Englander Tory, a group similar to Anti-British isolationist Republicans in the USA. I am pleased to say that the “USA” and the “UK” ignored such people in the Second World War, and they will I hope ignore such people again in the fight against the latest enemy [the latest enemy I brazenly add of liberal civilization]. Of course the record of both countries is not spotless, and of course pride in their country has led some people to make intemperate remarks, but it would be a shame if this distracted us from the very deep affection and common values that the “UK” and the “UK” share with one another. Call me a sentimentalist but when I learnt about the attack upon “USA” it is noticeable that everybody around me reacted as if it was an attack on one of our own family. The cemeteries of Europe contain quite a few bones of Americans soldiers who fought to defend our freedom, and so I guess the feeling is mutual.

  • Susan

    WJ Phillips — It is Europe that is becoming less and less a “European-descended country”, not America. We are still willing to fight for Western values and the Western way of life. And that goes for Americans of all colors. Some of the strongest voices in the US standing up for the core values of the West today are not white: Dinesh D’Souza and Thomas Sowell spring to mind. We may not be going about it successfully enough or intelligently enough for your satisfaction, but never question our will to fight. We may strike out three times in a row, but Europe doesn’t even step up to the plate.

    The US will still be a Western country when Eurabia has long since become a fact, not simply a rude nickname.

  • Susan

    Now here is a European lady who is willing to stand up for the best of the West, more than any “indigenous” European politician I’ve heard of:


    Notice that when Ms. Ali’s life was threatened for exercising her freedom of speech in the best Western tradition, the only place she felt safe to hide out in was the USA.

  • A_t

    Anyone using the term Eurabia has no place objecting to rude Europeans making ridiculous generalisations about the US from a distance.

  • GCooper

    Verity writes:

    “The Telegraph is getting less representative by the day. (Did you know they’ve fired one of their two finest columnists – Barbara Amiel – by the way?)”

    I agree about the Telegraph, but it’s no surprise that Barbara Amiel has been sacked – she is married to Conrad Black, after all.

    Its standards were slipping badly under the hapless Charles Moore and have collapsed since.

    Nevertheless, its broad editorial stance is more reflective of the national mood, I suspect, than is any other broadsheet and, certainly, the BBC.

    Personally, I’m hoping the Barclay Brothers buy the title and set work to clean out the stable without delay.

  • ernest young


    First an apology for appearing to patronise you, certainly not intended, but then the written word often gives the wrong impression.

    You are correct in that I assumed you were born post WWII, and therefore had little experience of pre-socialist England. I was not trying to skirt any issues(?), but I am sure that I am not alone in losing patience at having to ‘plough the same furrow’, numerous times, hence the dismissive (but unintentional), shortcut.

    I am not crass enough to assume that I ‘know it all’, but I do know what I prefer and believe, and I am secure enough in what little I do know, not to have to question those beliefs on every single occasion that a theory is proposed that differs from mine. Part of experience is recognising the same old arguments and tenets, and paying little regard, even to the point of appearing dismissive, to the ones that have proved faulty in the past, while still being aware of any new arguments that may arise to refresh and enliven my stupid mind. It is called ‘having an open mind’.

    All of the pet theories and ideas bandied about here and elswhere, have all been trotted out before. Some have merit, some do not, most do not! As an avid reader of all things written, I sometimes get irritated by seeing the same old stuff trotted out time and time again, and tend to get a bit curt in my responses. I also have a few predjudices, which I enjoy, but then, don’t we all?

    Apologies to all for calling Sean Gabb a socialist, – said with tongue in cheek, it is just about the worst epithet that I could throw at anyone, and so much more sophisticated that calling people ‘numbnuts’

  • Susan

    Well, A_t, now you see the results of Europe’s relentless America-bashing (and assiduous European Arab butt-kissing.)

  • Findlay Dunachie

    What hasn’t been mentioned so far – or at least apart from the mention of Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore – is to what extent anti-Americanism is an American export. Any American mentioned or given time on the BBC is more likely to be anti-Bush and anti-war than not – or else, have changed their minds, were generals who think things are going badly. A few weeks ago Walter Cronkite was introduced on the radio as the man who convinced America it couldn’t win in Vietnam, so they were going to ask him what he thought.

    What makes me – and I’m sure a lot of others – worry is whether America has the stamina and resolve to keep going, not whether it’s too aggressive, unilateralist and interventionist, but whether it’s sufficiently so to begin with and sufficiently tough to continue. They made up the saying “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” – please let them show that they believe in it.

    Of course, adversarial politics has added a viciousness to American dissent. And the US media seems by and large to be anti-war.

    Too many posts generalise about America as if it was united, not just against Islamic terrorism but against Europe. I’d tolerate the latter if only it was united against the former!

