152 Anti-Americanism

 

 

 

ANTI-AMERICANISM 

 

      Jean-Francois Revel’s Anti-Americanism (San Francisco:  Encounter Books, c. 2003) provides an experienced French journalist’s explanation of a pervasive attitude that has characterized Europe’s intelligentsia since WWII.  Early in his life, in the ’50s and ’60s, Revel viewed the U.S. “through the filter of the European press” and considered it “the land of McCarthyism and the execution of the Rosenbergs (who were innocent, we believed), of racism and the Korean War and a stranglehold on Europe itself–the ‘American occupation of France,’ as Simone de Beauvior and the Communists used to say.  And then Vietnam became the principal reason to hate America” (p. 3).  In time, having actually spent time the U.S., researching and writing his enormously successful Without Marx or Jesus, Revel came to see that most everything he’d learned about the country was false, largely the product of the “Great Lie” fomented by Communist propaganda.  Without Marx or Jesus elicited much criticism from Leftists, who rightly discerned that the “book was less about America and anti-Americanism than about the epic twentieth-century struggle between socialism and liberal democracy” (p. 12).  Should the American way prevail, Europe’s socialist agenda would fail, so the “Blame America First” instinct became deeply ingrained in the European mind.  So journalists, who should tell the truth, generally “use their forums narcissistically to trumpet their own preconceived ideas instead of serving facts . . . betraying their public” (p. 53). 

     America, of course, has famously succeeded in virtually every way during the 20th century.  Sadly enough, it was Europeans who “invented the great criminal ideologies of the twentieth century, forcing the United States to intervene on our continent twice with her armies.  America largely owes her unique superpower status today to Europe’s mistakes” (p. 16).   Europe decayed, primarily, as a result of the “closed economies” imposed between WWI and WWII–various versions of socialism which, wherever implemented, manifestly failed “to deliver the economic goods, even minimally.”  Thereby Europe imploded, and “This weakening entailed the corresponding and virtually automatic rise of the United States” (p. 43). 

     Consequently, European intellectuals have vented a jaundiced view of all things American.  Revealingly, their main concern, following 9/11, was for endangered Muslims in America, not for Americans slaughtered by terrorists.  When U.S. troops attacked Afghanistan, Europeans denounced the action as imperialistic.  Pacifists everywhere carried “banners that said:  “NO TO TERRORISM.  NO TO WAR.’  Which is about as intelligent,” Revel notes, “as:  ‘NO TO ILLNESS.  NO TO MEDICINE'” (p. 59).  Islamic jihadists, in accord with an Osama bin Laden training manual, uphold “the ideals of assassination, bombs and destruction, to the diplomacy of the rifle and submachine gun.  The principal mission of our military organization is to overthrow the Godless regimes and replace them all with an Islamic regime'” (p. 70).  But to Europe’s craven intellectuals, such terrorists should be appeased rather than resisted. 

     Unlike the intellectuals, Revel insists, Ronald Reagan got it right.  The “Evil Empire” he opposed in 1983 collapsed within a decade.  He wisely invaded and liberated Grenada, a tiny island nation overwhelmed by Cubans intent on imposing Communism.  He boldly said, in 1987:  “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” much to the dismay of many in his own State Department, as well as assorted Europeans.    The policy of detante, so celebrated by the likes of Jimmy Carter and eminent European leaders, politely condemned millions of oppressed people to Soviet control.  Reagan’s SDI proposals were roundly ridiculed by his critics.  But “Adam Michnik, Poland’s most influential editorialist and press magnate, recalls that the Strategic Defense Initiative–the ‘Star Wars’ so decried by Western leftists–was the decisive factor in persuading the Soviets that they could never win the Cold War . . . .  The SDI was a key trigger of perestroika and the cascade of events that followed” (p. 126).  President Reagan–and now President George W. Bush–may be “simplistic,” but they rightly know there’s a difference between good and evil and act accordingly. 

