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Why Do Europeans Hate America? Jean-Francois Revel Explains
Crosswalk ^ | November 11, 2003 | Albert Mohler

Posted on 11/11/2003 7:53:52 PM PST by Ex-Dem

"Democracy may, after all, turn out to have been a historical accident, a brief parenthesis that is closing before our eyes." With those words, French philosopher Jean-Francois Revel sounded an alarm as the ramparts of democratic conviction were under attack by the political left. Revel, one of the most important conservative thinkers in France, saw European intellectuals and the political left in America undermining the very foundations of democracy.

"Democracy tends to ignore, even deny, threats to its existence because it loathes doing what is needed to counter them," explained Revel. "It awakens only when the danger becomes deadly, imminent, evident. By then, either there is too little time left for it to save itself, or the price of survival has become crushingly high."

To any insightful observer of the European scene in the early 1980s, Revel's analysis was prophetic. Leftist intellectuals were pointing to the United States as the source of all oppression in the world, while praising the Soviet Union as the liberator of human kind. In How Democracies Perish, Revel aimed his sights at the self-destructive hypocrisies of liberal thought. As he knew, the very intellectuals who should have been supporting the United States were instead hoping for its downfall. "What we end up with in what is conventionally called Western society is a topsy-turvy situation in which those seeking to destroy democracy appear to be fighting for legitimate aims, while its defenders are pictured as repressive reactionaries."

As Revel lamented, at times the democracies seemed to find strange comfort in calls for their own destruction. As he observed, "Democratic civilization is the first in history to blame itself because another is power is working to destroy it." Were democracies doomed to self-destruct?

Jean-Francois Revel is well known as a shining light of reason in the French academy. Long a columnist, editor, and director of L'Express, Revel is also the author of a multi-volume history of philosophy. He sprang to Western attention with the publication of his controversial book, Without Marx or Jesus. Revel's later volumes would include The Totalitarian Temptation and Democracy Against Itself.

Throughout his career, Revel has been known as a stalwart defender of democracy. He does not take this matter lightly, for he understands all too well that the basic structure of government determines the achievement or loss of human freedom within a society. In Democracy Against Itself, Revel argued that "every society which has worked more or less well, which achieved any sort of viability, and which produced civilizations men found tolerable, have been--or are--societies that in some sense are democratic."

Of course, the alarm sounded by Revel in How Democracies Perish was overtaken by history with the fall of the Soviet Union and the remarkable events of 1989 and 1990. As Revel later reflected, the good news revealed in the fall of the Soviet Union was the fact that its internal weaknesses were even greater than the self-hatred of the secular left in Western democracies.

Now, twenty years after How Democracies Perish, Revel looks to the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorists attacks and asks the fundamental question: Why do so many Europeans hate America?

This is not a question of merely academic interest. Revel senses that something fundamental is revealed in the way the European Left has responded to America's status as the world's only super power.

Revel is blunt. The ascendancy of the United States, set over against the relative decline of Europe, has given birth to an intense hatred in some European corridors. Most particularly, Revel locates the root of this poisonous anti-Americanism in France. As he comments, "It is in France that this loss--real or imaginary--of great-power status engenders the most bitterness."

The virulent anti-Americanism that erupted on the streets of Europe in the aftermath of America's military action in Afghanistan and Iraq did not emerge from a vacuum. Revel's interest in anti-Americanism is rooted in his own experience as an French intellectual who actually visited the United States. When Revel first visited America in 1969, he discovered a land very different from what he expected. Having planned to write a book on the problems of the United States, Revel instead wrote a treatise criticizing the irrational anti-Americanism of the European Left. Now, he has done it again--and this new book may be even more important.

In Anti-Americanism, just released by Encounter Books, Revel considers this toxic pattern of European hatred towards the United States. He identifies one core issue as a sense of European loss. Revel cites Hubert Vedrine, the French minister of foreign affairs, who rejected the word "superpower", and instead substituted a term of his own invention: "hyperpower."

