It's not the Yanks who are Dumb

I think not
Written before the Iraq Invasion
Neil Clark is a fierce critic of US foreign policy, but he detests the ignorant anti-Americanism of left-liberals

‘I am 25, a graduate who has travelled extensively after university and a Labour voter. To people of my type, across Europe and the English-speaking world, Americans are a laughing-stock, known mainly for their vacuous culture and profound ignorance. We all have a “dumb Yank” story on our travels. This is why Americans are so hated by us on the Left, however much we condemn the outrages.’ Such were the thoughts of Thomas Smith of Bristol, in a letter to the Daily Telegraph not long after the events of 11 September.

I am 35 — ten years older than Smith. I am also a graduate, and I, too, have travelled ‘extensively’ — to more than 30 countries at the latest count. I, too, consider myself to be ‘on the Left’, although, unlike Thomas Smith, I actually stopped voting Labour when, in 1995, it ditched Clause Four and thereby ceased to be a party of the Left. Why, then, when our backgrounds and viewpoints appear so similar, did I feel such anger and indignation on reading Smith’s letter?

It would be nice to think that Smith’s views are just the unrepresentative opinions of a rather arrogant and puffed-up young man. Yet sadly, he is probably right when he talks about how people of his ‘type’ see Americans.

Although Smith’s assertions, thankfully, did not go unchallenged by American readers of the Telegraph, one can only wonder what greater commotion would have been caused had our young Bristolian used the term ‘dumb’ to describe, for example, Nigerians or Pakistanis instead of Americans. If he had done so, he would probably have been visited by officers of the Commission for Racial Equality, and all prospects of a glittering postgraduate career would have been nipped in the bud.

The ‘Left’ of Thomas Smith, though, while preaching equality and brotherly love between all races, conveniently does allow for exceptions. All men are equal; all men, that is, except Americans, Serbs, white Africans and Protestants from Northern Ireland. Those unfortunate enough to be members of these groups can be freely called all the names under the sun without fear of opprobrium.

This explains how Polly Toynbee, the grande dame of political correctness, can get away with calling Serbs ‘dysfunctional’ and in ‘need of re-education’, and how left-liberal commentators can routinely label Ulster Protestants as ‘bigoted’ and ‘narrow-minded’ with impunity. In Zimbabwe, Mugabe can yell ‘Africa is for the Africans’ without a single letter of protest in the Guardian. Were a ‘right-wing’ European politician to make similar comments about Europe, indignant readers would be sending in their emails within seconds.

After the events of 11 September, it has been the Americans’ turn to be on the receiving end of the particularly nasty form of racism of the Left. Much of this nastiness is, I believe, due to an insidious form of left-wing snobbery based on a complete misconception of many aspects of American life and society.

A good example of this condescension is the British Left’s knee-jerk opposition to the death penalty. How can any country or its citizens be regarded as civilised as long as it maintains capital punishment? America still has capital punishment, ergo, America isn’t civilised. A correspondent to my local newspaper made this very point the day after the WTC bombings: George Bush had no right to talk about the attacks as constituting an ‘attack on civilisation’ while ‘black men waited on death row’. The concept of individual responsibility, and that those on death row might actually be guilty of the crimes they are charged with, does not occur to the bleeding-heart left-liberal conscience. The fact that there is not a single credible example of a person wrongfully executed in America under the modern code also, it seems, counts for little.

Linked to prejudice against the death penalty is the general misunderstanding about crime in the US, with the image persisting of a land where life is cheap and arguments routinely settled down the barrel of a shotgun. Violent crime is undeniably a problem in most American inner cities; yet, away from them, the US suffers from significantly less crime than the UK. One is now twice as likely to be robbed, assaulted or have a vehicle stolen in New Labour Britain than in the wicked ‘Wild West’. New York, under the ‘zero tolerance’ policies of Mayor Giuliani (loudly criticised at the time by those on the Left as ‘unworkable’), was transformed in a remarkably short time into a city relatively free of crime, aggressive begging and other undesirable activities. London, by contrast, under the aegis of leftist-liberals, has gone in completely the opposite direction. You are now more likely to be mugged, raped or murdered in Hyde Park than in Central Park — something that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago, and an unpalatable fact for apologists for modern Britain.

