European anti-Americanism is coming back into vogue. It reached a fever pitch during the presidency of George W Bush, but was held in temporary abeyance after Barack Obama pledged to recreate the United States in Europe’s image. Now that the American Tea Party movement is poised to dash elite hopes for a more Europeanized (i.e., sophisticated) America, a prolonged new wave of anti-Americanism seems inevitable.
In the run-up to the American midterm elections, European newspapers and magazines as well as radio and television programs have been chock full with sensational reporting, disparaging editorials, and derogatory commentary about America, American voters, and the American political system.
European news media have been especially obsessed with the Tea Party phenomenon, evidently worried that a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people” might be replicated on European soil and thus upset the big government/high taxes status quo of European politics. (In fact, European Tea Party movements have already emerged in several European countries, as have popular uprisings against multiculturalism and runaway Muslim immigration.)
Rather than commend the Tea Party movement as a refreshing and enviable display of American political energy, European media elites have launched an all-out propaganda assault on the movement and its supporters. The main tactic has been to seek to discredit Tea Party sympathizers as poor, uneducated, unsophisticated, bigoted, and right-wing, i.e., the exact opposite of ideal European citizens and their elite masters.
Over the past several weeks, for example, European media have used the following adjectives to describe Tea Party supporters: ill-informed, wacky, dangerous, incoherent, lacking in manners, intimidating, anarchic, buffoons, charlatans, irrational, jackanapes, confused, inclined to committing malapropisms, extreme, perverse, fruitcakes, nutters, nutcases, nutbags, wingnuts, frightening, mad, bad, juvenile scaremongerers, pandering to the lowest common denominator, easily influenced, prone to artificially-created righteous anger, cartoonishly evil, religious extremists, sociopathic, weird, climate vampires, stupid, ignorant, gullible, angry, poor, drooling imbeciles, poorly-educated, unwilling to think critically, little capacity for logical thought, making ignorance heroic, Nazis, ill-educated, driven by propaganda, idiotic, morons, incompetent, sucking the life out of the world’s ecosystems, Taliban, rednecks, backwoods, end-of-the-world culters, absurd, bigoted, duped, intolerant, ugly, toxic, grumpy, losers, utterly beyond comprehension, bad spellers, ridiculous, insentient, smug, gaffe-prone, of dubious integrity, dimwitted, populist fanatics, dangerously eccentric, and a traveling circus of fools.
What follows is a brief selection of some European media coverage on the American Tea Party movement:
In Britain, the left-wing Guardian has been obsessed with the Tea Party movement all year, but the newspaper recently has ratcheted-up its verbal attacks to levels that betray a mixture of contempt and paranoia. For example, a typical story titled “The Tea Party: On the Road with America’s Right-Wing Radicals” is laced with sarcasm, ridicule, and mockery. “These are ordinary folk from the American heartland on a mission that will take them into the heart of enemy territory – Washington D.C. America’s Tea Party is on the move. … Never much thought about politics or even much cared. Now they’re riled up and fully signed up to the Tea Party. … Tea Party activists approach the constitution the same fundamentalist way they approach the Bible: literally. The words are sacred and must be taken at face value. They should not be reinterpreted for modern times. … The Tea Party is obsessed with myths about America’s past. The Founding Fathers are revered as gods, the constitution is sacrosanct, America was uniquely established to be the land of the free.”
Another article titled “The GOP’s Coming Tea Party Hangover” mocks the “inherent weirdness” of several Tea Party candidates: “[A] candidate who views global warming as a ‘hoax,’ equates homosexuality with addiction, suggests that an alleged rape victim was suffering from ‘buyer’s remorse,’ and does not believe in the separation of church and state. … [A] global-warming sceptic whose other idiosyncrasies include apparent approval of armed action against the government, and a desire to dismantle Medicare, social security and public education.”
An opinion piece titled “Tea Partiers Keep Low Profile Shock!” asks: “Could it be that Republican handlers don’t trust their gaffe-prone candidates not to screw up?” The article reads: “Over the past week or so, many Tea Partiers have been forced to conduct one, and in rare cases two, debates with their opponents. The effects have ranged from the embarrassing to the downright farcical. … But apart from those rare moments, the political consensus in Washington is this: Tea Party candidates themselves are ducking. They are avoiding conducting campaign stops; they have noticeably reduced or even pulled out of debates with their opponents at the last minute; they don’t publicize events they are conducting until the very last minute — so the other side doesn’t get a chance to put a camera in the audience. … The reason is simple. Tea Party political handlers have little if any trust in their candidates not to screw up public appearances.”
