November 09, 2003

Michael Moore's Decline

From Michael Moore’s latest screed against Americans in Germany’s Die Zeit: (Via Jeff Jarvis.)

Should such an ignorant people lead the world? How did it come to this in the first place? 82 percent of us don't even have a passport! Just a handful can speak a language other than English (and we don't even speak that very well.) ...

Ok, come on you Germans, you really know better!

Michael Moore fashions himself a defender of the common man and woman against the elites. So far, so good. But surely his snarling condescension toward “such an ignorant people” isn’t targetted at the elite.

He doesn’t understand the Internet. Articles in German magazines get translated these days, and they get linked on blogs. Consider yourself busted, Mikey, for trash-talking your people, not only your countrymen but also who is supposed to be your fan base.

He wants to know how “such an ignorant people” came to “lead the world” in the first place. Apparently he’s a part of the “ignorant” masses himself.

America leads the world because it is the only world power left standing at the end of the 20th Century. Germany (which supposedly “knows better” and is where his article is published) turned Europe into a smouldering crater. It’s hard to lead the world from beneath a pile of wreckage. Japan was a world power, too, but it went on one wicked rampage too many. Belgium and France had power, but their vicious imperialism in Asia and Africa led to a long-overdue ass-whooping. The last world power, the Soviet Union, imploded in a spasm of idiocy and evil of its own making.

America did none of that. We skipped the whole communist/fascist/imperialist thing. So here we are. The only world power, aside from Britain, that didn’t chew off its own leg.

Why do so many Americans have no passport? Because we don’t need one to travel anywhere on this continent. Mexico and Canada don’t ask for one. North America is huge and travelling farther away is expensive. Michael Moore is trash-talking the little guy (whom he supposedly champions) because the little guy doesn't make enough money to travel to Paris and Rio every year.

And what’s this about us not being able to speak English well? Puh-leeze. He’s just insulting America in Germany because it pays well. He wouldn’t bad-mouth our English in Michigan where he grew up.

Last year I discovered that my wife didn’t know who Michael Moore was. So we rented his first movie Roger and Me and we both loved it. I still like that movie, but I feel bad now that I introduced my wife to an assclown. She can consider this post a product recall.

Conservatives never liked Michael Moore, but there really was a time when he was a reasonable guy, when he had a sense of humor, when he made decent movies. Not any more.

And it isn’t just disgruntled liberals who are sick of him. The leftists at Dissent don’t have much time for him either.

Meanwhile, go read Armed Liberal's superb essay about patriotic liberalism. Michael Moore, you had better take notes.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at November 9, 2003 07:48 PM
Comments

What depresses me isn't that Moore is, as you well put it, an assclown. There are those in every country. It isn't even that he's washing dirty linen in public. There are people who weren't raised with manners in every country, too.

No, what depresses me is the near certainty that Moore's German audience will believe him when he claims to be speaking for a majority of Americans. It's one little bit more in the chain of mutual misunderstanding with Europe.

I have no doubt that - given his popularity in Germany and points west - he'll be taken at his word, and all too many Europeans will believe that Americans (in addition to being stupid) really despise Bush and disagree with his policies, and those policies are only supported by, oh, Halliburton, I suppose. Whoever the villain du jour is. Neocons. Texans. Joooooz. Whoever.

I don't know what they're going to think a year less a week from now. But this kind of disconnect with reality isn't good news, and furthering it does no service to anyone.

Posted by: jaed at November 9, 2003 09:27 PM

I confess that I have recently referred to Michael Moore as "the Ann Coulter of the Left". I apologize unreservedly to Ms. Coulter.

Posted by: Stephen at November 9, 2003 09:35 PM

I am not a disgruntled liberal (well, I'm liberal and I'm disgruntled but it's usually not by other liberals) and I don't have much patience for the guy. I wasn't even crazy about Roger and Me--he's forever going after and embarrassing some security guard or clerk who's just doing his/her job. It's an easy thing to do but not impressive from a supposed defender of the common man.

Also, wasn't he somehow involved in "Canadian Bacon"?

Posted by: Katherine at November 9, 2003 10:41 PM

Yes, he directed "Canadian Bacon." I didn't see that one because I heard (from a lot of people) that it's boring. I really do like "Roger and Me" though. It bugs me what's happened to him.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 9, 2003 11:40 PM

Actually, instead or in addition to a driver's license, I think every 16 year old should get a passport. Cheap tickets overseas are available to most college students for the cost of an x box and a few video games.

Having all Americans get a passport at the same time as a driver's license would both obviate the need for a national id card and would make it much easier for high school and college students to take advantage of opportunities that come their way.

Posted by: anne.elk at November 10, 2003 12:15 AM

Not a bad idea, Anne.

I don't need to take my passport when I go to Canada (which is fairly often), but I do it anyway because it seems to make border crossings easier. I used to get pulled over at the border every time, and once the Canadian police took everything out of my car and dumped it on the pavement. I asked "why me?" and a police woman said "to make an impression on everyone in the line behind you."

