August 19, 2003

Unhinged in Paris

Europeans used to blame Jews when people got sick. That same impulse still thrives on the continent.

Howard Fineman in Newsweek:

The blame-America attitude gets silly at times. For example, you might have wondered what caused the suffocating heat wave that has blanketed Europe recently. I found out the moment we arrived in Rouen. There, on the front page of the newspaper Le Monde, was a cartoon: an oppressive sun, with eyes made of dollar signs, smoking a cigar/factory with dollar signs, sending out thunderbolts of heat that pierced a prostrate Europe. In Paris, I asked a young businessman about the cartoon. Well, of course, he said as if I were an idiot. Your President Bush did not sign the Kyoto Accord. In other words, America was at fault because it had not signed a treaty that will not go into effect for years.
This is beyond silly. It is contemptible. And it is retarded.

It is not contemptible because Le Monde is wrong about the facts. It is contemptible because Le Monde and the young businessman in Paris even think such nonsense is plausible. What, too hot for ya? Well, it must be because of those filthy greedy Americans. That's the first thing that pops into their heads when something annoys them.

Were a cross between Klingons and the Ferringhi to them, apparently.

They really will find a way to blame us for everything. What's next? Really. What's next? Because you know as well as I do that something will be next.

As the French blog Merde in France reported recently:

Remember Americans, you are hated here. Hated more than the worst terrorists and murderers.
Its one thing to have crypto-racist fantasies about Americans. And its another thing altogether to ratchet it up at a time when genocidal fanatics promise to turn America into a sea of deadly radiation because they think were a bunch of Satanic infidels. Its even worse to behave this way and then pretend to be our friend and ally who deserves respect and consultation.

Shelly and I visited France a year and a half ago and we had a great time. Everyone was nice to us, despite their reputation for rudeness with tourists. The French as individuals are fine people, honest to gosh they really are. Politically, as a collective, theyre becoming unhinged. Maybe they think the same about us. Im sure, in fact, that they do. But I have yet to see anti-French American sentiment come even close to the craziness exhibited by our counterparts over in Paris.

Its been hot as hell here in Portland this summer. And not a single person thinks the cause is anything other than weather. If anyone thought to blame the French or the Jews or the Arabs or anyone else they would be regarded like a deranged person yelling at cars in the streets.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at August 19, 2003 11:49 PM
We’re a cross between Klingons and the Ferringhi to them, apparently.
You say like it's a bad thing! Where's the love for the Ferringhi?

Seriously... I've heard the "French blame us for the weather" meme floating around... is there anything other than anecdotal evidence for this?

The "one third of German youth believe Bush ordered the destruction of the WTC" meme at least has poll data behind it.

Posted by: lewy14 at August 20, 2003 02:21 AM

Actually, I don't think they expect us to respect or consult, only compensate.

It's quite simple, how (a lot of) Europeans tend to think: me first, my friends & family a high second, and my country soon behind. Then a possible continent affiliation.

Where's America? As long as we can provide for their wants and needs, without disrupting their emotional views, then we're OK. BUT when we overstep our boundaries, watch out!

Posted by: Gaijin at August 20, 2003 05:23 AM

Friedman's column did refer to a caricture on the cover of Le Monde and a conversation with a French businessman, both of which are hard facts which support the asserton that some French people (obviously, they're not all crazy) hold America responsible for their bad weather. It's not as compelling as a poll, but it's not made up, either.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at August 20, 2003 05:44 AM

It's been unseasonably cool here in Chicago this summer - the temp hasn't cracked 90 once. The 'brutal Chicago winter' was also unusually mild - I had open windows for much of the season. If this is the result of our not ratifying Kyoto, then I hope we never do.

Posted by: George at August 20, 2003 06:01 AM

And when the Gringo Supremo GWB II himself repeatedly claims that the EU is single-handedly responsible for famine in Africa it is a perfectly rational assertion. Michael, BS is universal, but at least in Europe it's not coming from the very top (yet).

Posted by: Chris K at August 20, 2003 06:41 AM

I wonder if using Le Monde to represent France is not like using the NY Times and LA Times to represent America. I wonder if there are "red states" and "blue states" in France too. I also wonder whether opinions in Paris are not different as those in the countryside, and vice versa.

It's arguable that the majority of French opinion is arguably anti-US and anti-Jew, if opinion polls, political elections, and crime statistics are any indication, but I'm not a fan of painting in broad brushstrokes, and I'd bet there's more to the story than the elitists in Paris would like to admit.

I'm not defending Le Monde. I'm saying I'd rather highlight and encourage positive behavior than focus on the filth. If there's nothing to highlight after all, then my approach will have failed. But I'll take that chance.

