A Foretaste of Markovits

On the strength of the essay I linked to a few weeks ago, I ordered Andrei Markovits’ Uncouth Nation: Why Europe Dislikes America.

I did not know that before Markovits published this book in English, he published Amerika, dich hasst’s sich besser (G) in German (the title, roughly, "America, Hating You’s Much Better" is a pun on Goethe’s "America, You Have it Better." An amusing essay of the same name as Markovits’ book is here (G)).

I will try to consume Markovits’ book in the next few days and post thoughts, but here’s a quotation to whet your appetite:

If anti-Americanism has been part of the condition humaine in Europe for at least two centuries, it has been since 9/11 tht the rise of a hitherto unprecedented, wholly voluntary, and uncoordinated conformity in Western European public opinion regarding America and American politics occurred. I would go so far as to characterize the public voice and mood in these countries as gleichgeschaltet, comprising a rare but powerful discursive and emotive congruence and conformity among all actors in state and society. What rendered this Gleichschaltung so different from those that accompany most dictatorships was its completely voluntary, thus democratic, nature. . . .

Here, in short, is the book’s overall argument: Ambivalence, antipathy, and resentment toward and about the United States have comprised an important component of European culture since the American Revolution at the latest, thus way before America became the world’s "Mr. Big"–the proverbial eight-hundred-pound gorilla–and a credible rival to Europe’s main powers, particularly Britain and France. In recent years, following the end of the Cold War and particularly after 9/11, ambivalence in some quarters has given way to outright antipathy and unambiguous hostility. Animosity toward the United States migrated from the periphery and disrespected fringes of European politics and became a respectable part of the European mainstream. These negative sentiments and views have been driven not only–or even primarily–by what the United States does, but rather by an animus against what Europeans have believed America is.

Markovits promises to investigate the extent to which anti-Americanism plays a part in an otherwise commendable "discourse that favors the weak" later in the book.

This, to me, is an often-overlooked contextual factor. If you track Europe’s media, you will notice that they’re more adventurous and worldly than the mainstream American media. One day of watching or listening a week or two ago brought me stories about from genital mutilation in Nigeria, the Naga peoples of northwest India, and Japanese Shinto rituals. Of course, you can find plenty of reporting like this in the United States, but almost none of it in the mainstream news sources that most Americans get their world-view from.

The crusading European reporter delivers the perspective of the weak, the oppressed, the marginalized, and the outsider. Many also highlight outsiders in their own societies, as the innumerable documentaries about German heroin addicts, welfare recipients, immigrants, prisoners, and mentally ill people I’ve seen demonstrate. If you conceive of your mission as a reporter as highlighting underdogs and outsiders who would otherwise struggle and die in obscurity, then you may very well take exactly the converse attitude towards an "overdog." That, in my view, helps explain the shape of media coverage of the U.S., which in turn is an important factor driving anti-Americanism.

That’s what I think. What Markovits thinks, I promise to report toute de suite.

15 thoughts on “A Foretaste of Markovits

  1. Markovits: “I would go so far as to characterize the public voice and mood in these countries as gleichgeschaltet, comprising a rare but powerful discursive and emotive congruence and conformity among all actors in state and society.”

    Such generalizing discourage me from continuing to read a book.
    Markovits is disqualifying himself. (Do you say that in English or is it a stupid Germanism? “disqualifying yourself”?)

    Is Markovits trying to compete with Ralph Peters, Mark Steyn etc?

  2. May be it’s double doublethink, but as we’re hypothesizing, couldn’t European’s penchant pour les misérables be just a hypocrite knee-jerk reaction to American gung ho conservatism, that advocates the praise of the fittest? That should make sense, as Europe didn’t really give a hoot about Ruandan massacres, Cambodian killing fields, Algerian civil wars, Darfur genocide or North-Korean mass starvation. Did they refrain from dealing with authoritarian son-of-bitches, as long as they were their, or the American’s pampered offspring? Do they stop subsidising their farmers, who couldn’t compete with world market’s underdogs, thus ruining these African underdogs? Most European countries don’t even come close to the magical 0,7% of their GNP, they agreed voluntarily to spend on development aid. Does the left care about women’s plight in Muslim societies, when cozying up to Islamism, Muslim reactionaries been the only ones left, that could smash a civilisation that just wouldn’t succumb to socialist conceptions of paradise?

    Not that they didn’t cover these issues, Third World’s wide-eyed orphans and victims of starvation always being fit to tug at the readers heartstrings. However, what do we do effectively to help, subtracting the perks development aid treaties award our industry with, discounting the havoc we wreak on their markets so our miners and farmers can live with dignity – unlike the recipients of unemployment benefits?

