April 20, 2010

The Americanization of Britain

From my new column in Taki's Magazine:
American culture has become so globally dominant that even the lamest U.S. customs, such as our soporific presidential debates, infect countries blessed with superior traditions. For example, as part of the run-up to the May 6th General Election, the Brits are holding their first ever prime ministerial debates, although their party leaders come up through the gauntlet of Parliament’s vastly more substantive and scintillating daily Question Time.

That the prime minister has been evolving into the president junior is a recurrent theme of Robert Harris’ 2007 novel The Ghost, which Roman Polanski has made into The Ghost Writer. This competent political thriller for grown-ups, one of the better movies of 2010, has been playing in limited release in the U.S. and opened over the weekend in Britain.

The PM’s job was long more human-scale job than the president’s, less insulated from normal life by security and by deference (which in Britain was paid instead to the Queen as head of state). For example, when I attended a conference with ex-PM Margaret Thatcher in 1999, she showed up accompanied only by a secretary and a bodyguard, wearing an old dress that had been mended with needle and thread. Tony Blair and his money-hungry wife Cheri were the first to indulge fully in American superstaritis.

Read the rest here and comment upon it below.

36 comments:

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

Tony Blair is a snake, fully responsible for the re-creation of Britain as Blairstrip One. I chalk up George Bush's failures mostly to ineptitude. Blair's failures I credit to overt malice for the British state and its people. Hell ain't hot enough...

To look at modern Brits and see the pansies they've become under the Labour welfare state is to witness the great tragedy of the modern world. Not to mention his deliberate distortion of Britain's electoral system, which means that Conservatives now have to win 10 points more than Labour in the polls just to break even in Parliament.

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

By the way, actor/Obama aide Kalpen Modi was held up this morniong outside his DC home. News report mentions the color of the gun but not the color of the crooks.

Damn Tea Partiers.

Ross said...

"Parliament’s vastly more substantive and scintillating daily Question Time."

It's weekly rather than daily.

The job of Prime Minister used to be very modest, until the IRA emerged the general public were free to walk up and down Downing Street at will.

In Roy Jenkins' biography of Stanley Baldwin he recounts an incident when Baldwin was PM in the 1930s:

During his second premiership he noticed during a train journey that another occupant of the compartment was looking at him with some puzzlement. After a time this gentleman leaned forwards and tapped Baldwin on the knee, 'You are Baldwin aren't you?' he said. 'You were at Harrow in 84' Baldwin nodded assent to both propositions. His former school fellow seemed satisfied. But after a few minutes he again became puzzled a tapped once more 'Tell me' he said, 'what are you doing now?'."

dearieme said...

In the coming election, I've decided to vote for the first party to promise to hang Blair.

P.S. Question Time isn't daily - it used to be twice a week, which Blair reduced to once a week.

Acilius said...

@Ross: Yes, Prime Minister's Questions are weekly, and that's unfortunate. They were much better back when they were 15 minutes twice a week, rather than 30 minutes once a week. On the other hand, other ministers do have question times as well, so the government does face questioning more than once a week.

Mike said...

A more important question is why should people outside care about
Britain in 2010.

Kylie said...

Steve Sailer said: "The plot and dialogue[of The Ghost Writer] are lifted as faithfully from Robert Harris’ novel as John Huston’s movie of The Maltese Falcon was straight out of Dashiell Hammett’s book. (Legend holds that Huston’s secretary simply typed up the novel in screenplay format for the first draft.)"

For years, I marveled that John Huston's directorial debut was so accomplished. Then I finally got around to reading the novel. Color me red--as in Red Harvest, a novel I'd love to see filmed as faithfully as The Maltese Falcon was. And no, the Coen brothers' "edgy" send-up, Miller's Crossing, doesn't count.

fbj said...

Americans and Brits have very different tastes when it comes to politics, religion and sports etc.
I don't see this changing anytime soon. So why do you say that American culture is increasingly dominant, when large parts of it are completely ignored?

Anonymous said...

Mike,

because Britain is going to be the first Western country to reject the whole multicultural white people bullshit politics that has been eating us alive for the last thirty odd years.

The turnout for the forthcoming election will an historic low. So low that we will have a legitimacy crisis.

And then Geert Wilders will win the Dutch election. It will be a good summer...and England will win the World Cup!!


Richard...London

Simon in UK said...

Mike:
"A more important question is why should people outside care about
Britain in 2010."

In the words of Milius' Thulsa Doom:

"We are the wellspring from which you flow."

Whiskey said...

Under Tony Blair and Labor, as part and parcel of Harris/Le Carre's desire to obliterate "old England" into the new, hip, multicultural one, many, many immigrants were purposely let in, as Labor Party documents have disclosed, to transform Britain. From Enoch Powell's and Philip Larkin's "Little England" into a place where a White 14 year old schoolgirl is arrested for "racism" for not wanting to work with Pakistani classmates who speak no English in a class project.