Then there is the ‘vacuous culture’ argument, so beloved by intellectual snobs of the Left when discussing America. True, much of contemporary US culture is ‘vacuous’, particularly the pap emanating from the Hollywood conveyor-belt. Yet American culture is not just the Californian motion-picture industry. I wonder if Thomas Smith has ever heard of, or indeed read, Ernest Hemingway, Thornton Wilder and Paul Bowles, three of the finest writers of the 20th century? Or, if he prefers more modern literature: Saul Bellow, Kurt Vonnegut and Philip Roth? Have those who denigrate American culture ever seen a play by Tennessee Williams or Arthur Miller, or listened to a symphony by Copland or Bernstein? The greatest film of the 20th century, Citizen Kane, was American, as was the greatest pop album, Pet Sounds. Any nation that gives the world Sergeant Bilko, Burt Bacharach and the Beach Boys can surely be forgiven the occasional Eminem and Jerry Lewis.

As in the case of crime rates, it ill behoves any citizen of these Ali G-infested islands to berate the US for their ‘vacuous culture’ when we boast some of the worst tabloid newspapers in the Western world, and our TV listings abound with soap operas, game shows and bone-headed fly-on-the-wall documentaries. It was Britain that exported The Weakest Link and Anne Robinson to America, and not vice versa.

Another popular left-wing gripe about America is, of course, that all Americans are money-obsessed and commercialism permeates all aspects of society. It is undeniably true that a particularly aggressive form of capitalism does operate in America, and few of us, of whatever political persuasion, find the spectacle of ambulance-chasing lawyers particularly edifying. However, this is only one half of the picture.

Strict competition laws ensure, as Janet Daley has pointed out in the Daily Telegraph on several occasions, that consumers are immeasurably better off in the US than in Britain. Despite the US’s considerably higher wage levels, it is hard, if not impossible, to think of any item which can be bought at a lower price in Britain. Not only do Americans pay lower prices; they also receive better service. Vivien Leigh, exiled to America in the 1940s, may have loathed Hollywood, yet was still taken aback by ‘the politeness of men in garages’. Sixty years on, little has changed. In Britain, by contrast, ripping off the consumer seems part of the fun for all concerned, from our privatised utility companies through to the plumber who charges £400 for a Christmas Eve call-out. And unlike in the US, service rarely comes with a willing smile; more often than not with a snarl and a grossly inflated bill.

Moving on to the dreary ‘Dumb Yanks’ jibe, I write as one who has taught both American and British students for more than ten years. While it is true that knowledge of European geography is not usually the American student’s strong point, once again, one can’t really press this too hard when only 8 per cent of our own schoolchildren have heard of Winston Churchill and 12 per cent believe Tony Blair to be a football player. And while we castigate Americans for their ignorance of Europe, how many Britons can name the capital of Nebraska, or know which states border Iowa?

All in all, unthinking attacks by the Left on Americans are not only nasty but they don’t add up. Does that mean, then, that we all have to love Uncle Sam? Not a bit of it. I have written thousands of words condemning US foreign policy, most of which were considered too strong to be published in mainstream publications. I have organised petitions for the indictment of Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright as war criminals for their role in the illegal bombing of Yugoslavia, and have taken part in vigils and demonstrations outside US embassies at home and abroad. I have resolutely opposed President Bush’s never-ending ‘war against terrorism’ since day one, and am appalled at the prospect of forthcoming US military strikes against Iraq.

