Commentary Magazine


British Anti-Americanism

To the editor:

There seem to be seriously confusing opinions in Mr. Fyvel’s article, “Realities Behind British Anti-Americanism,” in your December 1952 issue. . . .

Mr. Fyvel is very sure that it is only our “melancholy Roman Catholic novelists brooding over Britain’s decline” who are alarmed by the cheap American tastes to be found among our young people. Now, sensation, noise, and new things generally do attract them; if the new happens to be a vulgarized American style in haircuts, ties, and language, who is to blame if no indigenous British styles have prevented this advent? Yet Mr. Fyvel believes that American-organized mass entertainment “helped to bring variety and color” to British working-class life. What criteria of value is he using then? Roman Catholics, leftists, and highbrows— to employ his categories—are, of course, among those who criticize American tastes, but it need hardly be said that there are people on both sides of the Atlantic, irrespective of denominational and intellectual prejudice, who recognize and attack the influential fifth-rate whenever it appears. . . .

Attacks on MacArthur, Dulles, etc. are found, says Mr. Fyvel, “expressed with a sarcastic sharpness” mainly in the “downstart” classes, which include the “upper middle class.” A discerning Englishman would protest against the “sharpness” of such a vulgar anti-American tone, but surely he is entitled to criticize if he is informed that Mr. Truman had to recall the General from his Korean exploits, that Mr. Chaplin was castigated for his opinions once he was out of the country, and that Mr. Nixon will be President should any misfortune befall Mr. Eisenhower. When the British Americanophile sees what he seriously believes are flaws in your cultural pattern, which is so influential throughout the world, he naturally hopes that reasonable criticism will call forth a friendly response from the United States. This is not anti-Americanism.

Nor would a sensible person resent the American “capitalist version of a classless society,” as Mr. Fyvel describes it, if it did indeed maintain or introduce good standards of society. “The intellectual class’s privileges” must go (if they ever existed) in the century of democratic culture; but if this culture entails the common lowering of standards of personal responsibility and national taste, it should be criticized wherever it comes from. . . .

E. N. W. Mottram
Pembroke College
Cambridge, England

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