Talk about a busman’s holiday. I had some business to take care of in America, so I flew in from Paris last week. No sooner had I unpacked my hair gel, my wrap-around shades, and my man-style purse than I found myself confronted by a couple of Made-in-the-U.S.A items about the foreign press–and one about the press of foreigners, especially the illegal variety.
‐The Morning Call in Allentown never struck me as a paper with a terribly deep bench, writer-wise. Yet last Saturday the paper ran a terrific op-ed piece called “Americans should be wary of their European allies,” written by Linda McDonald, who, according to the little bio note at the bottom of the column, “works in circulation marketing” at the Call.
But this wasn’t always so. In fact, McDonald had spent eight years working for newspapers in Europe, where she had grown adept at fielding endless anti-American insults, like the one hurled at her by a Parisian exec who told her that she lacked “the class, the culture, [and] the couture” to represent her newspaper “because [she] was an American.”
But on the afternoon of September 11, 2001, McDonald found herself standing in the newsroom of an unnamed British paper watching a reporter on TV trying to cover the attack on the World Trade Center in New York: “His accent was American,” she writes, “and he was running frantically through the crowd, shouting into the microphone…clearly affected by what was going on around him.” McDonald and her colleagues watched in speechless horror as the overwhelmed reporter tried to capture the story. Finally, somebody spoke: “‘Typical American,’ were the first words I heard anyone else say aloud. It was the newspaper’s editor.”
Liberal lore has it that anti-Americanism was the result of the war in Iraq. In fact, the Euro-Left has always been anti-American. But the 9/11 attacks, writes McDonald, seemed to bring a new viciousness to traditional European Yank-bashing:
In the days following Sept. 11 and during the war in Afghanistan, I witnessed an unleashing of anti-U.S. sentiment that was shocking in its callousness. A few days after the attacks, a BBC prime time television program, “Question Time,” packed its audience with anti-American sympathizers. Among the panelists was Philip Lader, [a] former U.S. ambassador to Great Britain. Mr. Lader was driven to tears as he tried to express his sadness while the audience fiercely accused the United States of finally getting its due.
I watched our editor choose front pages that best portrayed the viciousness of U.S. military action in Afghanistan–young children looking wide-eyed and scared. I read column after column about how the United States finally would get its comeuppance and how the world would be a better place for it. But everything changed on Sept. 11, 2001. When those hijacked planes crashed and the United States went to war against terrorism, I wanted to be with other Americans. I wanted to be with people who fully understood that what happened on that day was an unprovoked attack on U.S. soil; people who would bravely fight for what was in our best interest. In December, I moved back to America.
The take-home souvenir? This simple lesson: “We must win this war and we must be careful not to partner with those who secretly–and not so secretly–want to see us lose.” Click on the link. As they say in Blogoville, read the whole thing.
‐I used to be a teacher. It was part of a career strategy I worked out with my friend, Patrick. We decided that the best way to measure the effectiveness of our different paths to success was to see who made the most money for doing the least amount of work. Patrick went to work writing concrete poetry. But I found a job teaching in colleges and universities here and there. So for a few years, I was clearly the winner–even though I had to teach Freshman English from morning until long into the night to make my rent.
Then, one day, I got a call from my friend. He had, he said, discovered the greatest scam on earth.
“What is it?” I asked.
I was teaching American college kids in London at the time, but before you could say “pass/fail,” I was on a plane for New York, and within a couple of weeks, I had found a job on a magazine that obviously knew even less about journalism than I did. I’ve been a mag-junkie ever since.
Living in France has been a kind of geographical methadone for me. What a living hell a French newsstand is. Half the stuff on the rack: Weird, little cardboard cutouts designed to shill a trinket, a craft project or a lousy DVD. The other half: Weeklies with pictures of Johnny Holliday or Prince Charles on the cover, sometimes together. Don’t get me wrong–I like Johnny. Now that Yves Montand is dead, he’s the only man on earth who can make French sound like a masculine language. But according to French magazines, the guy’s living through an abusive divorce a week and spending his weekends at clinics (fat/drugs/booze/Buddhist healing). In the last year alone, he’s died twice. He’s actually okay–but I can only take so much.
So when I get to an airport, where British and American magazines are everywhere, I backslide. I roll up my sleeves and buy every magazine I can find. This time, that included Harper’s, so you know I mean every magazine.
I know. I should know by now. The Index, once one of the freshest ideas in periodical publishing, is so tired that you don’t want to disturb it by staring. The found-art sidebar items have that rollicking sense of wacky humor one normally associates with NPR. Plus, the thing is a charity now ($12 a year!), paid for by those rich, well-mannered, impeccably correct MacArthur people. And while I always liked and admired Lewis Lapham, decades of liberal outrage can’t be good for you. Or me.
