Thursday, July 27, 2006


Many US citizens, particularly conservatives are talking a lot of ‘anti-Americanism’ these days and I want to stick my two bob in. This is a rewrite of a very old post of mine back in the good ol’ days when *I* was one of the anti-Americans. It’s also a big post but I think a few will bother to read it.

Long Term

1) The US is rich and powerful attracting the jealousy of the less rich and powerful. Never underestimate jealousy and never overestimate it either.

2) Multinational corporations. This is really visible in things like Coke, McDonalds, Microsoft, Mars and so many others. These aren’t just household names in the US they are household names right here in Australia and throughout most of the world. There is resentment of these companies. Apart from bad corporate practices of some of them, which is less a US issue and more a corporate one, there is a sense of invasion with it due to the proliferation and there is also the fact that these companies drag an awful lot of money out of host nations. You’ll notice anti-globalisationists are often anti-American.

3) Historical political meddling. During the cold war, for example, the US has meddled in politics at least as much as the Russians and this sort of meddling increases mistrust and dislike. I would say this is most obvious in Europe, the Middle East and South America and we might see some stronger anti-Americanism there. In Australia as recently as the last election the US Ambassador was on TV influencing the election.

4) US culture, for example, in the form of movies, music, food or whatever you care to name has been heavily exported from the US. Many of us are more aware of US icons than our own countries icons. The change and influence this culture has wrought makes cultural defenders very grumpy. Consider the culturally haute French or non Christian religion and their reaction to US culture. Australia and the UK, not nearly so culturally defensive and with a Christian background, is not as concerned about this.

5) Individual visitors (as opposed to impressions we get from the media and governments etc) from the US that most of us meet tend to be self-focused and disdainful of anything not US. There is also the type of contact we have eg religious fanatics or door to door salesmen.

6) "my way or the highway" The US treatment of others is generally believed to be exceedingly arrogant. Indeed most consider the French and the US to be the world arrogance leaders and I laughed when the French accused the US of arrogance.

7) World mainstream media (some call it MSM). The news and some other parts of the media portray the US in a worse light than is reasonable. In part this is reflective of satisfying customers own anti-Americanism and it’s also part of the fact that negative news sells better. But there’s more to it I’m sure and I don’t have all the answers.


1) Bush is a factor in anti-US sentiment. Many consider him amongst the worst of the presidents the US has ever had. Iraq is a major part of this but it goes deeper. A lot of it is a matter of his style. His diplomatic conduct is appalling and to intellectual snobbery in Europe his frequent speech gaffes make him look rather stupid.

2) The US is acting as a kind of world police. Have you ever noticed the police aren’t that well liked in the first place?

3) The invasion of Iraq was generally against world desires at both a government and citizen level. At the very least the unilateralism concept has increased fear of invasion which even Aussies have felt.

So what about the phenomenon?

Firstly the term suffers the same messy problem of the United States of America is not America. Of course antiUSAism is a really clunky word.

That nitpick aside the first thing is that anti-Americanism is nothing new. It’s been on the boil since perhaps the 50s. It does need to be said that feelings towards the US don't exactly equate to feelings towards US citizens. There is carryover to be sure, but the bulk of it is aimed at the US system and government, not the citizens on the ground.

These feelings are also not uniform and they go up and down with different events. Australia and other western nations are far more forgiving. Places very different from the US seem more incensed. I think it’s heightened at this time due to media, Bush and the Iraq war.

Too many Americans are using ‘anti-Americanism’ as an excuse for something else. It’s often used to silence criticism. It should also be clear that the US has US interests at heart and Australia has Australian interests at heart. That’s nationalism. Calling a nation anti-American on the basis of not putting US interests before their own is pure idiocy and has nothing to do with anti-Americanism but rather self interest.

What do you think? And what do we do about it?

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