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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Google: Un Symbole de l'Hyperpuissance Américaine

According to Der Spiegel there is increasing resentment in France to Google's power, which is seen as symbolic of America's global dominance of high technology and, particularly, the Internet. There is particular anger over Google's library project, which plans to digitize millions of volumes from the libraries of Stanford, Oxford, Harvard, and the New York Public Library, with French fears that, in time, the most globally popular works on French history and culture will be those written by native English speakers.

This is but the latest in a string of French complaints about American 'cultural imperialism'. I find the concept of 'cultural imperialism' to be a bit of a canard anyways; when I have walked by American fast food restaurants in foreign countries I have not seen GI's forcing people inside. The export of culture is dependent on how much appeal it has to foreign audiences, and this applies not just to American culture, but to any kind of culture. For instance, country music has little appeal outside of the United States, and so it has little presence in the global cultural lexicon. Rap music, on the other hand, has a tremendous worldwide appeal, and that is why American rappers can sell out arenas around the world and why local variants have popped up in many places, including France.

I quite like France personally, and I like the French people. I have family there and whenever I've been I've greatly enjoyed it, but I do get pretty bored by this sort of childish anti-American posturing. Disagreements with American foreign policy, fine. Disliking aspects of our society, fine. Kneejerk whining about absolutely everything to come out of America is irritating, especially when the same anti-américains are the first to complain when our own legions of the politically immature cook up stuff like "freedom fries". If, as the article mentions, the French do get their own searchable online library off the ground, then good for them. France has to get used to the fact of its reduced status in the world, and those French intellectuals and politicians who claim that they want an America that is more engaged with their concerns should realize that by constantly freaking out over everything that America does they are not exactly helping us, those Americans who want to see our country be a bit more multilateral, win the debate.

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