September 23, 2003

Ignorant foreigners

You know, I don't care what foreigners think of us, I just wish they weren't so arrogant about their ignorance. Allow me to make a sweeping generalization: when Americans find out that they don't know enough about something out in the wide world (say, about Muslims and what they really think) they hit the bookstores and libraries like earnest students trying to make up for a failing grade. Foreigners, on the other hand, tend to show a marked disinterest in actually finding out what Americans are really like, preferring instead the notions they formed after watching American movies and teevee shows -- which as we all know are all documentaries. [/END SARCASM]

Europeans especially seem to have this idea that they already know all they need to know about the world, and that this gives them the right to sit back and lecture those upstart Americans (which means citizens of the United States, neither Canadians nor Mexicans nor anyone else in the hemsiphere ever gets this treatment) on world affairs. Europeans -- at least the citizens of certain countries cough France cough -- also have this notion that they are cosmopolitan, "citizens of the world," and thus have some sort of neutral, if not omniscient, view of life on Earth. Europeans just hate it when it is pointed out to them that their viewpoint is just as parochial, if not more so, than that of the average housewife in Iowa.

Posted by Andrea Harris at September 23, 2003 06:20 AM

"War is God's way of teaching Americans geography" - or something like that.

Of course, the French have gone from "delusions of grandeur" to "delusions of adequacy".

Posted by: Ken Summers at September 23, 2003 at 08:59 AM

That reminds me of the observed attitude of certain sets of people in NYC or (to a lesser extent) LA or SF, regarding the rest of the US. (You know, those unimportant states and cities that aren't either in the southern half of the west coast or the northern half of the east!)

It seems there's nobody so provincial as a self-regarded cosmopolitan.

Posted by: Sigivald at September 23, 2003 at 01:25 PM

I've been listening to and reading the commentary of Euros like Nicolau for years, and it becomes clear that the opinions of Europeans regarding Americans should be disregarded completely. Unless---they have lived here. Unless---they can prove they haven't formed their opinions via the fiction of TV and movies (something very small children in America learn not to do). Unless---they can intelligently delineate the differences between the various people in the various regions of the US and account for them. If all they "know" is New York or LA, ignore 'em. Unless---they can prove they understand our way of doing things and why we do it that way.

Nicolau, let me give you a useful example:
~If you thought we should have signed any of the international agreements Euros have been pushing for the past several years, you're ignorant. The ICC, the U.N. gun disarming, Kyoto violate our laws. If you didn't know that, shut up and learn, or at the very least, shut up. Your uninformed ranting just shows you for the provincial bigot you are.

Posted by: JC at September 23, 2003 at 01:30 PM

"It seems there's nobody so provincial as a self-regarded cosmopolitan."

Damn you got that right. It's pathetic and hilarious at the same time.

Posted by: JC at September 23, 2003 at 01:32 PM

Nicolau apparently has yet to learn that one of the keys to successful communication and persuasion is to not approach or speak to your audience as if they were four years old. Patronizing twit.

I think it's laughable that the same people that consider themselves sophisticated and cosmopolitan have absolutely no problem forming their conclusions about 280 million people based on exported comedies and television sound-bites.

Posted by: Emily at September 23, 2003 at 03:58 PM

Foreigners, on the other hand, tend to show a marked disinterest in actually finding out what Americans are really like, preferring instead the notions they formed after watching American movies and teevee shows -- which as we all know are all documentaries.

Furthermore, the American movies and TV shows they watch are mostly least common denominator crap for export. I agree that foreigners imagine themselves to be intimately familiar with the US because they've seen so much Hollywood garbage but they don't even realize that most of it is straight to cable garbage that Americans never even see.

I mean, how many times have you watched Baywatch? 5? 10? The typical Le Monde editorialist or Hezbollah member has probably seen more episodes than Pamela Anderson has.

Posted by: Otter at September 23, 2003 at 05:38 PM

Since when Dubya hit the books to know more about the foreigners? He could not, he does not know how to read. American TV shows are reality shows. It shows Americans as they are. Otherwise the TV shows would show something else. Get out of the delusion that you are the chosen people. Shop at Walmart and continue the slow but certain decline. You are doomed.

Posted by: Boris at September 23, 2003 at 07:20 PM

Next time, just type "I am an ignorant and bigotted fool" and save yourself some time.

Posted by: Emily at September 23, 2003 at 07:50 PM

Boris – Walmart’s profits are probably higher than the total (legal) Russian GNP. They also have some good deals on shampoo.

Suppose Americans are as dumb as you think they are – we still have the biggest economy and the biggest military in the world. So what does that say about the rest of the world?

Dasvidanya –

Posted by: mary at September 23, 2003 at 07:59 PM

Emily, Mary — I think Boris was attempting satire.

Posted by: Michelle Dulak at September 23, 2003 at 08:52 PM

I certainly hope so.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at September 23, 2003 at 09:55 PM

He probably was – there was a resemblance to Nicolau, but maybe that was intentional?

Posted by: mary at September 23, 2003 at 10:44 PM

When you enough anti-American diatribes, it’s hard to tell satire from reality.

This writer isn’t a foreigner, but he wants to be one. He’s a ‘progressive’ who believes that Democrats should secede from the union and become Canadians.

Posted by: mary at September 24, 2003 at 10:00 AM

The last time someone tried to secede from the Union, they were killed in large numbers and had their homes and livelihoods destroyed, their "turf" ruled by "outsiders" for years, and their entire social order turned upside down.

But if that's what they want...

Posted by: Ken Summers at September 24, 2003 at 02:35 PM

I think Europe's dirty little secret is the bigotry and insularity that is rampant throughout the continent. I travelled there quite a lot during the late '90's (when everyone was supposed to love us because of our "wonderful" President) and I was pretty appalled at what I saw and what Europeans told me. Their societies are homogeneous. Italians think there's a world of difference between themselves and Spaniards and a Spaniard would be offended if mistaken for Portugese. I look at these people and see dark haired, dark eyed Roman Catholics who all speak a similar language based on Latin and think "whatever". France's population may be 10% Muslim, but the two societies do not mesh in any way whatsoever. North African immigrants are shunted around by the local gendarme and are generally treated like garbage and the Gypsies are despised everywhere. So when a European lectures me on what rubes we Americans are, I can only laugh. Also, you cannot underestimate the anti-Semitism that runs deep in European culture. Europeans are absolutely obsessesed with Jews. I was told on many occasions that America's problems were that "the Jews run the country" and we "let our blacks get away with too much". I hear these sentiments and am supposed to bow to Europe's supposed superior intelligence and sophistication? I don't think so. We should be well past caring what these people think.

Posted by: Lynb at September 24, 2003 at 03:30 PM

There is a Frenchman who often posts comments on a British weblog. The comments are always about Americans, of course, and you know from reading them that everything he knows about the US he learned from watching "Starsky and Hutch" reruns. Most of his rants are so dementedly misinformed and foaming-at-the-mouth petty-- he sounds like a cross between Basil Fawlty and Charles Manson. I only mention him because he's not really that unusual.

I too lived and travelled through Europe in the 1990s, and I was shocked at the many ridiculous anti-American stereotypes. But those stereotypes are cultivated to serve a political purpose. The people who want and need to believe bad things about all of us all the time are going to do it no matter what we say or do.

Posted by: AR at September 30, 2003 at 12:58 AM