    What makes me suspicious is the lack of zeal, terror, and true empathy when it’s about Muslim victims of Muslim terror, African children’s plight, Nigerian women’s woes due to infibulation. That’s good enough to snivel about after having arte deal us some documentary, thus ensuring ourselves to be caring souls. Unfailingly, there’s only one kind of issue that makes us take to the streets, hang bed sheets out of the window, spew hate in letters to the editor – and that always has to do with Americans and Jews. A worthy line of succession from the days of Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Salazar, Szálasi, Antonescu, Tiso, Piłsudski et al (what about Lenin and Stalin?), these gentlemen having been far from one track minded about the US, loathing and admiration always having spiced the stew – as it happens nowadays with the left, center and the right.

    >Markovits promises to investigate the extent to which anti-Americanism plays a part in an
    >otherwise commendable “discourse that favors the weak” later in the book.

    I really wonder how commendable our discourse is.

    >> Markovits: “I would go so far as to characterize the public voice and mood in these countries as gleichgeschaltet …
    >Such generalizing discourage me from continuing to read a book.
    >Markovits is disqualifying himself. Is Markovits trying to compete with Ralph Peters, Mark Steyn etc?

    Yes, we’re touchy when those underlings, devoid of deeper sentiment, dare to subtly instill that we might be just that tad self righteous.

  3. OK, this is getting ridiculous.

    I’m not really interested in what Markovits thinks. As Joerg has already remarked using Nazi termiology to attack his opponents (“Gleichschaltung”) disqualfies him from taken serious. I don’t see how his standards can be much different from those “Bush=Hitler” talkers, except that he’s probably able to put his attacks into wittier words.

    Same goes to Marek. Where exacly, I would like to know, lies the difference between being in a “worthy line of succession from the days of Hitler” etc., which “we” Europeans according to Marek all are, and a plain old fascist? Didn’t we just have the reductio to hitlerum? Hitler was critical of America, yes I think that can be considered as evident. So when I criticize America I’m a fascist? It’s amazing what free societies the half a billion fascists that roam this continent were able to build.

    I won’t even get into the fact that a lot of people in this country are decidely *pro*-American, and even more, pro-Bush, more pro-Bush than 80 percent of the Americans at least. It’s of course a cheap claim that “we” blame everything on “America and the Jews”. Marek will get applause from the other side of the Atlantic from some people who don’t know anything about the state of discussion over here but will cry out in joy as people do when somebody confirms their prejudices. Well, I can hardly disprove such a cloudy remark here in this little box as well I couldn’t disprove that Europeans blame everything on Uganda and the Sikhs. So I’m asking Marek instead to name only *one* major German newspaper with a decidedly antisemitic stance.

  4. pay careful attention to a broad swath of Europe’s media

    Yayyyy!!

    Now here’s a kid that gets their “information” from the tube instead of getting in touch with the Real People ™ on the ground. And that judges discourse over reality.

    Now here’s a free dose of reality for you: Germany’s tiered school system is a world-wide unique scam scheme for singling out a big chunk of the, for whatever reason, slightly slower learning children as early as age 10 and putting them in educational ghettos called Hauptschule together with scores of Turkish illiterates and social outcasts to have the unique opportunity to drive home one point, and one point only for the next 6 years: *You* ain’t gonna get anywhere in life. While normally staying true to my motto of ‘reporting from the ground’ and not reporting on any statistic that I haven’t forged myself, I can’t help reminding everyone of the results of the much-quoted PISA assessment that repeatedly found student perfomance in Germany more dependent on socio-economic background than in the United States. Amerikanische Verhaeltnisse, you’d wish they were there.

    As I have stated in a comment to another post, worker exploitability is a function of skill times gullibility, and the unique German repression education system just excels at producing the right ‘material’. The nice thing about mentally ill heroin addicts and other microscopic fringes of society, in the meantime, is not only that the elites can placate that nagging little altruist side of their soul by consuming a 15-minute “aspekte” documentary while nibbling After Eight on their Ikea EKTORP sofa and sighing that token sigh about how bad the world is out there somewhere, more importantly, and here it gets very serious, they allow the just ‘normally suppressed’ like Hauptschule graduates to take great relief from their daily misery by taking comfort in the fact that 0.1% of people are even worse off.