     It’s clear to Revel that nothing America does could please her critics.  They’re rooted in socialism’s anti-capitalistic obsession.  “Even during the Cold War,” Revel says, “although it was the U.S.S.R. that annexed Eastern Europe, made statellites out of several Africal countries and invaded Afghanistan, and although it was the People’s Republic of China that marched into Tibet, attacked South Korea and subjugated three Indochinese countries, it remained dogma among Europeans–from Sweden to Sicily, from Athens to Paris–that the only power that could be fingered as ‘imperialistic’ was America” (159).  Seeing what they want to see rather than reality, anti-Americans will forever detest the U.S.

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Paul Hollander escaped his native Hungary as the Soviets occupied it following WWII.  In the U.S. he became a professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts and published several thoroughly researched monographs, including Anti-Americanism:  Irrational & Rational (New Brunswick:  Transaction Publishers, c. 1995, first published by Oxford University Press in 1992).  In a new introduction, he endorses the words of Eugene Genovese, a noted historian, who said:  “unable to offer a coherent alternative to capitalism as a social system, and with no socialist countries left to identify with, many left-wingers now wallow in a mindless hostility to Western Civilization and to their own identity as Americans” (p. xlvii).  Perhaps they are wallowing, but they’re hardly listless!  They have established an unusually powerful and militant “adversary culture” that dominates much of the media and academe.  Rather than honestly address the failures of Marxism as an ideology, many university professors, Hollander adds, have “immersed themselves with renewed vigor in other matters such as multiculturalism, postmodernism, critical legal theory, revisions of American history, the many branches of feminism, and so forth” (p. l). 

     These professors, such as Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, have become constant complaint specialists, routinely denouncing the failures and injustices of America.  They piously champion the plight of various victims, and (though highly privileged themselves) they claim to represent the underclass, the folks oppressed by the “system.”  They praise terrorists at home (the Weathermen in the ’70s) and abroad (Islamic jihadists today) so long as they attack the U.S.   Frustrated utopians, they find no goodness in the less-than-perfect world at hand.  As journalist Studs Terkel confessed, he had little interest in the “facts” about America, but wrote in accord with “‘a vision of what still could be'” (p. 49).   Accordingly, when Angela Davis (once the Communist Party’s Vice Presidential candidate, who now enjoys a prestigious appointment at the University of California, San Francisco) spoke to students at Dartmouth College in 1988 and condemned everything American, the students gave her a standing ovation.  It’s a bit like the heirs of a sizeable estate cheering when their deceased father is pilloried with a collage of harsh allegations. 

     Anti-Americanism, Hollander emphasizes, clearly pervades three public sectors:  1) the churches; 2) the universities; 3) the media.  Mainline churches, he shows, in a fascinating, meticulously documented chapter, have become especially anti-American.  During the past half-century, the clergy “have become the predictable voices of social criticism in American society,” and, importantly, their statements differ little from their “secular counterparts” (p. 81).  Though the “peace and justice” activists who fill the churches’ bureaucracies and pulpits and college classrooms pose as biblical prophets, they’re little more than foot soldiers in the Leftist army.  Having lost their faith in a supernatural religion, they address social and political issues in the name of an absent God.  Thus they fund gangs of thugs and terrorists, such as Yasser Arafat’s PLO, and “resource centers” that are outgrowths of the Weather Underground (p. 117).  They coddle Cuba and North Korea while condemning Chile and South Korea. 

     For me, Hollander’s discussion of the churches proves embarrassing, for he details some sobering truths about some “evangelicals” who influenced me for 20 years.  I long trusted Jim Wallis and the journal Sojourners Magazine to help me assess the social and political world.  Thus I read recommended books, written by radicals like Noam Chomsky and Richard Barnett and the brothers Berrigan.  Naively I absorbed much of their anti-American, pacifist critique.  By 1972 I’d embraced their critique of the Vietnam War–and then was utterly uninformed about the massive loss of life in Southeast Asia that followed America’s retreat.  Amazingly, Hollander shows, Jim Wallis condemned the Vietnamese who fled to the U.S. following the war.  They were, he averred, too addicted to American “consumerism” to appreciate the new society the North Vietnamese would establish!  That thousands of boat people perished rather than bow to Communist dictatorship simply didn’t meet the Sojourner criteria for “peace and justice”! 