That leaves the rest of the magazine to annoy and pester–including, in the current issue, a piece by Nicholas Fraser. Fraser, who works for the BBC, defends the BBC. The article isn’t online–they’re practically giving the magazine away by mail, for crying out loud–but Harper’s + BBC = you know the story: We get a lede so over-upholstered in digressions that you could jump out of a fifth-story window, land on it, and walk away unharmed, and a side order of big-huge stats (BBC annual income: $6.5 billion, 28,000 employees, 82 years old, etc.). But then the predictable spiral: a novel dig at Lord Hutton’s report (“whitewash”), slams at Fox (“moronically celebratory”) and at CNN (“not…immune to the spirit of jingo”), with the amiable old Beeb shambling “along in the middle ground.” This leads to an anecdote using al Jazeera as a model of journalistic integrity, followed by an interesting question: “Who would…believe that a tax, the non-payment of which is punishable by a jail sentence, is the best way of subsidizing public liberties?” The answer: Guys who work for the BBC and write really long articles about it for Harper’s–that’s my guess. “The BBC is the last bastion of intelligent speech and therefore of mass intelligence,” writes Fraser.
Example of said intelligent speech: “The growing contempt or indifference with which most media are regarded is the truest symptom of the growing malaise of democracy in our time.” Exercise: Which word should be replaced by the word “journalism” in the preceding sentence?
Finally, news from my beloved little local paper, The Bedford Gazette, “the 22nd oldest daily newspaper in America.” This item is online as I type, but it will have vanished from the news page by the time you read this (none of your fancy city archive stuff here!). So I’ll just quote the online version of the rather astonishing story in its entirety:
Aliens released; no room at jail
Thirteen illegal aliens from Mexico were taken into custody on the turnpike when their van broke down, but they were released for lack of holding space. State police detained the group, then sent them to the Bedford jail until U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement could process them. But the agency, after checking around, didn’t have anywhere to put them. Sheriff Gordon Diehl said his jail was full but could have held them for a day or two. The ICE said to release the men, ages 20 to 57. They tried to call a taxi to get them back to their vehicle, but there was none so they walked out the jail door to try to find their own way. The van was about 40 miles away.
Andy, the guy who runs the beer store here, used to own a taxi, but the authorities put him out of the cab business about ten years ago for some reason.
Anyway, the paper’s print version adds, “Diehl said it’s not the first time…illegal immigrants were let go because there was no room at his jail…Even state police who have contacted federal immigration officials in years past have been told the same, he said.
“There have been times when they picked [illegal immigrants] up and brought them here and couldn’t do anything and they [federal immigration authorities] told them [the police] to let them go.” No doubt paperwork is being reduced this way all across the country.
Just another example of why America is superior to Europe, where immigration is a huge headache, as this report in the International Herald Tribune makes clear. The good news for illegal aliens in vans: It’s no problem at all here in the land of opportunity. Just get busted in a town with a cab.
Never again, again. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe met in Berlin and, according to the Suddeutscher Zeitung, announced that anti-Semitism in Europe really ought to stop now. The 600 delegates even made a tiny step toward understanding that there is actually a relationship between Jews and the state of Israel. Meanwhile, reports Le Monde, in Val-d’Oise, yet another French Jewish kid was getting the hell beat out of him.
And again. Last month, the EU released a report saying anti-Semitism was caused by angry white males upset at the treatment of Palestinians by Israel. What they meant to say was white Socialist males. According to Libération, Nicholas Sarkozy, the French finance minister and the most popular politician in France, told the French national assembly that the policies pursued by the Socialist government of Lionel Jospin made Americans think that France was anti-Semitic. The quaint folk ways of the happy Frenchies (tailgating, making gestures involving the nose, making odd noises, burning synagogues, beating up Jewish kids, supporting Palestinian terrorism) had nothing to do with it.
If it’s Friday, we’re all Muslims. Today’s IHT picks up a New York Times report on France’s pesky radical Islamic clerics who will never leave peacefully. Le Monde covered the story earlier in the week, a day before another IHT piece reported on the rising enthusiasm for jihad in downtown Europe.
Veto 2: The Resolution. In another week or two, the poll numbers for Chirac and Raffarin will be lower than a sweet chariot. What to do? The answer: Another flamboyant rebuff of the U.S. at the U.N. According to this AFP dispatch, Chirac vows France will veto any resolution that doesn’t fit its scenario, which calls for a U.S. surrender to France in Iraq. As the BBC reports, nothing less will do for jumpin’ Jacques: “What would be disastrous would be a compromise solution based on an ambiguity along the lines of: ‘Right, the United Nations you go and stand up the front’ but in fact nothing has changed and the coalition is really still in charge.” Iraq–just another way for Americans to die for France. Next month, George W. Bush–the president who made Arlen Specter senator-for-life, embraced affirmative action, re-enshrined Title IX, inflated the education department like a liberal love-doll, but finally laid down the law by not inviting Ted Kennedy over to the house for movies and popcorn any more–will dine privately with Chirac before the official dinner commemorating the Normandy invasion. Think of it as just another campaign swing for one of George’s crazy friends.
Party! Once, the EU was just a coal-and-steel treaty. Last Friday, according to the BBC, France closed its last coal mine. And tomorrow, the EU turns 25, adding ten newcomers to the list of 15 nations who support a government with more layers than a Chinese henhouse. Don’t know the players? The Guardian provides the scorecard. For those unsure of which side to take in the European constitution question, the New York Times is for it. That’s a hint.