The New York Times television critic Virginia Heffernan has a new blog at the Times site. Here’s how they are describing the blog:

With television and the Internet converging at last, who’s going to watch all this here-goes-nothing online video? Everything from political propaganda videos to nip slips (the popular video of, yup, celebrities revealing their breasts) seems to expect an audience. “Screens” will find, review and make sense of all those senseless new images: web video, viral video, user-driven video, custom interactive video, embedded video ads, web-based VOD, broadband television, diavlogs, vcasts, vlogs, video podcasts, mobisodes, webisodes, mashups and more.

VhAnd here is a bio of Heffernan:

Virginia Heffernan is a television critic for The Times. Before coming to the newspaper, she wrote for Slate, and before that she was an editor at Harper’s and Talk magazines. She has a Ph.D. in English from Harvard. In 2005, she published a comic novel, “The Underminer,” which she wrote with Mike Albo.

Check out the blog here.  [Thanks to Asad Raza.]

3QD’s World Cup Analyst Alex Cooley On the US’s Last Game and Their World Cup Run

[Alex writes] Well, after the backs to the wall display against Italy, it was all bound to end tragically. I was wait-listed for “conditional tickets” for the pivotal Ghana game in Nuremberg so had to content myself to yet another day of Berlin decadence. To avoid overt match-fixing (such as the German-Austria 0-0 in 1982 with no shots that eliminated unlucky Algeria) the final games of the group stages are played simultaneously. Finding a venue for the Ghana-US game was tricky as most establishments were showing Italy-Czechs. We settled on a fine little Irish pub out in Kreuzberg that featured two screens side by side, an absolute must for any die hard fan wanting to cling to a sliver of hope and sweat over two results.

Some yanks were in the crowd, but most of the neutrals and German were firmly pro-Ghana, a sentiment underscored by pundits referring to them as the “Brazil of African football.” ughh!! In truth, the game was always going to be hard (Cooley had originally predicted a devastating defeat) but if the Italians managed to beat the Czechs, a win would see us through on 4 points. Not!

For the third time the US once again fell behind early, although this time I had drunk enough pilsners (I was prepared) to cushion the blow. The first Ghanaian goal was also symbolic of captain Reyna’s role on the US team. After receiving a backpass Reyna’s first instinct is usually to take care of the ball and calm play down rather than look for quick counter options. Unfortunately, yesterday Reyna failed to notice the really fast Dramani barrelling in on him – the speedy Ghana forward gleefully accepted Captain America’s parting gift, strolled into the box and lashed his shot past Keller. Reyna was injured on the play and after a few minutes exited his last US game.

Without him the US mounted a semblance of a spirited fightback and just before halftime the pesky Beasley nicely poked the ball away from two defenders and sent a sweeping cross for young Texan Clint Dempsey to smash home. Coupled with the Italians scoring in their Czech game, the US was now tied and, remarkably, in need of only one more goal to go through to a dream match against Brazil.

But, all too predictably, our new-found cheeriness and football fantasy lasted just 2 minutes. A shoddy clearance by Bocanegra saw the ball pop-up at the edge of the penalty area. Gooch won the ball as the smaller Pimpong hurled himself across the turf like a human cannonball. German referee Marcus Merk, probably suffering a flashback from all the designer drugs he ingested in Berlin during his student years, pointed to the spot and Stephen Appiah blistered home the penalty kick. Given our serious lack of creativity and quality forwards – note: our joint top scorer this tournament was Italy’s right back – climbing out of another deficit was simply too much for this group of yanks.

The second half was painfully predictable: the US had lots of possession but could not cross the ball with any quality while the Ghanaians, obviously having watched lots of Italian training videos, performed their best platform diving impersonations and writhed around in excruciating agony each time they were touched. Having played very well against Italy Landon Donovan reverted to Czech like form with the whole front line, with exception of Dempsey, looking pretty timid. Er, that thing with the white posts – its is called a “goal” – at some point it might be fun to actually try and shoot the ball at it..Just to really rub it in and round off a wonderful afternoon, the BBC roundtable gleefully jocked the Ghanaians while they cheerfully mused that “Even though we were egging on Ghana I suppose the Yank fans, if there are any, could feel a bit hard done by, couldn’t they..” Man, I love the British media.