Following President Jimmy Carter’s lead, I welcomed the fall of Samoza and the victory of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.  But then, in the mid-’80s, I began to suspect that Jim Wallis and like-minded informants had misled me!  It dawned on me that they always gave favorable treatment to Marxist movements, whereas anti-Communists–like the Contras in Nicaragua or Pinochet in Chile–were routinely assailed.  Nicaraguan developments, as the Sandinistas slipped into the Soviet orbit, were favorably massaged by Wallis and Sojourners Magazine.  In an issue devoted to a tour of Nicaragua, Hollander observes, “Every stereotyped misconception of Marxist one-party dictatorships reappeared as the authors retraced, figuratively speaking, the path traversed by their ideological forebears who had visited, in the same spirit, the Soviet Union, China, North Vietnam, and Cuba.  The new ‘sojourners’ were similarly impressed by the various accomplishments (real or claimed) of the new regime and were ready to accept all the official arguments and rationalizations regarding the less appealing aspects of life in revolutionary Nicaragua” (p. 130).  In 1987, Wallis actually compared Iran’s Ayatollahs to American Fundamentalists!  So the data in this chapter remind of how wrong I was on many issues, largely due to believing anti-American clergy such as Jim Wallis! 

     Higher Education, Hollander shows, is as rife with anti-Americanism as the churches.  Ever anxious to re-make the world in accord with their desires, leftist professors now dominate most of the nation’s universities.  Interestingly enough, academe seems alluring to leftists.  In one study, 60% of students who considered themselves socialists were interested in becoming professors; 30% of liberal Democrats were so inclined; only 15% of the conservative Republicans aspired to academic careers (p. 151).  In part, it seems, this is because leftists see the schools as opportunities for political action, vehicles for social transformation.  This results from the “academic freedom” that now allows professors to use their lecterns as pulpits!  Before the ’60s, most professors understood that academic freedom applied to their discipline, to research and publish without fear of retribution.  But now professors are hired as feminists or Marxists and urged to promote their ideologies in whatever they teach.  Hollander’s own discipline, sociology has especially “become a vehicle for an impassioned social criticism” (p. 156). 

     No one could consider the 70 pages of meticulously documented sources in Hollander’s chapter on Higher Education and fail to see how anti-American it has become.  He provides the data, the illustrations, the analyses, necessary to demonstrate that, as Irving Kristol wrote, “‘Never in American history have major universities been so dominated by an entire spectrum of radical ideologies as today'” (p. 146).  And what the educated elites acquire in universities is then served to the masses by the media, now controlled by the adversary culture.  Consequently, according to Meg Greenfield, journalists portray America in “surpassingly bleak” ways, suggesting the nation is “‘composed entirely of abused minorities living in squalid and sadistically-run state mental hospitals, except for a small elite of venal businessmen . . . who are profiting from the unfortunates’ misery'” (p. 215).  Inordinately large numbers (approaching 90% at points) of journalists are liberals who vote for Democrats.  They lionized Ralph Nader, Gloria Steinem, and Andrew Young but disdained Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.  Indeed, among journalists “Fidel Castro was far more popular than Reagan,” according to one comprehensive study (p. 252). 

     “Objective” reporting no longer elicits much support in the media, since it fails to unveil the hidden “structures of power and privilege” the enlightened elites discern.  Promoting one’s cause–celebrating mantras such as peace and justice, condemning the evils of racism, sexism, poverty, apartheid–are no longer restricted to editorial pages and opinion pieces.  So we find that “National Public Television refused to air a documentary made by Cuban émigré film-makers, exposing human rights violations in Cuba, unless it was paired with a reverential program made” by one of Castro’s henchmen (p. 225).  Imagine PBS insisting on a pro-KKK documentary to accompany a film on lynching in the South!  The maker of an award-winning documentary on Vietnam refused to interview refugees from Vietnam but gave ample exposure to Communist Vietnamese officials.  Hollywood films, made by Oliver Stone et al., spoon-feed little but anti-American propaganda into the mouths of a gullible public. 