As a practical matter, alliance with the US help(ed) Britain more than it hurt it. Yes it had trade-offs, what in life does not? But US help eventually led to Falklands victory (satellite intel and resupply), provided security for Hong Kong, and other British possessions, along with cooperative work on trans-national jihadis.

Russia killed half of Chechnya, and has a ruthless police state. Still Chechen teenage girls blow up commuters in the Moscow Metro making Putin look like a Chump. China has even more ruthlessness, and Beijing and Shanghai and XianXing people are blown up on buses (little reported in the West) all the time by Uighurs ... and Hui. Madrid made a supine deal with jihadis, withdrew from Iraq, broke from Israel, and still has plot after plot to blow up soccer stadiums.

There is no magic bullet, deal, or anything else that can stop Jihad save straight out genocide which not even Vladimir Putin, a man not haunted by scruples, can consider much less accomplish.

Little Englander policies of isolation were a joke in Caesar's time, and Harold Hardrada's. The sea is like a highway for any force capable of putting out considerable amounts of boats. A cartoon here, manufactured outrage there, ice cream swirls (really!!) let ambitious men mastermind terror strikes to build up factions or exile armies. That's the downside of technology spreading like a cheap commodity and globalization.

The ICC is a joke -- where is its power to arrest Osama, Ayman, or the IRGC who blow up Westerners (or Muslims)?

Polanski too is a joke. He's a guy who drugged and anally raped a 13-year old. Pew reports (look at the bottom of the page) that the Entertainment Industry is 33% positive, 55% negative, not much different from national news media, unions, and federal agencies. Polanski and his support ("He's a big shot/great artist") is a huge part of that.

Whiskey said...

Let me add that America has also been Britain-ized. Which is merely the transfer of Britain's ugly, feminized culture to the US.

Witness, American Idol (originally Pop Idol in the UK), Big Brother (OK, originally Dutch), the Office, Dancing With The Stars, and more.

The whole thrust of celebrity creating, junk reality shows with divas, washed up celebrities, social competitions for status, is an outgrowth of UK female and feminized culture. Even Survivor is the creation of Brit Mark Burnett. Which is very feminine.

Chief Seattle said...

You can lament the decline of industry and the rise of the financial sector in the U.S., but it's nothing compared to the de-industrialization of Britain. If it weren't for City of London I don't know how they could keep the grain ships coming. They would have the economy of Southern Italy without the nice weather.

Anonymous said...

Britain has been Europeanised not Americanised.

Whiskey
Let me add that America has also been Britain-ized. Which is merely the transfer of Britain's ugly, feminized culture to the US.

Witness, American Idol (originally Pop Idol in the UK), Big Brother (OK, originally Dutch), the Office, Dancing With The Stars, and more.

The whole thrust of celebrity creating, junk reality shows with divas, washed up celebrities, social competitions for status, is an outgrowth of UK female and feminized culture. Even Survivor is the creation of Brit Mark Burnett. Which is very feminine.


That's interesting. You also may know that our political system and the way it is reported in the media have been feminised. The media is reporting trivial events instead of policies, with personal relationships, whom is wearing what jacket or dress, what the wives think. Prime Minister's Question Time is a juvenile affair of empty status posturing (the important decisions were decided in Brussels) and political blogs and journalists report it with metaphors suitable for a sports event.

Mr. Anon said...

"Tony Blair and his money-hungry wife Cheri were the first to indulge fully in American superstaritis."

It's interesting how leftists, the supposed tribunes of the people, are so wowed by the trappings of imperial power. In this country, the democrats have built up Jack Kennedy into a mythic figure not equalled since King Arthur. And they revered Bill Clinton like the blackshirts revered Mussolini. The republicans are not entirely innocent of this either, but they don't hold a candle to the democrats when it comes to slobbering over politicians.

In days past, powerful men were often braver and more humble than they are today. Harry Truman would often go for early morning walks around the White House, accompanied only by one bodyguard with a revolver. In the early days of WWII, thinking it quite likely that german paratroopers might try to capture or kill him, Churchill kept a Bren gun with him in the back seat of his car. If they did get him, he was resolved not to go down without taking a few Bosch with him. These were men.

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

because Britain is going to be the first Western country to reject the whole multicultural white people bullshit politics that has been eating us alive for the last thirty odd years. - Richard

Reject it by voting for...who? David Cameron? Please.

The one good thing about Nick Clegg's rise in the polls is that it may have stuck a poker in Cameron's ass. Maybe he'll finally move to the right on immigration, where the Brits seem to want him.

Does Cameron have the ambition to do so, or is he just John McCain with an accent?