Overall, we didn’t play that poorly and thought we did a decent job containing Essien (although Appiah was excellent), but its not like we came out with the passion and urgency that were needed to really take it to them. I would place most of the blame on manager Bruce Arena who I think should honorably fall on his sword in the next couple of days. 8 years is a long time, perhaps too long, and during his second World Cup Arena was exposed in the 1st and 3rd game as tactically stale and overly loyal to some veterans who were clearly out of form. And while many seem to be clamoring for a foreign mercenary-type coach, I’m not as keen unless they have significant experience working in MLS and have a prior understanding of the various quirky institutions that comprise US soccer and its player development.

Since us Yanks excel in mindless optimism, let’s think about some of the bright spots going forward into South Africa 2010. The two bright spots for me on the team were the fearless play of Dempsey and the excellent defending of Gooch. Both should be solid contributors for one or two cycles. The Nike-sponsored youth academy at Brandenton is starting to produce excellent young players. Just last year a crop of them won its “group of death” at the Under 20 World Cup, including beating the eventual tournament winners Argentina; some of these players should be vying for team places in 2010. Also, even though Major League Soccer is not competing with baseball or basketball (and probably never will), the league is in financially the best shape ever and continues to steadily expand. And over the course of this year over 18 million players will play some form of organized soccer in the United States.

So, if the above doesn’t cushion the blow, I highly recommend Berlin cocktails. Happy hours last until 9pm here and then start again at midnight. There’s no better way to start four years of hurt than with a bucket of caipirinha (see I do appreciate some elements of Brazil).

I’m now adopting Germany and England as my “next choices” (and still picks to meet in the final) as well as the spirited Aussies. Mark’s off to Mannheim with his bass to get some band back together again so I’ll be posting solo until mid-next week.

‘Beware of Pity’

Joan Acocella in the New York Review of Books:

ZweigIn the 1920s and 1930s Stefan Zweig was an immensely popular writer, a man who had to barricade himself in his house in Salzburg in order to avoid the fans lurking around his property in the hope of waylaying him. According to his publisher, he was the most widely translated author in the world. Today, while he is still read in Germany and also in France, his name is barely known to the average Anglophone reader. In the last few decades, however, there has been an effort on the part of several publishers to get Zweig back into print in English. In my opinion, no book of his deserves reissue more than his one novel, Beware of Pity (Ungeduld des Herzens, 1938).

Zweig was a friend and admirer of Sigmund Freud, his fellow Viennese, and it was no doubt Freud’s writings, together with the experience of two world wars, that persuaded him of the fundamental irrationalism of the human mind. Absolutely central to his fiction is the subject of obsession. And so it is with Beware of Pity. To my knowledge, this book is the first sustained fictional portrait of emotional blackmail based on guilt. Today, it is a commonplace that one person may enslave another by excessive love, laced with appeals to gratitude, compassion, and duty, and that the loved one may actually feel those sentiments—love, too, of a sort—while at the same time wanting nothing more than to be out the door.

More here.

DarkSyde interviews Sean Carroll at Kos

From Daily Kos:

DS: What is Dark Matter?

SeanSC: “Dark” is a euphemism — it means not only that the stuff is completely invisible, but that it isn’t anything ever seen in a laboratory here on Earth. Clearly, we’d rather not have to invoke such stuff. Nevertheless, the data have forced us to believe that ordinary matter is only about 5% of the universe; another 25% is “dark matter,” and the remaining 70% is “dark energy.”