    Along the same lines that commenters on this blog are trying to amend my incisive incrimitation of the monster hypocrisy that German society is by desperatly trying to find some country on the planet that is still worse off (hey you know, in case of doubt there’s always North Korea), those most fucked 0.1% of the German population are instrumental in serving as a reminder of how far the just normally fucked bottom 30-40% could theoretically still fall should they stop to feel constantly greatful for all those menial jobs and Hartz IV that the elites are gratuitously handing out to them.

    So far about the discourse that favors the weak.

  5. Martin, I think you have a point on our German school system. It’s basically a disgrace, does the opposite of what it claims to do and certainly hinders any social upward movement in our society more than anything else. I, e.g., was shocked when I found out that I was basically the only person among my buddies in University with not at least one parent with Abitur. When I did my PhD, things got worse … of the ~20 PhD candidates at the chair were 4 children of University professors. Neddless to say that I was about the only one where not at least one parent had already a University education.
    I disagree with the rest of your post, though. My father is from Naples, just spend a few weeks there, you need not go to North Korea to find places where people are decisively worse off than in Germany.

  6. >using Nazi termiology to attack his opponents (“Gleichschaltung”) disqualfies him from taken serious

    He’s just being polemic; nothing wrong about that, lest he should refrain from presenting his case in detail, serving only spice, but not nutrients. However, Markovits “promises” to investigate the extent to which his polemic is applicable, and we’ll have Andrew to report. So, why can’t we wait? It’s a pity polemics is being poo-pooed at in Germany, Karl Kraus having indulged in these seemingly simple pleasures as well – much to the acclaim of contemporary lesser spirits, who would whine and snivel if bitten by a rabid dog like Kraus, instead of taking it like a man. Besides, why should Joerg suspect Andrew to spoil himself with brutishness à la Mark Steyn, when Andrew has a record of poo-pooing things when poo-pooing is de rigeur, not being amused by politics and its lacking depth of thought anyway?

    >a “worthy line of succession from the days of Hitler” etc.

    I was referring—somewhat autistically—to a speculation of mine (and of other alarmists). Along Hobbes’ lines we’re afraid that Europe just can’t pardon the US for having been the “liberator”. Like that waitress in a cocktail bar, we just can’t stand to have the pushy sugar daddy remind us of a darker past, we didn’t deal with on our own merits. Except for the British, we didn’t really, résistance and weerstand not having lived up to expectations, neither Swedish nor Swiss neutrality having been, ugh, glorious.

    >I would like to know, lies the difference between being in a “worthy line of succession from the days of Hitler” etc.,
    >which “we” Europeans according to Marek all are, and a plain old fascist? Didn’t we just have the reductio to hitlerum?

    Unlike you and Joerg, I don’t have any qualms with that reductio, as long as it’s the icing on the cake, finer points being made. “Hitler was critical of America.” In fact, Hitler was quite ambiguous about both Britain and the US, and that went much deeper than having Mickey Mouse movies shown in private functions together with Goebbels, another avid Disney fan. The Nazis would have loved to share the world with the Germans’ British cousins *and* the Americans – the racially acceptable part of them, that is. The Nazis were reluctant to play the Arab card till 1938, when Britain rejected their proposals unmistakably. European fascists had both loathing and admiration for the US – as have our globalist and green anti-Americans, and most of the others, too. That doesn’t equal them to the Nazis, but yes, there’s an important part of their mindset they share. Kunzelmann asked his comrades to get over their Judenknacks as early as 1969, and it was not by accident, that German leftists were able to have a veritable Selektion between Jews and gentiles in 1977. Hey, these folks were the acme of gutmenschentum of their time. How could they ignore the likeness to the Auschwitz ramp, and why was there no uproar in the civilian front, just a discontented mutter?

    >people in this country are decidely *pro*-American

    Well, that’s not me. I loathe Bush for being a nitwit of colossal dimensions and for doing the right thing for the wrong reasons and with the wrong instrumentation. However, one of the CAIR issued Imams he thought fit to pray with after 9/11 does time now for, ugh, supporting terrorism, so possibly that dim bulb shines brighter know. Bush might eventually learn that the war on terror is as daft an idea as the war on drugs.

    >So I’m asking Marek instead to name only *one* major German newspaper with a decidedly antisemitic stance

    You’re sending me a straw man to fight against. I was talking about open protest on the streets, and, underhanded as I am, if I hinted at anti-Semitism in the media, I was going for the underhanded variety, as the Süddeutsche is not likely to go for the approach of national-bolshevik Neues Deutschland or Junge Welt, who advocate quite openly the union of nationalists, Islamists and the Left, it being legitimate when fighting Zionism and Imperialism (0, 1. Ctrl+F for “Schulter an Schulter”). Besides, anti-Semitism lies in the eye of the beholder, my sensitivities possibly not matching those of others:

    Klaus Faber, Julius Schoeps und Sacha Stawski (Hg.): Neu-alter Judenhass. Verlag für Berlin-Brandenburg, Berlin 2006. Der Tagesspiegel has some info.