As Revel notes, since the Greek prefix "hyper" has exactly the same meaning as the Latin "super," Mr. Vedrine is merely seeking to score political capital in his own nation and in the larger European neighborhood. As Vedrine stated, "We cannot except a politically unipolar and culturally homogenized world, any more than the unilateralism of the single hyperpower." Exactly what Mr. Vedrine meant by this, no one seems to know. Nevertheless, it is an example of French hyperventilation posing as foreign policy.

Revel sees the problem as much worse than hyperbole. If America is dominant, Revel asks, then why is this so? He will not allow Europeans off the hook. "Europeans in particular should force themselves to examine how they have contributed to that preponderance. It was they, after all, who made the twenty 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."

The United States is far from perfect, Revel acknowledges. Nevertheless, he suggests that any criticisms should be directed at real problems, and should not take the form of irrational rantings.

According to Revel, the European Left enjoys its fantasy of America as "the worst society that ever was." According to this cartoon of reality, America is a society that is entirely under the control of money-grubbing plutocrats. Everything is for sale and the entire culture has been commodified. The problem is not just George W. Bush, for the European Left is convinced that every recent American president "has been in the pockets of the oil companies, the military-industrial complex, the agricultural lobby or the financial manipulators of Wall Street." But, in the French view, George W. Bush is just the worst of the lot--at least as yet.

The European Left is also convinced that America is primarily marked by poverty. As Revel describes the Leftist fantasy: "Hordes of famished indigents are everywhere, while luxurious chauffeured limousines with darkened windows glide through the urban wilderness." These same thinkers are convinced that violence reigns throughout the United States, and that gunshots commonly ring through even the most peaceable neighborhoods. As Revel acknowledges, European rants about America's lax gun laws would have more credibility if the same weapons were not easily available for purchase through the black market in virtually every European city.

If this picture of America is true, the pattern of immigration from Europe to the United States throughout the twentieth century was absolutely irrational. "If the picture of American society drawn everyday by the European press is accurate, then we must believe that those tens of millions of immigrants from all parts of the world, and especially those who came from Europe between 1850 and 1924, were all deluded fools. Otherwise, why did they insist on staying in the American capitalist jungle with all its evils and not return to the lands of peace, plenty, and liberty they came from? Lost in a hellish cultural wasteland, why at least didn't they write to their families and relations basking in the paradises of Ukraine, Calabria and Greece warning them not to come to America?" Clearly, Revel does not mince words.

This virulent anti-Americanism is not a matter of mere sociological interest. As Revel understands, this explains why the United Nations Security Council has become so ineffectual and why the United States has been forced to act unilaterally. As he explains, "Europeans' voluntary blindness with regard to these radical changes renders any American attempts at dialogue fruitless; as a result, America has no other option but to make unilateral decisions. How can you discuss a problem with people who deny its very existence?"

Jean-Francois Revel is a brave man who has lived through some of the most tumultuous decades of human history. Though a realist, he is not without hope. He has sounded the alarm more than once, only to have the Left ignore his cries. Anti-Americanism is Revel's latest attempt to call the trendsetting intellectuals of Europe back to sanity. Good luck, Professor Revel. This is no easy task.

Revel's prescient warning to the European Left should also serve to educate thoughtful Americans about the challenge we face in Europe, which may be as daunting a challenge as that posed by Islamic terrorism. Something sick lies at the heart of Western civilization. The democracies that will surely perish will be those who cannot tell the difference between good and evil, survival and ruin, freedom and tyranny. Or, perhaps more to the point, the greatest danger faced by democracy are those who deny that there is any real difference after all.