  • Susan

    What makes me – and I’m sure a lot of others – worry is whether America has the stamina and resolve to keep going, not whether it’s too aggressive, unilateralist and interventionist, but whether it’s sufficiently so to begin with and sufficiently tough to continue. They made up the saying “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” – please let them show that they believe in it.

    Be a lot easier to keep fighting if Europe didn’t seek to tie us down at every opportunity. The BBC broadcasts its poison to the world, not just to the UK. And because English is the lingua franca of the world, it reaches a huge audience. The BBC is actively intervening in this war — on the side of Radical Islam.

  • Susan

    Check it out Findlay:


  • GCooper

    Susan writes:

    “The BBC is actively intervening in this war — on the side of Radical Islam. ”

    You’re quite right, but that isn’t all the BBC is doing. It is, one can only assume as a matter of policy from the top, assiduously working its way through every single issue dear to the Left and is slanting its news and editorial coverage accordingly.

    More than that, and sometimes with quite staggering inventiveness, it even manages to inject this worldview into such as ostensibly apolitical areas as its R4 ‘Food programme’.

    S. Africa, ‘Green’ issues, AIDS, Cuba, Globalisation – there isn’t a topic on which you won’t find the BBC gnawing away at the public’s receved wisdom and opinion, setting the tone, creating the agenda. It is, without doubt, the greatest enemy in the land (though closely followed by those involved in tertiary education)

    Meanwhile, I’m relieved that Findlay Dunachie has mentioned the civil war being fought inside the USA by its own media and soi disant intelligentsia -which was precisely why I mentioned the absurd Noam Chomsky.

    Believing that either country’s media represent public opinion is a very grave mistake.

  • WJ Phillips

    Chris Goodman: “He makes a claim which if he is a resident of the UK he knows to be untrue (but clearly wishes were true) in order to sow (for his own purposes) dissention [sic] amongst allies.”

    Never lived anywhere else, and I speak as I find. The Labour Party is complaining that when it canvasses for next month’s elections, people spontaneously ask why Britain has to be America’s acolyte. I never used the term “anti-American”; I wrote: “They nearly all like America and Americans, but they think they’re in over their heads in the ME.” I explained that this view– great country, shame about the government– was prevalent among my own acquaintances in a traditionally “right-wing”, upper-middle class, Telegraph-reading part of Britain, and was already found among those who demonstrated in February 2003: a surprising number of whom were from the same background.

    You seem to have a bee in your bonnet which entails foisting a pre-prepared set of grievances and stereotypes on to anyone who says what you do not wish to hear. The fact remains that most British people are of the caste of mind I describe, as the polls show.

    Verity: The USA is predicted to be majority non-white by 2050 by the Census Bureau. Of course if there were to be an immediate halt to immigration, it might not happen; but how likely is that?

  • Susan

    Verity: The USA is predicted to be majority non-white by 2050 by the Census Bureau. Of course if there were to be an immediate halt to immigration, it might not happen; but how likely is that?

    So freakin’ what? None of the non-white immigrants we are getting are incompatible with our core Western values except possibly some of the Islamics. But our Latin Americans and Chinese immigrants far outnumber those anyways. And I assure you that Chinese, Africans and Latin Americans are as fully capable of appreciating the best cultural and political traditions of Europe as those Americans with blonde hair and blue eyes. Some, like black opera divas Kathleen Battle and Jesseye Norman, are quite better at it than many whites.

    I get the feeling, WJ, that you would happily live in a Europe whose culture has been completely destroyed by a non-Western ideology, as long as Europe remained resolutely and majoritively populated by the melanin-challenged.

    Whereas I would rather continue to live in a predominately Western-culture nation, regardless of how “pigmented” it is, as long as it is Western — which in the long run translates to me as one principal non-negotiable value — the primacy of individual rights over group (i.e. tribal) rights.

  • Chris Goodman

    During the Thatcher years anybody who relied upon the BBC would have concluded that Margaret Thatcher was supported by, at most, a couple of [horrid] people in Tunbridge Wells. The odd thing is that the voting public (the public that the BBC is supposed to reflect as the price for its compulsory fee – yes you go to jail if you listen to the radio or watch TV and do not give money to the BBC) kept on voting her back, with substantial majorities. Blair did the decent thing on Iraq and the European referendum and so of course most in his party – essentially a party of self-rightous immoralists – hate him for it. But while it is true that the political structures of most continental European countries are young in comparison with the United States, and therefore they are more prone to political immaturity, if you imagine that self-rightous immoralism is a strictly European phenomena you are sadly mistaken. Once Blair goes however and a candidate more favoured by the Labour Party is selected the British electorate will vote him/her out. It is called democracy. The USA has a similar system I believe.