    These guys have some qualms with the likes of Udo Steinbach, director of the prestigious, semi-gouvernmental “Deutsches Orient-Institut” who equates the Palestinian’s plight with the Jew’s in the Warsaw Ghetto, thus both banalising the Shoa and likening Israel to the Nazis. Now that Mr. Steinbach is a staple of Near East related journalism, so there’s no need for the Süddeutsche or Frankfurter Rundschau (Spiegel, Focus, you name it) to be “decidely” anti-Semitic, when they can rely on the likes of Steinbach to say the naughty bits. Invariably, Palestinian boys throwing stones at mighty Israeli Merkavas picture the news whenever Israel or Palestine are to be covered, and yes, I concur with Messrs. Faber, Schoeps & Stawski, when they judge this to be anti-Semitic, as stones and unruly children is the least, what Israeli society has to cope with. What about the Jenin massacre? The opener having been for weeks that 500 civil dead were to bemoan, while much later the UN had a report issued, that told of 52, half of them armed fighters. You could read about that on page 15.

    Norbert Blüm is another funny bone, who feels that the Jews are leading a “hemmungsloser Vernichtungskrieg,” (unrestrained war of extermination). He feeds the media with the right stuff, whenever they feel like it. When the Stern interviewed him once, he spoke of a peaceful rally in protest of Sharons visit to the temple mount, Israeli soldiers having shot 30 of the protesters. Stern didn’t bother to check the facts, as it was all too likely. However, Blüm erred on the date of the occurrence and the number of dead: 7. Besides, the rally was anything but peaceful. The media doesn’t dabble with details, when Israel is referred to. More often than not, Hamas is reported blazingly as having accepted Israel’s right to exist, at least tacitly, while in fact they never do.

    >It’s of course a cheap claim that “we” blame everything on “America and the Jews”

    A straw man again; to blame everything on US/Jewry I gladly leave to the sludge at the bottom; then again, recent polls tell of 59% of Europeans who feel that Israel is a menace for world peace – quite some sludge. However, I wrote that we’re passionate only when it’s about America and the Jews, while being comfortably numb when other lamentable issues are covered, that we feign heartfelt interest in. Many of us shed some tears for Saddam Hussein, though.

    Most pollsters inquire whether you would mind to have a Jew as neighbour or son in law to measure anti-Semitism: about a third of respondents don’ like either. Sociologists should ask whether Israelis are the new Nazis, and Palestinians the Jews’ Jews, to get a more realistic result – and higher numbers. But more than 59% of Europeans wouldn’t join me with that definition.

  7. >any statistic that I haven’t forged myself

    Let it be known that this adage, attributed to Churchill, is most likely a poisoned arrow of the Reichspropagandaministerium. Besides, it’s mostly unknown outside our lovely homeland. There’s nothing wrong with sound research expressed in numbers.

    >those most fucked 0.1% of the German population are instrumental in serving as a reminder
    >of how far the just normally fucked bottom 30-40% could theoretically still fall should
    >they stop to feel constantly greatful for all those menial jobs and Hartz IV that the
    >elites are gratuitously handing out to them.

    >worker exploitability is a function of skill times gullibility

    So our elite has 30-40% of our offspring intentionally became delta workers, while 0,1% of the most miserables are intentionally “fucked with” to keep the deltas busy and submissive, a Brave New World of sorts? I thought us Islamophobes had the prerogative to whip up blogland’s most wacky conspiration theories. Germany’s tiered school system is a world-wide unique mess, that much is true, but never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity. Productivity soaring, we just don’t need that many delta workers (much less semiliterate ones), their discontent becoming a menace. The Hauptschule was a valuable asset once, but it isn’t anymore, as is German coal mining or textile industry.

  8. @Marek,

    while 0,1% of the most miserables are intentionally “fucked with”

    The heroin addicts aren’t “intentionally fucked with”, just “very fucked”. You can be absolutely ‘fucked’ without having been ‘fucked with’ by anyone in particular. The Hauptschule ones are often fucked in a sense of “fucked with” though, that’s right. And the very fucked ones are being overly reported on so that the just just moderately fucked with can get a kick out of only being the second-worst off. Ok I’m glad we sorted that out. About ‘deltas’ and productivity I don’t know, what’s important is not what they do, it’s what they don’t do, and that is making demands and competing with the designated alphas and betas if you want to call them that way.

