“Anti-Americanism is at base a totalizing, if not a totalitarian, vision. The peculiar blindness of fanaticism can be recognized in the way it seizes on a certain behavior of the hated object and sweepingly condemns, only to condemn with equal fervor the opposite behavior shortly after-or even simultaneously. . . . According to this vision-in the sense that LittrÃ?Â© confers on the word: a ‘phantom projection, a credulous fantasy of fears, dreams, delusions, superstitions’-Americans can do nothing but speak idiocies, make blunders and commit crimes; and they are answerable for all the setbacks, all the injustices and all the sufferings of the rest of humanity” (p. 143).
Exaggeration? Are there really many people-and more than one or two people in positions of great influence-in Europe who think this way? Jean-FranÃ?Â§ois Revel, a well-known conservative (for France) French thinker, believes this is the mainstream of thought among the Continent’s intellectual and cultural elites. The author of Without Marx or Jesus (1970), about the United States’ 1960s societal revolution without Communist totalitarianism, Revel’s Anti-Americanism has recently been published in English translation. In it, he explores a virulent spiritual phenomenon: the tendency of fashionable leftists and many among the Third World masses to blame the United States for everything.
Somehow, America is at fault for Third World poverty, not Third World countries’ endemic corruption and reliance on socialism. Somehow, free trade and globalization-promoted by America-have impoverished most of the world, yet the leaders of those impoverished countries constantly complain that there is not enough free trade to make them rich (and especially complain of the West’s agricultural subsidies). People in Europe and everywhere else voluntarily insist on wearing American clothes, watching American movies, listening to American music-and then complain of the Americanization of world culture.
What, exactly, do so many people-including a sizeable domestic constituency here at home-hate about America? “Since the end of the Cold War. . .it is often said that today’s anti-Americanism derives from the fact that the United States is now the ‘hyperpower’. . .,” Revel writes. “But this doesn’t reflect reality: anti-Americanism was almost as virulent during the period of threatening totalitarianism as it has been after that threat disappeared” (p. 3).
It’s true: Elite Europeans hated the United States from the moment she saved them from Nazism and while she was protecting them from Communism. And now America is taking the lead in protecting the civilized world from terrorism.
One major reason, of course, is that with the failure of every form of socialism, the American model of relatively free markets is taking over the world. It’s not globalization anti-American types are against, says Revel. “In fact, the Left has always hoped for globalization, but without the market-in other words, an ideologically correct world government” (p. 39).
A true mark that anti-Americanism is a disease and not a position, Revel argues, is how the same anti-Americans will blame the United States for opposite reasons. Free trade is one example. Another: Blaming her for not taking an active role in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, as in the early months of this Bush Administration, and now complaining of American interference.
Revel paints a picture of domestic French cultural breakdown, promoted by the same anti-Western Civilization left that is so dominant here, that could frighten even an American cultural reactionary, and provides numerous quotations from Muslim leaders there as well as elsewhere that are full of murderous hatred for the West. In this, Revel asserts, they are being true to their religion, despite a Western myth to the contrary. This myth “asserts that the Qur’an teaches tolerance and contains no verses authorizing violence against non-Muslims or apostates,” he writes. “Unfortunately, this soothing canard cannot survive even a cursory examination of Islam’s holy book, which on the contrary is riddled with passages putting believers under an obligation to exterminate infidels” (p. 66).
Revel’s highly polemical tone and French sarcasm may turn off some readers, but he collects a great amount of evidence to prove his two points: Anti-Americans hate America more for her good qualities than for her defects, and anti-Americanism is a pathological disease more than a reasoned position. And he recounts the tremendous benefits that America has bestowed on the world in recent decades-not the least of which was saving it from two European totalitarianisms.
Perhaps the rest of the world owes so much to America that, as mathematician and Christian intellectual Pascal wrote, when gratitude grows too great, it turns into hatred.