Yet I have never personalised the strong feelings I have regarding US foreign policy into attacks on individual Americans or Americans in general. Refraining from doing so does not constitute a cop out or appeasement of the enemy. Slobodan Milosevic, a man who has more cause than most to feel bitter about Uncle Sam, shows that he understands this nuance perfectly when, after a long, arduous day at his US-financed show trial, he unwinds each evening with his collection of Hemingway’s works and his Frank Sinatra CDs. Similarly, no more scathing critiques of American society have been written than Brave New World and After Many a Summer, yet their author, Aldous Huxley, liked America and Americans so much that he spent the last 30 years of his life living in California. By the same token, there have been few more devastating critics of US foreign policy than Noam Chomsky, Gore Vidal and Ramsey Clark, American citizens all.

It is important for all of us who share that distinguished triumvirate’s world view to continue to break bread with individual Americans, for it is not with individual Americans, or indeed with America in general, that our argument lies. If we do otherwise, and start to label whole nationalities as ‘dumb’ and ‘ignorant’, we are already one small step away from the undeniably racist mindset of those who perpetrated the atrocities in Manhattan 12 months ago. By all means refer to US foreign policy as ‘dumb’, Mr Smith, but please not its people.

Neil Clark is a tutor in history and politics at Oxford Tutorial College.

Hmmmmmmmm which of the 300 million is Smith the 25 year old "graduate (of what)"... referring to?

Were they real Americans or illegals? Hard to tell these days.

Even have a goodly mix of Brits who call themselves Americans - perhaps he meant them.

Let's get down and dirty personal and ugly ignorant for payback:

*All Brits have bad teeth unless they are royals who can afford to get them fixed regularly because the public pay them a great salary for being royal.

*All Brits drink too much and are probably alcoholics.

*Brits have the lousiest cuisine in the world except perhaps for African nations.

....and so on......
I think not
No clue WC, I'm one of the dumb Yanks, ask my neighbor.

Are you back home now? Jay (and everyone else) missed all your interesting posts!!! This one was neat to read as a start to my day.

The author missed one guy who lives to see the U.S. in dire trouble:
George Soros is a strident critic of the U.S. and he is not only a citizen but a citizen of choice - having been born in a European country - Ukraine I think.
I think not
Yes, I'm back home. Not for very long though. Middle of June I leave again and will probably be gone till about the beginning of August. I might swing by LA, maybe we can have some coffee and talk about everybody on CanCon. :P Mostly about Jay.
Who else is there to talk about? :P

If you go to L.A. you will stay there with all those wannabe lovelies.... I have heard tourists drive off the road watching girls!

I'm farther north in the hills above the coast - Simi Valley - where they regularly put on forest fires each summer.

Even my family refuse to visit in the summer deterred by the uninviting smoke inhalation!!

It would be fun to discuss the big J tho (hee)....
Interesting promotion, but what,s the point, the activitys conducted since the article was written have reinforced the stereotipic dumb yank handle, if you support dumb foriegn policy, then you're dumb, if you support dumb politicians, then you're dumb, if you support the dumb corporate policy, then you're dumb, while the article points out the unfairness of labeling all Americans as dumb it offers no indication of how to change that impression that much of the world has of Americans. The activitys of the American people are the greatest contributor to the stereotype not the rest of the world.
I think not
Quote: Originally Posted by darkbeaver

while the article points out the unfairness of labeling all Americans as dumb it offers no indication of how to change that impression that much of the world has of Americans.

That's rather simple, get off your high horse and problem solved.
He rides a rat around and thinks it's a "high horse".
Agreed with darkbeaver.
I think not
Quote: Originally Posted by Wednesday's Child


If you go to L.A. you will stay there with all those wannabe lovelies.... I have heard tourists drive off the road watching girls!

I'm farther north in the hills above the coast - Simi Valley - where they regularly put on forest fires each summer.

Even my family refuse to visit in the summer deterred by the uninviting smoke inhalation!!

It would be fun to discuss the big J tho (hee)....

I've been to LA, several times, not exactly my favorite place, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
ITN, that was a good article.