It could be a coincidence that my passport was the variable that took me out of whatever profile I used to fit. But it sure didn't hurt.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 10, 2003 12:22 AM

Is this the right moment to confess that I liked Canadian Bacon?

Regrettably, here in Europe Moore's schtick is lapped up uncritically by the press.Yet I think it's an improvement from the days when there was just one American intellectual whom the press went to when they wanted 'expert opinion' on the US.Hell,growing up in Finland you could get the idea that he was the only American intellectual alive.

Hint:They call him "America's leading dissident".As in "Andrei Saharov is a..",you know.

Posted by: JH at November 10, 2003 12:57 AM

while it is nice to see that people of every political creed are sick of Moore, I think the part that is more saddening is simply that the people who support Moore do not mind that Moore, who supposedly defends the "working stiff against capitalistic greed", is actually insulting the same people.

i think they don't mind because they are so self loathing that they already feel guilty their own position, their own citizenship, their own luck, their own good fortune.

Moore tells others how stupid americans are, and it is moore's followers who say "yes, WE are that stupid, that is why WE suck".

and it is this self loathing that embodies a certain portion of the shrillest of the left. I don't think that classical liberalism was built on the cornerstone of self loathing, but a new type of Left is--they hate them selves, they hate their lives, their opportunities, their missed opportunities, their power and their helplessness all at the same time.

i don't believe for a second that their hatred of inequality begat their self loathing. hatred of inequality can lead to action, but to lead to self immolation, something else happens. what was it that happened to this portion of the Left?

Posted by: anonymous at November 10, 2003 01:46 AM

Michael, no wonder you didn't get my earlier reference title for you and RL Simon to write a joint blog book "Roger and Michael." (Maybe neither title nor idea is any good). Of course, I only read reveiws of the movie (not available in Slovakia. yet?).

But Moral Superiority is the feeling Moore's audience has; better than the common guy, and the common guy should respect his betters. It's those common guys, and Reps, that disagree who suck; who are stupid, who cannot see the wonderous morally superior clothes that PC paragons wear.

How did the naked emperor feel after being exposed and laughed at? Embarassed, in the story. Enraged, in real life; and full of hate, Hate, HATE.

Posted by: Tom Grey at November 10, 2003 02:14 AM

So what if most American citizens don't have a passport? So what if most American citizens only speak English (even if badly)?

The United States is a, geographically, beautiful, diverse place. The mountains and hills of New England, the seaports of the East Coast, the Florida Keys, Hawaii, the Pacific Northwest, Amber waves of grain, etc, etc.

And English is the most widely understood and spoken language in all the world.

Why go to Europe or anywhere else? Why learn Spanish or French or German? So we can be harped at and criticized in their native tongue, on their native soil. No thanks.

Mikey (Moore, that is), dude, get a clue. We're not all into self-loathing like you. We don't all affect to be Euro-intelligentsia. And disinterest in travel or learning another language has nothing to do with idiocy - that would be a foolish or stupid person, so take a look in the mirror.

Posted by: steve at November 10, 2003 04:33 AM

I wonder... how many average citizens of say, Hamburg Germany have a passport? I wonder how many of them have traveled to southern France? That distance a trip would be shorter than the trip I made a couple years ago from Minneapolis to Dallas. (I Think) Also the cultural difference was almost as great.

Posted by: bilhedrick at November 10, 2003 06:27 AM

I don't respect or appreciate anybody fanning the irrational and unfair antiamericanism that is rampant throughout the world. The fact that America presently has a lot of power in the world is much less important than the question of what ends America uses her power for.

Having said this, the low percentage of Americans that travel more to other coutries (frankly I don't think a large percentage of Americans regularly travel to Canada or Mexico either), and the even lower percentage of Americans who can speak a foreign language should be a source of embarrasment for us.

America needs to take some responsibility for not fanning the flames of antiamericanism itself. This doesn't mean that national sovereignty for countries ruled by sadistic tinpot dictators trumps universal human rights. But it does mean that we need to exercise our overwhelming present superiority in so many areas with maganaminity and humility. Moving toward the goal of requiring all high school graduates to pass a test in a foreign language might be a worthy expression of such an attitude.

Posted by: Markus Rose at November 10, 2003 07:57 AM

Steve: Why go to Europe or anywhere else? Why learn Spanish or French or German? So we can be harped at and criticized in their native tongue, on their native soil. No thanks.

I know (some) Spanish, and I have visited Europe and South America. No one harped at me, not even in Paris last year.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 10, 2003 09:05 AM
Ah, but Michael, how were you treated in restaurants?

(....runs and hides behind curtain....)

As to Moore; strange, a creative individual who has placed his creativity at the service of ideology. Roger and Me was a fairly good first movie, but betrayed some of MM's faults early on (one of the vehicles he uses in the movie is a portrayal of auto workers as clueless suckers, fwiu).

When you strip away the "common man" schtick and force him to remove his Detroit Lions cap, you get a guy who is probably very comfortable with Democratic Centralism.

