American society and policies voiced in Western Europenwere almost identical with the major strands of socialncriticism directed at American institutions and policies atnhome. While such a convergence is presumably largely anmatter of osmosis, I was also given examples of situations innwhich American social critics instructed their Europeanncounterparts or provided them with cues to follow. AnSwedish professor of economics insisted that “all SwedishnMarxists learned their Marxism in America.” A Dutchnhistorian told me that not long ago Stanley Hoffman ofnHarvard lectured a Dutch academic audience on the perilsnand flaws of American foreign policy. An English journalistnnoted that, when in London recently, Gloria Steinem dweltnon “the lack of freedoms in America” and referred tonPresident Reagan as a “smiling fascist.” The Missing was anhuge success in Western Europe. Western European criticsnof the U.S. readily refer to American sources and supportingnmaterial. Indirectly, the products of American massnculture also support denigration of the U.S. more at thencultural than political level. “They look at Dallas and theirnheart swells,” said an English intellectual, commenting onnthe kind of confirmation such programs provide of thenstereotyped, negative views of life in the United States. Anleader of the CND told me that on his visit to the U.S. henwas surprised at the vehemence of criticism directed atnAmerican policies from the pulpits of the churches in thisncountry. According to an English educator, many critics ofnthe U.S. in England rely heavily on the Bowles-Gintisncritique of American education and society.nIn trying to understand why the temptation to criticizenand disparage the U.S. in Western Europe seems sonirresistible, one is led to ponder the impact of the availablenvisual images of this country. There are documentaries andnpictorial reports (on television) which offer vivid, visualnimages confirming and substantiating in concrete detail thenvarious critiques and negative predispositions. WesternnEuropeans (like Americans) can readily call upon mentalnpictures of American slums, the homeless, victims ofnassassinations or crime, lines waiting for unemploymentnassistance, photos of American machines of war, and manynother unappealing images of American society and power.nBy contrast, the muted and perfunctory criticisms of thenSoviet Union can at least in part be explained by the almostntotal absence of any visual image of the ills and injustices ofnSoviet society which could provide vivid and powerfulnemotional substantiation and support for the typicallynlukewarm disapproval of Soviet domestic policies andnexercise of power. The victims of war in Central Americanare prominently displayed on the evening news in the U.S.nas in Western Europe; Afghan villages daily obliterated bynSoviet air power or artillery are not to be seen. Sovietnpoverty, in the absence of visual documentation, remainsnan abstraction. Thus, in the final analysis, the Soviet Unionnreaps considerable benefits from its elaborate policies ofncensorship (and the self-censorship it imposes on residentnWestern correspondents). It allows her to present a seamlessnmonolithic and somewhat mysterious facade which interactsnwith the high levels of Western public ignorance andnlack of interest. It is difficult to muster moral indignationnagainst something about which one knows very little and ofnwhich one has no conceptions, visual or other.nSeveral conclusions might be drawn from these impressionsnand experiences. The first one is that hostility towardnthe U.S. is, in large measure, independent of what thisncountry does; it is not necessarily a response to identifiablenpolicies or actions, although the latter may and often dondeepen or aggravate the negative predispositions noted. Ifnso, there is a limit to what the U.S. can do to make itselfnpopular or well liked in many parts of the world.nSecond, critics of the U.S. in Western Europe also tendnto be critics of their own society and its real or imaginaryndefects. Whatever they find wrong with their own societynhas its counterpart in the U.S. multiplied severalfold. Innthe words of a Dutch student of American society, “thendisaffection with America [is] part of a much wider disaffectionnwith the complexities and contradictions of modernnsociety.”nUnderneath such animosities lurks at least the memory ofnhigh expectations. Anti-Americanism in its virulent, irrationalnform may only cease when unreasonable expectationsnare laid to rest. My landlady in Budapest asked me, “Haventhe Americans found a solution to the food smell innrefrigerators?” Such concerns illustrate the evolution ofnexpectations in Hungary. While the U.S., as Hungariansnsee it, is neither any longer the powerful champion ofnhuman freedoms around the world nor paradise on earth, itnmay still hold the key to the solutions of problems vital tonthe new generation of consumers in Hungary. Needless tonsay, there is no animosity toward the U.S. in Hungary. Norndo Eastern European intellectuals harbor high expectationsnabout the perfectability of social systems and human beings.nBy contrast, many Western European (and American)nintellectuals blame the United States for the discomforts ofnliving in a world which has not only become an increasinglyndangerous place, but also one which cannot gratify theirnlonging for a sense of purpose and meaning. ccnThe First AnnualnERASMUS LECTUREnwnPaul Johnson’snTHE ALMOST CHOSEN NATION:nWHY AMERICA IS DIFFERENTnOn January 24,1985 St. Peter’s Church in New York City was thensetting for The Center on Religion & Society’s first annual ErasmusnLecture. It was there that hundreds heard the renowned historiannand social critic Paul Johnson speak on “The Almost Chosen Nation:nWhy America Is Different.”nNow this extraordinary address is available in booklet form fromnThe Rockford Institute. For your copy, send $1.95 plus 50C postage,nwith the coupon below to: The Rockford Institute, 934 North MainnStreet, Rockford, Illinois 61103.nn YES, please send me a copy of Paul Johnson’s “The Almost ChosennNation: Why America Is Different.” 1 have enclosed $1.95 plusn50C postage with my order.nNamenAddress _nCity _State_ _Zip_nnnReturn coupon to:nThe Rockford Instituten934 North Main StreetnRockford, Illinois 61103nMARCH 1985/23n