What emerges is that most "European" people will believe almost anything about America — as long as it is negative.
LONDON — Are American voters susceptible to blackmail? Ever since Sarah Palin lifted John McCain's campaign, it is becoming increasingly clear that America will be branded racist if Europe does not wake up on November 5 to find that Barack Obama has been elected.
Here is what Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian had to say last week: "If [the election] is deemed to have been about race — that Obama was rejected because of his colour — the world's verdict will be harsh."
His view is that the anti-Americanism that has demonized President Bush will be as nothing to the global wrath that will greet a McCain presidency. "Suddenly Europeans and others will conclude that their dispute is with not only one ruling clique, but Americans themselves."
Such self-fulfilling prophecies are to be heard at all the most elegant dinner tables in London. This week's crash on Wall Street is already evoking a new round of gloating among those who always wanted to believe that the free market was ultimately doomed.
Now both American democracy and American capitalism are on trial in the court of European public opinion. And the only plea that the court will accept from America is: guilty.
I am tired of the prejudice and ignorance of Europeans about America. And I am sad, though not surprised, that the U.S. government's public diplomacy has been so feeble, not to say non-existent.
Instead, it has been left to a few lone voices to defend America against the calumnies of its enemies. Notable among these is a new Web site, AmericaInTheWorld.com, which is already up but will be officially launched next month in London.
It is the brainchild of Tim Montgomerie, the founder of the most successful political Web site in Britain, ConservativeHome.com, and the polling entrepreneur Stephan Shakespeare. Both are British citizens and receive neither funding nor other support from America.
One of the best things to appear so far on AmericaInTheWorld.com is a poll of British attitudes toward America. What emerges is that most people will believe almost anything about America — as long as it is negative.
For instance, 58% believe that "polygamy is legal in some parts of the U.S.A." In reality, of course, polygamy is illegal everywhere in America — unlike Britain, where it is illegal in theory but in practice Muslim men can claim welfare benefits for more than one wife and Muslim leaders have refused to agree to a new marriage contract precisely because it required men to waive their "right" to polygamy.