TOPICS: Extended News; Foreign Affairs
KEYWORDS: antiamericanism; france; leftists; leftwing
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1 posted on 11/11/2003 7:53:54 PM PST by Ex-Dem
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To: Ex-Dem
Maybe we bathe too often for them.
2 posted on 11/11/2003 7:55:26 PM PST by Callahan
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To: Ex-Dem
Bookmark for later reading.
3 posted on 11/11/2003 7:56:40 PM PST by Ichneumon
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To: Ex-Dem
Why do Europeans hate us? I wish I cared enough to read this article. Unfortunatly I don't.
4 posted on 11/11/2003 7:59:15 PM PST by Ditter
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To: Ex-Dem
Good article, thanks. Nice to know some of them are rational.

Qwinn
5 posted on 11/11/2003 8:07:21 PM PST by Qwinn
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To: Ex-Dem
I get sick of all this "we hate America because of its freedom." Hello? Why don't these people have the same vitrol against Canada, Sweden, Spain, France, etc? I am not that naive. It's not "freedo," it goes much deeper than that.
6 posted on 11/11/2003 8:10:14 PM PST by BlueElephant (JustTheFacts)
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To: Ditter
When a writer quotes and explicates Revel, it is worth listening - or in this case, reading.

Your loss.
7 posted on 11/11/2003 8:11:43 PM PST by John Valentine (In Seoul, and keeping one eye on the hills to the North...)
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To: BlueElephant
Did you actually read the article? If so, your comment is inexplicable.

And since when has Cananda been free? It is a rigid, semi-totalitarian PC wasteland.
8 posted on 11/11/2003 8:13:26 PM PST by John Valentine (In Seoul, and keeping one eye on the hills to the North...)
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To: Ex-Dem
>>"Democracy tends to ignore, even deny, threats to its existence because it loathes doing what is needed to counter them," explained Revel. "It awakens only when the danger becomes deadly, imminent, evident. By then, either there is too little time left for it to save itself, or the price of survival has become crushingly high."

Who's got a Civil War II ping list?
9 posted on 11/11/2003 8:16:14 PM PST by FreedomPoster (this space intentionally blank)
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To: BlueElephant
And those three other countries you mention?

They are all in Europe, soaked in socialism, and are the very subject of Revel's analysis, hello yourself.

10 posted on 11/11/2003 8:16:44 PM PST by John Valentine (In Seoul, and keeping one eye on the hills to the North...)
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To: Ex-Dem
Why Do Europeans Hate America?

Europeans hate us? Yawn...

11 posted on 11/11/2003 8:20:22 PM PST by wayne_shrugged
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Comment #12 Removed by Moderator

To: Ditter
Don't judge an article by its title. Much of the article is about the idiocy of the European leftists.
13 posted on 11/11/2003 8:22:08 PM PST by Ex-Dem (not just another brick in the wall)
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To: onlyme
ZOOOOOOOOOOTTTTT!!!
14 posted on 11/11/2003 8:22:26 PM PST by Ex-Dem (not just another brick in the wall)
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To: Ex-Dem
Revel is one of the happy few holding high the candle of Western Civilization. Sadly, it has its detractors on this side of the pond as well, and not all are on the left.
15 posted on 11/11/2003 8:22:34 PM PST by Snuffington
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To: Ex-Dem
The democracies that will surely perish will be those who cannot tell the difference between good and evil, survival and ruin, freedom and tyranny.

This is the cancer of the left, and we've all recognized it for a long time. We just don't know what to do about it......yet.

16 posted on 11/11/2003 8:23:41 PM PST by McGavin999
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To: Ex-Dem
Why do so many Europeans hate America?

No wonder, they probably get it from the RAT opposition and the Liberal media.

17 posted on 11/11/2003 8:26:25 PM PST by Mike Darancette (Proud member - Neo-Conservative Power Vortex)
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To: archy
Is this worthy of your CWII ping list?
18 posted on 11/11/2003 8:27:18 PM PST by FreedomPoster (this space intentionally blank)
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And BTW please add me.
19 posted on 11/11/2003 8:27:54 PM PST by FreedomPoster (this space intentionally blank)
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Comment #20 Removed by Moderator

To: John Valentine
Professor Revel is brilliant. What he failed to ask is the following question, "What will happen the next time Europe hosts a war and the United States of America refuses the invitation."