Dark matter is some kind of particle that doesn’t interact with light, so that we can’t see it directly. We know it’s there because it creates a gravitational field, and we can detect that gravitational field. In fact, we detect it over and over again — the single idea of dark matter allows us to account for the behavior of our Milky Way, of other galaxies, of large-scale groups of galaxies, of the expansion of the universe, and of the patterns we observe in the microwave background. The most popular dark-matter candidates are “weakly-interacting massive particles” (or WIMPs), which are predicted by models such as “supersymmetry.”  Supersymmetry is an ambitious idea that proposes a new kind of fermion (matter-like particle) for every existing boson (force-like particle), and vice-versa. The Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, scheduled to turn on next year, will be looking for supersymmetry, among other things.

More here.

Veronese at the Frick: A Renaissance Explorer With a Brush

From New York Times:

Vero2 WHAT is going on in this gorgeously executed 16th-century painting? A young man garbed in sumptuous white satin is about to embrace a frumpish young woman of serious mien, wearing a green gown and military-style boots. Her plain hairdo is topped by a laurel wreath. She pulls him toward her, away from a far sexier wench, elaborately coiffed, whose sultrier costume reveals half of her back, turned to the viewer. He looks away from both women, his face — in half-profile — wearing a just-rescued expression.

The work is “The Choice Between Virtue and Vice,” by the Venetian painter Paolo Veronese (1528-88). And guess which woman is Virtue? The frump, of course. Despite his foppish appearance, the man in white is man enough to choose her over Vice, even though she’s much less attractive and certainly more demanding.

More here.

Scientists trace the roots of spider webs

From MSNBC:Spider_1

A spider’s orb web is one of the most impressive architectural feats in nature, capturing morning dew and insect meals with equal grace. But webbing rarely stands the test of time, especially over millions of years, and researchers have few samples of ancient web to study.

Now, scientists have found a 136 million-year-old piece of amber encasing pieces of web and trapped insects. The finding helps fill in the gaps of the origin of orb webs, and also indicates predatory spiders likely played a role in the evolution of flying insects. The hunk of amber, which was collected in Spain, contains 26 web strands with a mite, a wasp leg, and a beetle stuck to some of the thread by visible droplets of web “glue.” Although these insects are extinct, their size and diversity match the type of prey caught in modern webs.

More here.

Steven Pinker: The Lessons of Jewish Genes

Steven Pinker in The New Republic:

Pinker_4My grandparents were immigrants from Eastern Europe who owned a small necktie factory on the outskirts of Montreal. While visiting them one weekend, I found my grandfather on the factory floor, cutting shapes out of irregular stacks of cloth with a fabric saw. He explained that by carving up the remnants that were left over when the neckties had been cut out and stitching them together in places that didn’t show, he could get a few extra ties out of each sheet of cloth. I asked him why he was doing this himself rather than leaving it to his employees. He shrugged, tapped his forehead, and said, “Goyishe kop,” a term of condescension that literally means “gentile head.” 

He wasn’t exactly serious, but he wasn’t exactly not serious either. Jews have long had an ambivalent attitude toward their own intelligence, and toward their reputation for intelligence. There is an ethnic pride at the prevalence of Jews in occupations that reward brainpower. A droll e-mail called “New Words to Add to Your Jewish Vocabulary” includes “jewbiliation, N: pride in finding out that one’s favorite celebrity is Jewish” and “meinstein, N: My son, the genius.” Many Jews subscribe to a folk theory that attributes Jewish intelligence to what would have to be the weirdest example of sexual selection in the living world: that for generations in the shtetl, the brightest yeshiva boy was betrothed to the daughter of the richest man, thereby favoring the genes, if such genes there are, for Talmudic pilpul. 

But pride has always been haunted by fear that public acknowledge of Jewish achievement could fuel the perception of “Jewish domination” of institutions.

More here.

UPDATE: A couple of people have said that they are unable to access the full article, even though I am able to, and it is not marked as a premium article at TNR. I am also posting the whole thing in the comments to this post for the convenience of those who are having trouble, so click on “comments” if you have trouble at the TNR site. I hope TNR won’t mind.