Other Guardian headlines include: “Tea Party Climate Change Deniers Funded by BP and Other Major Polluters,” “US Veteran Who Killed Unarmed Iraqis Wins Tea Party Support,” “America’s Toughest Sheriff Rallies Tea Party Troops Against Illegal Immigrants,” “Guns, Palin and Washington (George, not DC): A Few of the Tea Party’s Favourite Things,” “Why Tea Parties are Perfect for a Disgruntled, and White, Middle Class,” “The Tea Party Movement: Deluded and Inspired by Billionaires,” “US Midterms: Change without Hope,” and “Report Links Tea Party Movement to White Supremacist Groups.”
In Austria, the center-left Der Standard published a story titled “In Despair Over Democracy,” which asserts that democracy often leads to economically destructive decision-making: “If Obama made a mistake, it was that he should have spent even more and increased the deficit further — even if it is already at ten percent of GDP. But politically, that was simply impossible. … Any halfway-intelligent citizen should realize that the populist resistance of Tea Party leaders Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, as well as the opposition of a great majority of Democrats to Obama, is nonsensical in terms of economic policy. … The majority of Americans will probably vote against their own interests and those of their country in November. Unfortunately, that’s not unusual.”
In Germany, the left-wing magazine Der Spiegel, in a front-page cover titled “The Desperate United States: A Country Loses Its Optimism,” writes: “Good night, America: Americans dreamed a dream that made her the nation of dreams of advancement and wealth for all. Now the United States must realize how fragile its system is, and how bitter the reality — the superpower cannot find a way out of crisis and threatens the global economy.”
Another Spiegel article titled “Poverty in America: It Has Never Been So Bad,” writes: “American society is falling apart. Millions of citizens have lost their jobs and are sinking into poverty. Among them many middle class families. … They have no prospect of receiving help: country and society have left them in the lurch. … Although Wall Street is once again chasing new profits, for much of the nation, the myth of advancement, home ownership and self-made wealth is shattered. The middle class, America’s backbone is crumbling—its ‘American Dream’ is over.”
A Spiegel essay titled “Right-Wing Revolutionaries: Tea Party Movement Mirrors a Deeply Divided America,” writes: “In 2008 alone, the first year of the recession, an additional 2.5 million people fell below the poverty line. Tent cities populated by the homeless are growing outside of major cities. People are camping out in the yards of their foreclosed houses, while long lines form in front of soup kitchens. In 2008, almost 50 million Americans didn’t have enough to eat at some point in the year, an increase of more than a third over the previous year. … For the first time since the global economic crisis more than 80 years ago, questions are being raised about America’s success model, the principle that this country without a welfare state has always been more successful than Europe. It has made the United States the world’s strongest economic power. The country has never had to pay attention to its poor and to the people who had lost their jobs, but now the poor can no longer be ignored. What’s at stake is nothing less than the future of the U.S., a country with white, Protestant roots that knows that non-whites will most likely constitute the majority by the middle of the century.”
The left-wing magazine Stern, in a story titled “Obama’s America: Painful Standstill,” writes: “Americans are greeting the end of the American dream with frustration and anger, anxiety and panic. Millions of Americans are beginning to realize what they wanted to ignore for so long: the great stagnation. America is in steep decline, the country urgently needs a comprehensive economic and social modernization, to be fit for the 21st Century.”
The influential Die Welt, in a story titled “Nightmare Opponent,” asserts that “Christine O’Donnell is even more simplistic than Sarah Palin — but the Democrats are afraid of her.” The front-page story is accompanied by an unflattering photo of O’Donnell with the caption: “A typical American.”
