After the ritual post-11 September sympathy, a few European commentators dared ask: Do they realise how much they are hated? Well, now the US is throwing back the question. Forget about Osama bin Laden. The target of America's disdain is now Europe.
The European intellectual and political elites have long had a monopoly over transatlantic contempt; but the US is now matching insult for insult. And Europeans need to ask themselves: do we realise how much we are hated?
To be sure, the EU remains, as a bloc, the largest economic partner of the US. Nato still exists, in form at least. European companies are the largest direct investors in the US, and vice versa. However, the US is probably more irritated by Europe than it has been since the struggle over medium-range nuclear missiles in the '80s.
Chris Patten, the EU's commissioner for external affairs, despairs at the 'visceral contempt' he picks up among journalists and politicians in Washington DC. Among the conservative opinion-makers who set the tone of America's public debate, Europe is an insult, not an ally. Europeans are variously ineffectual, duplicitous, craven, lazy, hypocritical, patronising and, of course, anti-Semitic.
Americans may once have given Europe the benefit of the doubt, but the Europhobes have put the worst possible gloss on every recent event. The electoral success of Le Pen is an opportunity to demonstrate the bankruptcy of Europe's political establishment, as well as confirming France's underlying anti-Semitism; Sweden's GDP figures offer an occasion to trumpet the superiority of American-style capitalism; and a gun massacre in Germany shows the impotence of the European nanny state.
You think I am being over-sensitive? Read Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post: 'What we are seeing is pent-up anti-Semitism, the release - with Israel as the trigger - of a millennium-old urge that powerfully infected and shaped European history.'
So, why is Europe in America's bad books? George Bush senior's administration was populated by Atlanticists; Bill Clinton, out of policy-wonk curiosity, was interested in the north European model. The present president, who had hardly travelled outside the US before he entered politics, has no such ties.
Second, Bush junior has learned, from his father's defeat in 1992, that Americans vote, and foreigners do not. So he has shown a consistent tendency to favour Pennsylvania steelworkers and Midwest farmers over free trade.
Third, Europe does not get any respect. Its armed forces, for all their symbolic value, would have just got in the way in Afghanistan. While US productivity growth rebounds after a short recession, Europe's growth is anaemic. And European companies such as Vivendi, which had tried to storm the US market, no longer set much of an example of European business prowess.
Fourth, Europe is a natural punching bag for America's ascendant conservatives. They don't have New York or Massachusetts to beat up any more; European countries such as Sweden are the last bastion of woolly welfare-state social policy. And the American right has never met an international organisation - the EU included - that it did not hate.
Fifth, after 11 September, the US will not put its security at the mercy of multilateral decision-making. European countries such as the UK are appreciated while they go along with US plans; but US hawks are quick to jump on any sign of dissent.
Sixth, the US press and Congress are wildly more pro-Israel than are their European counterparts. Most Europeans would say their criticism of Israel springs from sympathy with the underdog. But it is almost too easy for pro-Israel commentators to undermine the credibility of the European stance: take Europe's dismal history of anti-Semitism, throw in a few synagogue attacks, conveniently forget that they have been perpetrated by Arab teenagers, and finish with a dinner-party remark by a French diplomat. American politicians have learned to avoid the wrath of the pro-Israel lobby; the European elites have not figured that one out yet.
And, finally, the US is tired of being patronised. Patrick Nielsen Hayden, an Anglophile editor, says: 'It's a deep-rooted given that Europe is in some meaningful sense older and wiser in the ways of the world. I no longer think that's true.'
People have been predicting the divergence of the US and Europe for decades: during the heyday of Euro-communism; during detente; during the arms build-up of the early '80s; and, then, after the common enemy fell apart. The present episode could be just as temporary.
But for now, the US is in a Howard Beale mood. He was the character in Network - a movie reflecting the frustration of the '70s - who yells: 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this any more!'