Anti-Americanism

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In keeping with Wikipedia's policy regarding writing from a neutral point of view, and given that this is naturally a topic open to considerable partisan debate, please let's all try to bear in mind that all sides on these issues need to be fairly and sympathetically represented. (Please remove this notice when the article is more fully developed than it is as of Sept. 28!)

America is the only nation in history which miraculously has gone directly from barbarism to degeneration without the usual interval of civilization. -- Oscar Wilde

Anti-Americanism is strong disapproval or hatred for the United States of America, its government, people, or its way of life. This hatred can be rooted in any or all of a number of different attitudes, political (anti-Capitalism, for example), religious (anti-Christian), cultural (anti-Hollywood), and ethical (anti-"Western decadence"), and can be harbored by Americans themselves (who might prefer to use the term Usian) or by non-Americans.

Anti-Americanism can vary from mere dislike and disapproval of America, such as has been at times exhibited by many Europeans, to extreme violence, such as that shown by some terrorists. The causes of anti-Americanism vary widely, indeed anti-Americanism can be caused by completely opposed points of view: for example, some dislike America because they percieve it as overly religious; whilst others dislike America because they perceive it as overly secular and irreligious. Ultimately, the many disparate phenomena that have been labelled 'anti-Americanism' have nothing in common but some degree of opposition to the U.S.; it can therefore be misleading to place together under one label all people opposed to various (arguably mistaken) U.S. policies or habits.

The psychology of anti-Americanism

Some people believe anti-Americanism is rooted in envy as much as in any legitimate grievance. They note that the same type of hatred has been directed towards virtually every nation in history that has gained prominence over its contemporaries. Because of this, they argue, the roots of anti-Americanism cannot be found in any specific action or characteristic of the United States, but in the psychology of those who exhibit anti-Americanism. People who hold this view will be unlikely to discuss specific grievances, as these are considered little more than veneers constructed to disguise anti-Americanism's psychological underpinnings.

Many critics of the United States, however, have many very specific criticisms, listed below. Legitimate criticism of America should never be confused with xenophobia, as all countries are criticised at certain times.

Objections and replies regarding...

American Funding of Terrorists and Extremists

America has a history of supplying funds for freedom fighters and extremists outside of their national borders. This can be funds provided by the government, by private citizens or by a combination of the two. People who have suffered the consequences of this funding are naturally prone to see this activity in a negative light.

Even a close ally like the United Kingdom has had a long history of Americans openly raising funds for both the Provisional IRA and the Real IRA; generally, they feel that Ireland should be united as it once was. This is commonly raised by Irish-Americans who feel a patriotic sense of involvement in The Troubles in Northern Ireland; generally, and to oversimplify somewhat, they feel that Ireland should be united as it once was. The governments of the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland have been working together closely in the peace process for this region, with the help of the United States government. Indeed, the Real IRA has been placed on a list of organisations for which Americans can not legally raise funds.

Funds have also been raised for the British National Party by the American Friends of the British National Party, in a manner denounced as illegal (reporting on this topic was halted by the recent terrorist attacks against American targets, I'm afraid) on both sides of the Atlantic by the Southern Poverty Law Center in America and by Labour MPs in the United Kingdom. The internal (American) opposition that arose to the funding of this organisation was spontaneous--which might somewhat mitigate feelings of resentment on the UK towns in which the BNP have alledged to have provoked riots.

This can lead British people to suspect that Americans commonly harbor anti-British sentiments and that would be more widespread if it was not for prominent American anglophile role-models such as Bill Clinton, who was educated at Oxford University.

American domestic policy

In some countries, American retention of capital punishment is a cause of anti-Americanism. These countries, which have abolished capital punishment, view it as a barbaric practice, and are often shocked by the widespread popular support it continues to have in the United States. Especially in Europe, people perceive a contradiction between America's insistence on human rights around the world and refusing to abolish the death penalty domestically, since the death penalty is seen to be a central violation of human rights there.

The War on Drugs is also considered to be a highly opressive activity by many, both within and outside of the United States. It has resulted in an enormous prison population, much of it composed of nonviolent and lower-class drug offenders. A significant minority of the American population views the War on Drugs as a second Prohibition. It has also resulted in damaging international pressure and intervention directed against other countries involved in the drug trade, such as Colombia.

Patriotism in the U.S.A. often takes a form that is seen as offensively arrogant in other countries; American politicians regularly call America the "greatest nation that has ever existed on the face of the earth".

Americans have the highest per-capita consumption of resources and energy in the world, and the fact that the U.S. government does not take decisive action to curb this use creates hostility in countries which have wholly embraced the need to reduce consumption for environmental reasons.