Oh, who compared MM to Ann Coulter? Avast ye, swab! Coulter has much better legs!

Be Seeing You,

Chris

Posted by: section9 at November 10, 2003 09:37 AM

No need to visit Paris. Americans are on the cutting edge of harping at and criticizing one another. The Euros are merely snotty by comparison.

Posted by: Zacek at November 10, 2003 09:43 AM

I've travelled the world and I can tell you I am already living in the best country, the USA. We have more freedom of movement than anywhere else, by far. Add to that the fact that without ever leaving this country there is nowhere else in the world where you can visit so many cultures of the world and yet never cross a national border. That fact alone should tell you something.

I certainly don't feel that whether or not we visit other nations should be an embarrassment. Nor should being able to speak only a single language. Languages are tools. Why would I want to own a tool that I would never use. If you ARE going to travel outside the english speaking world you should add to your set of tools.

As for anti-Americanism, I find it increasingly difficult to care. I keep trying to come up with a reason to be concerned about whether or not every other culture in the world has to love and respect us. I keep getting the same answer, I'm okay if they just fear and respect us.

I know, not enough humility.

Semper Fi

Posted by: RickM at November 10, 2003 10:06 AM

I’ve highly sensitive to labeling ‘dissent’ as a mental issue. My two reasons are,
1)Having family behind the iron curtain where the communists would often label dissenters as having mental issues.
2)My living on the other side of the iron curtain where leftist academics have done countless dubious ‘studies’ over the decades associating conservatism with various negative personality aspects and/or poor socialization of the individual. The latest to be noticed was that infamous Berkley study that lumped Ronald Reagan in the same camp as soviet communists….

Anyway, that being said, I personally had a relationship with a person suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder and read a lot about the subject to try to figure out who (and what) I was dealing with.

This is an interesting link, and because it rings true with my personal knowedge of the subject, I don’t dismiss it out of hand as a hatchet job.

You’re free to disagree and any attempt at ‘remote diagnoses’ SHOULD be scrutinized and suspect… Nonetheless, Moore has the symptoms… including the rage attacks (and not just against authority figures).

This disorder would explain his need to pander to whatever audience he is speaking with. He just can’t help it…. Don’t expect him to grow up anytime soon… Even criticism is a form of attention (abet negative) and this is all they want. You can’t win with them (except by leaving them and/or ignoring them).

http://www.hardylaw.net/mental.html

Posted by: Thomas at November 10, 2003 10:11 AM

Narcissitic Personality Disorder? Not being a psychology maven, I must ask: is this condition a brain chemistry thing or a environmental thing (I also have no idea what the proper terms are)?

I'll also note that I'm not going to assume Moore's suffering from this; I didn't believe in psychoanalysis-from-a-distance when they were doing it to Bush, and I'm not going to believe in it now. No offense meant. :)

Posted by: Moe Lane at November 10, 2003 10:24 AM

I'm further to the right than most of MJT's readership, so I want to ask you: what would be the media reaction to, say, William F Buckley or Sean Hannity badmouthing the American people as ignorant?

When Moore says these things he does not provoke a large media backlash. He's said things like this many times in the past, in Cannes and in London. But if Frist or Haster or OReilly or Limbaugh were to go overseas and insult America, IMO it would be trumpeted and repeated, and the speaker of such sentiments would never live it down. As it should be.

So is it then kind of a "leftie" character trait to insult your own, to denigrate your own country? I hope not, but why is he a bestseller without fail?

If someone on the right had said "At least the terrorists hit NY, where there aren't a lot of Bush voters," such a twit would never have been able to get a movie made or a book published.
But Moore said after 9-11, "There weren't a lot of Bush voters in the twin towers. Why kill them?"

He said on the Daily show that the Bush administration "is not human." Stewart said "well you're more radical than me."

Bowling: he made much of America's "violent, gun-toting" founding fathers.
Well, take a look at the French revolution. Guillotines. Reign of Terror. Robespierre. Followed by Napoleonic conquest. And now their pseudo-liberty nanny state, let Grandma fry. Yeah, OUR revolution was MUCH worse.

Visit http://www.moorewatch.com

Posted by: Bleeding Heart Conservative at November 10, 2003 10:27 AM

Posted by Moe Lane at November 10, 2003 10:24 AM
It is considered a result of environment.

I don't mind your skepticism.. it is perfectly healthy. Still, Moore's behavior over the years have me buying it....

The environment vs. chemical thing is in the article, so you probably didn’t check it out yet. I’d recommend looking it over before rejecting it.

Posted by: Thomas at November 10, 2003 10:32 AM

Forgive the paraphrasing above, what he said was:
"Many families have been devastated tonight. This just is not right. They did not deserve to die. If someone did this to get back at Bush, then they did so by killing thousands of people who DID NOT VOTE for him! Boston, New York, DC, and the planes destination of California -- these were places that voted AGAINST Bush!"

Let's turn that around.
"Many families have been devastated tonight. This just right. They did deserve to die. Someone did this to get back at Bush, they did so by killing thousands of people who VOTED for him!"

