The Best Anti-American is an American

Gerard Baker takes an interesting look at anti-Americanism and finds that the harshest critics of the US come from the US. That has some interesting and ironic implications.

Anti-Americanism is on the wane at last. All over the world, Americans are being fêted once again as farsighted, liberating heroes.

Al Gore has won a Nobel Peace Prize, an Oscar and an Emmy, the triple crown of recognition from the self-adoring keepers of bien-pensant, elite liberal, global orthodoxy. Michael Moore is treated like a prophet in Cannes and Venice, as he peddles his tales of an America that poisons its poor, sends its blacks off to war and shoots itself. Whenever a loquacious Dixie Chick or a contumacious Sean Penn utters some excoriating remark about the depravity of his or her own country, audiences around the world nod their heads in sympathetic agreement. Bill Clinton, of course, is a god. Though protocol dictates that he may not say things that are too unkind about the country he once led, a nod and a wink will suffice.

It has always amused me that the same people who denounce America as a seething cesspit of blind obscurantist bigotry can’t see the irony that America itself produces its own best critics. When there’s a scab to be picked on the American body politic, no one does it with more loving attention, more rigorous focus on the detail, than Americans themselves.

In fact, it is an ever present and ongoing argument among Americans. What constitutes reasonable dissent and what goes over the line? But Baker is right – among those presenting the anti-American argument, by far the best are home-grown. And therein lies the irony:

Today I can only laugh when I see the popular portrayal of George Bush’s America in much of the international media. Supposedly serious commentators will say, without evident irony, that free speech is under attack, that Bush’s wiretapping, Guantanamo-building, tourist-fingerprinting regime is terrifying Americans into quiet, desperate acquiescence in the country’s proliferating crimes.

The truth is that America not only harbours the most eloquent and noisy anti-Americans in its own breast, it provides a safe haven for people to come from all over the world to condemn it.

Take a stroll through almost any American university campus and you will hear a cacophony of voices in a hundred different languages, slamming everything America does, from fast food to hedge-fund capitalism. For years one of America’s most celebrated academics was Edward Said, the Palestinian agitator-cum-professor, who lived high on the hog at Columbia University, near the pinnacle of the American intellectual establishment, dispensing his wisdom about US wrongs in the Middle East.

Hollywood is the global mecca for angry denouncers of everything American. From all over they come, forcing themselves to live in their green-lawned mansions carefully tended by cheap migrant labour from south of the Border. This autumn, unsuspecting Americans (and everyone else, of course) will be treated to an especially unsettling stream of antiwar, anti-American propaganda, much of it produced in Hollywood by foreigners — such as this weekend’s likely box-office hit, Rendition.

And where would the world get its daily media diet of horror stories about what a ghastly country the place is if its reporters weren’t all comfortably pavilioned inside America, where they make a generous living happily devouring the hand that generously feeds them?

Baker is absolutely correct in his assessment. Anti-Americanism feeds whole industries with endless fodder for the consumption of those who want to believe whatever reinforces their preconceived notions about America. Call it the anti-American echo chamber who can go and view the current anti-American hits in the theater and bask in the smug satisfaction of false superiority after the viewing is complete.

Yet, ironically, none of those who report the excesses of the current “regime” ever seem to suffer any consequences for their “bravery” in speaking “truth to power”. As Baker points out they live “happily devouring the hand that generously feeds them.”

And that realization leads Baker to a spot-on conclusion:

There’s a larger irony in all this. Even as the US demonstrates the openness of its own society, its unrivaled capacity for self-examination and self-correction, a free system based on the absolute authority of the rule of law, it is told it must submit itself to the views of Moscow, Beijing, and Brussels.

Fortunately, while the American system may be forgivingly tolerant of people with wild and dangerous ideas, it doesn’t generally let them run the country.

It’s that latter paragraph the rest of the world never seems to be able to grasp. There is an inherent strength in a system that both allows and learns from rigorous self-examination. The dialog it opens, even from the extremes, can be very valuable. That doesn’t mean, however, it can’t go too far or is safe from disagreement and condemnation when it does. But in a healthy nation, seeing that sort of back and forth, to include the condemnation of the extreme positions, indicates a process which is working and working well. And that’s a good thing.

As an aside, the first comment I saw to the article proved something we all know – that this sort of an assessment will not impress those with BDS (as “Mike” in Miami ably demonstrates):

***Fortunately, while the American system may be forgivingly tolerant of people with wild and dangerous ideas, it doesn’t generally let them run the country. ****

…what exactly do you call Bush???? He easily qualifies under this description, and we have let him run our country.

And the beat goes on.

Previously published at QandO. Please come and visit us.

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