A History of French-Hating. (Scan)

By Fak, Alex | The American Enterprise, September 2003 | Go to article overview

A History of French-Hating. (Scan)


Fak, Alex, The American Enterprise


Mark Twain made this observation in his notebook in 1879: "The French are the connecting link between man and the monkey."

A century later, some would say Twain was too generous. Jonah Goldberg, an editor at National Review, places them lower on the evolutionary scale: He popularized "The Simpsons" phrase "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" long before the recent standoff over Iraq.

Such anti-French sentiments are nothing new. There is something about the country that provokes more complaints than any other nation. The International Herald Tribune recently rediscovered a U.S. government pamphlet issued to troops in the aftermath of World War II. It was titled "112 Gripes About the French." Troops stationed in East Asia got a leaner "29 Gripes About the Filipinos."

Today, experts on France, naturally sympathetic to the place, are trying to trace the roots of what many of them call American "francophobia."

"There is a kind of a rivalry between France and the United States," says Jean-Philippe Mathy, professor of French at the University of Illinois. In the wake of the French and American revolutions, the two countries have presented competing models of democracy to the world.

The French model "is more radical, centralized, and gives birth to socialism," Mathy says. It places its hopes on ideal notions of humanity--the French "want to completely reform humankind on the basis of abstract reasoning." It is also strictly secular. …

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