Saturday, 23 October 2010

4th Epistle to the Foxnewsians

Dear Foxnewsians,

¡Hola! How the hell are you? You know, I was watching your network the other day (from behind bullet proof glass, inside a radiation suit, it really is the only way to avoid being burnt by the contents of Bill O’Reilly’s bile duct) and it occurred to me, we haven’t spoken in ages. Did you have a good Christmas? I did. My cousins gave me a great book called, ‘Lies, Damned Lies and History’ by Graeme Donald and I spent most of Christmas Day reading it obsessively. I learned a lot.

For example, did you know that the Pilgrim Fathers were communists? It’s true. The first thing that the Plymouth Brethren did when they arrived in Cape Cod (not Plymouth Rock, that element of your creation myth was added later) was to sign a communist compact. Everyone worked the land, throwing their contribution into a common pool to be divided equally between all. However, the single men objected that those with families in the colony were receiving a greater share for working the same amount, and so the compact was dissolved. With that one act of selfishness, the ‘United States’ were truly born (humour).

But then most of history, as Henry Ford never said, is bunk. The commencement of the American Civil War had nothing to do with slavery, the war had been raging for eighteen months before Lincoln even mentioned it. Christopher Columbus never went to North America, let alone discover the continent. And aside from the book of Exodus, there is nothing to suggest that a large group of Israelites were ever even in Egypt, never mind slaves. Egyptian records from the time make no mention of them and despite half of the country being subject to archaeological digs in the last century and a half, no evidence of their presence has ever been found. This despite Exodus stating that Moses freed 600,000 slaves from a country whose entire population at the time was only between three and four million.

Oh, and the first Thanksgiving Feast that was ever celebrated on what is now American soil took place in Florida, by the Spanish, fifty years before the Pilgrims arrived. A feast of this kind was traditional in those days after a long sea journey, though the first Pilgrim Thanksgiving didn’t take place until after the second year of their reaching land. Even then, there were twice as many Native Americans present as Pilgrims, half the colony having perished during the previous winter. It seems curious to me that the major holiday in your calendar is to celebrate the Pilgrims as the progenitors of your country. The Pilgrim colony survived barely a decade, its entire population either dying, returning to England or being absorbed by other colonies, like Jamestown. Jamestown, a violent, lawless colony of slave traders, that is where America truly begins. To commemorate the Pilgrims as your forefathers is as ridiculous as celebrating Neanderthals as the ancestors of man. But like I said, history is bunk, and most holidays that celebrate historical events the world over are based on myth and exaggeration.

There is also a curious piece of historical misapprehension and arrogance that you see repeated in internet forums and youtube comment boxes wherever Americans get into heated debate with Brits. We’ve all heard the conjecture: If it wasn’t for us, you’d all be speaking German. My response to this statement follows in six parts:

  1. English is a modern form of Anglish or Anglo Saxon, a language spoken by the Angles, Saxons and Jutes, economic migrants who settled in this land from the 5th century AD and gave birth to the country of England. I already speak German. Moreover, large sections of the American population count themselves as of White Anglo Saxon Protestant descent, people who not only speak German but who are directly descended from Germans and follow a faith which has its origins with a German priest nailing a piece of paper to the door of a German church. You already speak German and more besides.
  2. Have you ever been to Britain? While most of the rest of Europe is bilingual, trilingual, even, in the case of the Dutch, quadrilingual, the British speak one language, barely. Which is weird, don’t you think? English has absorbed loanwords from most other languages, swelling its vocabulary to over a million words, you would think French, German etc. would be a piece of piss for us to learn and yet we wander the towns and cities of the continent shouting, “SAUSAGE, EGG AND CHIPS” at baffled Europeans, as if talking slowly and loudly will make them understand. Even when we do remember some key phrase like, “Ou est la supermarche?” it is usually said in an accent so broad and guttural that even native English speakers struggle to comprehend it (I once went travelling in Europe with a Lancashire lass whose accent was so broad that I had to translate everything she said into English for the benefit of the Americans and Canadians we met along the way). Trust me, if the Nazis ever had succeeded in invading Britain, sarcasm, parochialism and an obstinate refusal to learn anything new would soon have sent them scurrying back across the English Channel in sheer frustration. I am not patriotic in the slightest (it’s the last refuge of the scoundrel don’t you know!), but belligerence and an instinctive gift for irony are two inherently British traits of which I am immensely gratified to be armed with. It’s the reason why five minutes of the best British sitcoms are funnier than entire seasons of American comedy. While fascism and totalitarianism are undesirable in every day society, in art they are absolutely essential. Comedy is not something that can be decided by committee.
  3. Despite being under German occupation for a number of years, I am not aware of the general population of France ever being required to speak German. Actually, as an aside, the portrayal of the French as, “Cheese eating surrender monkeys.” always makes me seethe with rage, especially when I hear it said by people whom I otherwise respect. Again, maybe it’s a flaw in my autodidactic education that I have read an inordinate amount of fiction and non-fiction from that period and so find this attitude incongruous with reality. From the outset of the war, large sections of the French population, men and women alike, did take up arms to bravely fight the invading German army, even after the French government had negotiated its surrender (see Jean Paul-Satre’s ‘Roads to Freedom’ trilogy for a fictionalised account of this period). The notion that we judge and ascribe entire nations with the characteristics of their governments is a baffling concept. By this measure, all Americans are international terrorists and all Britains are their obedient lapdogs. And by this measure it is we who are the cheese eating surrender monkeys, while you, as one British comedian brilliantly framed it, are burger eating invasion monkeys. Do we really think for an instant that the British government would have behaved any differently when faced with a German invasion? Most of the ruling classes at the time were pro Nazi anyway, seeing communism as a disease of Jewish origin. The king’s consort at the time, mother to our present queen, sent the then British Foreign Secretary a copy of ‘Mein Kampf’, urging him to read it and take note of Hitler’s obvious sincerity. No, if it had have happened, events would have progressed in much the same way that they did in France. While the majority of the French population neither resisted nor collaborated with the Nazis, the French Resistance (ever hear of it?) was so extensive that over a million of its members took part in the VE Day celebrations in Paris in 1945.
  4. America’s entry into the European field of conflict was largely irrelevant. All you really did was drag the Japanese in with you (and there is extensive evidence to suggest that this is exactly what you did!), complicating the situation no end. Much conjecture and speculation is posited as to why the island of Britain avoided invasion by the German army, but it mostly comes down to the same quality that decides all wars: Luck. You see, The Battle of Britain, the fight for air supremacy that was fought over Britain in 1940, was a disaster. It is estimated that if the battle had continued for two more weeks, the Royal Air Force would have been totally wiped out and Operation Sealion, the codename for the invasion of Britain, would have begun. In the meantime however, British planes had started bombing German cities and their civilian populations, and this irked the Germans so much that they broke off from the Battle of Britain and retaliated by bombing our cities. It turned the war for the first time in our favour and while some may argue that this was a brilliant strategic move, it mostly comes back to luck. Given that America didn’t turn up until the following year, the claim that you are responsible for saving us from invasion and defeat is ludicrous. Besides, the country most directly responsible for the defeat of Hitler is Russia. Three quarters of all German infantry divisions were defeated by the Russian Army at a personal cost to them of twenty million dead. I don’t think that this historical statistic is repeated often enough, even if Russian tactics (i.e. the rape and murder of East German civilians) were largely indistinguishable from that of the Nazis.
  5. After the Holocaust, which is obviously a unique event in history, the single most despicable act committed during the Second World War was the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The war with Japan had been over for a long time by this point. The war was a disaster for the Japanese and they had in fact been considering surrender from as early as 1943. Terms had already been offered to your government before the bombs were dropped. The majority of your generals were in agreement on this point and they saw no point in making use of this new, terrifying weapon. It was an act conceived and perpetrated by civilians and the administration of Harry S. Truman. They were dropped partly out of revenge for Pearl Harbour, partly out of bloodlust and partly to scare the Russians. There is an argument that while hundreds of thousands died in those two nuclear blasts, they saved the lives of millions by stopping the Russians in their tracks and preventing post-war Europe from descending into a free-for-all. Personally, I don’t believe that, but whatever the reasoning, the act of bombing one enemy to impress another, by any definition you chose to employ, that is an act of terrorism, a fact I remind people of whenever they cite 9/11 as the largest terrorist act ever perpetrated. The largest terrorist act ever perpetrated against America, yes, but while the events of that day are obviously despicable (as are all such events), compared to your country’s own atrocious acts since 1945, it is like spitting into the Hudson. And yes, I understand the argument that goes, the Nazis and Japanese were evil, which justifies anything the allies did, but since when was judging yourself by other people’s standards a justifiable way to behave? He who fights dragons too long becomes a dragon himself.
  6. If you saved us from the Nazis, who will save us from you? More specifically, who will save us as America’s sphere of influence slowly declines and it adopts its new role as Sparta to China’s Rome?

Do you see? It is a bullshit statement, as are 99% of all such statements expounded on the internet.

To finish, I present to you my reworking of the classic Monty Python sketch, ‘What have the Romans ever done for us?’. I call it, ‘I Just Love My Country So Much (or Variations on a Theme of Python)’:

SCENE: Inside the Fox Newsroom, Glen Beck is over emotional (yet again).

Glen (teary eyed from the onion juice liberally sprinkled in his palm): I’m sorry, it just upsets me that we’re losing our identity, losing the country that we grew up in. I can’t help it, I just love my country so much.

Rosa Parks: Even Obama?

Glen: Well of course not Obama.

Seymour Hersh: What about Noam Chomsky?

Sean Hannity: Oh God, yes, Glen, Chomsky’s an un-American traitor.

Glen: All right, I’ll grant you Obama and Chomsky are two Americans I don’t like.

Howard Zinn: And the Democrats.

Glen: Well obviously the Democrats, the Democrats go without saying. But apart from Obama, Chomsky and the Democrats...

John Steinbeck: The poor.

Michael Moore: People without health insurance.

Malcolm X: Muslims.

Bill Hicks: Drug users.

Pancho Villa: Illegal immigrants.

Glen: Yes, alright, fair enough.

Harry Hay: Gays

All: Oh yes.

O’Reilly: Yeah, they certainly need to be thrown in jail.

Leonard Peltier: What about Convicts?

Hannity: Yeah, don’t forget the convicts Glen. We’ve got the largest convict population in the world. Largest convict population in history thanks to the three strikes system (much laughter).

Glen: All right, all right, but apart from Obama, Chomsky, the Democrats, the poor, people without health insurance, Muslims, drug users, illegal immigrants, gays and convicts, I love my country.

Amused, Manchester: What about Karl Rove?

Glen (angrily): How dare you! Don’t you dare criticize a hair on his pretty fat head, you are talking about the man I love!

(uncomfortable silence)

Glen: We’ll be right back after these messages.


You shall hear from me anon.

Amused, Manchester.

This Epistle is dedicated to the memory of Howard Zinn, 1922-2010

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