Eurabian Tales

From the Economist:


THIS week George Bush was in Vienna, doing his best to mend relations with his allies. The list of disputes between the United States and Europe remains long and familiar: Guantánamo, Iraq, Iran, the common agricultural policy. Less easy for Mr Bush to talk about, let alone fix, is the equally long list of different attitudes from which so many transatlantic tensions seem to spring—opposing prejudices on everything from capitalism and religiosity to Mr Bush’s “war on terror”.

These underlying emotions—what a British historian, Sir Lewis Namier, once called “the music to which [political] ideas are a mere libretto”—occasionally converge around a particular issue, such as Guantánamo Bay or Hurricane Katrina. This can be unhelpful: Katrina made America look like a failed state, Guantánamo is not a typical example of American justice. Now a similar caricature—this time about Europe—is forming in America (see article). It is known as “Eurabia”, and it represents an ever-growing Muslim Europe-within-Europe—poor, unassimilated and hostile to the United States.

Two years ago, the White House’s favourite Arabist scholar, Bernard Lewis, gave a warning that Europe would turn Muslim by the end of this century, becoming “part of the Arab West, the Maghreb”. Now there is a plethora of books with titles like “While Europe Slept” and “Menace in Europe” (see article). Stagnant Europe, goes the standard argument, cannot offer immigrants jobs; appeasing Europe will not clamp down on Islamofascist extremism; secular Europe cannot deal with religiosity (in some cities, more people go to mosques each week than to churches). Europe needs to study America’s melting pot, where Muslims fare better.

Is Soccer Insufficiently Macho to Take Hold in the US?

In the Weekly Standard, a different take on soccer and American culture.

The good news is that it will take a near miracle for the U.S. squad to advance to the next round. That’s good because, truth be told, you and I don’t care and the rest of the world cares very, very much. An American loss in the World Cup is basically a requirement for international stability. Look how upset everyone got when we toppled a murderous dictator in Iraq. What would happen if America–not just America, but George Bush’s America!–won the World Cup? Panic? Riots? The upheaval of civilizations? It wouldn’t surprise me if Bush’s “pep talk” with Bruce Arena before the Czech game was really a veiled threat: “Hey, coach, good luck out there. If you win, the vice president wants to take you quail hunting.”

What would be particularly galling to the international community is that if we won the Cup, Americans would care about as much as they do when we win gold medals in the men’s biathlon or women’s downhill at the Olympics.

Why don’t we like soccer?…[T]here is one obstacle to soccer acceptance that seems insurmountable: the flop-‘n’-bawl.

Turn on a World Cup game, and within 15 minutes you’ll see a grown man fall to the ground, clutch his leg and writhe in agony after being tapped on the shoulder by an opposing player. Soccer players do this routinely in an attempt to get the referees to call foul. If the ref doesn’t immediately bite, the player gets up and moves along.

Making a show of your physical vulnerability runs counter to every impulse in American sports.

adam zagajewski


TS: I want to follow up this idea, because behind your intellectual presence—which is quite welcoming—I sometimes see a desire to provoke. Maybe this is overstating things slightly, but you seem to enjoy suggesting ideas which you can examine and retract later, if necessary, all the while taking the ideas very seriously. It’s not a game, necessarily, but you are reserving the right to revisit or reconfigure ideas. In the poems as well as in the prose. I wonder whether this ability itself stemmed from your study of philosophy, which allows the ability to keep ideas at a distance at which the thinker can walk around them, so to speak, and view them from different perspectives.

