Americans are doing a good job of misunderstanding Britain


A RESTAURANT critic for the New York Times informs us that, on returning to London after a ten-year absence, he was astonished to discover that the local restaurants have moved beyond “porridge and boiled mutton”. Robert Draper has been widely mocked for this nonsense. What next on his list of amazing discoveries? That kings can no longer behead people at will? That not all Britons live in castles? That suits of armour have fallen out of favour? But Mr Draper is not alone: I’ve noticed a recent surge in American-sourced gibberish about Britain. This rubbish is bipartisan: the left and the right are equally guilty. And it is driven by the same psychological force: the desire to project your own fears onto the convenient (English-speaking) canvas that is Britain. But the two sides project exactly the opposite fears onto Britain: the left argues that it is falling apart because it’s rejecting globalisation while the right worries that it’s falling apart because it’s too keen on globalisation.

The New York Times has run a series of articles on the evils of Brexit Britain. Britain is divided into two nations—a wealthy south and a Dickensian north. The country voted to leave the European Union out of a fit of racism-tinged nostalgia. Britain is no longer a “brave galleon, banners waving, trumpets blaring”, as Steven Erlanger wrote in his farewell to the country that had been his home for two long spells as a foreign correspondent. Instead, it is “a modest-sized ship on the global ocean”.

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