Thursday, December 2, 2010

Canada Might Have Undercurrent of Anti-Americanism

I am shocked, shocked to hear this.  Glad wikileaks has informed us that the American diplomats have detected this, especially via Canadian TV.  "American Embassy warned of increasing mistrust of the United States by its northern neighbor..."  First, didn't the US earn the world's distrust with no WMD found in Iraq and the rush to war.....  Second, given Canada's own fragile unity, they need a them to create a sense of us-ness, and the US is a very convenient them for a variety of reasons.
But at the same time, some Canadian officials privately tried to make it clear to their American counterparts that they did not share their society’s persistent undercurrent of anti-Americanism.
Persistent undercurrent?  That makes Canada sound like Iran?  Chavez's Venezuala?  Please.  As long as the US hockey team loses to the Canadians in the Olympics, all will be fine.  Yes, there is friction, but any long-standing relationship will have points of friction.  Just ask my wife.

The funny thing is that some of the negative statements about Canada and its attitudes are made by Canadians, such as the guy who was running the security apparatus (CSIS), who talked about "‘paroxysms of moral outrage, a Canadian specialty.’ ”  Of course, the context here was Gitmo, so perhaps the moral outrage was deserved rather than just a knee-jerk reaction.

The leaks also note that folks running for parliamentary seats rarely mention the US.  Well, do American candidates mention Canada?  This is not a size thing but a "all politics is local thing."

I used to joke in class: "is there a crisis in US-Canadian relations?  If so, only the Canadians are aware of it."  And now we know that the US diplomats were/are, too.  But this "crisis" is less than a tempest in a teapot.  There is far more cooperation and common interest than not.  Sure, the Bush administration was miffed about Canada's attitudes about Iraq, but the Bush administration was not the average administration nor was Iraq the average issue.  Canada gained heaps of credit for being willing to fight and fight hard in Kandahar when few allies were willing to carry such a burden.  The decision to leave Kandahar will not cause all of that good will to go away.  And Obama gets it that Canada has given enough on the ground there and is pretty happy about the new commitment to training.

But back to the anti-Americanism that is so pervasive in Canadian culture.  Sure, there are programs that stereotype Americans and that use American blunders for their humor and/or plotlines (TSA anyone?).  They have a free society and the US has provided plenty of targets over the years.  But we must also remember how much of American stuff they enjoy and consume: the Super Bowl gets more attention than the recent Grey Cup, that they sell the premium cable channels up here by mentioning the shows on HBO, etc; that the regular TV channels show heaps of American content, and that Canadians flow across the border all the time with such waves shaped more by exchange rate fluctuations than by anything else (except new security procedures).

Not being American is a key part of Canadian identity, and being smug about the supposed superiority of the Canadian health care system is part of being Canadian, but we need to put this "anti-Americanism" in context.  I have spent nearly nine years up here and my Americanism is very much apparent, and have never received any real grief from anyone because of it (I earn the grief I get).  Do Canadians like to compare themselves with the US to make them feel superior?  Sure.  Did Bush and now Palin and the no-knowing Tea-Partiers make that incredibly easy?  Mais oui (but yes)!

PS.  On the same front page, we discover that US diplomats have a poor view of Russian democracy.  I am shocked!


Jacob T. Levy said...

I know that you're reluctant to concede Quebec's virtues on any front, but I think there's a real difference between the amount of anti-Americanism we encounter here and what we might in the ROC.

You're broadly right about how serious it is even there. But Quebec's identity struggles are all inward or else directed against ROC; there's no impulse to define themselves against America. That difference matters.

Steve Saideman said...

Quebec has lots of virtues (great food to name one, heaps of lingerie stories in every mall to name another)... but I guess I might have conflated all Canadians into this. Jacob, you have a better sense of the diversity of views across Canada. I have been tone deaf to such variation.

Quebec's identity does have the virtue of reducing the necessity to define themselves in terms of not being Americans. And that matters.

But I do ponder this: if one uses percentage of folks who buy into the 9/11 conspiracy crap as a metric of anti-Americanism, wouldn't Quebec have as high or higher level? Of course, that would be a questionable measure, since loony and anti-Americanism overlap but are not identical. One can buy into conspiracy crap w/o being really anti-American.

Sam said...

Wait, what? I don't necessarily object to anything in particular, but what is this about Quebec and 9/11 conspiracies?

Jacob T. Levy said...

"But I do ponder this: if one uses percentage of folks who buy into the 9/11 conspiracy crap as a metric of anti-Americanism, wouldn't Quebec have as high or higher level? Of course, that would be a questionable measure, since loony and anti-Americanism overlap but are not identical."

The way I'd characterize it is this: the loony fringe is loonier here, and maybe a little larger, than in ROC. And on questions having to do with Israel and the Middle East, Quebec opinion is to the left of ROC.

But the tail isn't the whole distribution. I think the median Quebecker, especially the median francophone Quebecker, simply cares much less about the US as a point of contrast than does the median ROCer. I'm sure it's true if you compare Montrealers to folks from Toronto and Vancouver.

People in Montreal assume I moved to Montreal because Montreal is awesome. People in ROC will casually assume that I moved to Canada for the health care (scoff) and to flee the fascism of the Bush regime, or something.

Steve Saideman said...

Sam: You will find more ordinary Quebeckers who find the 9/11 conspiracy arguments to be believable than folks elsewhere. I have had a number of conversations with people who are, otherwise, pretty reasonable who have fallen for such crap.

Jacob: Yes, Montrealers (perhaps not all Quebeckers) simply assume one moves to Montreal because it is terrific. I didn't think about where the Canadians came from when they asked me about my flight from Bush, but you are probably correct.

Brandon Valeriano said...

So I can't start my new article on the US-Canada rivalry? Damn...

Anonymous said...

M. Saideman, you seem to be a reasonable man. Je suis Québécois. I dont think it is bad to be critical or skeptical about any kind of information or facts that is presented to the us. What you define as "folks elsewhere" refers to whom exactly? Europeans? Iranians? South Americans? and by using terms like "crap" to define views on an event like 911 seem to be a little immature for a McGill academist like you.
A good International relation analyst, therefore someone who should have a good knowledge of historical methodology should be a little bit more careful about the words he chooses. But keep going :)

Anonymous said... presented to us. 3rd line
Charles Cote

Steve Saideman said...

Charles, I should have pointed out where in the past I have spent time blasting 9/11 truther conspiracy theory rather than just stated that such stuff is crap: Thanks for the suggestion.