Anti-Americanism in Europe Fueled by Ignorance

Among Spaniards, 80 percent of whom claim to be cultural Roman Catholics, a common stereotype is that Americans are individualistic and lack family values. But Spain now has the highest divorce rate in Europe; in 2007, Spain registered one divorce for every 2.3 marriages, or 44 percent. By contrast, the divorce rate in the United States has never exceeded 41 percent and in any case is on the decline.

Spaniards are also the most prolific users of cocaine in the world. According to the United Nations, three percent of Spain's adult population consumes cocaine; that's a bigger percentage than the erstwhile leader, the United States, with 2.3 percent. Among younger age groups, the number of Spanish users has quadrupled during the last decade.

Spaniards also love to ridicule Americans as overwhelmingly fat. Indeed, a recent study finds that some two-thirds of Americans are overweight. However, Spain has more overweight people than any other country in Europe except for Italy and Greece. Almost 40 percent of Spanish adults are overweight and the Spanish Health Ministry says Spain in on track to overtake the United States in the obesity department in less than ten years.

But if there is one issue over which Europeans as a whole are more consistently ignorant about the United States, then it must be the death penalty. Europeans elites love to portray the EU as morally superior to America because postmodern Europe does not execute its killers. And true to form, every time there is an execution in America -- capital punishment in China and Iran is, of course, conveniently ignored -- European elites do their level best to cast the United States as a wasteland of bloodthirsty barbarians.

Imagine, then, the chagrin felt by self-righteous European elites when a Novatris/Harris poll conducted for the French daily Le Monde found that a majority of respondents in Britain (69 percent), France (58 percent), Germany (53 percent), and Spain (51 percent) said they were in favor of executing Saddam Hussein. In a truly shocking moment of introspection, Germany's left-wing Spiegel magazine admitted that the poll results were, well, "surprising." Wow. Ordinary Europeans, when presented with the facts, are not all that different from ordinary Americans after all.

What explains such gaping ignorance on the part of Europeans, who famously pride themselves on being vastly more sophisticated than their mentally challenged American counterparts?

Much ink has been spilled in recent years in an effort to answer these questions.

For one thing, Europe's unaccountable left-wing media spoon-feeds the European masses with a daily diet of sensationalist anti-American propaganda, so much so that ordinary Europeans have developed a thoroughly skewed perception of American reality.

For another thing, statistics show that Europeans are not nearly as well traveled in America as Americans are in Europe. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, some 11.4 million Europeans visited the United States in 2007, which is roughly 2.5 percent of the European population. (By contrast, a record 13.3 million Americans visited Europe in 2007, or roughly 5 percent of the U.S. population.) The lack of firsthand knowledge of the United States is arguably the biggest reason why ordinary Europeans cannot discern fact from fiction when it comes to America.

Nevertheless, this trend may be changing. Due in large part to the strong euro, the number of European visitors to the United States increased by 16 percent in the first half of 2008 alone. And Britons, Frenchmen, Germans, Italians, Spaniards, and many other Europeans visiting the United States for the first time are beginning to realize that the consistently negative images of America so meticulously constructed by Europe's left-wing elites do not jibe with reality.

In the words of Mark Twain, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." Indeed it is.