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Thursday, November 24, 2005



Followed the link from Instapundit.

Good points, and ones I've been following. A book by Alain Hertoghe in French (La guerre à outrances) describes the different French newspaper stories during the runup to and first weeks of the Iraq invasion. The book is pretty devastating--and cost Hertoghe his job. I have a translation of the back cover on this post ( ) if you'd like.

French TV news is even more of a monoculture...

Mike in Colorado

Very interesting. What strikes me as something else that Europeans really don't understand about America is the sheer size of our country and the effect that this has on the insulary of Americans. In order to have feelings of inferiority you have to care what other people think about you. The truth is that the vast majority of Americans simply don't care what Europeans (or, really, anyone else) think about them and hardy ever consider the subject except to laugh about it. As to Starbucks vs. a Parisian cafe, I think the vast majority will take Starbucks, thank you very much. Americans are too busy working to sit and sip expresso. This work ethic is something else many Europeans have lost. I'm not saying that any of this is necessarily good or bad good, but, rather, true.


I agree. However, let's face it: news anchor Melissa Theuriau is one indicator that French TV news can't be ALL bad. ;)


I'm not going to read the essay, but I hope he talks about how the pettiness and perfidy of France is what really spoiled Gallo-American relations. Who in Chirac's government (and the UN) were not on Saddam's payroll?

Does he know most of the French press is on the government payroll? That just might influence their reporting, no?


Very nice observations. I'd take issue, and only in a small way, with the comparison between Starbucks and a "typical Parisian cafe." First, Starbucks will give you a ceramic cup to drink from if you don't want paper. True you have to beg for it. Starbucks tend to be cleaner than most Parisian cafes. Also, many Starbucks have taken advantage of outside seating in nice weather and aren't really very different from a Parisian cafe.

But these things are superficial. The big difference between Europe and the U.S. from a quality of life perspective is America's deification of convenience. Personal convenience is sacrificed in France and Germany in favor of the greater ambience. This may be the correct choice, but it's a definite, if unconscious, cultural choice, with its attendant trade offs. I suppose it doesn't matter that your grocery store has no parking lot if you can only buy three items because your refrigerator is the size of a (small) Coleman cooler. Imagine the U.S. Federal gov't fixing the times of day that shops were allowed to open.


Starbucks vs espresso? Well, if I had eight months of vacation a year, I'd probably have time to consider the espresso in a cafe. But the cardboard cup works much better when you're on the run and actually, like, getting things done.


Interesting thought to add to all of this. In Federalist #10, Madison argued that it is easier for a national insanity to take over one small republic, than a large one. He didn't say it in those kinds of words, but essentially he argued that the diversity of our larger nation would tend to cool passions. And I think this is an example of that. It is possible for france to be so homogenously anti-iraqi-freedom, because they are a small nation. And it is cultural insanity, too. Every time I talk to a french person, after i throw out the "Do you speak German? No, well then you're welcome" bit at them, I ask them if we were justified in expending lives to liberate their nation, in WWII. When they say yes (they always do), then i point out what horrid racists they are, then, that they think that their lives and freedom matter more than Iraqi lives and Iraqi freedom. I don't know if that changes any minds, but it sure as hell feels good.

David Sucher

"Which do you prefer? A cardboard cup of coffee in Starbucks or an espresso in a typical Parisian cafe?"

A remark so ignorant of the diversity of Starbucks' stores hardly inspires confidence in his overall perception.


What strikes many Americans is the impression that France (and perhaps Europe generally) seems scared to death by change. Much of the difficulties with America (from this side) looks like anger at the US for not supporting and preserving the status quo.
Europe's life style, as long as no one touches anything, will be OK. But change is inevitable-the rise of China and India, difficulties in adjusting to American culture, energized Muslim immigrants, demographic trends...there are many powerful forces to face and adapt to.
One has the feeling that there is a fragile house of cards in Europe waiting to tumble down.


"Whatever may be the complaints from American intellectuals and journalists about terrible pressures on them in the United States to conform to the Republican line, I am convinced, from hopping back and forth between France and the United States over these last years, that conformist pressures in France have been decidedly heavier."

I've noticed how the intellectuals and journalists of academia and the media overwhelmingly parrot Republican positions and are almost universally pro Iraq War too.


Assistant Village Idiot

@ David Sucher I agree with the assessment, and would include other European nations in this as well.

While it is certainly true that the USA drives global change to a certain extent, I think this is greatly overestimated. It would be more accurate to describe this as the world that is changing, and the Americans adjusting more readily.

American business is the favorite scapegoat: "No one asked McDonalds to come here!" Yes, yes they did. They was an existing market for inexpensive tasty food served quickly in clean settings, with little regard to subtlety or caloric intake. Europeans, like all of us, may wish that they valued something else, but their behavior shows that they don't. They hate the changes in the world, and in themselves, and blame us.


The big difference between Europe and the U.S. from a quality of life perspective is America's deification of convenience.

I work for a UK company, and on my last visit there I was a little surprised to learn that the Brits totally understand this. All my coworkers who've been to the US would speak of the great service and convenience "culture" we have, and rue their own lack. Funny to hear them constantly complain about stores closing while they're still at work, and about "just adequate" service. They all complain -- yet'll they won't do anything about it!


As an American who has been to Paris, I must say that I do prefer the product of Starbucks to that of the Parisian cafe.

Call me gauche.


Mike: regarding the various work ethics of France & America, I point you to and their take on France: "Effort: Hard work never killed anybody, but it is illegal in some places."

Clive: if you've got the time, it is possible to sit down in a Starbucks and sip an espresso out of a ceramic cup. Personally, I think that's the best drink they've got!

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I must be more like Bush than I would have guessed. I always think of the opening comments in New Republic articles as obligatory Bush bashing, required if the author wants his article read by NR's readership. If what Bush did and said constitutes American Arrogance, the French would have had apoplexy dealing with unvarnished opinions from me or most Americans.
I prefer my coffee in styrofoam cups, thanks. Starbuck's major failing is a tendency to truckle to the envirotrash who constitute a portion of their clientele. Their coffee is excellent, but too expensive for regular consumption, a trait I'm sure is much worse in a French cafe.


So Starbucks is the only coffee I'm allowed in the US? I've got other coffee shops, cafes and Starbucks to choose least here in backwards Florida.


In most American cities you can get very good espresso from independent coffee shops, you don't have to settle for Starbucks. Sure, Starbucks sucks, but what a cheap shot.


"Which do you prefer? A cardboard cup of coffee in Starbucks or an espresso in a typical Parisian cafe?"

Neither! I don't drink coffee. :P


35% of France's population under 20 is Muslim. And Muslim women are averaging three times the number of children that native French do. Every day, elderly Catholic Frenchmen die off and energetic Beurs multiply. The question is when the tipping point is, when the Muslims realize that they can take power. I think 15 years at current rates.

Clive  D

Just to be fair to Paul Berman, the coffee comparison is mine not his! Apologies if I've caused offence to Starbucks fans. I had a couple of bad experiences last time I was in New York...

Darwin Finch

Much of this article was clearly swiped from Bruce Bawer's piece "Hating America."


One other thought--Jean-François Revel's "Antiamericanism" is a great book along the lines of your post. Revel adds on more depth to the kind of thing Buffon was nattering on about, too.

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