Posted by: Hovig John Heghinian at August 20, 2003 07:19 AM

Chris K,

The US position on the GM food/Africa famine issue was not that shrill. The Bush administration merely pointed out that US food was not being accepted by (some) African countries where people were starving. Why were these governments not interested in receiving free food for their starving citizens? Because of Europe's anti-GM stance.

Now the ABC (Austalia) discussion exerpt talks about the US' short-sighted view in not focusing on "teaching the Africans to fish" instead of feeding them for one day but I think it's fairly clear how cynical this argument is in the face of starvation.

Nearly as cynical as the European argument that the US must, in essence, prove a negative that GM food is completely, totally, unquestionably benign without a shred of doubt. Good thing those Europeans don't feel the same way about their current modified food supply (all major agriculture staples have been modified significantly over the past 2,000+ years).

Posted by: Greg at August 20, 2003 08:18 AM

Greg, the argument is shrill.

1. the African countries refused the aid by their own will; to paint this as "forcing starvation" as it has been is maximum BS.
2. the main reason why the corn aid has been rejected is not the potential damage to EU-bound exports (they are insignificants; on the contrary those countries have to import corn) but the fact that those countries' farmer cannot afford paying the royalties to the GM companies once the corn is being used as seeds as it inevitably will.
3. the problems of malnutrition and starvation are less due to production than to distribution and access to markets (both national and international). The WTO is where those problems must be dealt with.

Posted by: Chris K at August 20, 2003 09:41 AM

Chris K,

I agree that the problem of people not getting enough food is a matter of distribution and not supply. I also agree that the systemic problems need to be addressed to alleviate the recurring problems many African countries face with food shortages - not only through the WTO but also through efforts to promote changes in governments that use food as a life-death political tool. (Yes, I know governments in the West that use food as a pandering tool for farmers. I'm against agriculture subsidies and tariffs that raise food prices for all of us.)

However, when African governments refuse US food aid and explicity state the GM argument and their fear of losing access to EU agriculture markets as one of the reason for refusing that food, I must disagree that the US's acknowledgement of those arguments (however cynical they may be) does not make the Bush administration "shrill."

Posted by: Greg at August 20, 2003 10:49 AM

A somewhat delusional friend of mine here in the US has built her own version of Hell.
In it I am consigned to multiple depths for the following sins: not signalling a turn last week, purchasing soft drinks, enjoying hamburgers, and willingly attending high school biology class. This woman has a degree in engineering and supports PETA.

What really chaps my hide is that for the Tillamook Cheeseburger affront and the Life Sciences atrocity I descend lower than Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. This is the state of leftist ethical philosophy. Some Vegans in the US are now emulating the Klan and you think the French are losing it? The left has lost its rudder and is a hazard to navigation.

Posted by: Patrick Lasswell at August 20, 2003 11:26 AM

The Kyoto treaty was first quashed during the Clinton administration if I recall correctly. But I suppose GWB is our target "du jour" for all things evil about America.

One thing we were taught in Air Force survival school during the interrogation camp training; always accept food if it is offered, even if you suspect that there will be unpleasant consequences later. Its better to be alive and able to squirm than to be dead or weak and beyond hope.

Posted by: sammy small at August 20, 2003 12:23 PM

Patrick, your friend is more that somewhat delusional. However, taking this and other examples as emblematic of "the Left" is no more accurate than were I to take Fred Phelps to be emblematic of the Right--there's no doubt he's lost his rudder, but that doesn't mean that whole side of the political spectrum was in the same boat.

Wow, my apologies for that ugly mixture of metaphors.

Posted by: Christopher Luebcke at August 20, 2003 01:28 PM

...I have yet to see anti-French American sentiment come even close to the craziness exhibited by our counterparts over in Paris.

For crying out loud, there were wackjobs in this country boycotting French wine b/c they didn't buy our WMD arguments. Anyone remember "Freedom Fries"? Francophobia has long been an acceptable form of bigotry in America.

Posted by: Steve Smith at August 20, 2003 01:54 PM

Come on, Steve. Boycotting wine isn't remotely the same as blaming America for the unpleasant forces of nature. I agree the "Freedom Fries" thing was silly, and I still drink French wine. But at least these campaigns were a reaction to something real, not some bigoted fantasy on par with Flat Earthism.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 20, 2003 02:04 PM


Sorry to say - but that's just goofy. When you end up with poll results showing a full 25% of French respondants wanted the US to lose the Iraq War (and 5/12 of the population indifferent) - I can't exactly compare that to changing the name of the French Fries in the verkakte Congressional cafeteria.