Isn't it pretty much the same sentiment?

Posted by: Bleeding Heart Conservative at November 10, 2003 10:38 AM

"The environment vs. chemical thing is in the article, so you probably didn’t check it out yet."

Or missed it somehow. As I said, I'm not particularly checked out on psychology. :)

Thanks for the info.

Moe

Posted by: Moe Lane at November 10, 2003 10:51 AM

Moe,

Guess the article is not very clear on answering that. So here is some more info:

http://samvak.tripod.com/faq70.html

http://samvak.tripod.com/journal43.html

The author tries to show more than one point of view, but basically personality disorders are reactions to abuse... In this case, a parent that did not show Genuine affection (they can dot all over you, but if you’re a tool to make them look better it is not affection.

Posted by: Thomas at November 10, 2003 10:57 AM

"I wasn't even crazy about Roger and Me--he's forever going after and embarrassing some security guard or clerk who's just doing his/her job."

This quote and the related ones hit Moore's "populism" right on the head. Moore's audience is targeted not towards the peasants but the american lords and dukes who feel good about being so far above the lowly lady who sells bunnies as pets or food, the color scheme lady or any of the other groundlings in R&M. I affirms their every prejudices of those who live on the otherside of the hudson.

Posted by: Bill at November 10, 2003 11:14 AM

"As for anti-Americanism, I find it increasingly difficult to care. I keep trying to come up with a reason to be concerned about whether or not every other culture in the world has to love and respect us. I keep getting the same answer..."

Well, perhaps this is the same answer, but I'll restate it anyway.

First, we need allies. no offense to the poles, but we need larger, more influential countries to lend us their support. And it is in our interest (and the world's interest) for other countries not to form alliances for the explicit purpose of challenging US hegemony. The support of large european and asian in the war on terror and in the effort to democratize the Middle East could mean the difference between success and failure.

Second, Europe and America, in particular, have a lot to teach one another about the best way to live, govern, etc...the average European lifestyle puts ours to shame, while the US economy is much more vital and dynamic.

Third, we may not always be number one.

Finally, as someone with a US Navy email address, I'm not sure how directly involved you are with what is going on in Iraq, but it seems clear that the linguistic and cultural incompetencies of the US forces there leave them much more vulnerable and make their job much more difficult than it would be otherwise.

Posted by: Markus Rose at November 10, 2003 11:29 AM

Moore in Roger and Me admirably took care to denouce Asia bashing and protectionist tendencies. He also portrayed that rabbit-killing lady very positively. If anything that scene was a challenge to the animal rights crowd on the new york side of the hudson. As someone who thinks more class warfare in America would be as welcome as regime change in baathist iraq, I applaud Moore's propaganda efforts in regard to economic policy matters.

Posted by: markus rose at November 10, 2003 11:45 AM

Posted by Markus Rose at November 10, 2003 11:29 AM

> the average European lifestyle puts ours to
> shame

I disagree with that and have spent plenty of time in Europe (I have a US and European passports / dual citizenship). The things I believe they have going for them (better food, healthier, et cetera) are the result of personal choice issues (re: we could live as well, or better, by only changing our point of view and behavior). Not because of wealth, their systems, et cetera... (tongue in cheek, no one is forcing you to eat McDonalds..)

Also, knowing both groups (Americans and Europeans) there are plenty of other 'point of view' issues that I believe Americans have a leg up on... Optimism being very high on the list…

Posted by: Thomas at November 10, 2003 11:55 AM

At this point, I'm inclined to ask the question, What larger and more influential countries?

Germany? Hasn't sent anybody out of Europe until Article 5 of the NATO treaty was invoked after 9-11, and is considering cutting its military as is.

France? They think we'er their enemy. Have been since the mid 90's. They would not have contributed anything anyway, having got themselves in a quagmire in Africa. (Not that anybody cares about Africa).

China? They're not going to send any troops anywhere.

Russia? No way they'd help with this. Too corrupt and too incompetent.

The US spends more on Defense than Europe, Russia and China combined, IIRC, and the US is certainly getting more bang for the buck.

What's left?

Japan has sent money, South Korea, Poland, Spain, Italy, Denmark, even COSTA RICA among others have sent ships or planes or troops, I'm not even mentioning the British...

I think the opponents of what we're doing (other than the people actually shooting at US troops in Iraq and AFghanistan), are basically powerless to do anything about it.

Posted by: eric at November 10, 2003 12:02 PM

"Having said this, the low percentage of Americans that travel more to other coutries (frankly I don't think a large percentage of Americans regularly travel to Canada or Mexico either), and the even lower percentage of Americans who can speak a foreign language should be a source of embarrasment for us. "

"Moving toward the goal of requiring all high school graduates to pass a test in a foreign language might be a worthy expression of such an attitude."

Marcus,

1. Frankly, I can think of better things for us to be embarrassed about

2. I respectfully suggest that, before we worry about teacher foreign languages to high school students, we succeed in teaching them how to read and write in english. As it is, how many students can't pass 'high stakes' testing?