    What’s also important about heroin addiction and mental illness is that these are one-way streets that there is no turning back from. So, the documentary makes some repressed worker thinking of giving their boss the middle finger and setting out to make a living on his own think, shit, what if it doesn’t work out, will I get mentally ill and my children become heroin addicts? Thay may not even be very logical, but fear doesn’t need logic. Because it’s a one-way street they mustn’t even try.

    I’m expanding on this in my in next comment …

  9. Addendum to my last comment:

    There is in fact, a greater German one-way street scheme of instilling fear. Fact is, the availability of a temporary step down the social ladder without completely falling to the ground is important for the steps up to be available, as contradictory as it may sound at first. You may have to leave your 9-to-5 job and go back to waiting tables at night to pursue that acting career. You may have to go back to living (and helping out) on your dad’s farm to hack together some software in the garage. But when things don’t work out, yeah just try showing up in front of your old, or in fact any new, German hiring manager with a two-year gap in your resume. Gapless resumes are much more important in Germany than elsewhere. Funny that German legislation has no problem to give some sort of protection like that to aspiring mothers, but yeah, we already understood that it’s about producing children not about producing quality of life.

    If I’m not mistaken, unemployed people are enrolled in unemployment insurance but self-employed ones not … go figure. The general social stigma being attached to anyone having tried to start their own business and failed just once also makes for a broad indictment of German society.

    That way, it’s not just the 30% Hauptschule deltas, the fear of sinking very low is keeping most everyone glued to their ‘safe’ but horrible job and keeping them from trying to make it on their own. That way, teaching or even line-manager position may buy them a package holiday in Thailand instead of Mallorca but in terms of the potential they could realize if fear wasn’t freezing them in place their lives are pathetic.

    This is also why, and I know I’m going out on a limb here, I’m also more optimistic about the more ‘dynamic’ Anglo-saxon economies to deal with the upcoming challenges of the 21st century such as retooling economies around climate change. Put aside simple numerical-technical considerations such as today’s mileage of cars or kilometers of railroad track, if you want to make long-term predictions, look at the deeper issues such as whether information flows along hierarchies or more like, to use some buzzwords, peer-to-peer. Hierarchies don’t deal well with change, so this will become interesting. Again I wouldn’t bet too much money on this prediction but I guess the odds are 60:40.

  10. > The general social stigma being attached to anyone having tried to
    > start their own business and failed just once also makes for a broad
    > indictment of German society.

    Not true. At least where I come from, it’s in high regard with hiring managers to have shown entrepreneurial spirit. It’s even highly sought after. Trying to start your own business and fail is also not considered as a gap in your CV.

    Germans aren’t non-entrepreneurial because they fear that if they fail they don’t geht hired anymore by anyone. Germans are generally risk-adverse. Which is of course bad in times of change.

  11. @Alex,

    I’m sorry, but just postulating some innate risk adversity doesn’t cut it. It’s not like risk adversity is genetic. In fact, just my personal observation on what it means to be human, ‘people’ as such are natural risk-takers, and it has to be thoroughly beaten out of them first. Hiring policies, while surely important, are admittedly not the complete picture. Risk-takers are a threat to authorities. In another comment, hey this is become like a second blog of my own, I’ll write something about why homeschooling is prohibited in Germany.

  12. Martin, risk-adversity is not genetic, but it’s deeply rooted in our culture and history and cannot be explained by fear of current authorities to be threatened by insubordinance. If there’s one characteristic of the German mentality, then it’s obedience towards authorities, there is no need to plant more fear into the average German’s mind to achieve this. Just read Heinrich Mann’s “Der Untertan”, explains a lot.

  13. @ Marek

    “I don’t have any qualms with that reductio, as long as it’s the icing on the cake, finer points being made.”

    If the polemical icing on the cake is against the US, then folks from your political tent complain about Anti-Americanism…

  14. @ Alex

    “If there’s one characteristic of the German mentality, then it’s obedience towards authorities”

    Fine, if you also acknowledge marked, often violent and abrupt disregard for authority as an almost generational characteristic of those same Germans: 1817 (Wartburg), 1848, 1869-73 (disregard for pan-European ‘authority’ structures), 1933 (can be seen as radical overthrow of traditional authority structures within Germany, and I’m not referring to Parliamentary democracy, and of course, these were simply supplanted with other, more authoritarian structures), 1968, possibly 1989?

    I suppose it depends on how you define ‘authority’, which has probably always been the key to such events.

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