PS
My remarks are not directed at the United Kingdom.
21 posted on 11/11/2003 8:30:55 PM PST by cpdiii (RPH, Oil field Trash and proud of it)
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To: Ex-Dem
Revel is an impressive thinker.
One question that I would like to ask him is: Why do Americans not give a rat's behind what France thinks about anything? Surely the French can sense the disinterested American shrug everytime Europe shouts across the ocean. I have to believe that this frustrates the heck out of the leftist Euro-scum and contributes mightily to their hatred of the US. Oh well. Whatever. How about them Iggles?
22 posted on 11/11/2003 8:33:31 PM PST by Lancey Howard
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To: Ditter
Why do Europeans hate us? I wish I cared enough to read this article. Unfortunatly I don't.

You really should. It's not what you think.

23 posted on 11/11/2003 8:34:18 PM PST by MattAMiller
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To: keri
Ping.
Revel.
One very intelligent Frenchman
(there are two or three)
whom I have been following for many years.
24 posted on 11/11/2003 8:37:18 PM PST by Allan
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To: Concept000
I take it you are arguing the opposite proposition, but you are at least twenty years too late.

I don't have the time or the inclination to give you chapter and verse, but I'd suggest that the hate speech laws and the juridicial imposition of same sex marraige are two good examples on totalitarian lawmaking, or as I didn't go quite that far, semi-totalitarian.

If you want to work yourself up into a nauseous sweat, just do a search in Free Republic on the word Canada. That's all, then go through the results. You'll find enough in there to make you think you are bulemic.
25 posted on 11/11/2003 8:39:18 PM PST by John Valentine (In Seoul, and keeping one eye on the hills to the North...)
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To: Ex-Dem; dueler88
Ping!

This virulent anti-Americanism is not a matter of mere sociological interest. As Revel understands, this explains why the United Nations Security Council has become so ineffectual and why the United States has been forced to act unilaterally. As he explains, "Europeans' voluntary blindness with regard to these radical changes renders any American attempts at dialogue fruitless; as a result, America has no other option but to make unilateral decisions. How can you discuss a problem with people who deny its very existence?"

A European that understands what many Americans (Leftists) do not. Revel is cut from the same vine as Per Henrick Hansen of Denmark. Lend these Men an ear and all the support that you can. Any hope in unifying Western Civilization against the building theat will begin with Men such as these.

Thank you for the post, Ex-Dem.


26 posted on 11/11/2003 8:39:33 PM PST by Mr.Atos
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To: BlueElephant
YOu're right; it's the reason I objected to the President's claim that they (terrorists) "hate us because we're free". A silly thing to say.
27 posted on 11/11/2003 8:42:15 PM PST by Cacophonous (War is just a racket.)
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To: Ex-Dem
"Why Do Europeans Hate America? Jean-Francois Revel Explains

1. We smell good.
2. We don't whine as much as they do.
3. We smell good.
4. We are not as snotty or rude (well, Frisco is the exception).
5. We smell good.
6. We don't surrender when invaded or attacked in less than a year.
7. We smell good.
8. We work hard, Eurotrash doesn't.
9. We smell good.
10. We think Marx is evil, Euros don't.
11. We smell good.
28 posted on 11/11/2003 8:46:10 PM PST by Beck_isright (Socialists are like cockroaches. No matter how many die, 300 more are born under every cowpile.)
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To: Ex-Dem
Good article. I'm gonna Google some more on this guy. He sounds like a modern day equivelant to Alex De Tocqueville. Someone I'm sure Mr. Revel has read.
29 posted on 11/11/2003 8:46:10 PM PST by AFreeBird (your mileage may vary)
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To: Ex-Dem
"Something sick lies at the heart of Western civilization. The democracies that will surely perish will be those who cannot tell the difference between good and evil, survival and ruin, freedom and tyranny."

