Stephen Miller defends the Trump administration forcefully and triumphantly in a hostile TV interview:
Are slavery and rape moral because “the Prophet Muhammad” said they are, or is “the Prophet Muhammad” immoral for saying so?
We think Muhammad’s teaching is immoral. We think it is profoundly evil. All of it. We think Muhammad (whether an historical or fictitious figure) is evil.
But Professor Jonathan Brown – Alwaleed bin Talal Chair of Islamic Civilization in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, and Director of the Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim Christian Understanding – thinks that since Muhammad was all for slavery and rape, they are ipso facto good.
This report comes from the Clarion Project, by Meira Svirsky:
A Georgetown professor of Islamic studies sent shockwaves through the academic and secular world for a lecture he gave essentially condoning Islamic slavery and nonconsensual sex (that’s academic for “rape”). …
In a lecture at the International Institute of Islamic Thought [founded by the Muslim Brotherhood] and in subsequent questions and answers following his talk, Georgetown Islamic Studies professor Jonathan Brown, a convert to Islam, declares:
It’s not immoral for one human to own another human.
He waxes poetic about the great life a slave has under sharia law (versus slavery under white men in the South) without actually defining that life. …
Brown says slavery itself is not problematic, since –
The Prophet of God [Mohammed] had slaves … There’s no denying that. Are you more morally mature than the Prophet of God? No you’re not.
The moral evil is extreme forms of deprivation of rights and extreme forms of control and extreme forms of exploitation. I don’t think it’s morally evil to own somebody because we own lots of people all around us, and we’re owned by people.
Brown mentions examples such as an employer and an employee, taking out a mortgage and even his own marriage, since his wife held certain rights over him. Somehow, the fact that one engages in these activities from his or her own free will and has the ability to terminate such relationships went over the professor’s head, or he chose to ignore them.
Brown tells his audience Islamic slavery was fundamentally better than slavery that was practiced in the U.S., since it was not racially motivated. How that makes it better is beyond my moral compass, but one can simply look at the well documented history of the Arab slave trade of Africans to dispute this.
Although many whites were enslaved by Arab Muslims as well, an estimated 10-20 million black Africans were enslaved between 650 and 1900 by Arab slave traders. Many of these slaves were forcibly castrated to serve as eunuchs that guarded the vast harems of female slaves belonging to the rulers. Black Muslim slaves still exist today, for example, in Mauritania and Sudan.
Black people suffer discrimination in Saudi Arabia, where slavery was only abolished in 1962.
The racial slur abeed, meaning slaves in Arabic, is still widely used to describe black people.
The professor then trots out academic moral relativism in two twisted points of erudition, saying:
There is no such thing as slavery, as a category, as a conceptual category that exists throughout space and time trans-historically.
Slavery cannot just be treated as a moral evil in and of itself because slavery doesn’t mean anything.
It takes a professor to say things that absurd!
As for the permissibility of sex with a slave, Brown says, “Consent isn’t necessary for lawful sex” and goes on to dig at the overrated concept of autonomy over one’s own body, saying our society is “obsessed with the idea of autonomy and consent”.
When asked if having nonconsensual sex with an enslaved woman – or any woman — is wrong, Brown asks if there is really any difference between a girl sold in a slave market in Istanbul and a poor baker’s daughter who marries a poor baker’s son out of lack of other options:
[The girl’s owner in Istanbul] by the way, might treat her badly, might treat her incredibly well … that baker’s son might treat her well. He might treat her horribly. The difference between these two people is not that big. We see it as enormous because we’re obsessed with the idea of autonomy and consent, would be my first response. It’s not a solution to the problem.I think it does help frame it.
“Frame it” or not, there is a world of difference between the two situations and a simple answer that consent is not a relativistic concept when we are talking about a raping of women would have sufficed.
The fact that a college professor can get away with such apologetic views on such serious moral issues surrounding Islamic thought – issues that entire populations who have been taken over by Islamic State are facing with horrific consequences – is truly staggering.
