an area of the map for world news.
December 2001 issue of
World Press Review
(VOL. 48, No. 12)
on the United States
Frachon, Le Monde (liberal), Paris, France, Nov. 24,
to Beijing, it seems anti-Americanism is still alive and well.
After the initial emotions sparked by the Sept. 11 attacks subsided,
international public opinion has shifted Americans from the
status of victims back to that of defendants.
At Oxford University, Chelsea Clinton is feeling blue. And it
is not because of her studies. [Former U.S. President] Bill
Clinton and [U.S. Senator] Hillary Rodham Clintons daughter
is working on her masters degree in international relations
in the studious comfort of University College. A certain European
ambiance reigns there: Hardly a day goes by that I am
not confronted by one form of anti-American sentiment or another,
writes Chelsea in the U.S. magazine Talk (December-January).
In Washington, at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, George W. Bush is
also wondering. The president of the United States, who is 55,
has never spent more than three weeks in a foreign country.
But from where he sits in the White House, he is experiencing
the same feelings as his predecessors daughter.
At a press conference on Oct. 11, one month after the attacks
in New York and Washington, he said about anti-Americanism,
Like most Americans, I cannot believe it, because I know
how honorable our intentions are.
|People are willing to demonstrate
against America, but not against its movies.
Chelsea Clinton, the Democrat, and George W. Bush, the Republican,
share the same astonishment: They are sincerely astounded and
somewhat hurt. It is hard for them to comprehend that hardly
had the grieving passed and no sooner had the military operations
in Afghanistan begun when international opinion began to turn
against them. Sympathy for the [Sept. 11] tragedy was followed,
almost in the same breath, by denunciation of American foreign
policy, particularly in the Arab and Muslim world.
The phenomenon of anti-Americanism should really be expressed
in the plural, because different forms of anti-Americanism exist.
As a method of interpretation, anti-Americanism is both a system
of thought and a lens for reading events; its political manifestation
links the attacks of Sept. 11 to the Cold War.
In Mexicos La Jornada, the writer Eduardo Galeano
articulates what we have read elsewhere in Latin America or
in Asia these last few weeks. He observes that the United States
claims to be against terrorism, but it also supports, hypocritically,
the state terrorism that raged in Indonesia, in Cambodia,
in Iran, in South Africa,...and in the Latin American countries
that lived through the dirty war of the Condor Plan. [The
Condor Plan was established in Santiago, Chile, in 1975 by South
American military dictatorships whose governments combined efforts
to hunt down real and perceived leftists who sought refuge in
There is also an economic strain. Economic anti-Americanism
attributes part of the misery of the world to the market economics
and free-trade policies promoted by the United States. Some
of the foremost economists vigorously dispute this view. James
Tobin and Amartya Sen, for example, consider the liberalization
of commercial and financial exchanges over the last 20 years
to be one of the crucial factors that ensured the economic take-off
of part of Asia, lifting it out of poverty.
Cultural anti-Americanism, equally present on the right and
on the left, stigmatizes the successes of a triumphant pop culture.
Promoted by a half-dozen conquering media giants, American popular
culture is said to be leveling everything to the lowest common
denominator, while choking out all other cultures. This is an
old story, tinted with the resentment or the jealousy of certain
Instead of pitying the United States, people across the globe
reveled in schadenfreudeseeing that, for once, omnipotent
America had been dealt a major blow at home. This sentiment
is the anti-Americanism of those condemned by history.
The nonstop media machine has done a good job of covering current
events since Sept. 11 and conveying various forms of anti-Americanism.
The Beijing regime keeps open some Web sites that serve as vehicles
for Chinese ultranationalism, which demonizes, screen after
screen, haughty America. The former prime minister
of Japan, Yasuhiro Nakasone, calls on the United States to renounce
an arrogance that makes them behave as though they are the masters
of the universe (Asahi Shimbun). And Hugo Chávez,
the populist president of Venezuela, rejected the ultimatum
issued by Washington: Those who are not with us [in the
battle against terrorism] are against us.
In the Old World, America has found some of its strongest supporters
in the East, from Bronislaw Geremek of Poland to Vaclav Havel
in the Czech Republic; there, more than anywhere else in Europe,
people remain committed to the idea of maintaining a strong
But anti-Americanism runs on a composite fuel, a mixture of
hatred and fascination, repulsion and attraction. Ironically,
in the Arab-Muslim world where anti-Americanism has been the
most virulent these last few weeks, Hollywood is still filling
up movie theaters. From Cairo to Jakarta, the top box-office
hits were Titanic, The Mask of Zorro, Godzilla, Jurassic Park,
Independence Day, The Mummy, and so on. Bombings in Afghanistan
notwithstanding, it seems people are willing to demonstrate
against America, but not against its movies. Perhaps Chelsea
could see this as a reason to smile again.