In the run-up to the paperback publication of Not In My Name: A Compendium Of Modern Hypocrisy on April 2nd, I thought I’d run a few mini extracts here.
To kick off, the following passages are taken from my Anti-Americanism chapter:
In April 2002, a lone gunman opened fire in a town hall in western Paris, killing eight people and injuring 19. The killer was of Yugoslav origin and his victims were French. So guess which country got the blame for the killings? Perhaps French Presidential candidate Alain Madelin can help us. He described the shootings as an “American-style by-product, we wished not to have in France.” Quoi?
Anti-Americanism has been around for so long that it is not a modern hypocrisy in itself. I recall that when my political awakening happened at the age of 12, there were no end of demonstrations against military actions, executions and human rights abuses. But nearly all of them were about American military actions, American executions, American human rights abuses. It was as if the rest of the world – excepting perhaps South Africa – was a peaceful idyll, with everyone cycling up and down country lanes, waving at each other and petting small cuddly animals.
However, in the 21st century it has increased dramatically – one poll showed that “favorable opinions” of America between 2000 and 2006 dropped from 83 per cent to 56 per cent in the United Kingdom – and so anti-Americanism forms a central plank of this book’s topic. As one commentator put it, anti-Americanism has become a hobby in Europe. You don’t need to be a keen historian to note that this hobby has become increasingly popular since the September 11 attacks. One wonder what sort of person watched that carnage and decided to get angry not with the aggressors, but the victims.
But then one wonders a lot about what is going in the minds of anti-Americans. Much was made of how Palestinians on the streets of the West Bank cheered the September 11 attacks. However, numerous reports surfaced of similar joy in Europe. A friend of mine rang me from a bar in Chelsea where he said all the customers were punching the air with joy as the Twin Towers collapsed; Rosemary Righter, of The Times was asked by a friend that evening: “Rosemary, isn’t it marvellous to think that the arrogant bloody Americans have finally got it in the neck?”
It is very strange that so many of those who would happily describe themselves as anti-racist are among the worst critics of America. These are the first to jump up and howl if any generalisation is made of a race or nationality elsewhere in the world, yet with America they are delighted to make the most sweeping of statements. Let’s be honest, few of us in England know much about America beyond a few large cities, many of our number are not even as clued-up as that. Yet more and more of us are willing to damn an entire nation and its people on so little evidence. Oh the exhausting irony of it, then, when these damners are so quick to accuse the Middle Americans they have never of being ignorant and arrogant! And where, one has to ask, is the respect of these anti-racists for the cultural melting pot that America represents?
We saw in the Israel chapter the contradictory attacks that the Jewish people have faced throughout their history. A similar process applies to America. At once the country is derided for being in league with Israel and yet in the pocket of Saudi Arabia. Can both of these be true? And if so, isn’t that something to admire? Not that this is the only gymnastics America is supposedly capable of, according to its critics. Talk about damned if you do, damned if you don’t, America is: decadent and immoral, yet Conservative and stuffy. It is dominated by Christian rednecks, yet also run by a smart, metropolitan Jewish cabal. It is selfish and isolationist, yet rampaging and imperialistic. It is full of commercially-driven consumers, yet it is dominated by an old-fashioned, outdated obsession with religion and morals.
Sounds like a lot of fun, I’d quite like to live there.