     Having documented the anti-American phenomenon in three institutional settings, Hollander proceeds to demonstrate its results.  In a detailed chapter entitled “The Pilgrimage to Nicaragua,” he illustrates the power of “political tourism” to shape public opinion.  During the ’80s, the Sandinistas effectively manipulated the American public by orchestrating tours of American clergy like Jim Wallis, professors like Richard Falk, politicians like John Kerry and John Conyers.  Folks wanting to see a successful, egalitarian revolution beheld their dream world when they spent a few days in Nicaragua.  “Here,” reported one journalist, “was a place seemingly run by the kind of people who were Sixties radicals.  Wherever one went, people were young, singing political folk songs and chanting ‘Power to the People.’  One night there was even a Pete Seeger concert in town!” (p. 265).  It was, of course, all tightly orchestrated theater!  Interior Minister Tomas Borge, often a convivial tour guide, actually had two offices.  One, with Bibles, crucifixes and pictures of his family, was reserved for foreign guests.  The other, his real one, showcased pictures of Marx and Lenin.  Nicaragua’s people knew the real Borge and, given the opportunity to vote, removed him and the Ortega brothers from power.  As one voter explained:  “‘It was all lies, what the promised us'” (p. 306). 

     But the lies of the Left, repudiated in Nicaragua, still shape the “worldview of college students” in America.   Few entering freshmen identify themselves as Leftists, but they’re pressured to acclimate to an academic culture strongly tilted toward the radical Left.  They learn to feel alienated from and angry at American culture, especially in its capitalist components.  While wealthy and privileged themselves, they join their professors and pretend to identify with the world’s poor and oppressed.  Consequently, polls reveal that students in the ’80s disliked Ronald Reagan as much as Joseph Stalin.  Indeed, next to Hitler, Reagan was the most “unappealing political leader” (p. 324).  They even equated the atrocities of the Holocaust with the Vietnam War–a striking illustration of moral equivalence. 

     Much the same may be said about the Third World and Western Europe, where the Italian Marxist writer, Eugene Ionescu, proclaimed:  “I am one of the rare European intellectuals who has never been anti-American” (p. 367).  Heading the list of acidic anti-Americans was the English philosopher Bertrand Russell, who (in the early ’50s) compared the U.S. under Truman to Germany under Hitler, warned that Joe McCarthy would be elected President, and accused the U.S. of waging germ warfare in Korea.  In time he devoted himself to opposing both the U.S. involvement in Vietnam and any reliance upon nuclear weapons.  “Late in life Russell reached the conclusion that ‘the American government was genocidal, the police efforts pretty much on par with the camp guards at Auschwitz and black rioting a justified response to a campaign of extermination'” (p. 373).  Such animosity also characterizes Mexican and Canadian intellectuals.  According to Canadians, the most “reprehensible” political leader in modern times was Ronald Reagan, who was judged worse than “Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, or the Ayatollah Khomeni” (p. 434). 

     Having exhaustively (in 500 pages) examined the subject, Hollander concludes that socialists cannot be other than anti-American.  That’s because, Kenneth Minogue says, socialists uphold positions that cannot “be rationally modified,” finding a moral sense of identity not in any commitment to improving man’s lot, but finding fulfillment in struggling “against the world in which they live” (p. 466).  Thus we find the influential postmodernist literary critic, Duke University Professor Frederic Jameson, championing “counterinsurgency warfare” and denouncing America’s  “neocolonialism,” all the “while cherishing and defending memories of the Chinese Cultural Revolution!” (p. 467). 

