Rise of Anti-Americanism in UK
Andrew Sullivan, A British expat living in America, offers confirmation on what Americans in London have long since thought — London is more American than they care to admit. Yet, anti-Americanism in London is on the rise.
The Sunday Times April 30, 2006
Hey Brits, you’re more American than you know
It’s a strange personal history I have — 21 years continuously in Britain, followed by 21 years and a bit continuously in the US. It can be a distorting lens, but also at times a clarifying one. When I come back to England after long stretches in America, and visit my old friends and family, I see them move on, age, or mature perhaps, more clearly than if I were here all the time. And that goes for the country too.
After a brief visit, the one thing I can say for sure is that being in London today is far more like being in America than it was two decades ago. From Starbucks to WiFi, much of Londonland — and I include the vast expanse of England that is essentially a satellite of the capital — is indistinguishable from an American blue (Democrat-voting) state city.
Thatcher’s reforms, and Blair’s co-optation of them, have created, from a distance, a pseudo-American society. The energy in Londonland, its vibrant labour markets, its consumerism, its media, its multiculturalism, its unabashed capitalism, have a distinctively American feel. Even the new wave of eastern European immigrants is strikingly like New York in another era.
This is not to say that modern Britain doesn’t have its own cultural roots, or isn’t still distinctly British. Global capitalism was invented by the Brits, after all. And it isn’t to conflate Britain outside Londonland with the capital complex. But the tone and tenor are strikingly more American than they used to be.
Class has clearly diminished in the Londonland mind. People tip bartenders more than they used to. They own shares, make their own retirement arrangements, live near people with different religions and colours, and have turned urban American hip-hop into a strange English hybrid. What else are chavs but some kind of English fusion of “white trash” and “ghetto”, complete with bling? Brits today can even look at someone like David Cameron and be less interested in his class background than in what, if anything, he has to say. How, er, American.
There’s only one flaw in this analysis: how to explain the paradox of rising anti-Americanism. A fascinating new book by the pollster Andrew Kohut and the analyst Bruce Stokes lays out the empirical terrain. It’s called America Against the World: How We Are Different and Why We Are Disliked. And its data are sobering if you are in the Bush administration.
America now has a lower favourability rating among Britons than China does. At the dawn of the millennium, 83% of Brits had a favourable view of the US. That’s now 55%. Only Germany and largely Muslim countries have seen a sharper decline in views of America.
Even more troubling is that for the first time this negative view of a country has translated into growing hostility to Americans as people. In 2002, 83% of Britons had good things to say about Americans. Last year that had slumped to 70%. The numbers are worst among the young. One in 10 Brits under the age of 30 disliked Americans in 2002. One in five disliked them last year. It seems they have not yet quite forgiven Americans for re-electing George Bush.