In Luxembourg, the center-left Tageblatt, in an editorial titled “Prepare for ‘Tea Time’ in America,” writes: “They are white, they are male and female and they are conservative. They are mostly populist and constitute a bizarre blend of Christians, right-wing anarchists and disappointed Republicans. Their idol is the fanatic presenter Glenn Beck of the horrid Fox TV network, and their heroine is the hysterical former Republican nominee for vice president, Sarah Palin. … They detest Democrats and loathe President Obama, accusing him of all evils of the world, consider Republicans to be traitors, but before that, had failed to criticize George Bush Jr. … Convinced that the panacea is to turn back the clock by centuries, they dream of the America of the Mayflower, Sir Walter Raleigh (who gave his name to the capital of South Carolina), thrive on open-air events with pom-pom girls where they can feel the red, white and blue, and are convinced that the original sin — treason — was committed in 1912 by a one Woodrow Wilson. … The Tea Party dreams of ‘saving America’ by constraining the White House and the Federal Reserve, cutting taxes, abolishing the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency, and promoting free enterprise without any constraints or controls. They seek to abolish unemployment insurance, even if seeking to preserve (at first) public health insurance for seniors — doing otherwise would cost too many votes. Finished, too, would be the ‘socialist’ policies of Obama, the left-wing press, indeed, the left in general, and the oppression of the White minority. … As amazing as it sounds: The Tea Party has considerable campaign funding and has used it against the ‘Kenyan crypto-Muslim,’ read Barack Obama.”
In Spain, the left-wing El País published a story titled “Tea Parties Against Obama” which asserts that the Tea Party is an “extreme right movement linked to the Republican Party. … The Tea Party is a grassroots movement that brings together middle-class white men in a panic who have been hit by the economic crisis and the arrival of a black man to the White House, who the same consider a Marxist a Nazi or a racist against whites.”
Another El País article titled “The Tea Party Takes Control of the American Right,” writes: “The resounding victory of the popular movement known as the Tea Party … definitely puts the extreme right at the helm of American conservatism and opens a difficult period of uncertainty about the fate of the historic Republican Party and American politics in its entirety. … Apart from the impact the rise of the Tea Party is having in the intra-party struggle, as the United States faces one of its gravest political crises ever, how will it affect the governability of the world’s only superpower?”
Elsewhere in El País an “analysis” titled “The New American Conservativism” asserts: “If anyone thinks that Bush / Cheney is the most extreme version of American conservatism, they will soon be proved wrong. The conservative movement that has emerged in recent months in the United States, fueled by the resentment of an impoverished middle class and the ambition of a new post-partisan political class, breaks the mold of traditional Republicanism and evokes a character that is racist, nationalist and fascist fanatical. The only ingredient still missing is violence. … This new conservatism reflects much of the frustration of white men accumulated since women’s liberation, civil rights, and all of the laws for equality that have been subtracting power from this once-dominant sector of society. That white man has not been helped by good contacts, useful friendships and easy money, and that frustration has been swelling in recent decades in a middle class which was the pride of the nation in the fifties, but has been mercilessly beaten by the latest technological revolution and the recent economic crisis. … From a European perspective, this combination of demagoguery, racism, nationalism and xenophobia, hoisted by a hurt and troubled middle class, is a recipe well known and even feared.”
The center-right El Mundo, in an article titled: “Glenn Beck, Consort of Sarah Palin and Scourge of the White House,” asserts: “The United States has rediscovered the wild seasoning at its essence. It’s the umpteenth return of those who see the state as a hunting ground for the idle. Beck serves as the prophet and Sarah Palin, the commander-in-chief. … Beck proclaims the return of a purer America — the one preceding feminism, rock and the sexual revolution. It’s a mythical country, with covered wagons crossing prairies or neon gas station signs that light up when he evokes them on behalf of the middle class. Beck knows how to excite his audience. He knows well the source of its melancholy, its nostalgia for paradise lost. With his own junk, fast-food intellectualism, he has led a renaissance of an extremism that has never gone away.”
In Switzerland, the center-left Le Temps, in an article titled “America’s Cry of Agony,” writes: “Where did the Tea Party movement come from? It is the result of the recession and the tremendous rage that seizes Americans when they think of the behavior of their elites. It is also a consequence of the financial crises, bank rescues and financial excesses that caused millions of people to lose their jobs. Lastly, it is the fear of a loss of American ‘values,’ from the end of its role as a model envied by the whole world, to leading pointless and bloody wars, and a realization that debt and deficits render illusory a dream once thought to be eternal.”