Saturday, August 11, 2007

Joe asked in the Comments section whether these posts from La Vanguardia's reader forums are typical of Spanish thinking and, after thinking about it for about five minutes, my considered response is: I think so.

I pointed out catastrophism, belief in conspiracies, and knee-jerk hatred of the United States as the errors in thinking in the posts I reproduced. I think all three of them are pretty common, though not universal, in Spain. Keep in mind that some people may suffer from one or two, but not all three, of these mental pathologies.

Another thing to keep in mind is that some of the Europeans who support the United States do so for the wrong reasons.

There are some people in Spain who actually believe that America is an imperialist warmongering hyperpower, but this is a good thing because Americans are white, sort of European folk keepìng those damned Arabs in line. There are a few who are ultra-libertarians--I'm pretty libertarian myself, but within reasonable limits, I hope--who actually believe that America is the anti-welfare state where those who can't compete are ruthlessly crushed, and this is a good thing because Ayn Rand said so. There are also some who really believe that America is a Christian theocracy, and this is a good thing because divorce and abortion are not permitted there. (I've actually been subjected to this argument from a pro-American Spaniard who really wasn't very smart at all.)

I guess when we come down to it, a variation of the 80-20 rule probably holds true here, as it does in so many cases. (You know, 20% of beer drinkers drink 80% of the beer that is drunk, and so on.) Probably wherever you go in the West today, 80% of what 80% of people think they know is bunk. Most people are pretty ignorant and badly informed (not that this makes them bad people or less worthy); hell, remember that by definition 50% of people have a below-average IQ. I figure this is true everywhere in Western Europe and the US, and I'll bet that in countries where the people are less educated and their access to information is more limited, those percentages are even higher.

Anyway, here come the pro-American posts, after a story on Gaddafi's son's admitting that the Bulgarian nurses were tortured with electric shocks:

"Tired of Hypocrites": Electrical torture is habitual in Arab prisons, just like rape and the amputation of fingers, nails, and even eyes. But nobody cares about this. The entire horde of false "progres" is so obsessed with the US and with Israel that they have no compassion for the Arabs.

If an Arab tortures another one for nine years, it isn't news; if an Israeli or American soldier slaps an admitted terrorist then this is a crime against humanity! It's the same as ever, you don't give a damn about the Arabs themselves, you just use them because your war is against the United States or against Israel, not in favor of the Arabs.

"Aroundworld" (posting from the US): I support 100% of what you say. Have you noticed that nobody is giving his opinion around here?

"Mithridates": I'll give my opinion! And I absolutely agree with the above, that's enough of defending the alleged innocents who are really responsible for the atrocities that are happening, with cold blood they say that a woman has been subjected to electric torture---I'm sick of the 'moros'!!!!!!!

"Maitechu": What did you expect? Many of the gentlemen who write in are Arabs.

"Toni": There are those who take advantage of any little story to attack Bush, the US, and Israel. Those who have expressed their opinions so far are right, differently from those who do so only to work out their phobias (the Americans and the US) and fixations (Bush, the Israeli army).

"Juanelees": The truth is there is no government in any Islamic country that has even 1% credibility. And enforcing sharia law, that's just crazy.

"Gerard": We are making an Alliance of Civilizations with the torturers...we must comprehend them, they're other countries, other cultures, they want the same time, we are destroying Israel...and it will be the end of Europe.

"Catañol": I unconditionally support "Tired of Hypocrites".

My view: I agree with "Tired of Hypocrites" as well. He is clearly both well-informed and concerned about the Arab people. However, "Mithridates" mixes good arguments (torture is wrong) with racism (he clearly doesn't like 'moros,' which is a racial slur for Arabs in Spain.) "Juanelees" exaggerates; Turkey, Malaysia, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, Bangladesh, and Indonesia are all Muslim countries, and have fairly decent though imperfect governments. Also, "Gerard" is just a bit catastrophic himself. Anyway, flawed as some of their thinking is, there are some folks over here in Spain who are pro-American and willing to speak up.

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