American foreign policy

America has frequently supported dictatorships, coups or insurgent movements in Latin America, and has on a few occasions even invaded Latin American countries.

The American CIA provided significant support for the 1973 military coup in Chile by General Augusto Pinochet, recently acknowledged in a report titled "CIA Activities in Chile" [1]. Many of Pinochet's officers, some of whom were also informants for the CIA, were involved in systematic and widespread human rights abuses.

America also provided support for the Contras, a guerilla force which attempted to overthrow the Nicaragua's Sandistina government. US President Ronald Reagan, after failing to achieve necessary congressional support to legally fund the Contras, resorted to funding them through arm sales to Iran, in violation of US law, resulting in the Iran Contra Affair.

Many would defend American interference with Latin American countries as necessary to stop the spread of Communism. Others would argue that America's main primary interest was economic, and that it was willing to do anything, including supporting the overthrow of democratically-elected governments and assisting death squads in carrying out large scale murder, to further American corporations with interests in the region.

America's treatment and use of international institutions such as the United Nations is often seen as self-serving and hypocritical in other countries. Critics point to non-payment of UN dues and ignoring of International Court of Justice decisions against America on the one hand, and to enthusiastic embrace of international trials against war criminals and UN sanction mechanisms against certain countries on the other. America's veto power in the UN security council has repeatedly been used to prevent censure of Israel, thereby angering Arab countries and those supporting them in the Israel-Arab conflict.

The massive political and financial ($4 billion annually) American support for Israel is another major source of anti-Americanism in the Arab world.

The continuing embargo against Cuba is seen by many as vindictive and hypocritical in the face of China retaining most-favoured-nation trading status. The 1996 Helms-Burton Act, an attempt to force all other countries to participate in the embargo by allowing American citizens and corporations to sue foreigners who do business with Cuba, is seen as an offense against national sovereignity, and a violation of World Trade Organization rules. Because of this, Presidents Clinton and Bush have suspended central portions of that act.

The U.S. government annually certifies whether other countries cooperate in the war against drugs; countries who don't cooperate are sanctioned. This annual review is seen as offensive by many foreign countries, most notably by Mexico.

Many small and poor countries consider Americas efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons to be a thinly veiled attempt to maintain its military advantage. America and most western countries counter that these efforts benefit all because proliferation would destabilize many conflict regions, most of them involving poor countries.

American religious attitudes

Religion, especially in its more conservative forms, is stronger in America than in the rest of the western world. Some people who dislike religious conservatism, or religion in general, have anti-American attitudes as a result.

America's religious tolerance and diversity, and its separation of church and state, are offensive to people in many cultures, such as Islam.

American popular culture

Popular culture - contemporary music, television, films, books, and more recently, web sites and other computer-based media, is one of America's most successful and probably its most visible export. Consequently, in many countries, such media carry a large body of material that embodies values considerably different to much of the viewing public. From a European intellectual perspective, many American dramatic narratives are overly violent, schizophrenic about sex (combining prudery and exploitation), and portray simplistic attitudes to good and evil. However, such hostility should be kept in perspective - most with such views merely wish that the parts of American popular culture they find objectionable was moderated than for the whole of America's cultural output to go away entirely (and deprive them of aspects of American popular culture of which they do approve).

Meanwhile, other societies, notably Islamic societies see popular culture (which they apparently perceive as American regardless of its actual origin) as propaganda for a secular, sexually and socially libertine society. As such, they also object to American values portrayed in popular culture, though the American values they perceive as present are almost precisely the opposite of which European cultural critics dislike. There will always be problems when a culture's film is shown out of cultural context as this can cause otherwise dimissable issues to become very noticable.

America's political and business world largely views culture as a commodity to be freely traded just like any other, and heavily lobby foriegn governments to remove trade barriers which restrict the amount of it they can export around the world. Their lack of understanding of foreign sensitivities about protecting their own cultural industries (possibily because Americans themselves receive so little of their media from other countries) is also a source of some resentment, sometimes actively encouraged by those with a direct financial interest in continued protection.

The American way of life

The American way of life is largely seen (outside the United States, and in some quarters inside the United States) as wasteful and environmentally irresponsible. Some Americans defend themselves by claiming that this criticism stems more from envy than from a genuine concern for the environment; however, statistics indicate that the relatively small population within the United States does use a disproportionately large amount of the world's resources.

The fact that girls in America are educated along with boys, that women can go out in public unescorted by male relatives, and that women have the same rights as men, including the right to vote and to serve in the armed forces, offends many people in non-Western countries.

History of anti-Americanism in the United States

Modern Anti-Americanism abroad

See also:

Further reading: "Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire" by Chalmers Johnson

Links:

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