this. It’s an unexceptional, and unexceptionable, article by Stryker McGuire,
the London bureau chief of Newsweek. The subject is anti-Americanism. It’s fading,
he says: Bernard-Henri Levy recently won a debate in London arguing the proposition
that ‘The American Empire is a force for good’. There’s a whole America out
there which isn’t Bush and his policies, and it does great things, from encouraging
competition and entrepeneurial practices to separating Egyption conjoined twins.
this. That selfsame Observer article has turned überblogger Jeff Jarvis
into some kind of crazed jingoist, calling McGuire a "cultural traitor"
and posting a series of blog entries, each more frenzied than the last. The
final (at least so far) is this "I am pro-American and I’m goddamn proud
of it" screed. (At one point, Jarvis conflates McGuire and the 9/11 terrorists
into one "anti-American" lump, and then compares them to Hitler. Very
Never mind, for the moment, that Jarvis accuses McGuire of saying that all
Americans are ammoral (sic) – something McGuire never came close to saying.
(Has Jarvis forgotten that bloggers are pretty good at checking out original
sources, especially when you link to them?) What interests me is the comments
on Jarvis’s blog entry. Read them, and you’ll find a long series of Americans
basically saying "Yeah! You go, guy! I’m a pro-American, too!" It’s
weird: it’s as though the comments section of this particular blog entry has
become a support group for the poor, beleaguered pro-Americans in America. First
it was white males who claimed
victimhood, now it’s patriots?
When a Newsweek journalist can’t even bring up the subject of fading anti-Americanism
without being bitch-slapped by soi-disant liberals like Jarvis, I think
it’s pretty clear how difficult it’s going to be to successfully oppose Bush
in the 2004 presidential election. Reading the comments on Jarvis’s blog, one
is struck by the way in which "I’m pro-American" serves as a kind
of trump card, successfully squelching all attempt at reasoned debate.
Let me just single out one theme from Jarvis’s post. "When people attack
my countrymen so readily, as if it is the accepted wisdom of the age, I have
no choice but to defend myself," he says. "This is a very serious
point. It is a warning: Keep attacking America and Americans — not just American
policy — and beware of the hands into which you play."
It goes without saying that these kind of threats go down very badly with foreigners
and anti-Americans. But it would seem that they go down very well with
the man on the street, the average American voter. And after starting two wars,
there’s no way that Bush is going to lose out to his Democratic opponent on
the let’s-be-tough-with-those-who-hate-us front.
Jarvis’s moral certitude – he makes this quite explicit – is born
of the fact that he came close to being killed himself on September 11. I can
see how someone in that situation might have a pretty black-and-white view of
the world. But it’s not just New Yorkers who feel this way: it’s the the whole
Bush administration. And black-and-white moral certitude plays well at the polls.
Just ask Reagan, or ask just about any American what they think of Clinton’s
foreign policy. If it’s hard to soundbite, it’s hard to admire.
So at the moment, I’m decidedly bearish on the Democrats’ prospects in 2004.
They can’t win on domestic policy, because the economy is finally turning around
in the wake of Bush’s fiscally-insane tax cuts. They can’t win on foreign policy,
because their vision is more nuanced and subtle than that of the Bush administration,
and therefore more open to being attacked on grounds like Jarvis’s. And they
certainly can’t win the fund-raising race. It seems to me that their only hope
is narrowly psephological: if they can carry California and Florida, they might
be able to squeeze a win, maybe even with a minority of the popular vote. But
the nation will remain bitterly divided.
Never mind, though. At least Jeff Jarvis will always stand up for himself,
his countrymen, his country’s ideals, and the only heritage he knows.