"I'm not racist, except towards Americans…"

In his new Blogocracy blog, Tim Dunlop has a chuckle at the notion that the Democratic victory has driven Andrew Bolt, Tim Blair and Mark Steyn to anti-Americanism. I’m more interested in the unspoken flipside of Tim’s posting: the prospect that this change will help get rid of the nasty streak of anti-Americanism in the Australian progressive left over recent years. Criticising US policy is one thing, but hopefully our commentators can do better in future than arguing that the American electorate is “stupid”.

Update: This piece by Allan Gyngell makes some nice points about pro and anti Americanism.

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15 Responses to "I'm not racist, except towards Americans…"

  1. JW says:

    Damn straight.

    The main thing (IMHO) about the whole “Bush voters/Americans are idiots” meme is that it is so counterproductive. As a rhetorical device, it has no use unless your only aim is to insult people.

    Take my wife. (Please. ) She is a Democrat voting, black American from working class origins. Her political priorities are health care, the living wage, access to education and other traditionally Democrat concerns. She has no affection for George Bush – and that’s putting it very mildly. She thinks the Iraq war was a fiasco.

    But every time she sees a foreigner (i.e. a non-American) on TV or in the paper talking about how stupid Americans are or how America is a terrorist state it just pisses her off and makes her feel like closing ranks. (She tells me to add that she loves her country and is receptive to constructive criticism about America’s policies, but when people phrase their arguments in terms of “America is the Great Satan” her instinctive reaction is defensive.)

    The classic example of counterproductive anti-Americanism is the Guardian’s Operation Clark County from 2004. It consisted of a bunch of Brits talking down to Americans, and basically saying “stop acting like idiots and do what we tell you to do because we are much smarter and wiser than you are”. It must have actually generated votes for Bush.

    A lot of the “Bush voters are idiots” rhetoric also displays a vast misunderstanding of the American psyche. I was living in New York City during 9/11 and if I was asked by a pollster in late September 2001 whether I supported the President, my answer would have been, “Hell yes”. It never entered my mind to vote for Bush, and I gave $$ to the Kerry campaign, but I can totally understand why, when the US is under attack by foreign enemies, ordinary decent citizens would feel the need to rally around a leader whom they feel to be definitely on their side. That does not make them idiots.

    And, finally, if Bolt, Steyn and the fellow travellers are now going to decide that Americans are, in fact, idiots because the other side has got up in an election, then they have just proven themselves to be shallow, fickle friends indeed who do not understand America or the American people. I say screw ’em.

  2. Geoff R says:

    Well I explained who Nancy Pelosia, the Progressives, Blue Dogs etc. were before anybody else. But at Australian universities area studies in Politics is in decline, there are too many students out there studying International Relations whilst knowing very little about the internal politics of the US.

  3. Sacha says:

    Andrew, I agree with you about the stupidity and nastiness of anti-Americanism. When I was in about Yr 9 I was also anti-American, but I’ve grown up a lot since then.

  4. Based on my time in Austin, most of the US citizens I met were both highly intelligent and nice as well. To the extent that some of this anti-Americanism is based on a dislike of some of the current US Governments policies, I think people should ask themselves whether or not they agree with all of the current australian Government’s policies.

  5. Russell says:

    OTOH, you’re more likely to get “Oh those stupid Americans” when the President is stupid. In my lifetime the presidents widely perceived as stupid were / are Bush the younger, Reagan and Ford. We’ve done better here – maybe just McMahon ?

  6. Damien, you mean Austin, Texas, one of those isolated college-town oases of sanity in the middle of flyover country?

    Seriously, though, American foriegn policy has been a disaster for the past six years. Isn’t it reasonable to hold the people who voted Republican in the past three elections at least partly responsible for the flat-out idiotic actions carried out in their name and made possible by their votes?

  7. I do indeed mean Austin, Texas. Its a great city!!!

  8. By way of comparison, I should point out that I also think that Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney are great cities!!!

  9. Sacha says:

    Most people vote for a whole variety of reasons – foreign policy would usually just be part of the mix (although evidence suggests it was either first or second in importance in the recent US mid-term elections). Given that the choice for US President is between two candidates, it is unfair to blame the relevant voters for the foreign policy of George Bush. Indeed, there were no doubt people opposed to the foreign policy of George Bush who nonetheless voted for him in 2004. Do you blame these voters for his foreign policy?

  10. Sacha says:

    In any event, it’s difficult to ascribe “blame” for GW’s foreign policy since 9/11 on voters in the 2000 election.

  11. Christine says:

    Sacha: I think there’s a pretty good argument that Bush hasn’t been exactly crash hot on domestic policy either. Or trade policy (at least I think Canadians tend to feel that way). But true that he had pretty much no foreign policy basis to his 2000 campaign other than that he’d pick good advisors and listen to them, and it didn’t seem to be a huge priority at the time.

    This business about whether support for (or liking of) the people of a country as distinct from support for (or liking of) its government seems to be way more important for the US and Israel than any other country. Is this because their foreign policies are way more important – at least to most of their neighbours – than are other countries’? I mean, the whole question of whether Canadians (eg) are pro- or anti-Australian just doesn’t arise, but there’s a lot of soul-searching over here about whether Canada is pro- or anti-American.

    (The differences in attitudes to the US between Canada and Australia are quite interesting too. It makes a big difference having the elephant living right next to you.)

    Damien: what about Brisbane??? Bloody southerners …

  12. Christine says:

    Sorry for two in a row, but just read the Tim Dunlop post, and it brought to mind an interview I saw of Donald Rumsfeld in which he basically said that the only reason he was being criticised at all was that the war in Iraq was really really complex and that the American media and public basically couldn’t understand it.

    This could be interpreted as anti-American in pretty much the same way as criticisms of the intelligence of Americans based on their voting patterns.

    For myself, I don’t think either is evidence of anti-American-ness (?). Just frustration when things don’t go the way you think they should.

  13. Maybe it’s unfair to blame voters for 2000, though there was a fair amount of commentary that had correctly identified GWB as an intellectually incurious, unqualified doofus even then. But 2004? Gimme a break.

    And if some voters thought that keeping Teh Evul Gays from marrying was more important than foriegn policy (which, after all, is the primary responsibility of the President in their system), well, yes, those voters are dangerous idiots and I have no compunction about saying so.

  14. Sacha says:

    Presumably I was partially responsible for the policies of the 1993-96 federal govt as I voted for the ALP (in the safe Liberal seat of Ryan). But this is patently absurd.

    Also, no doubt some people voted for Bush for reasons other than his foreign and social policies. Perhaps they thought his economic policies in 2004 were better than Kerry’s, or perhaps they thought that Kerry wasn’t suitable. Whatever the reason, people vote for a particular candidate for all sorts of reasons – given that there are usually only two or three potential winners, it boils down to voting for the most optimal candidate from a small pool of candidates, and so it’s not reasonable to ascribe responsibility for Bush’s foreign policy to his voters.

    If the Liberal Party wins the upcoming NSW state election, are socially liberal voters who voted for the Liberal Party responsible for the socially conservative policies Peter Debnam as Premier might bring in? For example, are people who support the medically supervised injecting centre and vote Liberal, and personally campaign for the MSIC not be to shut down, partially responsible for it being shut down if the minister decides to do that?

  15. gordon says:

    There has got to come a time when the cost to others of parochial and self-interested US policy so revolts the world that being pro-American becomes equivalent to being pro-Nazi Germany. Maybe we just haven’t paid enough yet, but Palestinians, Iraqis and many South Americans have, and their attitudes to the US reflect that.

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