Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Things I'm Learning About You Day By Day

There's often an implicit assumption among the leftist elite in this country that European anti-Americanism is based on a rational understanding of the facts. Unlike the largely ignorant, ill-informed American public, our European betters are much more educated on what's really going (and has gone) on and it's no surprise that this superior knowledge leads them to hold the United States in such low regard.

Anyone who has any experience interacting with average Europeans knows just how silly this notion is. Now, a new poll confirms that at least in Britain, anti-Americanism is often based on misconceptions not facts:

A poll of nearly 2,000 Britons by YouGov/PHI found that 70 per cent of respondents incorrectly said it was true that the US had done a worse job than the European Union in reducing carbon emissions since 2000.

The poll was commissioned by America In The World , an independent pressure group that launches on Monday and aims to improve understanding and appreciation of the US in Britain and around the world.

Tim Montgomerie, its director, said factual inaccuracies and mistaken assumptions have contributed to Britons and Europeans taking a hostile stance towards their most powerful ally, which often acted against national interests.

"We wanted to find out how British people understood America and found that there was an unbalanced view. Maybe there are good reasons but if we cleared a lot of that factual ignorance we would have a better understanding of what America really is," said Mr Montgomerie, who also founded the influential ConservativeHome website three years ago.

Among the poll's other findings:

* The survey showed that a majority agreed with the false statement that since the Second World War the US had more often sided with non-Muslims when they had come into conflict with Muslims. In fact in 11 out of 12 major conflicts between Muslims and non-Muslims, Muslims and secular forces, or Arabs and non-Arabs, the US has sided with the former group.

* Asked if it was true that "from 1973 to 1990 the United States sold Saddam Hussein more than a quarter of his weapons," 80 per cent of British respondents said yes. However the US sold just 0.46 per cent of Saddam's arsenal to him, compared to Russia's 57 per cent, France's 13 per cent and China's 12 per cent.

This is one of the oldest and hardest to kill tropes that the left still uses today despite it having been thoroughly discredited. Get into an argument with a lefty about whether it was right to topple Saddam and they'll trot out this falsehood within the first ten minutes.

* Almost a third of Britons believe that "Americans who have not paid their hospitals fees or insurance premiums are not entitled to emergency medical care"; by law such treatment must be provided.

* More than half the respondents believed that polygamy is legal in some US states, while it is illegal in all US states.

Who's to blame for these widespread misconceptions about America? According to Mr. Montgomerie:

"Hollywood and all its violence has something to do with it, and the awful Bush diplomacy," he added.

Geez, even the guy running a group trying to improve appreciation of America has to slip in some Bush bashing. He is right about the influence of Hollywood though.

Last month when I was in Manila, one of my Filipino co-workers--who spent three months in the US for training last year--was telling me how that he was surprised about how different his experience in America from what he expected. The high regard for the environment--catching and releasing fish is an unknown concept in the Philippines--and the low levels of crime that he witnessed were two of the examples he cited. I think he thought that America was a land of fast drivin', gun totin', corporate cowboys who ran roughshod over nature. Sort of a modern day Wild West meets Wall Street. Considering that his views were formed from watching television and movies, I guess you can hardly blame him.

Personally, I think there's another factor influencing these misconceptions and anti-Americanism abroad:

CNN International. As I have oft-mentioned before, if that was the primary lens through which I viewed the US, I'd probably be tempted to chuck a brick through a window at McDonalds too.

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