  • Verity

    Yes, the BBC is the most powerful fifth columnist in Britain. No 10 Downing St is the second.

    No 10 may be a bit subtle for a lot of people to understand because Tony Blair cloaks his language in hissy Renault Espace-speak. But the BBC is right out there front and centre, in your face, with its unrelenting hatred of Britain. And Susan is right to point out that they broadcast to the world and people in foreign countries take it as the official voice of the British people. It’s anti-British, Gramscian bile drips over the international airwaves, hour after hour, day after day, week after week.

    Having lived out of Britain for most of my life, I listened to the Word Service, which went from being neutral, which earned it its sterling reputation, to being raving haters of Britain and all she stands for almost overnight. My first clue was when they started referring to warring African tribes as “clans” to make them sound less primitive. (No anti-Scottish jokes here, plse!) That was when I knew the game was up. Then the over-the-airwaves spectres of Fergal Keene and Ola Guerrin were projected as objective British reporters. Oh, god, and who can forget Lys Doucette, who pronounced her words as though she had plum juice dripping out of her mouth and down her chin.

    When I lived briefly again in Britain, it was when “they” (who?) decided that we were to be surgically excised from the efficient and exact measurements of our forebears and we were all now going to be measured and weighed by the made-up Napoleonic invention. The day after the official announcement that we were all metric from now on, I couldn’t climb out of the bath fast enough to switch off the Archers (with violence), and lo and behold, this ancient rural countryman was talking of something, “Two ‘undred or so me’ers up the road, it were.”

    But why stick to radio and TV, when you also have an entire and pretty sophisticated website at your disposal? (Don’t) Have Your Say pretends to neutrality while pushing its agenda via the pre-chosen vox populi.

    The BBC is a nightmare organisation. And it’s funded, against their will, by millions of people who hate it. The Word Service may be the worst, because there is hope that we can get rid of the license fee, but little that the Foreign Office will be persuaded to cut the World Service off at the knees.

  • Chris Goodman

    WJ Phillips

    “Dissention” – I suggest you look it up in a dictionary.

    If your claim is that more British people ‘are querying the “special relationship” 15 years after the Cold War has ended” than they did 5, 10, or indeed 15 years ago, then you know you are talking poppycock, for the simple reason that your views about the ‘special relationship’ [and it is after all it is your views that we are talking about] have not changed one iota in that period. You have been, are, and I suspect always will be, precisely what I described you as – a “Tory Little Englander”.

  • GCooper

    Verity writes:

    “But why stick to radio and TV, when you also have an entire and pretty sophisticated website at your disposal? (Don’t) Have Your Say pretends to neutrality while pushing its agenda via the pre-chosen vox populi.”

    Indeed – not to mention deliberately and calculatedly censoring the posts of those who don’t bend the knee to its Islington chic worldview.

    One might add, carefully arranging the audiences of its live current affairs programmes so that they most accurately represent the views the corporation wishes the British public actually held.

    A fabulous post, Verity. I shall cherish the characterisation of Blair’s: “hissy Reneault Espace speak”. Wonderful!

    The danger, of course, is that so many posters from t’other side of the pond seem to get their views of the UK either direct from the horse’s arse that is the BBC, or pre-digested and secondhand from their own infected media. And, of course, vice versa.

  • WJ Phillips

    Chris Goodman: “If your claim is that more British people ‘are querying the “special relationship” 15 years after the Cold War has ended” than they did 5, 10, or indeed 15 years ago, then you know you are talking poppycock, for the simple reason that your views about the ‘special relationship’ [and it is after all it is your views that we are talking about] have not changed one iota in that period. You have been, are, and I suspect always will be, precisely what I described you as – a “Tory Little Englander”.”

    Leaving to one side your constant telepathic awareness of my state of mind since 1989, can’t you understand the difference between what my opinion (which I have not stated) might be and what I might believe the balance of opinion among others to be? Your first sentence is a mere non-sequitur, and the conclusion in the second sentence cannot be logically inferred from it.

    Now it’s your turn. What evidence have you that British people *aren’t* going cooller on the special relationship?

  • Chris Goodman

    W.J. Phillips

    I made the supposition that your political opinions derive from the fact that you are a ‘Tory Little Englander” on the basis of what you said, although the fact you have so far refrained from denying this supposition can be adduced [until such point as you deny it] as evidence in support of the diagnosis.

    Claim – In the UK doubts have increased about the “Special Relationship” in the last 15 years.

    My Reply – The claim that doubts have increased in the UK about the “Special Relationship” in the last 15 years is false.

    My Claim – The people (such as yourself) who now have doubts about the “Special Relationship” are the same sort of people who had doubts about the “Special Relationship” 15 years ago.