Daniel Greenfield comments at Front Page:
The International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), where [Professor Jonathan Brown] shared his alarming beliefs with students in attendance in his lecture, Islam and the Problem of Slavery … is an Islamist Brotherhood project. It’s utterly unsurprising that Brown expected a compliant and friendly audience there. Or that this would be the kind of material presented there.
IIIT is a prominent endorser of the book Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, an authoritative compendium of sharia written by an eminent 14th-century Islamic jurist. By IIIT’s reckoning, the English translation by Umdat al-Salik is “a valuable and important work” that is highly successful in “its aim to imbue the consciousness of the non-Arabic-speaking Muslim with a sound understanding of Sacred Law”.
According to Andrew McCarthy, Reliance denies freedom of conscience, explaining that “apostasy from Islam is a death-penalty offense”; contends that “a Muslim apostatizes not only by clearly renouncing Islam but by doing so implicitly” — such as by deviating from the consensus of Muslims, or making statements that could be “taken as insolence toward Allah or the prophet Mohammed”; approves a legal caste system in which “the rights and privileges of Muslims and men are superior to those of non-Muslims and women”; penalizes “extramarital fornication by stoning or scourging”; endorses the death penalty for homosexuals and for people who make interest-bearing loans; venerates jihad; and exhorts Muslims “to strive to establish an Islamic government, ruled by a caliph”.
So that is what we’re dealing with here. And the various promoters of it are complicit in it. Georgetown has been ground zero for Islamist apologetics. …
Brown argues that “slaves were well off under Islam. Better off than some people in America today”.
Oh, sure. Who could doubt it?
And of course correct judgment depends on what the meaning of “slavery” is; what the meaning of “rape” is.
Brown is using the standard intellectual tools of the left to legitimize the unacceptable. He deconstructs what slavery is. …
And this obsession with thinking of slavery as property it’s … I think that’s actually a really … odd … and … and … and unhelpful way to think about slavery, and it kind of gets you locked in this … way of thinking where, if you talk about ownership and people … that you’ve already transgressed some moral boundary that you can’t come back from. But I don’t think that’s true at all. Uh, … I’m trying to think about what slavery actually means, and to show that it doesn’t really … the term doesn’t really mean anything. Uh, that it … it that there’s … so many different phenomena that we would lump under this … the idea of someone who is a by-definition non-consensual sexual actor in the sense that they have been entered into a sexual relationship … in a position of servitude. That’s … sort of … ab initio wrong. The way I would respond to that is to say that … as … I mean this is just a fact. This isn’t a judgment, this is a fact, okay? For most of human history, human beings have not thought of consent as the essential feature of moral … of morally correct sexual activity. And second … we fetishize the idea of autonomy, to the extent that we forget … again, who’s really free? Are we really autonomous people? And what does autonomy mean?
We’re just so obsessed with autonomy that we think of rape as being wrong. But what does autonomy mean? Does anyone have free will? Let’s define free will before we condemn slavery and rape.
This is the sort of sophomoric garbage that Brown is peddling as justification for rape and slavery. It’s another symptom of how our society can now justify anything as long as it’s politically correct.
Slavery and rape are considered the worst modern evils. But play a little word game and suddenly Islamic rape and slavery are okay. Because they’re not really rape and slavery. Because who are we to say that autonomy even exists.
What brings an educated American to defend slavery and rape? What makes him take on a job in which he has perpetually to say what the Muslim Brotherhood will have him say? What was it about Islam that made him want to join it and “submit to Allah”?
How many others on the Left, having decided Islam is good, will go that far?
The Democrats are seriously considering electing a Muslim, Keith Ellison, to the chair of their National Committee.
As judges, they are fighting hard to let multitudes of Muslims into the US from the middle east.
At the same time they change the names of colleges because the old name was that of a slave-owner or supporter of slavery. (See here too.) And they punish male students for rape when they have not committed it.
Are they too deranged to know that this is insane? Or too evil to care?
One state honors Charles Darwin on the anniversary of his birthday.
The day of Darwin’s entry into the world was the beginning of the end for that fictitious character the Creator God. His dying is a long drawn out process, but from February 12, 1809, he was doomed.