Interestingly, Clegg seems to hardly be British in any real sense. His father is half Russian, his mother is Dutch, his wife is a Spaniard. No wonder he makes no fracking sense when he talks about immigration.

but it's nothing compared to the de-industrialization of Britain. If it weren't for City of London I don't know how they could keep the grain ships coming

People never seem to connect the rise of one to the decline of the other, do they?

It's amazing how the manufacture of profits by clever financial tricks manages to suck all the air out of the rest of the economy. What is it, 2/3rds of Ivy League graduates going into the finance industry, now? 40% of all profits earned by the finanicial industry (it was about 15% in the 70s).

Think of all that talent, wasted. But can you blame them?

Anonymous said...

China has even more ruthlessness, and Beijing and Shanghai and XianXing people are blown up on buses (little reported in the West) all the time by Uighurs ... and Hui.

Not true. You've lied about this a bunch of times here at Steve's blog.

Anonymous said...

You can lament the decline of industry and the rise of the financial sector in the U.S., but it's nothing compared to the de-industrialization of Britain. If it weren't for City of London I don't know how they could keep the grain ships coming.

I'm sure I'm not the only one with a gut feeling that the City has distorted British politics and the economy for generations. Its at least part of the reason for de-industrialisation itself.

Simon in UK said...

Whiskey/evil_neocon writes:

"But US help eventually led to Falklands victory (satellite intel and resupply)"

As a fellow NATO member, shouldn't you have done a lot more than that when an ally's territory was invaded? And your State dept actively sided with the Argies. The French refusal to sell more Exocets to the Argies probably helped us more than you did: as it was 5 Exocets = 3 sunk British ships.

And if the USA had been completely neutral/isolationist we'd have had a free hand to crush the Argies however we wanted - the plausible threat of mushroom clouds over Buenos Aires would have got them out of Port Stanley double-quick.

What the US-UK alliance actually did was (a) help keep the USSR out of Western Europe, and (b) help maintain Anglo-Saxon global economic hegemony, to the benefit of British multinational corporations as well as US ones. Those are good reasons, but the stuff you actually cite is trivial.

Looking forward, the Liberal Democrat (currently leading in the polls) party leader Nick Clegg says the 'Special Relationship' is over, and it seems he may well be right. The Neocon/'W' Bush/Tony Blair axis leading to the Iraq disaster did huge damage to the SR in British eyes, and Obama's open hatred and contempt for us doesn't help either, though the left-dominated media tend to downplay the latter when possible.

Simon in UK said...

Whiskey:
"The whole thrust of celebrity creating, junk reality shows with divas, washed up celebrities, social competitions for status, is an outgrowth of UK female and feminized culture."

I'd say that if anyting your TV is even more feminised than ours is. It's certainly noticeable with drama; nearly all your shows seem to be written by women (even the sci-fi, *agh*) and the male characters nowadays show no understanding of men. I admit our stuff is only slightly better, and often worse written.

Gene Berman said...

Cap'n Jack:

C'mon, now! Quit criticizing the newspapers on this one. They do the job by omission: when they don't mention the race/color of the perps, they're telling you everything about the race/color of the perps. Slam dunk, ain't?

Anonymous said...

Cap'n Jack,

I think Cameron's Tories will just about win the Election but the turnout will be less than 50% and his party will get only about 15% of the votes cast and less than 1/3rd of the potential vote. This will seriously undermine his legitmacy.

BTW There is a lot more to the UK economy than the City. We do have an industrial base, especially in chemicals/pharmaceuticals etc.

Richard

Dutch Boy said...

Presidential debates are not intrinsically absurd but the actual format used is worthless (a non-debate debate). Pat Buchanan once described a presidential debate as a pillow fight in which the two candidates agreed about pretty much everything except whether or not there should be a dinky tax cut.

David said...

"Top Gear" ain't bad, though.

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

But US help eventually led to Falklands victory

Was there ever any real question about who the Falklands actually belonged to? Were the Falklanders actively begging for an Argentine takeover?

It seems to me the Argentine claim to the islands rests on nothing but proximity, as the islands were unoccupied before the British started settling the place, and the population seems to be ~90% British by ethnicity.

corvinus said...

But US help eventually led to Falklands victory

Was there ever any real question about who the Falklands actually belonged to? Were the Falklanders actively begging for an Argentine takeover?

It seems to me the Argentine claim to the islands rests on nothing but proximity, as the islands were unoccupied before the British started settling the place, and the population seems to be ~90% British by ethnicity.


I don't think the Brits needed U.S. help in licking Argentina.

John Seiler said...

This is America's revenge for the Beatles.

Anonymous said...

There has also been a demographic Americanization of Britain too. They should have listened to Enoch Powell.

