Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Origins of French Anti-Americanism

Many Americans seem to believe that French anti-Americanism arose with the coming of George W. Bush and his evil chimp-like smirk. A fascinating new review essay by Paul Berman, one of the foremost members of the anti-Islamist left, should end this delusion. Published in the November 28th New Republic, Berman's piece outlines the long and inglorious history of French anti-Americanism. The online version of the article requires registration, but it is well worth reading.

In the meantime, I'll offer a brief excerpt. Considering all the hysterical nonsense that has been uttered about the "new McCarthyism" and the "chill wind of censorship" in this country regarding the Iraq War, I found this passage about the intellectual climate in France to be especially relevant:

Even so, in writing about an oppressive and conformist intellectual atmosphere, Rigoulot in his L'Antiaméricanisme does describe something real--a pressure on writers and journalists in France to stand firm against American foreign policy and especially against the American campaign to overthrow Saddam. Whatever may be the complaints from American intellectuals and journalists about terrible pressures on them in the United States to conform to the Republican line, I am convinced, from hopping back and forth between France and the United States over these last years, that conformist pressures in France have been decidedly heavier. Rigoulot points out that not a single one of the big daily national or regional newspapers in France, nor any of the TV chains, supported the American overthrow of Saddam--a degree of unanimity that surpassed even the Germans on this issue.

Well-known independent writers were perfectly free to applaud the overthrow, if they wished to do so. But journalists at big institutions and writers who were younger and not so well-established had to think twice about expressing any such view, if only to protect their careers. During the height of the Franco-American crisis over Iraq, no fewer than three reporters at big national newspapers in France confessed to me, each reporter independently of the others, that the demand for conformity was becoming insupportable, and maybe emigration to some foreign land of freedom might be a good idea--which was yet another hyperbolic exaggeration, to be sure, since no one had the slightest intention of emigrating.

(Link courtesy of Watch)


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