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Anti-Americanism by Jean-Francois Revel

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This English translation of Revel’s L’obsession anti-americaine is an absolutely devastating indictment of European (and, presumably, Canadian) anti-Americanism – not criticism of American policies, but a passionate, implacable hatred of the United States, even when it means taking contradictory lines of argument to put down the Yanks. (As more than a few writers have noted, the Americans are savaged for “interfering” in other nations’ affairs, such as Iraq or Panama – except when they’re savaged for “isolationism” when they don’t intervene in other nations, such as Rwanda.)

Revel’s key theme is the sheer, staggering hypocrisy of Europeans’ knee-jerk attacks against the United States. They say America is “fascist” while cracking down on free speech in ways no American government would ever get away with. They accuse America of supporting dictators while selling weapons to any tyrants who want them. They say America is crime-ridden, while their crime rates – especially among a disaffected, unassimilated immigrant population – are skyrocketing while American crime rates fall. The list goes on and on.

The author does not mean to suggest the United States or its policies should never be criticized (indeed, this book came out before the Iraq war, but I understand Revel opposed that war and openly admits he wants Bush defeated this fall). But such criticism should be fair and consistent, and much of the anti-Americanism so prevalent among his countrymen is neither.

L’obsession anti-americaine, unfortunately, was not a cultural phenomenon in France like that no-plane-crashed-into-the-Pentagon book, but it was a best-seller in that country. Americans may see the French as an undifferentiated mass, united in its unanimous hatred of their country – but Revel doesn’t feel that way, and neither do all of his compatriots. This book is essential reading on both sides of the Atlantic.

[originally posted to Daimnation!]
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About Damian P.

  • Eric Olsen

    good point about the French not being a mass of undifferentiated rimjobs – thanks and welcome Damian!

  • Mark Saleski

    gees…rimjobs, toe-licking…what the heck is going on at blogcritics these days!!


  • Jim Carruthers

    Haven’t read the book, I don’t really see the need to dunk my brain in polemics, but, what’s the point of celebrating what seems to be one of those loathsome oinks at high school who went on and on and on about “school spirit”?

    I can’t really decide which is worse, the people who reduce politics to ideology or the people who celebrate them.

  • Mike Kole

    What’s the alternative to ideology? Right now, we have Republicans and Democrats who espouse the most vacuous, convoluted ideology ever. I’d be thrilled to have an actual contest between a candidate who stood for individualism running against a candidate who stood for statism, for instance. Let the people cast their votes and let the chips fall where they may. Instead, we have a contest over what? The distant past? Whether or not one candidate’s associates from 30 years ago line up along side him or against him? That’s a lousy way to decide the nation’s top executive.

  • Vern Halen

    How does European anti-Americanism presume to be Canadian anti-Americanism? I would think that if there’s such thing as Canadian anti-Americanism, it would be at least different from its Euopean conterpart. At the very least it wouldn’t be “passionate” – Canadians are way to resrved for that. As for hatred that’s “implacable (pitiless, merciless, or relentless),” same thing – too much emotional investment there for most Canadians.

    And there’s your main difference between the two – Americans have big ideas, big dreams, big emotions, big hearts; Canadians walk gently, observe quietly, self reflect coonstantly, proceed cautiously, and try not to offend generally. Nothing wrong with either perspective, but it shows perhaps why the two cultures don’t always see from the same perspective.

    Europeans – a dying culture lost in a dream of its own glorious past or simply hypocrites? I’m not so sure – I only know a few Europeans, and they seem like pretty nice people to me. Once you get past ideology, most people are decent, I think. It’s like national character becomes simply background noise when it comes down to one on one.

    As for criticism being fair & consistent – as if! By it’s very nature every critique comes from a particular writer’s perspective – it can’t possibly be completely unbiased. That’s why there needs to be lots if it. Then at the end of the day, everybody can go for a beer and forget about being political so they can focus on what’s really important – where’s that bowl of salted nuts got off to?

  • AH

    Anti Americanism is the result of a concerted effort to preserve European illusions of influence. Anti Americanism can be measured in 3 ways– Economic, Moral and Political. I’ve written about it on my website– 3 pieces– based more on observation than detached critical/academic analysis.

    As they say, it is what it is.