It’s not an uncommon contention that the policies offered by those in the US that are strongly opposed to the philosophical/political stances of Europe simply must be based on some kind of chauvanistic, unthinking hatred of Europe and all its fancy-pants cultural frou-frou.

Or something like that.

Indeed, the ironic nature of reducing what are fundamental differences in perspective to a simplistic “Damn Euroweenies think they’re so smart; well, I could kick their ass any day!”-type of derisive generalising is usually lost on those who hold themselves to be in the only camp sophisticated enough to grasp concepts such as irony.

Such is the case with this commentary in the Guardian by Todd Gitlin.

“Europe? Frankly, America doesn’t give a damn. .. “

He rightly identifies the presence of American derision regarding Europe (though he shamelessly exaggerates it) but is completely in the dark (or just a liar) when it comes to the cause of those “feelings,” ascribing it to some pan-cultural hostility towards all things European, a feeling based in typically arrogant American culture and contempt for Europeans’ percieved puttin’-on-airs.


The cultural side of anti-Europeanism has a long, thick history. Throughout the 20th century, American culture defined itself as the fundamental against the complex, the bold against the hesitant, the redskin against the paleface. Against the opera, there was Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. Against symphonies, there was jazz .” And this from one of Hollywood’s most sophisticated directors.


What Gitlin never addresses is the fact that the current crop of anti-European feeling has come largely as a result of the wholesale denunciations of the American character from without. It wasn’t long after 9/11 that the Bush administration’s policy of pursuing terrorist networks worldwide along with their state sponsors was derided as simplisme by the foreign minister of France, which was at the relative beginning of a litany of condemnations for US actions in Afghanistan.

That is, up until that whole lightning-victory-with-thousands-cheering-in-the-streets thing.

After that, they went into their foreign policy rhetoric templates and replaced “Afghanistan” with “Iraq,” and “the Taliban” with “Saddam” and soldiered bravely on as if they hadn’t just been proven to be completely out of touch with the reality of the situation.

As much as the naysayers want to forget this, those who had to endure the constant accusations of quagmire, massive collateral damge (or “genocide!”) and imperialism are less apt to .

Also, Gitlin basically brushes aside any mention of the possibility that tension between Americans and Europeans is caused by the fact that we differ significantly in our views about relating to the rest of the world. I suppose he can be forgiven for overlooking this, because he seems to inadvertantly reveal to the reader that he doesn’t consider anyone in the current administration (or in “Bush’s America”) to be sophisticated enough to actually base their opinion of Europe on policy differences. It simply couldn’t be the case that many in America have looked at the record of European foreign policy recently and concluded that’s not the safest or wisest road to take. No, it has to be because we’re too stupid to be interested in their movies, since they don’t have many big noises or shiny things to keep our attention.

last update : 19-4-2018

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