This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
LONDON — Are American voters susceptible to blackmail? Ever since Sarah Palin lifted John McCain’s campaign, it is becoming increasingly clear that America will be branded racist if Europe does not wake up on November 5 to find that Barack Obama has been elected.
Here is what Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian had to say last week: “If [the election] is deemed to have been about race — that Obama was rejected because of his colour — the world’s verdict will be harsh.”
His view is that the anti-Americanism that has demonized President Bush will be as nothing to the global wrath that will greet a McCain presidency. “Suddenly Europeans and others will conclude that their dispute is with not only one ruling clique, but Americans themselves.”
Such self-fulfilling prophecies are to be heard at all the most elegant dinner tables in London. This week’s crash on Wall Street is already evoking a new round of gloating among those who always wanted to believe that the free market was ultimately doomed.
Now both American democracy and American capitalism are on trial in the court of European public opinion. And the only plea that the court will accept from America is: guilty.
I am tired of the prejudice and ignorance of Europeans about America. And I am sad, though not surprised, that the U.S. government’s public diplomacy has been so feeble, not to say non-existent.
Instead, it has been left to a few lone voices to defend America against the calumnies of its enemies. Notable among these is a new Web site, AmericaInTheWorld.com, which is already up but will be officially launched next month in London.
It is the brainchild of Tim Montgomerie, the founder of the most successful political Web site in Britain, ConservativeHome.com, and the polling entrepreneur Stephan Shakespeare. Both are British citizens and receive neither funding nor other support from America.
One of the best things to appear so far on AmericaInTheWorld.com is a poll of British attitudes toward America. What emerges is that most people will believe almost anything about America — as long as it is negative.
For instance, 58% believe that “polygamy is legal in some parts of the U.S.A.” In reality, of course, polygamy is illegal everywhere in America — unlike Britain, where it is illegal in theory but in practice Muslim men can claim welfare benefits for more than one wife and Muslim leaders have refused to agree to a new marriage contract precisely because it required men to waive their “right” to polygamy.
Myths about America abound. Some 70% believe that Europe has reduced carbon emissions much more than America — the opposite is true; 80% believe that America sold Saddam Hussein a quarter of his weapons, the true figure is 0.46% — it was the Russians, Chinese, and French who supplied most of his arsenal; and 45% believe that Americans are more likely to be racists than Europeans, yet there is still no European Obama and in reality different racial groups in America have an overwhelmingly favorable opinion of one another.
The most persistent quarrel between America and Europe now seems to revolve around attitudes toward religion. This, as much as anything, lies behind the allergic reaction to Governor Palin.
In reality, American Christians are much more tolerant than many Europeans imagine — 39% of Catholics and Protestants say they have at least one gay friend. But European anti-clericalism is still a mainstay of Left-wing ideology: witness the violent hostility of the French Left toward Nicolas Sarkozy, who wants France to adopt a “positive secularism” that grants religion a place in the public square.
Pope Benedict XVI, who just paid a visit to France, called President Sarkozy’s positive secularism “a beautiful expression” and he is not alone in Europe. However, the dominant view is that of Europe’s elite, who abominate American religiosity and ignore the founding fathers’ strict separation of church and state.
Europeans find American culture wars at once fascinating and appalling. But their view of the debate is filtered through the liberal press: CNN and the other networks, the New York Times, the New York Review of Books, the Washington Post, and the Huffington Post.
Still lacking is any serious acquaintance with such journals as Commentary or the Weekly Standard, the New Criterion or the American Spectator, where a very different America comes into view.
This brings me to The New York Sun. The impressive support it has received from numerous leading figures of the New York scene demonstrates that in a few years the Sun has made itself an integral part of the national conversation. Anybody who is anybody in New York recognizes that this newspaper deserves to survive.
The Sun represents a New York that is younger and livelier but no less important than that to be found in the pages of other papers. It is the Sun’s New York that we in London miss when they rely on the BBC to explain American politics and culture to them.
The Sun’s New York is the future of America, and the future of America is the best hope for Europe and the free world. Even in the midst of a major financial upheaval, this great city needs to hear the voices of all of its citizens. Not only New York, but also the free press’s, one of the glories of Western civilization that would be poorer without The New York Sun. If the paper can survive this crisis, it will surely flourish.
Mr. Johnson is the editor of Standpoint.