The Marxist Left has nowhere to go. Wherever it has gained power it has failed, and it has no new ideas. Like a demented parrot it screeches words at the world outside its intellectual cage: “Racist!”, “Sexist!”, “Xenophobe!”, “White male privilege!”, “Global warming denier!” – as if they were statements complete in themselves and nothing needed to be added. They are subjects without predicates.
For a hundred years, 1917-2017, the enemy of liberty, reason, humanity, justice, civilization itself was the Marxist Left.
From the beginning of its era of implementation – the seizing of power in Russia by Vladimir Lenin and his Bolsheviks – to its fading with a cacophony of screeches when its American president, Barack Obama, stepped down from power, the Atrocious Ideology was fomented and imposed on nations by intellectuals who knew how to argue at a dinner table or a Stammtisch, in a classroom or a newspaper column, but had no understanding whatsoever of how most people lived or to what they aspired.
From the 1920s onwards, a majority of the intellectuals in the free Western world embraced the collectivist ideology of Marx and Lenin and called for the ruin of their own house. In the Anglosphere (e.g.), the writers who enthralled the reading classes – though they esteemed themselves artists and above politics – were almost all dedicated to the destruction of their warm, comfortable, beautifully appointed, endlessly entertaining, safe nursery. And they convinced untold millions that to smash it and everything in it was the nobly ideal thing to do.
To take just one of the noble destroyers who thought they would enjoy Communism, one who attracted, and continues to attract, devoted admirers, let us consider Virginia Woolf (1882-1941). She was not merely a typical member of that class, she was the leading light of it.
A revelatory portrait of her is to be found in an essay by the great British essayist, Theodore Dalrymple.
“Virginia Woolf,” he writes, “belonged by birth not merely to the upper middle classes but to the the elite of the intellectual elite”.
He concentrates his surgical analysis on one of her books in particular, Three Guineas.
It was about how women could prevent war.
Virginia Woolf’s name is not normally associated with great affairs of state, of course. Quite the reverse. She regarded them with a fastidious disgust, as a vulgar distraction from the true business of life: attendance to the finer nuances of one’s own emotional state. Along with the other members of the Bloomsbury group – that influential and endlessly chronicled little band of British aesthetes of which she was the moving spirit – she was dedicated to the proposition that beings as sensitive as they to the music of life ought not to be bound by gross social conventions , and that it was their duty (as well as their pleasure) to act solely upon the promptings of the sympathetic vibrations of their own souls. …
Despite its concern with war, the book is not a work of political philosophy or contemporary history:
No: it is a locus classicus of self-pity and victimhood as a genre in itself. In this it was certainly ahead of its time, and it deserves to be on the syllabus of every department of women’s studies at every third-rate establishment of higher education. …
The book is important because it is a naked statement of the worldview that is unstated and implicit in all of Virginia Woolf’s novels, most of which have achieved an iconic status in the republic of letters and in the humanities departments of the English speaking world, where they have influenced countless young people. The book, therefore, is a truly seminal text. In Three Guineas, Virginia Woolf lets us know without disguise what she really thinks: and what she thinks is by turns grandiose and trivial, resentful and fatuous. The book might be better titled: How to Be Privileged and Yet Feel Extremely Aggrieved. …
Her point about war is that it is waged by men, and men suppress women; and if instead they treated women as equals, there would be no more wars.
One might think that to descend from the aesthetic to the ideological plane would be distasteful for a woman of such languorous, highly strung, thoroughbred equine beauty as she; but under the influence of a general idea, Mrs. Woolf revealed herself to be a thoroughgoing philistine of the most revolutionary and destructive type, quite prepared to bring the temple crashing down about her ears, that her grudges might be paid back. Let my ego be satisfied, though civilization fall.
The temple of learning, that is. She had in mind one of the repositories of the riches of Western civilization – a Cambridge university college. A woman’s college. (A great achievement in itself as women’s colleges were only established at Oxford and Cambridge in the 1880s – in Virginia Woolf’s lifetime). She advises that it should be burnt down with all that it contains; all the books in its library consigned to the flames. The worthlessness, in her estimation, of all that accumulation of knowledge and wisdom in print on paper, suggests that she would be happiest if the whole venerable university were to be reduced to ashes.