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                A syndicated columnist, Mona Charin, deals with related issues in Useful Idiots:  How Liberals Got It Wrong in the Cold War and Still Blame America First (Washington:  Regnery, c. 2003), and her notes indicate a significant reliance upon the scholarly works of Paul Hollander.   The book’s title, Useful Idiots, is allegedly a phrase used by Lenin to describe naïve Westerners who helped Communists propagandize the world, and certainly there have been legions of such folks–”liberals” in Charin’s lexicon.  She begins her treatise by endorsing Winston Churchill’s assertion, following WWII, that “the whole world [was] divided intellectually and to a large extent geographically between the creeds of Communist discipline and individual freedom” (p. 2).  Liberals in the West, she argues, have sided with the Communists for 60 years, finding ways to excuse the evils of the USSR and Red China while castigating the any nation–and preeminently the U.S.–committed to free enterprise and personal liberty.  Thus, when President Reagan referred to the USSR as an “evil empire,” a prestigious history professor, Henry Steele Commager, called it “‘the worst presidential speech in American history, and I’ve read them all.  No other presidential speech has ever so flagrantly allied the government with religion.  It was a gross appeal to religious prejudice'” (p. 12). 

                To many liberals, to be an anti-communist was worse than being a communist.  Joe McCarthy was worse than Joseph Stalin!  Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs were portrayed as victims of American bigotry.  ABC’s Peter Jennings freely labeled Cuba’s Fulgensio Batista an evil dictator, but never in 40 years has he seen Fidel Castro as equally despotic!  During the Vietnam War, the New Left solidified its support for socialism and antipathy toward America.  As Susan Sontag declared, concerning her trip to North Vietnam during the war:  “‘Vietnam offered the key to a systematic criticism of America'” (p. 40).  Charin shows how TV and major newspapers misrepresented the war, leading to America’s defeat, something much desired by the likes of Noam Chomsky, Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden.  The ’68 Tet Offensive, for example, was portrayed as a major military defeat, when in fact it was a stunning victory!  But we who watched Walter Cronkite on CBS never knew that.  Photographs were staged and quotations were manufactured, by journalists like Peter Arnett, in their effort to facilitate the Communists triumph in Vietnam. 

                Subsequently, between 1974 and 1980, ten nations, including Laos, Ethiopia, and Nicaragua, were sucked into the Communist orbit.  Though such events occurred without a single “free election, liberals persisted in the argument that they represented the popular will and took communist regimes at their word when they claimed to be pursuing the ‘people’s’ interests” (p. 82).  Influential writers, such as Edmund Wilson, considered “the USSR the ‘moral light at the top of the world'” and found no fault with its endeavors.  The 1972 Democratic presidential nominee, George McGovern, published his autobiography in 1977, proudly including photographs of himself with Fidel Castro and Vietnam’s premier Pham Van Dong.  As recently as 1985, Paul Samuelson, whose economic textbook was widely used in American universities, praised the central planning strategies of the USSR, agreeing with John Kenneth Galbraith, who lauded the Russian prosperity which manifested itself “in the appearance of solid well-being of the people in the streets” (p. 105). 

                Vis a vis Soviet arms and expansion, liberals consistently counseled disarmament, diplomacy, and U.N. resolutions.  So Jimmy Carter cancelled plans to build the B-1 bomber.  The “nuclear freeze” movement elicited much support.  President Regan’s deployment of SS-20s in Europe and his proposed Strategic Defense Initiative were stridently condemned, with Senator John Kerry helping block the SDI.  Liberals opposed the higher military spending Reagan championed and did whatever possible to gut the CIA.  Mainline churches that provided “sanctuary” for refugees from El Salvador provided little comfort for folks fleeing the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.  Little Elian Gonzalez was returned to Castro’s Cuba, a comfort to liberals like Eleanor Clift who celebrated the fact that he’d attend safe schools and have free health care, much better than Florida.  “New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote:  ‘Yup, I gotta confess, that now-famous picture of a U.S. marshal in Miami pointing an automatic weapon toward Donato Dalrymple and ordering him the name of the U.S government to turn over Elian Gonzalez warmed my heart”” (p. 245).  To Charin, appeasers in the Cold War, like Friedman and Clift, were as misguided as the appeasers in WWII. 

                Space precludes further details set forth in Useful Idiots.  It’s thesis, however, is graphically illustrated by the words of an avowed socialist, Columbia University Professor Eric Foner, a former president of the Organization of American Historians, who wrote, following 9/11, that he “wasn’t sure ‘which is more frightening:  the horror that engulfed New York City or the apocalyptic rhetoric emanating daily from the White House'” (pp. 254-55).  Useful Idiots!

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