Tim Blair


New Criterion



Tuesday, February 04, 2003
FOLLOWING UNCLE'S LEAD, as he sometimes so wisely does, Henny Herald columnist Gerard Henderson explores the nature of anti-Americanism among writers and film-makers.

He focuses on film-maker Phil Noyce whose illustration of Graham Greene's The Quiet American represents Greene's anti-Americanism, without its occasional nuance. Noyce again demonstrates that his films, when they purport to report political actuality, as did Rabbit-proof fence, are caricatures. As most films are.

But why are political films always left-wing caricatures?

But can you imagine the uproar if someone made a film in which the hero/ine was expected to retain our sympathy while admitting to idolatory of Adolph Hitler, as the sainted Frida Kahlo, also the subject of a recent depiction, worshipped the monstrous Joseph Stalin? Or even cordial relations with Albert Speer?

Fascists! Beyond salvation by Art. Kiss that investment goodbye.

Gerard Henderson has trouble explaining what he describes so clearly. Like the rest of us.

Uncle wishes to point Gerard in the direction of a powerful fountain of anti-Americanism that has great force in Australia. It's operation can be seen in the life of Graham Greene, a convert to Roman Catholicism who nonetheless claimed he would rather live in Stalin's Soviet Union than capitalism's USA. He failed to do either.

This fountain, source and bog of anti-Americanism is pure snobbery.

Graham Greene was the son of English parents who, like many of their class, thought those engaged in commerce were, by definition, vulgar and disgraceful. Gentlemen lived on capital or salaries from government. The young Greene and his wife, struggling to write a first novel, without the funds to buy food for the table, still employed a woman to do the housework. That, too, was beneath middle-class English people.

The Americans, my dear, are in trade. And their tastes are so, well, popular.

You think that couldn't be a force in modern, egalitarian Australia?

Examine that city at Australia's fundament, Melbourne. Read the life stories of those blessed with middle-class Melbourne mothers. Like the jazz musician Richard Hughes. Talk to Melbourne girls of the post-WWII period. When you've recovered, take a look at less benighted parts of our ex-British continent.

When you hear one of Auntie's Communards dismissing any product of the profit motive as morally-tainted, you will know where to look for the source of their sentiment.

It contradicts their consumption behaviour, of course. None of them acquired a Trabant, even when, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, these pestilential bureaucratic approximations of motor vehicles could be picked up free on the sides of the roads leading to the holes in the Iron Curtain.

But they probably made kindly documentaries about them.

It helps us understand why Greene's preference for Stalinist societies did not extend to Stalinist living or to Marxism. And why he so appreciated American films, music and the US version of Freud.

And so, it is not just the alienated youth of deep-green and anti-global movements who resort automatically to anti-American attitudes when the US is involved in a conflict. It is good, solid, middle-class men and women of property and social standing, or with a drip feed from other tax-payers' funds.

It also helps explain why the ordinary Aussie, who cannot avoid the labour and vulgarity of ordinary life, does not support anti-Americanism as a rule.

And why Simon Crean risks handing over more and more of what was once Labor's constituency the more he panders to the middle-class leftism of Labor leftists like Carmenangoin Lawrence.