Dalrymple quotes her:
And let the daughters of educated men dance round the fire and heap armful upon armful of dead leaves upon the flames. And let their mothers lean from the upper windows [before, presumably, being burnt to death] and cry “Let it blaze! Let it blaze! For we have done with this education!”
Virginia Woolf was consumed with bitter, contemptuous, snobbish distaste for everything that did not appeal to her exquisitely refined aesthetic sensibility. Form, appearance, was all to her. She expressed a low shallow anti-Semitism in passages describing, with revulsion and disgust, the appearance of Jewish men. Yet she married a Jew! (They had no children. Did she, like her character Mrs. Dalloway in the novel of that name, lie alone in a narrow bed?)
Food disgusted her too. She was revolted (again) by seeing through the window of a London tea room, well-dressed women eating cakes. They were fat. They obviously had rich husbands who paid for their cakes. Nauseating! Despicable! Thin-ness and sterility were aesthetic and moral ideals to her. Instinctively, her philosophy of life was based on anorexia.
Life was too messy, the world too unbeautiful for her. It was Jewish. It was fat. It was sexual, fertile, dirty. She sought water, drowned herself in the River Ouse near her country house in East Sussex. (The reason she gave in her suicide note was that she couldn’t face another attack of recurring insanity.)
Theodore Dalrymple describes the sort of academy that Virginia Woolf would have approved of. It is one with which we are all too familiar:
Mrs. Woolf’s ideal college … would be entirely nonjudgmental, even as to intellect. … Henceforth there is to be no testing of oneself against the best, with the possibility, even the likelihood, of failure: instead one is perpetually to immerse oneself in the tepid bath of self-esteem, mutual congratulation, and benevolence toward all.
And he concludes:
Had Mrs. Woolf survived to our own time … she would at least have had the satisfaction of observing that her cast of mind – shallow, dishonest, resentful, envious, snobbish, self-absorbed, trivial, philistine, and ultimately brutal – had triumphed among the elites of the Western world.
It triumphs chiefly now in the universities, where the diehards of the Marxist Left linger on beyond their time with that Atrocious Ideology of theirs, stale, dull, tragic, disproven.
1.This essay displays Virginia Woolf’s distaste for capitalism, and asserts that [her being above politics] what she desired was “a communism of the soul”. And the author quotes this from Woolf’s novel A Room of One’s Own: “Masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that experience of the mass is behind the single voice.” It is a notion that Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren would heartily endorse.
2. The Rage of Virginia Woolf in Our Culture, What’s Left Of It by Theodore Dalrymple, Ivan R. Dee, Chicago 2005
3. Mr. Virginia Woolf by John Gross, Commentary Dec.1. 2006: “It also seems clear that the marriage worked. Many things about it are mysterious. Did, for instance, the fact that it was sexless leave Leonard constantly frustrated, or did it in some way suit him? We are unlikely ever to learn the answer to such a question, and perhaps it is none of our business.”
4. Yet Mrs. Woolf was not wholly consistent in her distaste for food, pleasure, or even sex. She also wrote this: “I want to dance, laugh, eat pink cakes, yellow cakes, drink thin, sharp wine. Or an indecent story, now – I could relish that. The older one grows the more one likes indecency.” (From Monday and Tuesday by Virginia Woolf.) Perhaps that was an aberrant thought that occurred to her in one of her periods of madness (see Note 5).
5. Virginia Woolf wrote to her husband:
Dearest, I feel certain I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don’t think two people could have been happier till this terrible disease came. I can’t fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can’t even write this properly. I can’t read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that – everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer. I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been.
Virginia Woolf and her coterie were erudite, cultured, brilliant – but nevertheless a silly lot.
