Let's hear it for the blokes. London's chattering class, from whence come the columns and commentary fueling the oh-so-witty dinner-table conversations rife with anti-Americanisms, anti-Bushisms and anti-Semitisms, imagines it speaks for everyone in Old Blighty.
But ordinary Brits in the street (and in the pubs) often show a different side, and good sense in the face of terrorism. So does Tony Blair, who remembers not only what America and Great Britain have in common, but believes that it's worth defending. He may be our only true friend over there.
The magpies can make a frightful noise. Janet Daley, an American expatriate in London, writes in the London Daily Telegraph that she was shocked by the "avalanche of anti-American vituperation from the mouths (and keyboards) of the educated opinion-forming classes of Britain when the twin towers of the World Trade Center fell."
She wrote an angry denunciation of her colleagues of press and tube and fled to Italy for the anniversary of 9/11, to spend a few quiet days on Lake Como, and when she went to the village church for a commemorative service she was overwhelmed when the entire congregation rose to sing "The Star- Spangled Banner."
There was more heart-warming news waiting when she returned to London and stacks of letters from readers responding to her angry observations of her professional colleagues. Elderly men and women recalled with sentimental affection, in letters written in a spidery longhand, their memories of the handsome and brave "Yanks" who had joined in their fight against Hitler. Young men and women, who knew actual Americans from their travels in the United States, furiously objected to the mean-spirited characterization of Americans by the snobbish and sophisticated (so called) elites. The scribblers did not represent the real feelings of the real people they knew.
Certain newspapers, such as the left-liberal Guardian, and the BBC, the letter-writers said, spoke only for the small circle of anti-American travelers, who in their hubris insist that they rant for everyone. The voices, whoever they were raised for, were loud enough. Two days after 9/11, a popular BBC current affairs program featured a loaded audience, and the American ambassador was peppered with nasty questions rudely framed, and when he tried to answer he was hooted down with hisses and cat-calls.
The outrage of the letter writers sounds a lot like the anger of the "ordinary people" raised against the media elites in this country. One letter-writer described the Guardian as "written by holier-than-thou sanctimonious prigs for others of a similar persuasion." The English do have a way with their language.
It's difficult for those of us of a certain age, who appreciate the deep American-British connection and the wellsprings of affection formed in two world wars of the previous century, to fathom the mindless mentality of those who say "we got what we deserved" when the Twin Towers came tumbling down. I lived in London for several years in the '60s, and I cringe in shame at the remembrance of marching to Aldermaston behind the philosopher Bertrand Russell to "ban the bomb," but even among my protester friends on the left there was deep affection for Americans.
Something else is going on today. The left intellectuals are particularly anti-American because they no longer have anything to be (begin ital) for
. Their hatred has nothing to offer but stale glue to hold together a thinning clutch of anemic true believers. Stalin robbed most Marxists of their idealism, but many held on to the idea that sometime, somewhere else (North Korea? Cuba? Albania?) a Marxist revolution could succeed. The end of the Cold War shattered the last remnant of misbegotten idealism.
"The only starting point for a realistic left today is a lucid registration of historical defeat," Perry Anderson, editor of the English-Marxist New Left Review, wrote two years ago. Socialism underestimated the appeal of capitalism. (I'll say.) For lack of something better, the British chattering class is trapped now in a straightjacket of its own making, finding hysterical glee in expressions of anti-Americanism.
Geoffrey Wheatcroft, writing from London in the Atlantic magazine, says these socialist waifs fail to understand the "renewed, simple unpolitical patriotism of ordinary people," as expressed in the reverence shown by ordinary folk at the death of the Queen Mother, in the pride they took in the Golden Jubilee anniversary of her daughter's accession to the throne.
The resentment of America is linked to the resentment of ordinary men and women in their own country. "Behind the spite and anger, behind the nervous breakdown it reflects," writes Mr. Wheatcroft, "lies something of great historical importance: the defeat of the left."
Tony Blair and the blokes understand, too.