    My Surmise – You are a member of that group that has doubts about the “Special Relationship” and your doubts have not increased they remain the same as they were 15 years ago.

    My Conclusion – You [until you supply evidence to the contrary] are evidence in support of my assertion that the sort of people who have doubts about the “Special Relationship” are the same sort of people who had doubts about the “Special Relationship” 15 years ago.

    You now ask me to supply you with evidence that there has not been a change i.e. you want me to prove that something has not happened. I think it is more logical for you to supply evidence why you believe that there has been a shift of opinion. To be fair this is what you have done, so it is up to me [instead of seeking to comprehend why you make such an absurd claim] to challenge the value of this evidence. The evidence you supply is twofold

    1) Lots of people went on a march against the Iraq War.
    2) People you know in upper middle class Telegraph reading parts of the UK have expressed reservations to you about the “Special Relationship”.

    To this I reply

    1) The fact that some people marched against the Iraq war does not prove that they are people who have changed their minds about the “Special Relationship” i.e. that doubts about this relationship have only occurred to them in the last 15 years. Indeed it can be fairly safely asserted that most people [the clue is on the banners they wrote] on such marches are precisely the sort of people who 15 years ago would have had doubts about the “Special Relationship”.
    2) The fact that some upper middle class people in areas where many Telegraph reading people live are not in favour of the current war against terrorism is not a surprise to me. As the pages of the Telegraph amply demonstrate there are a minority [whom I designate Tory Little Englanders] who have always been sceptical about the desirability of foreign wars. Before the Second World War some members of the Tory Party {I surmise that some of them were upper middle class Telegraph readers] argued we ought to seek to make a deal with Hitler i.e. we will leave you to defeat the Soviet Union and run Europe so long as you leave us alone. What you need to do is supply evidence – for example opinion polls – that there has a sea change in opinion about the “Special Relationship” with the USA in the last 15 years. You have not produced any such evidence because it does not exist, because what you are talking about is something you wish was the case but in fact has no basis in fact.

  • WJ Phillips

    Chris, you should have been born c. 1600 when there was a demand for witchfinders-general.

    Even Michael Howard is making uneasy noises about the special relationship, but you just can’t or won’t smell the change in the air. Your “Anglosphere” is hermetically sealed.

  • Verity

    WJ Phillips – In this week’s Spectator, Peter Oborne claims that Bush has warned Howard not to pick on Tony Blair.

    Somehow, I don’t see Michael Howard taking his orders from George Bush – especially with the prime ministership at stake. If true, it was an extraordinary gaucherie and will inspire the Tories to turn, snarling double dares at Toneboy – and maybe at Mr Bush, too. Very foolish, if true.

    I have never read anything about it, but I am fascinated about what Rumsfeld’s opinion of Blair might be. Has anyone any clues? He’s a cool one. Very savvy. My bet is he recognises Blair for what he is, but then, he also recognises a useful tool when he sees one.

  • WJ Phillips

    Verity: Michael Howard has to look as if he’s a bit less far up Bush’s backdoor than T Bliar Esquire– he’s supposed to be the Opposition leader, not a defence counsel for the July 44 bomb plotters. But if the war were popular, Howard would be calling for it to be prosecuted more vigorously, not muttering about what an organisational shambles it is. As his defence spokesman Nicholas Soames said, apart from anything else British officers are asking what their legal position will be in conducting– ahem– “interrogations” after the June 30 handover nominally puts an Iraqi provisional government in power.

  • WJ Phillips

    What price the Special Relationship? Cui bono?

    “The West must remember that we are not only characterised in the area as the Great Satan, but we are behaving as if we are the Great Satan,’ says Sir Crispin. ‘And the sad thing is that Britain is not using its influence to restrain America. When I was on the Security Council I sometimes had to sit with my American colleagues for hours saying, “This won’t work and we’re not going to support you.” We just don’t do that any more. Bush used Blair to persuade liberal America that war with Iraq was the civilised, right-thinking thing to do, but Britain gets nothing out of it. What’s the point of this special relationship if every time it comes to a disagreement, we give way?’”


  • Johnathan Pearce

    WJ Philips: I read the same article in the Speccie (a magazine that is on the skids, as I have posted elsewhere). The journalist failed to ask Sir Crispin a single question as to what he would have recommended Blair to have done after 9/11. He failed to say why the previous policy of sanctions/containment/no-fly zones could have been extended, and failed to offer any other ideas. As basic journalism, the article was a total failure. Boris, for crissakes get a grip on that magazine or step aside.

  • never you mind.


    I don’t think he was speaking about poverty as much as moral sewage that seems rampant in America.

    but nevermind,
    Americans seem to have thin skins for criticism.