Great post.
the vast majority of americans civies at home and up to 90% of american soldiers in iraq believe that they toppled saddam husseins Iraq because of his involvement in 911

now i ask you is that dumb...
or does a stronger word come to mind

great article
now the left is being blamed because the US looks dumb

The key here Cortezzz is that you could poll any
Canadian, or European and you will surely expose
their ignorance.

Now let's narrow it down to those who vote.

Even there, it's quite scary worldwide.

Your cartoon view of America is even more unusally
ironic, because you live next door.

LOL !!!

Embrace your stereotype.

Love it.

Hug it.

Never let go, Cortezzz.
surely you know i jest
i myself have LOL at the antics of canadians
and in private the antics of my own latvia

merely to point out that there is a basis for these stereotypes
and you
free of stereotypes are we
like your cartoon view of --the left

and to be honest
these stereotypes of -- dumb
are applied to many by many
the swedes think the fins are dumb
the english think the irish are dumb
mailand canadians think newfoundlanders are dumb
the dutch think the begians are dumb
the germans think the poles are dumb
and -- talk hate talk--on this forum
every 30 minutes blackleaf for example puts up an anti-french thread--- with more than half of you yanks joining in -- all becuase suppose the french have bigger appendages than the english speaking peoples

and of course theres that nonstop tirade against arabs and muslim and mullahs andd failed non-western non white cultures
thats ok i geuss

and you complain because some call americans are called dumb-
--thats getting off easy

oh by the way what do most americans think of mexicans......

no what fascinating is that --- all this escapes you
which brings us to that other description

you guys are hilarious!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

no patronizing response yet

no typeing while leaning left charge

no troll tax
Absolutely hillairious and deaf dumb and blind.
Don't wiggle out of it Cortezzz.

Don't you do that Forum Mohammad Ali rope-a-dope,
dancing like a butterfly, stinging like a bee.

Spinning moral equivalence for all to see
proving my point, denying what you're about,
for afterall Cortezzz my gadfly, you still hold true
to the Cartoons.

You ended at the starting point, so dizzy you
didn't notice.
your dreaming jim
you think you see me bobbing and weaving
but your really unconscious---
as mo ali has delivered a knock out blow

wake up jim moyer!!!!
Huh ??

Wha ???

Where am I ?
you are going to be fine


just breath deeply


we wont hurt you

i will be reading to you from

--manufacturing consent --by you know who

it could been subtitled

---or--how the elites make the common folk dumb---

hey--- this happens EVERYWHERE-- whats different is the POWER the US wields---
if its dumb-- ie re-elects Bush par example
its dumbness hurts the world
whereas the supposed dumbness of fins --
merely amuses the swedes
My head.



waz that?

Huh ?

Fins ? Weeds ? Hurts?
come on
splash some bourbon on yer face

and repeat after me

it was a dumb thing i did to re-elect bush
it was a dumby dumb thing i did to re-elect bush
I think not
The British frigid bitch Anne Robinson, host of The Weakest Link, claims all Americans are dumb, who are we to argue with the woman?
everybody is dumb
everybody is dumb

oh i hate the f--ing bitch
Man, I don't have any cheap liquor.

And won't waste Maker's Mark.


Woozy here.

What Cortezzz ?

Who are you ?
How Americans can say they are more intelligent than the British is beyond me.

British schoolchildren regularly rank 4th or 5th in the world for maths and science grades, behind only Scandinavian nations, whereas the US often ranks around 24th.

Britain's literacy rate is 99%, whereas that of both the US AND Canada is 96% - pitiful for rich, Western nations.

And the US might have more Nobel Prize winners, in total, than any nation on the planet (with Britain 2nd), but when you look at Nobel Prize winners per capita, US only just makes it into the Top 10 whereas Britain is 3rd - behind Iceland and Finland.
And, despite the fact America is home to Hollywood, American television is AWFUL, whereas British TV is the best in the world.

American shows on British TV aren't very good - and even then, we only get the BEST American TV shows. God knows what the rets of American TV is like.

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