That this absurdity became the immediately accepted received wisdom suggests that the world (and not just the Muslim parts of it) must be very eager indeed to find a plausible excuse for casting America as a cartoon country whose heartland is dominated by bigoted know-nothings. Never mind that this is the same America which, only two years ago, was being hailed by ecstatic European liberals for having elected a black president, whose father and stepfather had been Muslims. I remember saying at the time that the victory of Barack Obama would provide only the most fleeting respite from the dominant anti-American mythology which is so essential to European self-regard.
But we are where we are. The failure to make any serious attempt to understand the United States and its political culture is now more than smug, stupid and cynical (although it is certainly all those things). The perverse ignorance which allows the British liberal establishment to caricature America’s obsessive concern with its constitutional integrity as simply a front for bigotry (note the BBC’s derisive treatment of the Tea Party movement) is beyond silly: it now presents a real threat to the common cause which the nations of the Enlightenment must make if they are to see their way through the present danger.