AZ: You never know. I don’t think it’s just from my studying philosophy; I think I belong to a family of minds that are hopelessly implicated in the quarrel between what Leo Strauss calls being “between Athens and Jerusalem.” I’m not claiming that it’s the best family of minds; I see it more as a kind of disaster—this impossibility of making a clear choice. It’s rather an aesthetic philosophy. Early on, I had this need to clarify something which cannot be clarified, or to be exposed to this wind of ideas, which clears your mind. But it’s basically anti-poetic, to a large extent. And at the same time, I had my moments of inspiration, and which drew me in a different direction.

more from the interview at AGNI.

The Inaugural Secret Society Podcast: An Interview With Jean Rohe

Over at Secret Society, Darcy Argue has begun podcasting with an interview with the musician Jean Rohe and will be interviewing other musicians in the future.

As promised, oh so long ago, the inaugural podcast is finally here. It features my interview with Jean Rohe, singer and recent New School graduate. (You may recall her graduation speech [the one that took on McCain at the New School Graduation]… ).

Of course, we talk about the New School incident and its aftermath, but we — eventually, I promise! — also get into Jean’s musical background, influences, and current activities. We listen to and talk about two songs from her current band’s book — “Hombre Triste,” her adaptation of a tune originally by Myk Freedman, and an original, “What Will We Tell Our Children?” — you can download the complete versions of those songs below. Jean also brought some recordings of music that has influenced her, and we chat about that as well.



Swooning hasn’t been a fashionable response to art for a century at least, and probably not since the Grand Tour, but if anyone could bring it back again today, it would be painter Howard Hodgkin. People become weak with pleasure before his luxurious oils. High minds unresistingly succumb. Of the two books published to accompany this show, one is an almost defensively passionate catalogue, the other a collection of rapturous encomia by writers such as Bruce Chatwin and Susan Sontag. Here, Hodgkin is favourably compared with Bonnard, Matisse and Vuillard on the one hand, and even more exorbitantly with Degas on the other. Which, if it means anything at all, only goes to show how love can impair one’s judgment.

more from The Observer here.

19th-century demigods


“A mixture of Yankee transcendentalism and New York rowdyism and, what must be surprising to both these elements, they here seem to fuse and combine with the most perfect harmony.” This is how scholar Charles Eliot Norton assessed Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass in 1855, and biographer Debby Applegate sees the same fruitful combination in her subject, Henry Ward Beecher, clergyman and orator extraordinaire. The comparison is not only apt (Beecher and Whitman were close contemporaries and fellow Brooklyn residents, and the poet much admired the preacher; both conveyed optimism toward the American experiment in language brimming with roving, restless energy), it’s also useful, serving to acquaint the reader with the nearly forgotten (Beecher) via the widely familiar (Whitman). Beecher was hugely popular, but was he, as Ms. Applegate suggests, “the most famous man in America”?

more from The NY Observer here.

Pakistan’s Other War

“Islamabad is already battling al-Qaeda. Now it’s facing an insurgency in Baluchistan.”

Tim McGirk in Time Magazine:

BalochistanHe’s 80 years old, but Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, a feudal lord in Pakistan’s rugged Baluchistan province, wants to fight to the death. A Kalashnikov rifle strapped to his back, Bugti travels by camel through desert ravines and hobbles up cliffs to hidden caves where he plots ways for his Baluch tribesmen to ambush the Pakistani army. “It’s better to die—as the Americans say—with your spurs on,” says Bugti. “Instead of a slow death in bed, I’d rather death come to me while I’m fighting for a purpose.” That purpose is to make life as difficult as possible for Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. Bugti is one of three Baluch tribal chiefs leading an armed uprising against Islamabad.

More here.

imperial watch

From Chowrangi:Empire

Kumuda kindly drew my attention to historians Eric Hobsbawm, Niall Ferguson, Priyamvada Gopal, Linda Colley and Robert Beckford’s appearence on BBC’s Start The Week. They were to be “examining how Britain and other countries around the world have been changed by their experience of empire…discussing whether Britain should apologise and make reparation for its imperial past or glory in it, and asking whether the twenty-first century will see the birth of new empires.” You can listen in on the above link.

