Anti-Americanism refers to the expression of strong disapproval for the government, culture, history, or people of the United States. The term is perhaps more commonly used by people who are labelling the views of their opponents, rather than by people who are describing their own position.
"Anti-Americanism" may carry different meanings in different regions of the world. Simply stated, "anti-Americanism" may be based in or related to anti-imperialism, anti-capitalism, anti-Christian-proselytizing, anti-secular, anti-American culture, anti-"Western decadence". But what some people see as "anti-American", others may see as unconnected with United States nationality.
The linguist and social critic Noam Chomsky claimed that "anti-Americanism" is a term of vanity-- that few societies in human history have ever had such a high opinion of themselves to warrant an "ism" to describe themselves -- and he compares the term "anti-Americanism" to the terms "anti-Sovietismism" and "anti-Roman," claiming that all were extremely powerful societies based more-or-less on concepts of control, and that such attitudes toward opposing views, came as a byproduct of power and the vanity that comes with power.
While mere opposition to American policies and attitudes in any or all of these categories, should not in itself be sufficient to constitute a label of "anti-Americanism," the political use of the term is heated and often violates any logical or reasonable limits to its use. The roots of the term "anti-American" come with the collapse of the Soviet Union as the US's arch-enemy--before which the term "communism" was enough to euphemistically describe anti-American sentiment. According to prevailing American sentiment, the Soviet Union epitomized a close connection between communism and propaganda and consequently, in the US the name "communism" grew to become the essential equivalent to "propaganda," or a "system of lies."
The end of the Soviet system of propaganda meant that any anti-US sentiment that was not Soviet or communist in origin came to the forefront-- and since sentiment cannot accurately be described as "propaganda" a new term-- "anti-Americanism"--was 'required' to debase foreign opposition. This was pronounced change of terms that attempted to adapt the prior American suspicion towards propaganda to a greater suspicion of a whole range of attitude and sentiment-- sentiment which may or may not be factually based.
Hence, the term "anti-American" is used to describe any sentiment, thought, act, concern -- from the terrorist attacks of September 11, to marching in a peace rally protesting US' use of military force, to the political disagreement of European citizens with US policies. "Anti-Americanism", for those who use it in political contexts, is sometimes no longer merely a term, but a disease for which any behaviour critical of any aspect of the US is simply a symptom. Consider this previous paragraph from an earlier edition of this article: