The Pitiful Roots of Anti-Americanism

The anti-Semite is a crank and a bore.  However, the anti-Semite has an important psychological and even spiritual advantage over certain other kinds of cranks: he knows that to other people, he is a crackpot.  This leaves the door slightly ajar for him to discover that he is one.

Anti-Americanism is anti-Semitism's first cousin, but with an important difference.  A person afflicted with this terrible condition is also a crank and a bore, but because anti-Americanism is so widespread both in America and abroad, it is all too easy for the sufferers never to realize they are cranks.

After all, anti-Americanism is the norm among the globalist elites.  In his book Anti-Americanism, Jean-François Revel writes that he had "formed [his] opinion about the United States through the filter of the European press, which means my judgment was unfavorable."   But Revel wants us to understand that he has learned that anti-Americanism is more than simply a widespread climate of opinion.  Instead, he labels it a "psychopathology" and an "obsession."

For Revel, the source of this malady is obvious.  America has supplanted Europe, and the elites of Europe resent it.  Europe once dominated the world.  It no longer does, and the European elites blame America instead of themselves. 

Revel believes that the Europeans:

... should force themselves to examine how they have contributed to that [America's] preponderance.  It was they, after all, who made the twentieth century the darkest in history; it was they who brought about the two unprecedented cataclysms of the World Wars; and it was they who invented and put into place the two most criminal regimes ever inflicted on the human race – pinnacles of evil and imbecility achieved in a space of less than thirty years.

Revel is saying that obsessing over what's wrong with America helps Europeans ward off such thoughts.  Warding off unwelcome thoughts is, after all, the psychological mechanism of blame.  The greater the need for denial, the greater the intensity of the obsession. 

Anti-Americanism has the same psychological dynamic as anti-Semitism.  When the anti-Semite launches into his harangue, we instinctively recoil.  We recognize that he is a troubled soul.  We understand that he is obsessively tracing the inner contours of a mental cage that exists beyond the reach of rationality.

The mechanism of blame also explains the endemic anti-Americanism in Latin America.  Revel turns to Carlos Rangel of Venezuela for an explanation of that variant of the malady:

For Latin Americans, it is an unbearable thought that a handful of Anglo-Saxons, arriving much later than the Spanish and in such a harsh climate that they barely survived the first few winters, would become the foremost power in the world.  It would require an inconceivable effort of collective self-analysis for Latin Americans to face up to the fundamental causes of this disparity.

Once again, at the root of the condition is "an unbearable thought" – a thought so unbearable that the necessary "self-analysis" would require "an inconceivable effort."

The insights of Revel and Rangel suggest that the Americans who suffer from anti-Americanism must also be afflicted by an unbearable thought.

What unbearable thought?  The answer is ready at hand.  The Progressive project has gone from strength to strength politically in America – and everywhere it has brought ruin in its wake.  Detroit was once an economic powerhouse, and San Francisco was once America's most beautiful city.  Decades of one-party rule according to the Progressive project have wrecked Detroit, and San Francisco is becoming something truly strange, a modern city overwhelmed by human excrement in public places.

Just as the Europeans brought ruin on Europe and the South Americans keep on failing, keep on doing what has not worked and never will, the Progressives persist despite failing again and again the simple tests of common sense. 

The Progressives' failure is not a failure to enact their agenda.  They have dominated America politically for the past century.  FDR gave us really big government, and the federal government has become a scandal of fraud, waste, and abuse – a scandal that even the Big Government Press cannot keep hidden from us.  LBJ declared War on Poverty – and that war was lost.  Instead of eliminating poverty, the War on Poverty has made poverty more pathological, creating an underclass, often now described as "permanent," living on government handouts.  Even the Progressives' anti-Americanism was given free rein with the election of Barack Obama, who shared their obsession with "fundamentally transforming" America.  Yet wave after wave of electoral victory has not made American Progressives happy.

Whenever the voters put the Progressives in charge, the result is governmental metastasis and social catastrophe – by necessity.  The left is simply wrong about how things work.  It is easy to come up with programs that defy common sense.  It is also possible to use governmental power to impose those programs on society.  But the power of government can't make them work.

Instead of learning from experience, the Progressives keep ramping up their anti-Americanism in order to keep deflecting their unbearable thought that Progressivism does not work.  Today, the American left's anti-Americanism has become completely undisguised.  Leftists now want to do away with America's borders.  What would that mean?  It would mean that the American experiment in liberty had failed; it would mean the end of America. 

Destructive elements of European culture and politics brought Europe to ruin in the twentieth century, and destructive elements in South American culture and politics have kept South America down.  The ascendance of Progressivism in American culture and politics threatens to do the same to America. 

Robert Curry serves on the Board of Directors of the Claremont Institute and is the author of Common Sense Nation: Unlocking the Forgotten Power of the American Idea from Encounter Books.  You can preview the book here.

If you experience technical problems, please write to