Psycho babble and "anti-Americanism"
by Tom Pearson "Anti-Americanism" is one of the more recent contrivances to emerge from the pro-war propaganda machine. Fully briefed, Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer has told us that those opposing a war on Iraq have been indoctrinated into this virulent form of prejudice. Lest we miss the thrust of Downer's profound observation, certain newspaper columnists have patriotically come to the fore to rid us of this terrible stain on our history and character. Gerard Henderson in the Sydney Morning Herald (4.2.03) used the occasion to attack novelist Graham Greene, the film based on his book The Quiet American and its director, Phillip Noyce. Over at The Australian newspaper Greg Sheridan (6.2.03) announced that we are sick and need our heads examined. "Anti-Americanism should be studied as a serious psychological affliction, a pathological condition which paralyses the mind's analytical capacity", said Sheridan. Nothing less than a case of mass psychosis. Henderson and his Sydney Institute think tank are in the constant throes of rewriting history for the glory of imperialist conquest. This involves denigrating socialism and its supporters, past and present. As such his column is a witch hunt straight out of the Cold War: a vendetta in which he names names, compiling a blacklist for the settling of scores and the muddying of reputations. The Quiet American is set in Vietnam during the death throes of French colonial occupation, and when the US was preparing the ground for what became one of its dirtiest and bloodiest military aggressions. Henderson sweeps this aside in order to label Noyce and Greene anti- American. He attacks Noyce's film for not portraying communist fighters in Vietnam as murderers and terrorists, implying that Noyce, because of his progressive leanings, was, and still is, part of a communist conspiracy. Sheridan's angle is to tally up all of the people around the world who he considers should be getting the treatment. In Australia it's the "chattering classes" (those opposing and speaking out against the war). Then there are those in America who oppose the war; the anti-Americanism of Europe; "Arab anti-Americanism"; and an affliction he calls universal anti- Americanism because "the US is so rich and so big, whatever you don't like in human nature you can find in abundance there". Sheridan then applies the Freudian test to a demographic: spoiled Western baby boomers who "have never passed psychologically beyond the stage of adolescence with the US as their simultaneously forbidding and indulgent parents." There are those who simply hate George W Bush, which according to Sheridan equates to being anti-Christian. By Sheridan's own reckoning pretty much the whole world is against the USA. But the peddlers of this anti-Americanism theory have carefully stepped around a fundamental question. This is their avoidance of the word "people" and its replacement with categories based on race (Arab), on place (Europe), generation (baby boomers) vague allusions (the chattering classes) and psycho babble. The people of Australia were by and large horrified by the terrorist attacks on September 11 and sympathetic toward the victims. Where was this anti-Americanism when Australian firefighters traveled to the US and worked side by side with their fellow firefighters in New York, and when the US firefighters came here to help out during the recent fires? Or when Australian maritime workers went to the US to rally in solidarity with American dock workers who were under attack by waterfront employers and the Bush administration? When the likes of Downer, Henderson and Sheridan lecture us on anti- Americanism, they mean we should embrace George W Bush and the ruling class he represents. Unlike Bush and co who are exploiting the tragedy and horror of those attacks (as the Howard Government has exploited the attack in Bali) for their own murderous ends, the people's response is a practical expression of the bond between the world's most profuse class, the working class.