Anonymous said...

American culture doesn't have the same monopoly it once did.

The influence of American music is definitely on the wane.

neil craig said...

I think the debate is an overdue addition to the british scene. I'm not sure how Prime minister's Questions could be fitted into the US Constitution but it would be worthwhile. The US Constitution is itself heavily borrowed from the 18thC British one with an elected President taking the place of a hereditary one. Over 2 centuries our hereditary leader's position has evolved to an almost purely symbolic one while yours has become more dominant.

snooze said...

Whiskey sez:
...broke from Israel,...

yeah, that's a really bad thing to do, ain't it.

enamdar said...

Speaking of Paleo. The libertarian movement is divided between paleos and cosmos. Paleos are represented by the Von Mises Inst. and Lew Rockwell, the Cosmos by Reason and Cato. The Paleos are more intellectual, southern, rural, anti-state, populist, anti-interventionist, culturally conservative. While the Paleos dismissively refer to Cato as “left”-libertarians, the cosmos are more “rightwing” on issues like Neocon intervention and support for the Republican Party.

Gary North was a fellow at Von Mises and an adviser to Ron Paul. Gary, heir to Rousas John Rushdoony, is the leader of the Christian Reconstructionist movement. Basing itself on old school Calvinism they hope to combine a theonomy with Austrian economics. They look to Cromwell’s Protectorate, Calvin’s Geneva, and Pilgrim New England as models.

The link between laissez-fair economics and cultural conservatism has always been strong in the USA. It is true that European conservatives have always been fairly strong defenders of private property. But private property is not identical with the market. And so traditionalist conservatives have always been skeptical and at time out-right hostile to the corroding affect of the market on the old order. This has been reversed since the 1970s, but even today the US Republican Party is by far the most libertarian of Christian Conservative parties worldwide. On that same note the US Democratic Party is actually the most libertarian of “center-left” parties in the world. The USA and Canada are basically the only places in the world where liberalism means leftwing. England was similar until the 1910s when Labour overtook the Liberals. While “classical” liberals complain that progressive liberals have stolen their name, the grandaddy of libertarians Herbert Spencer recognized the extent to which Liberal statism was not a contradiction. While 18th century liberals at times did make their semi-minarchist ideas universal, a large part of their assumptions was built on the fact that the government was unelected. Thus it was not paradoxical that when liberalism became merged with democracy in the 19th century it began to take on more interventionist policies. Both the pre-capitalist Right and the post-capitalist Left have been submerged into Capitalist Liberalism, at least broadly understood. So it is correct to say that we are all liberals now.

While Rothbard looked to Pat Buchanan as the savior of America, Hermans-Hoppe considered his conservative statism to be a paradox. It is taken for granted in the USA, outside the small Libertarian Party, that the Republican Party’s marriage of cultural conservatism with economic liberalism (Classical) is natural. To that extent Hoppe is actually defending the status quo although from his lens the Republicans would actually be “social democrats”.

Still I see Rubert Murdoch as the icon of what it means to be a libertarian conservative. You have Fox News which is the flagship of cultural conservatism and family values. And yet most of Murdoch’s media empire peddles the smut that Fox News contributors rant about. His theoretical journal has consummated the marriage by now officially adapting Roissyist philosophy.

Simon said...

corvinus:
"I don't think the Brits needed U.S. help in licking Argentina."

No, we didn't need US help per se, but the US could certainly have told us not to retake the islands and we'd have had to obey. Our main foreign policy concern in 1982 was still preventing the Soviet conquest of Europe, so at the time we needed to keep the US friendly.

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

No, we didn't need US help per se, but the US could certainly have told us not to retake the islands and we'd have had to obey.

What people don't stop to think about is that a nation's professed position isn't always the same as it's real one.

For example, Turkey wants to be in the EU, which would effectively mean an open border between Turkey and the rest of Europe. Most European countries don't want this. The United States claims that the EU should let Turkey join. Does the US really want this, or is it just saying it so that the Turks keep granting us access to Incirlik, etc.?

stari_momak said...

Totally off topic, but I think isteve readers will appreciate this wikipedia 'entry'

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuareg_Rebellion

Simon said...

I think it's important to note that it's just not the UK that's going all yankie, it's the whole world especially Europe. Most people in mainland Europe speak excellent English because of Friends or U.S. music or U.S. films. The U.S. culture is the most exported thing in the world. But I think it just takes a concious effort to stop doing American thing's and start doing British things. It a sad state of affairs when the average British teen know's who the American Security of Defence is, but is unsure of who is the Prime Minister, or their local MP, or what the house of lords does.
It's important to know about other culture's but it's more important to know about you're own culture, especially when it's as old and varied and exciting as the history of the British Isle's.
God Bless, the European State formally known as the UK.