Archive for January 17th, 2007


‘..nearly a month ago, the deaf and mute farmer Fareed was arrested at an Israeli checkpoint. Very run-of-the-mill. Palestinians get arrested all the time for all sorts of reasons at the hundreds of checkpoints scattered all over the West Bank. However, the deaf and mute farmer Fareed was arrested because he currently stands accused of agitating the Palestinian masses against Israel through shouting messages down a megaphone.’


15% of Britons despise the United States, and 13% of them despise Iran, and 9% of them despise North Korea, according to this rather strangely worded poll.

When someone says that they despise a country, what do they mean? Do they despise the nation, the state, the territory, or a mish-mash of all three? In theory it should be possible to despise the Iranian state without despising Iranian people (One can imagine George Bush saying ‘we have no quarrel with the Iranian people’ before sending in the planes), and whatever the oppressive practices of the North Korean state, most North Koreans probably don’t get enough calorific intake to do anything significant against any other people.

On the matter of so many despising the United States, here is a long piece on ‘Anti-Americanism‘, which the writer defines as an ‘aversion to America’, or an ‘aversion to everything American’. But would it be acceptable to say, assuming that 13% of Britons despising Iran is evidence of an ‘aversion to Iran’, that there is quite a lot of anti-Iranianism about? And if as I imagine, the answer is no, is it any more meaningful to talk about anti-Americanism? It seems that the writer of the piece would answer ‘yes’:

‘Western Europeans’ unconditional rejection of and legitimate outrage over abusive and irresponsible American policies — not to mention massive human-rights violations à la Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo, secret CIA cells — rest on a substantial sediment of hatred toward, disdain for, and resentment of America that has a long tradition in Europe and has flourished apart from those or any other policies.’

Let’s assume that there is a ‘long tradition’ in Europe of ‘hatred toward’, ‘disdain for’ and ‘resentment of’ America (although the question of what constitutes a tradition in this context is left unexamined by the author: with what other tradition is it comparable? Morris dancing?). What makes the writer conclude that it is this tradition that provides the foundation for opposition to irresponsible policies and massive human-rights violations? There is plenty of evidence about to indicate that many Europeans like many things about America. For instance, I had a teacher who used to describe easy examination questions as ‘money from America’, i.e. a generous gift, perhaps reminiscent of ‘manna from heaven’. It is hard to imagine him talking about ‘money from the Soviet Union’ instead.

Then you have clothes, music, food, drink, television, literature, film, comics and so on. Are we to imagine that these America-liking Europeans really derive their opposition to Guantánamo Bay from their hatred of America tout court?

For all the examples of aversion to America cited in the article, there are an abundance of counter-examples. Last weekend in Sweden I was talking to a few people who were telling me that most Swedish people have American relations, yet the writer invites us to imagine that if a Swede were to object to the invasion of Iraq, she would do so because of the sediment of ‘hatred toward, disdain for, and resentment of America’.

He says:

‘Negative sentiments and views have been driven not only — or even primarily — by what the United States does, but rather by an animus against what Europeans have believed that America is.’

This discards the possibility outright that negative sentiments and views resulting from what the United States does are the result of a widening gap between historically positive images of America and the current perceived reality. And, although the writer bemoans the fact that Europeans have an aversion to ‘America’, he does not attempt to distinguish -just as the poll fails to distinguish- between ideas about the nation, the state, the territory. No: anti-Americanism is anti-Americanism, and, by extension, America is America. His own idea of America, then, would appear scarcely less muddled than that of the ‘anti-American’ European he tries to portray.

76 Ways To Ruin Your Morning

The British Independent has stupid front pages, with far too much text for its own good. When I used to read all the British dailies every day, I would always reach for the Independent first every morning, because you could rely on it to have a good photo on the front page. Now, it tries very hard to be taken seriously, but the more it tries, the less it convinces.

Today, for instance, it announces, on the front page:

For 60 years, it has depicted how close the world is to nuclear disaster. Today, scientists will move its hands forward to show we are facing the gravest threat in 20 years.

And above that:

Improve your Brain Power. 40 Ways To Be A Success At Work.

Am I the only one who finds this, well, incongruous?

SDLP In Cahoots With Al-Qaeda

I missed this interview with Michael Gove in the Observer:

Critics accuse Gove of finding facts to fit his preoccupations. As well as being massively pro-Israel, he is stridently opposed to the Good Friday agreement, which he claims Islamists have taken as Western weakness. Can he really claim that in the caves of Tora Bora they sagely study how Blair caved in on the Royal Ulster Constabulary? ‘I think,’ he says ‘you underestimate their sophistication.’

I think many people could be guilty of overestimating Gove’s acquaintance with planet Earth.

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January 2007