Saturday, August 19, 2006

On Anti-Americanism

Anti-Americanism is a phenomenon as old, actually even older, than the United States itself. Although it has gone through various periods and emphases, the main themes have remained remarkably consistent, long predating either the influence of Hollywood or America being a great power internationally. Two of the most important are the vision of the United States as a bad society, which threatens to become the model for the whole world, and that of America as seeking global conquest.

For example, the first clear statement of anti-Americanism came from the French lawyer Simon Linguet in the 1780s. The dregs of Europe, he warned, would build a dreadful society in America, create a strong army, take over Europe, and destroy civilization. If one were to be talking about the spread of notions like democracy and liberty, Linguet’s fear was something of a personal premonition. A few years later, he was guillotined by the French revolution.

Similarly, the first use of the word “Americanization” has been traced to an 1867 article in a French journal which warned that the import of American agricultural machinery would end with the elimination of French culture. It is no accident that France has long been the global capital of anti-Americanism. Indeed, the level of hatred toward the United States in the 1920s and 1930s, as well as other decades, has been arguably higher than today.

Barry Rubin, Understanding Anti-Americanism
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