Tuesday, December 28, 2010
The Addiction of Anti-Americanism
Like a Rorschach test which tells you more about the patient, than about the image on the card, Wikileaks reveals more about the left than it does about America. And what it reveals is that the left's antipathy toward America is not policy based at all. If Wikileaks' heavily edited helicopter video at least allowed the left to pretend that it was opposing American war crimes, the leaked diplomatic cables are based on nothing more than opposing American diplomacy. Not even the capital D diplomacy, but the small letter diplomacy. The minor observations, petty notes and random scribbles of a bored diplomatic corps observing well known situations.
The diplomatic cable leaks were not broadcast to protest against the war, or to undermine a right wing government-- they were broadcast because Anti-Americanism is a compulsive need. While American liberals fancy that the right man in D.C. can make the world love us, their own comrades internationally need an America to hate. If an America didn't exist, they would have to invent it. A more confident pro-American leader like Bush may stir up more venom and outrage, but America was not beloved under Clinton. And it's not adored under Obama. If Che were dug up, pumped full of zombie juice and stuck in the oval office-- the red che t-shirt wearing crowd would be burning American flags anyway. During the Bush era, the chattering classes liked to believe that America's PR problem was fixable. But America's PR problem exists because it is a global superpower. The problem isn't the War on Terror or McDonalds or Hollywood or the dollar. Or any of it apart. It's all of it together. There's no fix for it, except to dethrone America. Turn it into a has-been, a former empire feeding off the good graces of others and opening its historical institutions to tourism. That won't fix the problem. The UK is not exactly all that beloved either. But it will dial down the obsessive hatred to a dull roar.
As the first fully Anti-American leader to sit at the helm of the country, Barack Hussein Obama is self-aware enough to understand that it is not any single element, but the perception of America as a global power in every arena that feeds that hatred. And it is why he's done everything to weaken American power and independence across every spectrum, from its economy to its military to its space program and its culture. But even a wholly anti-American leader wasn't enough to fix the PR problem.
The willingness of the American left to cheer Assange on shows that not only couldn't America Lite (TM) win over Europe's leftists, but it couldn't even win over their slower and pudgier American counterparts. But what's the basis of their opposition? Do they really believe that diplomats shouldn't be able to privately report their assessment of what is going on in another country? And would they be willing to apply the same standard to journalists or NGO officials? Obviously not.
The romance of Wikileaks has little to do with policy, and a good deal to do with anti-Americanism as an emotional response, sticking it to "The Man", even when you are the man. Especially if you are the man.
The appeal of the anti-American brand is directly linked to American power. Not the abuse of that power, merely the power or even the perception of that power alone is enough. The existence of that power alone is perceived as arrogant, isolationist and imperialistic. It's perceived that way, because there is a psychological need to perceive it that way. For all that the left envisions a paranoid America seeking out phantom enemies that don't exist, it is the left that desperately needs that phantom enemy. That phantom empire to childishly batter its fists against. The Big Daddy to rail against and finally slay.
Anti-Americanism is not an informed critique, but an uninformed rant. An ongoing tantrum and a status symbol. It is that latter part which so effectively mobilizes the left. It is what drew Assange to successfully cash in on the glamour of anti-americanism. And what drew decrepit leftist shill, Michael Moore, out of his cave to grab a piece of the action. After Obama's victory, the left has quickly exhausted the possibilities of cheerleading the White House. As emotionally fulfilling as it might have been for them to finally win, they would rather act out their revolutionary fantasies, than settle down to the boring work of supporting every initiative. The left is at its best when fighting enemies. And while Sarah Palin or Newt Gingrich still offer up the usual targets-- America itself is a much bigger target.
It's hard to claim to be oppressed by Sarah Palin. And there's only so much mileage that even the greenest of environmentalists can milk from his love of elk. But being oppressed by America-- there's always mileage in that. Before Assange, the left had to make do with detained Gitmo terrorists, who did the sort of things that their ACLU defenders could only fantasize about, but lacked that edge of cool. With Assange, Anti-Americanism isn't just about defending some Kuwaiti or Somali terrorist with a Koran in one hand and a copy of Harry Potter from the Gitmo prison library in the other, anymore. Assange makes anti-Americanism cool again, replacing the more overt violence, with sabotage. Assange calculatedly acts out the fantasies of the left. And the left flocks to defend him.
Assange allows the left to play at revolution, without fear of getting hurt. People may die because of Assange, but it will generally be in parts of the world that they hardly ever visit, except as protest tourists, flashing their EU or American passports, sweeping in to take some photos of the native wildlife, pose with a local human rights activist, maybe wave a sign or throw a stone, and then head on home to their flat and their flatscreen and their good life.
Seen in that light, Wikileaks is less a resource and more of a theme park, lending the experience of virtual revolution to the pampered sons and daughters of the prosperous West, allowing them to participate in imaginary assaults on the regime without ever leaving the comfort of their living room. So much of the activism has been headed that way, like Twitter campaigns in which people with nothing at stake pretend that they're making a difference in the protest movements of countries like Iran, where protesters are tortured, raped and murdered.
Virtual activism leads to actual dehumanization, whether it's the informants whose lives Wikileaks placed at risk, or the women who have accused Assange of rape. The detachment of activism from those affected by it, makes it easier to reduce violent acts to button pushing. With no skin in the game, activism becomes a game. A social media contest with egotistical, not moral stakes. Not a contest of ideas, but of wills.
America as a cartoon villain remains a vital prop in this virtual theme park. It's a vital villain to the left, which forms a revolutionary identity by fighting against the powerful. Not those in the wrong, those with the power. By equating evil with power, greed with wealth, armed forces with war crimes, and ability with crime-- the left's own ideology makes anti-americanism inevitable. If America is powerful than it must be evil.
Obama has severely hurt America, but he hasn't come close to destroying it. And the Anti-American left doesn't want him to. It needs America as a windmill to tilt against. And if America were to fall, Russia or China would not make nearly as satisfactory a villain. Because they don't look much like daddy and they won't treat their attacks as a game. Without an America to assail, they would be left in a cold world where revolution isn't a game, but a firing squad. Where denouncing the government doesn't bring you book deals, but cold prison cells.
It is that combination of power and fair play that makes America into such an appealing target. Its morality is a perfect target for accusations of hypocrisy. Like children bent on proving their parents wrong, the more America tries to do what's right, the more it's denounced as a monstrous evil regime. That way the game of revolution can go on endlessly. The anti-American junkie's rush of fighting the power, before heading off to work, swollen with self-satisfied outrage at his own moral courage.
Wikileaks is an important reminder, not for the present, but for the future, that anti-Americanism cannot be sanded away with progressive administrations. America will still be hated no matter which party and what man sit in power. It will be hated because its haters define their identity through that hatred. Their conspiracy theories enlarge their self-image. Their anti-American activism is a form of petty rebellion by overgrown children. Their sabotage is not policy based, it's ego based. Anti-American is an emotional addiction, not a reasoned policy critique. And there's no way to take the product away from the addict. We are not the problem. They are.