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Blogs away!

Posted by Helen Tuesday, February 22, 2005

We have had occasion to point out the fact that while in the United States many (though, obviously, not all) of the blogs have been on the right of the politial spectrum, pro-Republican, pro-Bush, in Britain and Europe the line up is slightly different.

A very large proportion of the British blogs, for instance, are eurosceptic. The same applies to the Continental ones. Many of them determinedly pro-American or, at least, anti-anti-American.

The reason is clear and the same in all these different parts of the world. Blogs go against the mainstream media. What is the point of running an anti-American blog in Europe when the entire media is anti-American?

So it was joyous to read that Norman Geras in his eclectic and often extremely witty blog normblog drew everyone’s attention to an interesting text that language centre of the prestigious University of Leiden was using for its English proficiency test.

The text is entitled Idiot Nation and proceeds with several paragraphs of the most virulent anti-American rant. At the end, students are asked to answer various questions about individual words, phrases and ideas and generally discuss the lamentably low intelligence level of all Americans.

The author of the text? Michael Moore. It is a passage from Stupid White Men.

The notion of Mr Moore being the sort of author with the sort of prose style that repays studying in any detail is risible. He is not even a particularly clever propagandist. (I have always refused to see Fahrenheit 9/11 on the grounds that it is nowhere near as good as any of Eizenstein’s propaganda films. That being so, what is the point of watching it?)

Even more extraordinary is the idea that a highly regarded university should use this kind of viciously anti-American balderdash as a routine text for learning English.

The story, inevitably, made its way round the net and the university had to withdraw the text. But it was highly surprised. Gabriel Hoezen, the head of the language centre at Leiden told journalists plaintively that the text had been used for several years without anyone realizing its political significance. Clearly Mr Hoezen and his colleagues thought Michael Moore was a straightforward realistic writer. As stupidity goes, that takes some beating.

Furthermore, there had never been any complaints before. Not until someone from the university sent a copy to a blogger, who publicized it. Strike one.