The program is related to BBC’s This Spectred Isle: Empire – A 90 Part History of the British Empire. The TSI site has excellent profiles, maps, timelines etc. about the British Empire [def. some stuff to archive for class-material].

update: So…I finally listened to the show. Niall Ferguson gets it…exactly wrong” said Gopal [author of Literary Radicalism In India: Gender, Nation And The Transition To Independence] near the end of the show. Just about on everything, I might add. Ferguson starts off with arguing that World Cup Football would not be possible without the British Empire. Hobsbawn corrects him. And it goes, well, uphill from there. Ferguson’s shining moment could be when he asserted that the indigenous nationalist struggles, though well-meaning, got nothing done – and that the British Empire chose to give up their empire only because it was drained after fighting the Nazis.

More here.

Genetics Tool Inspires New Method for Dating Old Art

From Scientific American:Art_2

A molecular biologist has borrowed a technique from genetic science to date hand-printed art. The so-called print clock method, developed by Blair Hedges of Pennsylvania State University, could help historians and collectors pinpoint when thousands of undated, hand-printed materials were created.

Hedges, who does field work in the Carribbean and happens to collect old maps of the area, conceived of the method after noticing that later editions of the same maps had more line breaks. The flaws exist because printmakers often used the same wood blocks and metal plates for decades and those components deteriorated over time. He started thinking that the flaws were analogous to the mutations that occur in genetic material. Such mutations do not happen at evenly spaced intervals, but if you can find a lot of them, you can come up with an average rate at which the mutations occur over time. It’s called a molecular clock technique. “I’m used to using molecular clocks and counting mutations in genes,” Hedges says. “I thought maybe the same principle might apply to this case with prints.”

More here.

The Bandwidth of Sex

ChaitinI have been reading a fascinating book called Meta Math: The Quest for Omega by the well-known mathematician Gregory Chaitin. In it he describes his own (successful) efforts to take Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem a step further. Here is a very good review of the book by Jaron Lanier in American Scientist, and here is another, including a summary of the main ideas, in Scientific American.

The book has interesting takes on a lot of things, but I just want to adduce one as a small example of the sorts of brilliant things that Chaitin reports: as you know, human DNA is a digital information code composed of a sequence of four bases. This means that each base can be represented using two bits of information, and since the human genome has about 3 billion bases, this is equal to 6 gigabits. So you can think of your own genetic information as something that would easily fit on an Ipod Nano! Now the interesting thing is that you get half that information from your mother, and the other half from your father. But your father’s part of the information had to be transmitted to your mother through an act of sexual congress (unless you are a test tube baby), and given the amount of time it took him to “transmit,” you can calculate the bandwidth of the connection between your mom and dad. Here’s Chaitin:

Jacob Schwartz once surprised a computer science class by calculating the bandwith of human sexual intercourse, the rate of information transmission achieved in human lovemaking. I’m too much of a theoretician to care about the exact answer, which anyway depends on details like how you measure the amount of time that’s involved, but his class was impressed that the bandwidth that’s achieved is quite respectable! (p. 67)

There are many such fascinating asides in the book, which I recommend highly. Here is one last review by Marianne Freiberger in the Cambridge University Millenium Mathematics Project. Check it out.

3QD’s World Cup Analyst Alex Cooley: Anti-Americanism, An Ugly Blight on The Beautiful Game

[Alex writes] In between the borefests that constituted today’s offerings and the resolution of Team USA’s Group of Death tomorrow, I wanted to share some thoughts with 3QD readers about some of my more political interactions here in Germany, especially the noticeable tide of anti-Americanism that has been injected into the tournament by fans and the media.

Most comments are the typical “what do you Americans know about football?” or “I am certain you will never win a World Cup” or “you have no appreciation for the game..blah, blah.” Taking it from the other supporters is part of what the World Cup is all about and Yank supporters know how to take their licks (and also dish it out). But I have noticed that the level of anti-Americanism has definitely risen in this Cup and the tone of many comments has changed from just jibing to genuinely nasty.

