The Secret of Anti Americanism wrote:
As a young American living outside the US I often found myself exposed to the odd belief system that's often called "anti-Americanism." I had trouble understanding how or why anyone could think this way. Reality, which my father brought home every night in the slim and serious form of the Herald Trib, was one thing, and anti-Americanism quite another.
And yet the creed seemed quite popular. Moreover, it was no peasant superstition. If anything, the local elites - with whose spawn I was of course raised, and whose wealth and sophistication were undeniable - tended to be the most anti-American around. If anyone was pro-American, it was the people farther down the food chain.
This was a puzzle, and it was quite some time before I had any satisfying answer to the mystery.
Among American intellectuals today we see basically two views of anti-Americanism.
If you are a progressive intellectual, you probably believe that anti-Americanism is the natural consequence of the notorious crimes committed by America in the past and present. We could call this the Deathworld theory, after an old sci-fi novel by Harry Harrison. Without debating the details of America's rap sheet, the basic problem with the Deathworld theory is that many other 20th-century powers committed notorious crimes - the Soviets, the Chinese, and of course the dastardly French - without creating any phenomenon even remotely similar to anti-Americanism.
If you are a conservative intellectual, you probably believe that anti-Americanism is more or less the modern equivalent of anti-Semitism, that is, an lie propagated by unprincipled politicians for the usual purpose of rising to power on a wave of hate. We could call this the Hitler theory of anti-Americanism - Hitler was certainly no fan of Jazz Age America, infested as it was by Negroes and Jews. The difficulty with the Hitler theory is that most (although not all) of the world's anti-Americanists seem to hate Hitler even more than they hate America, so it's a little difficult to imagine them borrowing his tricks.
There are certainly bits of truth to both the Deathworld and Hitler theories. But overall, they don't really jump out at me and say "yes! I am an accurate representation of reality." So perhaps it's worth digging deeper.
I see four really puzzling facts about anti-Americanism.
First, the actual content of anti-Americanism is basically nonsense.
I guarantee you that if anyone capable reading this blog got to sit down for an hour and chat with Bush, Cheney, or any of their henchmen, they would come away with an impression of an enormously likable, intelligent and utterly sincere individual. Moreover, this impression is quite accurate. My father - a career Foreign Service officer with a PhD in philosophy - met quite a few of these people, because one of the tasks of an FSO is shepherding Congresspersons on junkets. Regardless of party affiliation, all American politicians are likable, all are fairly (if seldom extremely) intelligent, and all are quite sincere in their desire to improve not only America, but also the world. Why would they be otherwise? "Never ascribe to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence."
Second, while it is not unusual for humans to believe nonsensical calumnies, anti-Americanists tend to be the best-educated, and generally most fashionable and sophisticated, people in their countries.
It is not unusual for fashionable and sophisticated people to believe nonsense, but they need a strong psychological motivation to do so. Moreover, the obvious motivation - ethnic nationalism - tends to be quite unfashionable among these same elites. Not even French anti-Americanists believe that it's wrong for America to rule the world, because France should be ruling it instead.
Third, anti-Americanists don't actually seem to hate America or Americans.
At least this is my experience, though of course there are exceptions. Often the line is that the US is the greatest country in the world, or would be if it lived up to its own values. Or they will tell you that they love the American people, but they hate the American government, Bush, etc.
Fourth, the world capital of anti-Americanism appears to be... America.
Certainly, if there is a system of institutions in which anti-Americanism predominates, it's the Western university system, certainly the West's most prestigious universities are in America, and certainly anti-Americanism is no hardship to an American academic career. Where does Noam Chomsky teach? Not at the Sorbonne.