3. As a foreign language teacher, I can assure you that, in the absence of immersion, next to no one can become at all proficient with a foreign language without investing many years of study (and even then, spoken language remains a problem). To speak it, you have to go there & spend some time.

4. What is an 'average European lifestyle?' Whatever it is, I guess we choose our lifestyles, so, the fact that we haven't opted for a European one, must mean something.

5. The last time I visited Europe, my round-trip ticket was $900.00. How many families of, say, four can take a vacation where transportation costs alone come to $3600.00? How many Europeans travel equivalent distances, over oceans, at similar prices, for vacation?

Posted by: Ellie at November 10, 2003 12:19 PM

ellie
1. I an interested in hearing what you think we should be embarrased about. I'm don't think this is the most important issue for us to be concerned with, either. I don't like being labeled as an "ugly american" when i go overseas, but while criticizing those who would unfairly stereotype me and other americans as such, I think it is also important to declare my opposition to all bona-fide ugly americans.

2. No disagreement with me on first teaching English As a First Language. Our education system is pathetic, due to insufficient public investment and a lack of market competition. (Ha! bet i threw ya a curve ball there)

3. Immersion programs are indeed more effective and should be encouraged. (such as spending a year abroad, etc.) Perhaps non-immersion language teaching would be more effective if it began in elementary school.

4. Average European lifestyle involves less work (usually four weeks paid vacation per year, generous paid maternity leave), less stress, less use of natural resources, less use of the automobile, less tv. Less fear of job loss due to an extensive safety net. Many people in the United States would appreciate the opportunity to live a life more like this, but it is difficult. (for instance, it is often necessary to buy a very expensive house in a suburb, requiring a long commute and both parents working, in order to be able to find a good school, etc.). It is generally believed in Europe that their welfare state needs to be scaled back somewhat, in order to make their economies more dynamic. I wish the converse realization was more common in America. A mean between both systems would be ideal from my perspective.

5. It is expensive to travel, and yes, Europeans also don't come to America as much as they should. They know of course more about us than we do about them due to the saturation of our media in their countries. I would support a travel tax credit for those below a certain income level, in order to encourage them to travel overseas.

Posted by: markus rose at November 10, 2003 12:55 PM

You know, when Lucky Lindy decided being liked by the Germans was more important then supporting his own country, people called him a traitor. Of course, unlike Lindbergh, Michael Moore couldn't survive a trip across the Atlantic with only a bottle of water and a single sandwich.

Posted by: Mike Silverman at November 10, 2003 01:41 PM

If America was 50 nations instead of 50 states within one nation, I suspect we'd be the most well-traveled people in the world. I'd like to know how often Europeans travel outside Europe. This is a more reasonable comparison, especially since Europe is in the process of coalescing into one entity.

Posted by: linden at November 10, 2003 01:56 PM

It seems that love of ones own is a natural and healthy sentiment to have. But, in regard to the idea that this is the greatest country in the world, which Armed Liberal discusses in his essay that Michael links too -- Should Americans convinced of this idea be trying to convince non-Americans of its truth, or should we rather keep it to ourselves? It seems that it is a useful belief to retain, but that it is easy to cross the line into arrogance if one trumpets it to loudly.

Posted by: Markus Rose at November 10, 2003 01:58 PM

Posted by linden at November 10, 2003 01:56 PM

Good one, and if we had a different language in 2/3rds of our 50 states we'd also know several languages.

Posted by: Thomas at November 10, 2003 02:05 PM

Michael Moore doesn't seem to like how America leads the world. I wonder if he remembers what happened the last few times his beloved Germans tried.

Posted by: a at November 10, 2003 02:08 PM

Posted by Markus Rose at November 10, 2003 01:58 PM

> trying to convince non-Americans of its truth,

How are we trying to do that?

Come on, really... if you spend time in Europe do you really think the writers at Le Monde, the BBC, and the German press have problems with us because WE are pushing a notion of American superiority on them?

All I've seen is their seeking us out to attack the system here to prop up their own desire to see themselves as superior... this is what Moore played to with that, "Americans without their passports" line. Bush's America has no universal healthcare.. 'Guns Culture', violence, blaw blaw blaw...

Posted by: Thomas at November 10, 2003 02:11 PM

Several people on this blog have left comments indicating that their patriotic fervor requires them not just to announce that the USA is a great country, but that it in fact is the greatest country. You can call me unpatriotic for saying this, but that makes me uncomfortable. Much European anti-Americanism is an expression of envy, and the effort to remove the resultant resentment through excessive criticism of the object of envy. I'm simply asking Americans not to encourage such envy through triumphalism, and also not to play the same stupid game (particularly since the operative feeling of americans toward europe appears to be more one of condescenscion rather than envy). As we are all supposed to learn on a playground in elementary school, one's sense of worth should not come at another's expense.

Posted by: Markus Rose at November 10, 2003 02:27 PM

MJT: Well, then, I will have to give Spain a try.