Consider this particularly vicious little piece of work by Marina Hyde of the astonishingly patronizing Guardian. What was the purpose of this piece? Surely it was not to introduce US soccer fans as much as it was to project every imaginable European stereotype about Americans being militaristic simpletons onto a bunch of fans having a good time, before and after a football game. Notice that it includes no serious named quotes, bios or references to Sam’s Army, the official organization of US traveling supporters. In fact, Hyde could have asked a number of things but chose, instead, to ridicule, patronize and insult.

The American fans I talk to happen to be some of the most respectful, knowledgeable and informed in the world. Indeed, the maniacal US soccer fan can be an intellectually scary proposition for anyone – a sports nut who has developed a baseball-type statistical knowledge of the game and combined it with a passion for serious research and digital cable hook up to the Fox Soccer Channel. College-age Yanks drinking before a match??!! Shocking! I am sure that Hyde will similarly indict the chanting English, Ukrainian and Swedish supporters that she meets during her tournament coverage. US fans predicting that their team will win? How insulting to the rest of the world…that’s just outright hegemonic hubris!! The final insult of a delusional superpower.

Later in the column, we get the real motivator behind the attack as Hyde inserts the gratuitous:

Team USA had spent the two nights preceding the game at the local Ramstein airbase, along with the 55,000 US servicemen and -women stationed there (and possibly a few CIA guests on a brief stopover on their way to being disappeared into some shadowy eastern European prison with a relaxed approach to the Geneva Convention. You don’t like to ask).

Gee – was this something that she actually stumbled across at Rammstein? Since Hyde cares so much about secret CIA torture centers, then I assume she and her Guardian colleagues protest weekly outside all of the US bases (excuse me joint facilities) in East Anglia. No? Oh, ok, well then I’m sure she’s writing similar searing columns about all the European countries in the World Cup (Spain, Portugal, Italy, Poland etc.) that passively allowed these flights landing rights? But hey, why actually address Europe’s political passivity on a range of global issues when instead we can write a football column that makes Yanks look moronic and throws “CIA flights” into the mix?

But if we are going to mix the World Cup and politics then I would expect Hyde and the Guardian to indict every country in the tournament with a dodgy human rights record. Go on, seriously, take your pick – see what Human Rights Watch has to say about at least 28 of the 32 teams here (US included). Quality of life index? Development levels? How about we point out every corrupt and kleptocratic national FA in the tournament that just pockets their World Cup cash while the majority of their populations live in abject poverty; that would be a good humanitarian story with a lefty angle? Really, why not? In fact, making a political point about any country seems to be a taboo during this World Cup (which I really don’t mind) except when it is about the United States.

The point is that it is far EASIER for many Europeans to simply dismiss the United States and Yank fans rather than actually engage in a reasoned debate and pretend not to know everything about our team and culture. It is easy to paint the ugliest picture possible of a group of supporters who did nothing more than proudly follow their team during the greatest party in world sport, after standing toe-to-toe with a world football power. In fact, why even bother going to the match when you can just file a nasty, pre-determined narrative rather than learn something about the culture, history and passion of US soccer supporters. “Hilarious Maria darling, however did you survive those chants of U-S-A, U-S-A? How simply awwwful.”

The irony of the whole matter is that Eurosnobs and anti-America bashers have much in common with the type of Americans that openly dismiss the game back in the US. Both prefer to paint caricatures about people and cultures that they don’t know; both prefer to simply dismiss a movement that they don’t understand; and both would prefer that the US fail abysmally at the global game and remain an object of ridicule within and outside of the US.

At its core Anti-Americanism of the sort now regularly practiced and relished by much of the pompous European left exposes a remarkable lack of intellectual curiosity and just pure meanness. More than that, if you were to say any of these things or write a similar piece about any other country in this World Cup it would be rightly slammed as jingoistic and racist.