Great post, thanks! This Crosswalk place keeps cropping up again and again for me. I think this is a good thing. This is certainly an excellent article. We can't go wobbly like the Euros, and the Brits need some help, too. I'm relying on the Brits to get their wits back on their own, but if they fail, we must help them. Truly these days, all civilization hangs in the balance.

"One ring to rule them all." Can't be permitted.
30 posted on 11/11/2003 8:56:35 PM PST by jocon307 (W - Four more years!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
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To: Ex-Dem
Wonderful article. Thank you.
31 posted on 11/11/2003 8:58:39 PM PST by APFel
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To: Ex-Dem
Saving this article for my Canadian friend who got her American citizenship for retirement...and thinks we should CARE about what Europe THINKS of us....
32 posted on 11/11/2003 8:59:23 PM PST by goodnesswins (We are living in fantastic times....the breakup of the US Commie Party is in progress)
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To: Ex-Dem
While living in Italy and Austria I met no one who hated me or said anything bad about America. Below is a map of Europe and if anyone hates us is the political left because American has the courage to go it alone without getting permission from the Monarchs.

Most of Europe is with America and it is just the left that is losing power that has the problem.

I hear GW Bush is having dinner with the Queen of England next week and I wonder if he will bowwow down to this women. Bush may be the first American President to meet the the richest women in the world in this format.

So next week get ready for more noise from the looney left.

33 posted on 11/11/2003 9:02:32 PM PST by Major_Risktaker
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To: Ex-Dem
What I find ironic is that these same leftest intellectuals who detest America seem to always want the good things that come from our shores. The computers and Internet they use to spread their claptrap is the direct product of the US space and military programs. The medical miracles they take for granted came from the US not the Soviets. The welfare utopias of western Europe have failed to give the average citizen near the standard of living that is typical in the US and the worker's paradise of Cuba causes people to risk their lives in 90 miles of open ocean sailing in flimsy makeshift boats and rafts to escape.
34 posted on 11/11/2003 9:12:18 PM PST by The Great RJ
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To: Ditter
They left leaning ones hate us because we declare the People sovereign and reflect that in our law and attitudes.

35 posted on 11/11/2003 9:23:00 PM PST by William Terrell (Individuals can exist without government but government can't exist without individuals.)
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To: BlueElephant
I am too tired to answer you, but the countries that you mentioned are not as free as the US and it is not really just about freedom. It's about no one liking the perpetual winner, its about the lazy competitor who is tired of always coming in 2nd or 3rd or even out of the running. Its about people who think that their lazy way is actually better because it leaves the thinking to the elitists who want to do all the thinking anyway.

Like I said, I'm really tired tonight, but I hope you get the idea.
36 posted on 11/11/2003 9:31:31 PM PST by Eva
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To: FreedomPoster; AK2KX; archy; backhoe; Badray; Jack Black; Joe Brower; Cannoneer No. 4; cgk; ...
Is this worthy of your CWII ping list?

There's an easy enough way to find out. Ping!

Hey, you want on it?

-achy-/-

37 posted on 11/11/2003 9:34:24 PM PST by archy (Angiloj! Mia kusenveturilo estas plena da angiloj!)
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To: Ex-Dem
He's been banned, whatever he said.
38 posted on 11/11/2003 9:37:42 PM PST by mrustow (no tag)
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To: John Valentine
He's been banned, whatever he said.
39 posted on 11/11/2003 9:38:07 PM PST by mrustow (no tag)
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To: Major_Risktaker
I agree with your assessment that the majority of Euros are with us.

After living over there (Greece and Italy) for a number of years, I came to the same conclusion. it is the entrenched holdovers from the left that maintain the anti US attitude but the venom is not just against the US really - it's rather anti capitalist and anti Judaeo-Christian in nature. It has a virulent anti religion strain along with a strong component of self destructive anarchistic elements.