I've been to Italy (a few times) and England, Ireland, and France. I've not had a bad experience ever. Rather, I was trying to make the point that when I hear Michael Moore, Edward Norton, Ricki Lee Jones, et al make these comments while in Europe and they receive applause and affirmation, then it strikes me as understandable that many people would take that as an unwelcoming sign.

The other point is, I think it shows remarkable insecurity that many/some in Europe believe the choice by Americans to travel in the US and to speak only English is a repudiation of the rest of the world. Maybe for some that is true, but I know plenty of people who haven't travelled internationally because there is so much here they still want to see. And they don't learn another language because they see it as difficult, uninteresting, and, largely, unnecessary.

Posted by: steve at November 10, 2003 02:56 PM

I'm simply asking Americans not to encourage such envy through triumphalism, and also not to play the same stupid game (particularly since the operative feeling of americans toward europe appears to be more one of condescenscion rather than envy).

I'm with Markus on this. Triumphalism is obnoxious wherever it comes from, though I'm not seeing nearly as much of that here as I do elsewhere.

Also, is America really so much better than everywhere else? It's easy to think so when looking at Afghanistan, but what about Canada? Or modern Germany for that matter. Those countries have their problems, but so do we. America beats Germany in many ways, but Germany beats America in other ways (such as amount of leisure time, livability of cities, and egalitarianism.)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 10, 2003 03:21 PM

"livability of cities"

I suppose that is true as long as personal space and hygene are not measuring points. Don't get me wrong, I despise the unwalkable California city designs, but if livability to you means a pool and a driveway large enough to park a Suburban in, Germany blows goats. Even the water feature in your backyard would be an extravagance of wasted space.

As for hygene, one of downsides of living in an ancient apartment is ancient plumbing. That is not true everywhere, but it is true that dense accomodations are susceptible to rapid transmission of disease. Call me crazy, but I consider dying of SARS a negative point when measuring livability.

Not all of our living decisions are completely without merit, even if they are wasteful and insular. Of course, I'm predjudiced, I've already spent too much time in close quarters to relish doing so forever.

Posted by: Patrick Lasswell at November 10, 2003 04:06 PM

Several interesting items here...

Mr. Moore - he's an assbag, nuff said.

Languages - Yes, we are extremely weak on needed languages right now but those needed languages certainly aren't French or other Latin based languages of Europe. We have them coming out our...

Patriotic fervor - Pride, certainly. Patriotism, yes sir! Fervor, well maybe about my grandkids.

Triumphalism - I looked it up to ensure that I wasn't one of the unwashed masses. Yes, I believe our system is the best available.

Happy Birthday to all of the Devil Dogs around the world!

Semper Fi

Posted by: RickM at November 10, 2003 04:34 PM

I too am a former Michael Moore fan.

One of my fond memories: In a segment of Moore's TV Nation, he interviewed fundamentalist Christian millenialists about their predictions for the imminent apocalypse and triumphant return of Jeebus. One group, I remember, expected that the races would each be given their own planet to run -- Jews to Mercury, Africans to Mars, etc. Caucasians would inherit the Earth of course. I believe Moore asked them if that didn't mean that Caucasions were meek, since the Lord was pretty specific about who was supposed to get the Earth, even if he was somewhat ambigous about Mars, etc. There was something truly delightful at the time in watching racist nutjobs being confronted with their own illogic. It was unlike anything I'd ever seen before on national television. Best yet, on the day of the predicted apocalypse (which was supposed to begin in NYC), Moore, standing at a payphone in the middle of Manhattan and wearing a hard hat, calling them up to ask them when he could expect the carnage to begin.

Funny thing is, as I recollect that moment now, it seems tawdry and cheap. Certainly the racist millenialists were contemptible, but they were also clearly out of their minds, and so the bit consisted essentially of poking fun at the mentally ill, and, to some extent, encouraging viewers to conflate them with more conventional Christians. In retrospect, I'm almost embarrassed that I enjoyed it so much.

Changing subjects slightly, I think that the loony Left are very similar to religious fundamentalists in one respect. I think both groups are addicted to the little frisson of superiority someone feels they think their vantage on the world is deeper or higher than that of the rest of us. The fundies feel as though the scales have fallen from their eyes, and that they see Jeebus's great plan for us all, and similarly the loony Left imagines that see the evil wizard behind the curtain of conventional liberal democracy. Both of them seem to enjoy this feeling of being part of a select minority who is in on the secret.

So it isn't really self-loathing that the Left feels. It is more of a self-aggrandizing sense that one is in the know. It condescends to everyone who cannot say the shibboleth, and it kowtows to every instance of its own reflection.

Posted by: Browning at November 10, 2003 05:55 PM

I have a lot of respect for Michael Moore. He is the single most American thing I can imagine.

He has a product and is making money, hand over fist, by selling it to a buying public. Angry liberals have put Moore on the bestseller list twice in the last five years. His movies do quite well. The guy won an Oscar, for God's sake.

I don't agree with a thing Moore says, but I agree with what he is doing. He is making a product, selling that product and making out like a bandit. Michael Moore is capitalism in action.

And he knows it.

