Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Larry Zolf: Why do they hate America?

The CBC's Larry Zolf gets called a lefty journalist, but out here in the blogosphere he's been disowned left, right, and centre. It's a good thing, too, because in his latest editorial (hat-tip to pogge), he hardly seems aligned with, well, anybody sensible:

Canadian hatred for George W. Bush and his war on terrorism is massive. Bush-hatred is definitely anti-American. Anti-Americanism has always been tied up with the Canadian identity. Anti-Americanism is dangerous and reeks of racism. Harper has been right in fighting it.
Apparently, if you hate the policies of George W. Bush, you hate America. Just where have we heard that before? From right-wing Americans, that's where. Zolf has previously been dubbed Canada's answer to Noam Chomsky, but with this most recent line of reasoning, he's sounding a lot more like Canada's answer to Dick Cheney or Ari Fleischer.

Now, I'll be the first to say that I have often found Canadian anti-Americanism rather annoying. What makes it annoying, however, is when it's knee-jerk, incorrect, and based in hearsay rather than in actual knowledge of the U.S. The assumption that U.S. English spellings of 'night' and 'through' are 'nite' and thru', and because of this, U.S. English is inferior to Canadian English--that's annoying. The ubiquitous comparison of the American "melting pot" with the Canadian "cultural mosaic" without any discussion of the criticism of the former that's gone on in the U.S.--that's even more annoying. The assumption that Canadians must all pay less for post-secondary education than Americans simply because we're Canadians and we're always better than those damn Yanks at that sort of thing--that's not just annoying, that's destructive.

But hating George Bush's policies? That's neither annoying nor anti-American; it's common sense. Not to mention the fact that these days, the vast majority of Americans are even in agreement with those "America-bashing" Canucks on that particular point.


leftdog said...

I live in Saskatchewan. My dear old Great Aunt Clara lives in Foxholm, North Dakota. My other Great Aunt lives in St. Paul, Minnestoa. They vote Democrat. They hate the Bush Republicans. I don't count my dear sweet old matronly great aunts as being anti american. I too hate George Bush's polices.

See in my family, we are anti 'REPUBLICAN' and anti 'BUSH". I'm not confused - why is anyone else?

Canadian Tar Heel said...

Hi IP,

I read Zolf’s ‘viewpoint’ and the analysis over at POGGE. Honestly, I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around it. And I’d like to know more of your thoughts.

Basically, Zolf’s ‘viewpoint’ is just too loaded. According to Zolf’s commentary: (1) anti-Americanism has been a part of the Canadian identity and (2) anti-Americanism has traditionally been attributed to the Right (3) but now the Left exemplifies it. Moreover (completely out of place, mind you), (4) anti-Americanism amounts to a form of racism and (5) being anti-Bush equates to being anti-American.

The issue that I seem to have trouble with is that logically Zolf’s comments just don’t add up. One cannot conflate all these ideas like that.

However, if one does some mental gymnastics (and this is where I may be leading myself astray), it seems as though Zolf’s comments are directed at the ‘anti-war Left’ (or ‘purist Left’), which purports that all the evils in the world (e.g., African and Latin American poverty as well as Islamic radicalism) are a product of American foreign policy. And G.W. seems to have become this pathology’s dart board.

As an American and a Left leaning politilogue, I wonder what you think of such anti-American sentiment. I understand that arguments which suggest that (1) because one is Jewish then they cannot be anti-Semitic, and (2) that because one is American then they cannot be anti-American are both incorrect historically and logically (e.g., Hitler and Chomsky). Nevertheless, I think it’s reasonable to assume that Americans are more likely to be more sensitive to anti-Americanism and less likely to exhibit it themselves. So, ask you what you think of the ‘anti-war Left’ (‘purist Left’). And am I simply confusing the issue?

Anonymous said...

How can anyone be in agreement with Junior when the man can't put a complete sentence together is beyond me.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Honestly, I don't find the Canadian left (even what you call the "purist left") to be inherently any more anti-American than their counterparts in the U.S. They criticize U.S. policies, sometimes vehemently, but that criticism comes from a conflict of ideologies, and not from a true hatred of Americans. Boiling that criticism down to "anti-Americanism" is, as I try to say here, the same sort of trap that right-wing Americans fall into, and it's just plain not true.

I do think it's true that there's a huge anti-American streak in Canadian society, but what Zolf seems to be missing is that this isn't really about politics; it's about culture. The Canadian who's never done more than buy gas in a few border towns but still believes he knows enough from American television to not want to know any more about the country--that's the sort of anti-Americanism that's actually problematic in Canada. And I say that because it leads many Canadians to think they understand a lot more about the U.S. than they actually do, and make decisions based on that incorrect or oversimplified information.

Now, if Canadians were to start with that sort of ignorant anti-Americanism and extend it to American policies simply by default, that would be the sort of anti-Americanism Zolf is trying to make a case against. But quite honestly, I don't see that happening up here. He's conflating apples and oranges; anti-Americanism with policy criticism.

Canadian Tar Heel said...


Thank you for your thoughtful response. I understand your point about culture.

Unfortunately, I did not express myself very well. Excuse me. I was not implying any sweeping generalization that Canadians generally hold an anti-American ideology.

Rather, I think the problem is that Zolf conflates national identity with political ideology among other things. That is why I wondered if he was alluding to the ‘purist Left’ as an ideology. While it is absurd to believe that all Canadians hold such an ideology, some do just as there are Europeans and even Americans who do.

Accordingly, I was asking if you’ve come across such a sentiment, and if so, what you think about it.

Kenn Chaplin said...

The key words, in the CBC's introduction to Zolf's piece, with no sense of irony: "He is now retired." I guess commentators, professional and amateur, never retire!

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


I'm not quite sure I follow what you're asking, here, but I'll give it a shot (sorry for the late response; it's a busy time of year).

I certainly think there's an anti-war ideology among what you call the "purist Left," and that this ideology is likely responsible for much of their hatred of Bush and his policies. I do not, however, perceive that sentiment as anti-Americanism.

As I see it, Canadian anti-Americanism (which does exist) has little to do with policy and a lot more to do with preconceived notions of Americanness that may or may not be true. I think you called it when you said Zolf was conflating political ideology with other, unrelated things.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the late reply, I've got to remember to come back here every so often!

I have been looking for ages for someone to tell me about the criticism of the melting pot that's gone on in the States... want to have a go? I'd be interested to know as well where and among whom this debate has taken place. I'm also a bit critical of Canadian philosophy on the mosaic... not that I'm against the mosaic model, I think it has great potential, but I don't think that we teach it right. We seem to teach the mantra is a cultural mosaic without trying to come up with an explanation of why this is a good thing. Perhaps this goes to the root of any problem of nationalism, and perhaps in particular of Canadians relating themselves to Americans - we have this strange sense of superiority, yet we don't have any basis to justify it.

Oh, this thought just popped into my mind... I have heard quite a few times from a lot of Americans abroad (perhaps it's because these are business people) say they will vote for Democrats because of their foreign policy, but would vote for Republicans if they were at home. I can only assume this would be for things like tax breaks, or is there something I'm missing?