Saturday, February 24, 2024

OPINION AND ANALYSIS | 02-07-2022 07:00

US soft power remains as potent as ever

US progressives who support the Democrats wield more influence outside their country than do their conservative foes who tend to vote Republican, but these too have managed to export their attitudes.

With almost two-thirds of the world’s population caught in the web spun by the tech giants based in California, the communities people live in are far wider than ever before. In addition to the traditional ones which are made up of individuals they can encounter in the flesh, there are virtual ones in which they come into contact with those who share their interests, likes and dislikes. These provide politicians, ideologues, lobbyists and, needless to say, salesmen, with an almost captive audience whose tastes and opinions they seek to influence. They also make a growing number of men and women throughout the world feel free to participate emotionally in the political and cultural (in the anthropological sense of the world) conflicts that are dividing North Americans into warring tribes. For US patriots who would like to see the outside world keep its distance, this may be extremely galling, but it does increase their country’s “soft power.”  

The US Supreme Court’s decision to scrap the ‘Roe v. Wade’ ruling that in 1973 enshrined the right of women to get an abortion if they so desired appalled not only the “pro-choice” feminists who immediately took to the streets of US cities but also many foreign leaders whom nobody could accuse of harbouring that many progressive sentiments. The UK’s conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was “a big step backwards”; the French president, Emmanuel Macron, agreed. It would seem that in their view and that of many others, allowing a state like Mississippi – which opposed Roe v. Wade because its legislature wanted to ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy – to write its own laws is utterly barbaric and proof, if any were needed, that the United States is turning into a dystopian nightmare.

If it is, much of the world, including the Western parts which, broadly speaking, has much in common with the US, is sunk in darkness. In the United Kingdom, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have different rules which, by and large, are less restrictive than they now are in Mississippi but fall short of encouraging abortion on demand, as the pro-choice militants would like. In Macron’s France, the time limit has just been extended to 14 weeks, one less than in Mississippi, while in Germany those who want an abortion after 12 weeks have to persuade the authorities that giving birth would cause them serious physical or mental harm.

By the standards prevailing in Europe then, the US Supreme Court is “on the right side of history,” as progressives are fond of putting it, because some states run by the kind of politicians these approve of will continue to permit abortions for whatever reasons until seconds before the foetus is about to emerge.

The way European leaders and many others have reacted to the US Supreme Court’s ruling reminds us that they have been mentally colonised by the North American progressive elite. This was already evident. Whenever the individuals who dominate it came up with a new fashion, it was immediately adopted by up-to-date people in the rest of the planet. This happened when the violent Black Lives Matter riots suddenly spread from the US to the UK and, less virulently, to continental Europe, accompanied by a wave of iconoclasm with “problematic” statues getting toppled by virtuous mobs determined to do battle with the elusive hate-filled white supremacists they imagined were on the brink of turning the clock back to the 1930s or, perhaps, the Middle Ages.

In Argentina, attempts by North American feminists with doctorates in gender studies to restructure languages in order to make them less sexist have been taken up by Kirchnerites who have set about replacing “a” at the end of words with “e”, “x” or even “@,” a campaign which greatly annoys most people but is zealously backed by enthusiasts such as the Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kiciloff.  Of all Argentina’s political factions, the one led by Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is by far the most eager to follow trends originating in the US “empire” they enjoy berating for its sins.

US progressives who support the Democrats wield more influence outside their country than do their conservative foes who tend to vote Republican, but these too have managed to export their attitudes. The evangelical movement that is rapidly gaining adherents throughout Latin America by weaning them away from the Roman Catholic Church is, in large measure, a US product, but the inroads it is making are less visible than those of the progressives who have contrived to convince the relatively well-off that they represent the future while the evangelists have concentrated on winning over the poor.

US progressives are helped in their endeavours by the media they dominate. The most important Argentine newspapers – among them some that are considered staunchly conservative – regularly include translations of long articles published by The New York Times which is doing its considerable best to preach the progressive gospel and is prone to denigrate anyone who tries to discredit it.

Democrats hope that by painting their country’s Supreme Court justices as a bunch of reactionary blackguards they will persuade women to vote for them in the legislative elections scheduled for November 8 when all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 in the Senate will be up for grabs. Their cheerleaders evidently take it for granted that most women are as outraged as they are by the dumping of Roe v. Wade. If they are right, the Republicans, who want their states to have tougher abortion laws, are positively suicidal. It would be strange of this were so; professional politicians tend to be wary of offending public opinion by standing up for unpopular causes, so it is safe to assume that most, after taking note of what the local pollsters have come up with, do not think the Supreme Court has made life more difficult for them.

If, as many expect, the Republicans recapture both the House and the Senate in November, much of the world will see it as a sign that Donald Trump could be about to stage a comeback and wonder how this could possibly happen. It would help if they took the trouble to examine the attitudes they automatically adopt when something – like the ongoing rows over racism, the long-term effects of slavery, sexism, abortion, and other issues – emanates from the US. If, despite all his loutish behaviour, Trump does manage to return to the White House, it will be thanks almost entirely to the failings of the Democrats, especially the most aggressively progressive among them, who greatly enjoy drawing attention to their own moral superiority but are not very good when it comes to solving the practical problems that trouble “ordinary” folk.

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James Neilson

James Neilson

Former editor of the Buenos Aires Herald (1979-1986).


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