For those of you who slugged through Ayn Rand's magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, I have to say that Michael Moore makes a better Gail Wynand than Gail Wynand did.

I hope Moore keeps right on going. His irrationality assures that he will never do any actual damage to my side of the political spectrum and it is very ironic and amazingly satisfying watching anti-American loons participate in the single greatest modern example of why Capitalism works, all the while decrying capitalism.

Posted by: Roark at November 10, 2003 05:57 PM

Roark, I hate to do this to you, but Wynand is from The Fountainhead. He's your namesake's alter ego. "A tribute to the spirit that is yours, and could have been mine."

Posted by: spc67 at November 10, 2003 06:39 PM

I stopped believing the Left were for the "common man" a while ago. Instead, I now appreciate that the Left is far more motivated by being anti-capitalist, and by extension, anti-American.

A pretty good example of this, and they are numerous, is how for over a decade the Left protested "the Sanctions" because it was "killing 500,000 Iraqi children per year", or some other such hogwash. Presumably they cared about the suffering of the Iraqi masses, right? But then their tune quickly changed when following the successful invasion, Bush lobbied the U.N. to lift the sanctions. The French, Germans, and especially the Russians resisted lifting the sanctions, and they gave their silly reasons. But lo and behold, these same anti-sanction champions of the Left also joined in the resistance to lift the sanctions. Their rationale is that it would reward U.S. aggression. So much for the "500,000 Iraqi children" !!!!

Posted by: David at November 10, 2003 06:50 PM

I'm willing to give up American triumphalism if the French are willing to give up snootiness and condenscension and the Germans are willing to give up pushiness and schadenfreude. ;->=

I am unwilling to give up real patriotism because everyone everywhere should do it right. Support and respect there little part of the world when it's right and improve it when it's wrong (even while differing on specific details). Otherwise, move to a more congenial place. Oh, wait. New Americans do that every day.

Posted by: JorgXMcKie at November 10, 2003 07:18 PM

Markus Rose, you seem to be ignoring the one fact that everyone keeps mentioning in your insistence that "Americans should travel to Europe." Well, let me spell it out for you:

America and Europe are far away from one another.

Plane fare is expensive.

Not all Americans (and there are nearly 280 million of us) can afford to take expensive plane trips to other continents.

Hey, dude, I went to Europe in 1981 and I have fond memories of the place. I'd like to see how it's improved since. (I hear it's palatial -- the streets are paved with gold, everyone has a Rolls Royce, and they get six months out of the year for vacation.)

By the way, all that great health care and stuff didn't fall out of the sky onto Europe; they pay for it with something called "taxes." Which is why, as soon as they are financially able, so many Europeans move over here. I haven't met a European yet who hasn't griped, bitched, and moaned about the amount of taxes they have to pay in their colorful native lands. I think that, more than some sort of superior "lifestyle choice," is the reason why Europeans aren't as into buying things like cars and big homes over there. They sure do drop those habits when they hit the States.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at November 10, 2003 08:24 PM

Oh, I forgot: if you want to send this American back to Europe so she can cure her uniquely American ignorance and in general add my arms to that big Transatlantic hug between the two regions, you can donate to my Paypal account.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at November 10, 2003 08:32 PM

I'm pretty skeptical of personality disorder diagnoses in general, given the tendency of a lot of mental health professionals to use "classic case of borderline personality disorder" in place of the more traditional "b*tch" or "a**hole" in casual conversation. I mean, any diagnosis that you're sometimes not supposed to tell the patient about because it could make them worse....

I think proficiency in another language should be required of high school students. I don't know if it speaks well for me or not that I've seen more of Europe than of the U.S. south of Washington D.C. or west of Syracause NY, but if you can afford it (and it's now cheaper than a lot of domestic trips, at least from the east coast, because there's no need for car rental) it really is worth it to go.

I never know what you guys are referring to when you talk about the Left-with-a-capital-L. A few indefensible nutjobs in ANSWER? The democratic party? The green party? The left-most 10% of the electorate? Nation subscribers? The definition floats all over the place.

I hope I would never be so careless/stupid as to write that "The Right thinks that 9/11 was a punishment for homosexuality and abortion," and psychoanalyze from there--but people on the right have said as much, and I suspect that more people agree with Pat Robertson than with Ramsey Clark.

Posted by: Katherine at November 10, 2003 09:11 PM

Katherine: no, only the nutjobs do. Is Michael Moore a nutjob of the left, or is he an opportunist laughing all the way to the bank (if one who seems to have sold his shtick to himself).

By the way, you can't get a degree at a university in the state in Florida -- you know, the state where everyone is dumb? -- without taking a foreign language for at least two semesters in college or two years in high school.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at November 10, 2003 09:38 PM

I never know what you guys are referring to when you talk about the Left-with-a-capital-L.

Sometimes when I say "the left" I mean the 50 percent of the country that is left-of-center.

Usually, though, I mean people who are on the left-wing of the Democratic Party or who are outside the Democratic Party entirely, like ANSWER goons, socialists, and anarchists.

