Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 2, Number 23 July 14 - 20, 2002 Quezon City, Philippines
the Derided Country:
That's a question that many Americans have asked since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Some respond that the terrorists and their supporters despise our freedoms. Others say that the reason is jealousy of our wealth. Still others blame our foreign policy, especially in the Middle East.
Shlapentokh, of Michigan State University, hopes to inject a dose of analytical
rigor into America's perception of itself in the world.
anti-Americanism may have roots in all of these areas, it is best understood as
a complex and dynamic ideology that is both appealing and powerful, according to
Vladimir Shlapentokh, scholar of Soviet and Russian affairs and professor at
Michigan State University. He asserts that social groups and foreign countries
have hijacked this ideological hostility toward America to serve as a scapegoat
and to fulfill a psychological need.
his current research, Shlapentokh hopes to help the United States achieve a more
realistic perception of itself within the world. He has embarked on a project to
measure the international community's attitudes toward America. The forthcoming
results, he said, could infuse America's self-understanding with a dose of
analytical rigor and help America pursue sound foreign policies.
nearly impossible to find a country in the world where anti-Americanism is not
present," said Shlapentokh, who spoke during a recent seminar at RAND.
"Few ideologies in any region can be so emotionally strong, attractive, and
can carry so much weight with so many people as anti-Americanism." He
argued that the anti-Americanism of today could compete in ferocity with the
anti-Communism of the 1960s and 1970s.
recently, he said, the self-perception of the United States was almost
narcissistic: If you didn't love America, you simply didn't know America.
"This concept is extremely wrong and self-serving," said Shlapentokh.
Power of the Negative
the true nature of America, Shlapentokh contended, the real issue is what drives
anti-Americanism. A critical element is what he calls "negative
values," which he believes are central to most world ideologies. For
instance, he pointed to the Ten Commandments. "Of them, only two are
positive values," he said. "Eight are negative values; for example,
don't do this or don't do that."
values, he said, compel human behavior and thinking far more than positive
values. He called out a number of major political campaigns where themes were
"anti-this or anti-that." Even the homegrown anti-Communist movement
in America after World War II was negative to its core. "You can find
negative values in almost any ideology, whether it's official or regional. But
no ideology is so purely negative as anti-Americanism."
citizens have also been prone to negative values since the country's transition
from Communism to democracy, he said. At first, negative values throughout
Russia fueled an anti-Communist ideology. But by 1995, anti-Communist ideology
had exhausted its potential, and anti-Americanism filled the void.
countries and groups have adapted anti-Americanism to suit their own needs,
according to Shlapentokh. "It's difficult to find another ideology that
offers a scapegoat as good as anti-Americanism," he said. "Scapegoating
is a very important part of human psychology."
there are many kinds of scapegoats. "To study anti-Americanism," he
explained, "it's important to distinguish among three actors: the leader of
the country, the political and intellectual elite, and the masses. The reaction
among these actors is very different in different countries."
is in the process of cataloging some 160 countries, classifying a country's
leader, its elite, and its masses as either "pro-American" or
"anti-American." What emerges is a matrix of at least four types of
countries. "If we take into account only the elite and the masses, European
countries are pro-American-not always, but mostly." The Czech Republic and
Lithuania are good examples of unity between elite and masses in terms of
positive, or at least benign, attitudes toward the United States. On the other
hand, he said that Pakistan, China, and Argentina have unity against the United
is in the middle of the road. "The elite are very strongly anti-American,
while the masses are relatively positive toward the United States," said
Shlapentokh. "Russia is not a country that loves or hates the United States
when compared to, say, Argentina."
cited data from a recent international Gallup survey. Key indicators of
anti-Americanism included the perceived deleterious effect of American foreign
policy on a given country and the degree to which people support their country's
involvement in the international war against terrorism.
indicators are helping Shlapentokh derive his index of friendliness toward the
United States. "You see big differences" even in Europe, he said.
"England is the most friendly. The Czech Republic is favorable. The most
hostile are Greece and Spain. One of the most hostile East European countries is
Ukraine." Outside of Europe, he ranked India as very favorable.
discussed separate data from major polling organizations in Russia. "If you
ask Russians in very general ways about Americans, Russians are more or less
friendly toward the United States. Sixty-seven percent, or two-thirds, are
friendly toward the United States. But this number is volatile and depends on
the media. For example, during the Yugoslavian war, the number of Russians with
positive attitudes toward America declined to about 20 percent."
most interesting indicator of relatively positive attitudes toward America is
the question of justice, said Shlapentokh. "The concept of justice is a
core value for Russian nationalists, and Russian Communists always boast that
Russians are people who yearn for justice. Surprisingly, 48 percent of Russians
told interviewers that real justice is in the U.S., not in Russia. It is
difficult to imagine a more eloquent indicator [of pro-Americanism] than the
answers to these questions" about justice.
of Russians about Sept. 11 were complex. "Half of Russians were directly
compassionate for victims in New York and Washington, D.C. But when formally
asked, 'Does America deserve this event?' half of Russians said yes,"
according to Shlapentokh. "Many American liberals say something close to
shocked Shlapentokh more than his own postSept. 11 observations of
"deep-rooted animosity" toward the United States among Russian
intellectuals and political elites. He attributed this animosity to the failure
of Russian liberal reform. "The liberal elite did not do what it had
promised to do for Russia: to create a liberal democratic society."
the Russian elite became wealthier with reform, they did not attain the levels
of wealth of their American peers. "They felt that they should be equal to
the American counterparts, and this made them crazy," said Shlapentokh.
"In my opinion, they lost their [sense] of reality and started to berate
America. Once again, they started to fall back to Russian nationalism, with its
cultural and moral superiority. They don't want to be provincial; they want to
be a great power."
President Vladimir Putin falls in line more with the Russian populace than with
the Russian elite. "He has joined the war against terror," noted
Shlapentokh. "If you are given to historical parallels, it's like Julius
Caesar or Napoleon Bonaparte, where you have a leader, the masses who support
the leader, and an outwardly hostile elite." Putin's control remains firm,
because resistance to his new policy directions is scarce, said Shlapentokh.
the power of anti-Americanism cannot be underestimated. "Anti-Americanism
will play an important role for several decades," said Shlapentokh.
"The American government should be well aware of these attitudes toward the
United States and understand how different these attitudes are in various
countries around the world." Re-posted by Bulatlat.com