It's a minority or Euros definitely - the rest who are for example against Iraq's liberation are just scared of the Muslims, scared of getting cut off from oil, and scared of change. They are still psychologically chained to the violence of the World wars.

40 posted on 11/11/2003 9:38:32 PM PST by eleni121 (EAIT ot get routine tests.)
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To: Allan
One very intelligent Frenchman
(there are two or three)

Military leader and theorist and sometime French spook Roger Trinquier and author Jean Larteguy come to mind. Might even be able to think of 5 or so if pressed.

And I think I'd count the late Antoine de Saint-Exupery....

-archy-/-

41 posted on 11/11/2003 9:39:07 PM PST by archy (Angiloj! Mia kusenveturilo estas plena da angiloj!)
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To: The Great RJ
What I find ironic is that these same leftest intellectuals who detest America seem to always want the good things that come from our shores. The computers and Internet they use to spread their claptrap is the direct product of the US space and military programs.

1. They ain't the brightest lights; and 2. They expect such "luxuries" to be limited to their cadres, while "the little people" are taught why they must make sacrifices.

42 posted on 11/11/2003 9:40:21 PM PST by mrustow (no tag)
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To: archy
Albert Camus, Raymond Aron, Francois Furet...
43 posted on 11/11/2003 9:54:29 PM PST by RightWingAtheist
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To: Ex-Dem
I propose that we refer to Europeans, left wing ones, at least, as "Overseas Democrats", or in Freeper terms, "Overseas DemoRATS".
44 posted on 11/11/2003 9:55:40 PM PST by Riemann
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To: archy
I'll definitely second the Saint-Exupery nomination... always one of my favorites. Good addition.

If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.


45 posted on 11/11/2003 10:03:12 PM PST by Mr.Atos
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To: RightWingAtheist
...Victor Hugo, Fredric Bastiat.
46 posted on 11/11/2003 10:06:04 PM PST by Mr.Atos
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To: Ex-Dem
I read How Democracies Perish when it was new, and was very impressed by this gentleman's grasp of the issues at hand, that played out in the succeeding couple of years in a way that neither he nor Hayek nor Hook nor any of the other luminaries addressing them could have hoped. We won that one and the French academy disdained to notice.

The latter tend to be a brittle bunch, if my acquaintance with a small handful of its members is any decent sample, ao addicted to a specific theoretical approach to how societies operate that contraindicative evidence is trivialized, twisted, or simply dismissed. They who deride arrogance and inflexibility in us uncultured rubes are, in fact, the most arrogant and inflexible of minds. Well, the ones I met were young and hopefully will learn better, if they believe their eyes and not their prejudices. At least I hope so. Someone who can never be wrong is exceedingly unlikely, in my experience, to ever be right.

47 posted on 11/11/2003 10:09:35 PM PST by Billthedrill
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To: Ex-Dem
"What we end up with in what is conventionally called Western society is a topsy-turvy situation in which those seeking to destroy democracy appear to be fighting for legitimate aims, while its defenders are pictured as repressive reactionaries."

So it goes. Just watch the evening news on any of the alpahbet networks and you too can see the topsy-turvy rationale of the Left.

Great post, thanks!

48 posted on 11/11/2003 10:13:52 PM PST by PFKEY
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To: RightWingAtheist
Albert Camus, Raymond Aron, Francois Furet...

d'accord! Though they're outside my own areas of stuidy or expertise.

49 posted on 11/11/2003 10:40:14 PM PST by archy (Angiloj! Mia kusenveturilo estas plena da angiloj!)
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To: FreedomPoster
And BTW please add me.

Now, in addition to Santa Claus' list of good girls and boys, you are on the CWII ping list.

-archy-/-

50 posted on 11/11/2003 10:42:47 PM PST by archy (Angiloj! Mia kusenveturilo estas plena da angiloj!)
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