I do make distinctions between leftists and liberals. Tom Daschle is as far removed from Noam Chomsky as John McCain is from Pat Robertson.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 10, 2003 10:01 PM

"Roark, I hate to do this to you, but Wynand is from The Fountainhead. He's your namesake's alter ego. "A tribute to the spirit that is yours, and could have been mine.""

You are right ;) My mistake.

Actually Roark is my middle name. I read Rand's stuff back in college, got a kick out of the coincidence but it had been a long time. Forgive my transplant.

Thanks for the correction.

Posted by: Roark at November 11, 2003 07:04 AM

"Katherine: no, only the nutjobs do. Is Michael Moore a nutjob of the left, or is he an opportunist laughing all the way to the bank (if one who seems to have sold his shtick to himself)."

Just to jump in here for a second - I don't think Moore has sold anything to himself.

I think Moore is a cold hearted realist who knows what side his bread is buttered on. He has thrived under a Republican administration. Under Clinton, he was a nobody. He was just another quasi political hack / comedian that had marginal name recognition and very little audience or success.

Under Bush, he has turned into a household name.

Moore may claim he voted for Clark in the next election, but my money is on Moore voting for Bush. He knows what he is, he is savy and he knows how to run his business. I'm telling you - Moore is a Republican to the bone.

Posted by: Roark at November 11, 2003 07:13 AM

It's actually quite clever. He manages to:

1. Say some nice things about Americans. After all, he's an American himself!

2. Cater to the perceived prejudices of his hosts.

3. Flatter his hosts.

4. Elevate himself to the level of serene, detached observer, thus impressing his hosts with his honesty and objectivity.

Too many Americans have caught on to his schtick so now he has to take his show on the road. He probably thinks the Germans are the opposite of what he says they are or else he wouldn't wast the time and expense on a road show.

Posted by: Tongue Boy at November 11, 2003 08:59 AM

Travel to Europe (especially the UK) is actually not that expensive if you are willing to go cattle class and do a bit of research online. There are all kinds of great deals going, you just have to look for them.

It is a great pity that Americans don't travel to the Europe more for several reasons.

1. They need to understand the country from which many of the ancestors came.

2. It would help if they understood why (Continental) Europeans are the way they are.

3. It would make Americans less insular, isolationist and downright ignorant about Western Europe.

4. And for most people it will remind them of why they really like the US. Not the platitudes of jingoism or false pride.

5. Might have a postive affect on Europe as well.

Personally, I am an American who does not like to live in the US. I have never felt welcome there or comfortable. Let's face it, Americans don't like eccentrics much, now do they? That does not mean I dislike the US or do not believe it is not the best place to live for other people.

I have had American nitwits tell me "if you don't like it here...leave!' This sort of moronic knee-jerk jingoism is neither patriotic nor helpful. It is possible to like the US quite a bit, but not live there. Not every self-expatriated American is anti-US, and to think so is foolish. But you would be surprised how often I have heard that said.

Posted by: Andrew Ian Dodge at November 11, 2003 09:00 AM

"Also, is America really so much better than everywhere else? It's easy to think so when looking at Afghanistan, but what about Canada? Or modern Germany for that matter. Those countries have their problems, but so do we. America beats Germany in many ways, but Germany beats America in other ways (such as amount of leisure time, livability of cities, and egalitarianism.)"

Heck, Cuba's got us all beat in terms of leisure time (who needs to work when there's egalitarianism?), livability of cities (Carribean paradise over cold damp Northern Europe any day), and egalitarianism (can't beat the best health care system in the world).

Posted by: JJ Walker at November 11, 2003 12:58 PM

To to be too rude, but why the hell should I travel to Europe when I haven't even been to every state in my own country yet?

Seriously, when I can go from lobster in Boston to gumbo and Mardi Gras in New Orleans, then to BBQ in the midwest, a deep dish pizza in Chicago, travel for alder-baked salmon in Seattle, head south for cioppino, then over a bit for misquite smoked ribs in Arizona... that's just a tiny percentage of a small example of what this country has to offer. I'm checking down the states, and I'll be going to all of them before I worry about traveling overseas.

I know that those places have more to offer than food, but it's a good way of showing the differences

Posted by: Raging Dave at November 11, 2003 01:05 PM

I'm sorry, that should have started out "NOT to be too rude."

Preview is my friend.

Posted by: Raging Dave at November 11, 2003 01:05 PM

Raging Dave,

There are places in the US I have never been but would dearly love to visit. New Orleans is on the top of that list.

But there is nothing quite like immersing yourself in a foreign place. It makes me feel like a little kid again because everything is new and amazing.

I am going to Central America next week. I've been there before and what struck me about it the most was that I kept half-expecting to see pterodactyls flying over the swooping jungle-covered volcanoes. There is nothing quite like walking through thick jungle beneath an active smoking volcano while listening to the shrieking of howler monkeys. It is a sublime experience, I assure you. Oh, and the people down there are wonderful too. They are so kind it hurts.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 11, 2003 02:01 PM



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