Cycle of Intellectual Misfire

By Beichman, Arnold | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 13, 2001 | Go to article overview

Cycle of Intellectual Misfire


Beichman, Arnold, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Byline: Arnold Beichman

The shallowness of American journalism has never been more visible than in the campaign, spearheaded as usual by the New York Times, that Europe is becoming quite agitated with the latest American iniquity - "unilateral diplomacy." Terrible things are being said about the Bush administration, publicly in Europe's High Culture media and privately in whispers in the European Union. The Times and other newspapers have discovered what they think is a brand-new phenomenon in Europe, anti-Americanism as a result of President Bush's supposed isolationism.

Utterly forgotten by the media is that Europe's anti-Americanism, both on the right and the left, has a long history. For more than two centuries, America has been blessed with two kinds of foreign observers: those who came to jeer, like Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, George Bernard Shaw and the mother of Anthony Trollope, those who saw in America only muddy-booted mountebanks and half-civilized brutes. The other set of visitors from abroad (or writers like Goethe and Tocqueville) came and saw in America a golden future. Goethe in fact began one of his poems with the line: "Amerika, du hast es besser," or "America, you have it better."

President Bush is today's target of Europe's latest burst of anti-Americanism because he has discarded the global warming treaty, pledged to annul a treaty limiting ballistic missile defenses and rejected an accord on illegal sales of small arms and protocols dealing with germ warfare. The London Independent has published a page one photo of Mr. Bush under the caption, "Polluter of the World." He is even being attacked, witlessly, for threatening to withdraw from a U.N. conference on racism when even U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Mary Robinson, U.N. high commissioner for human rights, have themselves warned against Afro-Arab pressure on the conference organizers to turn it into an orgy of Israeli- and Europe-bashing.

Many Europeans, says the Times, are unhappy at what they call America's "finger-in-the-eye confrontation in place of diplomacy." According to Thomas L. Friedman, the Times columnist, the United States is "referred to as a `rogue state' in Europe now as often as Iraq."

Old stuff. A decade ago, Alain de Benoist was interviewed by an Italian weekly magazine, "Liberal." The "down-with-America" interview with Mr. de Benoist, who heads the Nouvelle Droite ("New Right") in France, was headlined, "All Together Against the United States" (or in Italian, "Tutti insieme contro gli Stati Uniti"). A few years ago the London Economist in a splenetic outburst wrote that Canada was suffering a hideous affliction: "The . . . relentless bombardment by America's TV and radio stations channeled into almost every Canadian home."

Now when a rightist like Mr. de Benoist proclaims a culture war against the United States, it's just the same as the old anti-American battle-cry of the French left as bellowed by onetime minister of culture and public enlightenment, the enrage Jack Lang. Before Mr. Lang there was Jean-Paul Sartre who denounced what he called America's coca-colonization of the world and who demonized the United States as "the enemy of mankind. …

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