Yeah - I read your post about bigotry (where you assert that Bush judicial nominees feel that racism and homophobia are acceptable - a nice slanderous bit of nonsense you didn't feel compelled to document). And get all bent out of shape, quote some Molly Ivins, and talk about the French contribution in World War II.

Somehow I also found it interesting that you failed to mention French behavior from the Nazi collaborators (and incidentally post-liberation looting in Paris), de Gaul's withdrawal from NATO, to the desecration of World War II graves over the past few months.

But hey - people decided they might try some Australian or Californian wine, so feel free to draw up all manner of complex moral equivalency arguments.


Posted by: Anticipatory Retaliation at August 20, 2003 03:39 PM

MT: Whoa...are you saying it's inappropriate to question the American role in the global warming debate? Granted, our not signing the Kyoto Treaty is not the cause of the inclement weather they've been having, but it is symbolic of the complete lack of concern this administration has had about the environment, and their head-in-the-sand view about global warning. That seems to be a "reaction" to something far more real than the WMD ruse.

AR: I don't know if it's true that 25% of the French public wanted the U.S. to lose our little adventure, or how credible any such poll would be. I do remember that no country in Europe showed more sympathy than France after 9/11. And unlike Britain, they haven't proven what great allies they are by providing us with bogus intelligence about Iraq.

Posted by: Steve Smith at August 20, 2003 05:38 PM

MT: Whoa...are you saying it's inappropriate to question the American role in the global warming debate?

Steve, I said no such thing, nor did I imply any such thing.

What I said and meant is that it is despicable to blame Americans because you are hot.

I'm hot! Fucking Americans!

Gimme a break.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 20, 2003 05:53 PM

Steve: read this by Bjorn Lomborg:

"At the same time, the effect on extreme weather will be marginal: the climate models show that Kyoto will merely postpone the temperature rise by six years from 2100 to 2106."

And saying that Kyoto is "symbolic of the complete lack of concern this administration has had about the environment" ignores the facts that not one Senator voted for it when it came up for a vote and Clinton just left it in limbo without doing anything about it because he know it didn't have the votes to pass but didn't want to reject it outright.

And Bush has been much better on the environment than he is given credit for; for example, he has already raised the miles per gallon base for vehicles more than Clinton did his whole 8 years. He also lowered the arsenic level, which no one paid attention to after everyone accused him of "putting the arsenic back in the water" when he temporarily delayed Clinton's last minute act. Greg Easterbrook of the New Republic and the Brookings Institute has written several articles about the pro-environment things Bush had done but hasn't been reported in the media.

If you want to read more about recent studies disputing global warming go here to my blog. (/end shameless self promotion)

Posted by: Hei Lun Chan at August 20, 2003 06:40 PM

The Kyoto Protocol was defeated in the US Senate 99-0, FYI. Every single Democrat voted against it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 20, 2003 08:10 PM

Pat, checked out yor friend's hell. There's a link to the hell building page. Kind of cool - everyone can build their own hells.

Posted by: alan aronson at August 21, 2003 07:47 AM

As I understand it, (and my father is an oceanographer, and hangs out with a lot of meterologists) that man is solely or even primarily responsible for the current global warming is just a theory; there's nothing to actually prove it, and a lot to suggest that we are not the cause. The earth's temperature has had some very dramatic swings in the past, (remember England's thriving wine industry?) including quite a few periods when the average temps were higher than they are now, and this was before man was industrialized, or even around.

Kyoto wouldn't really hold us to any higher standards than we now have, but would make it much harder and immensely more expensive to keep that level since every single entity would be required to meet every standard instead of allowing for collective responsibility. Of course most of the countries who have signed have much worse air pollution than we do, and have no intention of actually following the standards. But the United States will be driven from pillar to post for every minor infraction, even if overall we are doing better than every single other signatory. If we're damned if we sign, and damned if we don't sign, why should we? We're already cleaner than most of the other countries in the world, many by a significant margin.

Posted by: LibraryGryffon at August 21, 2003 10:20 AM

My understanding is that the US is the dirtiest country in the world, per capita, by nearly any standard.

Posted by: Kimmitt at August 22, 2003 07:21 AM

From all I read, many of the French do blame the US for many of the world's and their own problems.

This conveniently allows the French to delay facing up to their real problems; and doing something positive to solve them.

A looming recession, a loss of international influence, coming fights in the EU over French and German excess budget deficits, along with their being so ill prepared for the heat wave, and the recent violent protests against rational reform to the pension system may hasten (hopefully) the French population's willingness to face reality and begin the process of much needed reform.

Do not bet on it however.

Posted by: Tallan at August 24, 2003 09:22 PM


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