Here’s one of them recording his significant thoughts:
Without enthusiasm, we recall a very deficient and unqualified candidate for the US presidency, someone best forgotten named Hillary Clinton, because she said something that deserves to be laughed at in a video for the 2017 Makers Conference held this week at Rancho Palos Verdes, California:
Despite all the challenges we face, I remain convinced that, yes, the future is female. Just look at the amazing energy last month as women organized a march that galvanized millions of people all over our country and across the world. And remember, you are the heroes and history-makers, the glass-ceiling-breakers of the future. As I’ve said before, I’ll say again — never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world.
Putting all this together – here is a picture of the “female future”:
In this video taken in Saudi Arabia, a woman is publicly beheaded.
If any reader can understand and translate what she is shouting, please tell us what it is.
Chatham House, aka the Royal Institute of International Affairs (a British institution traditionally sympathetic to Leftism and globalism), has conducted a survey which shows decisively that a majority of Europeans do not want their Leftist globalist rulers to complete the abominable plan of dissolving all borders and letting the Muslim Third World overwhelm their continent and extinguish their civilization.
A majority of Europeans want a ban on immigration from Muslim-majority countries.
This is what Chatham House itself has to say about it:
President Donald Trump’s executive order to ban citizens of seven Muslim-majority states from entering the US for 90 days, and temporarily freeze all refugee arrivals (including Syrians indefinitely), has been interpreted widely as an attempt to curtail the inward migration of Muslims, which Trump and his supporters argue pose a threat to national security.
Trump’s policy has generated a backlash among some of Europe’s leaders. Angela Merkel’s spokesman said the chancellor had “explained” the Geneva Convention to the president in a phone call discussing the order, while London Mayor Sadiq Khan argued that the invitation to the president for a state visit to Britain in 2017 should be withdrawn until the ban is rescinded. Meanwhile, leaders of Europe’s populist right-wing parties, including Geert Wilders, Nigel Farage and Matteo Salvini, have heaped praise on Trump.
Amid these competing views, where do the public in European countries stand on the specific issue of Muslim immigration? There is evidence to suggest that both Trump and these radical right-wing parties reflect an underlying reservoir of public support.
The evidence does not “suggest”, it demonstrates.
Drawing on a unique, new Chatham House survey of more than 10,000 people from 10 European states, we can throw new light on what people think about migration from mainly Muslim countries. Our results are striking and sobering. They suggest that public opposition to any further migration from predominantly Muslim states is by no means confined to Trump’s electorate in the US but is fairly widespread.
In our survey, carried out before President Trump’s executive order was announced, respondents were given the following statement: ‘All further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped’. They were then asked to what extent did they agree or disagree with this statement.
Overall, across all 10 of the European countries an average of 55% agreed that all further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped, 25% neither agreed nor disagreed and 20% disagreed.
Majorities in all but two of the ten states agreed, ranging from 71% in Poland, 65% in Austria, 53% in Germany and 51% in Italy to 47% in the United Kingdom and 41% in Spain. In no country did the percentage that disagreed surpass 32%.
Public opposition to further migration from Muslim states is especially intense in Austria, Poland, Hungary, France and Belgium, despite these countries having very different sized resident Muslim populations. In each of these countries, at least 38% of the sample ‘strongly agreed’ with the statement. With the exception of Poland, these countries have either been at the centre of the refugee crisis or experienced terrorist attacks in recent years. It is also worth noting that in most of these states the radical right is, to varying degrees, entrenched as a political force and is looking to mobilize this angst over Islam into the ballot box, either at elections in 2017 or longer term.
What it means is that a Populist Revolution in Europe, encouraged by the election of Donald Trump in America, is gathering strength.
It is a real grass-roots resistance movement.
The question is, will it succeed through the ballot box in the general elections to be held this year? The Chatham House survey encourages optimism that it will, at least in some of the member-states of the European Union – and even partial success will hasten the end of that misconceived globalist enterprise.
But it may be too late for Europe to save itself from Islamization. The indigenous populations of the European states are rapidly declining, while the Muslim populations are growing through natural increase. To put it plainly, Muslims have children, Europeans don’t.
Unless there were to be an expulsion of all Muslim citizens of foreign origin from every European state, the continent will be a majority Muslim region well before the end of this century.
Would even Marine Le Pen, the French nationalist leader who stands a good chance of becoming president this year, undertake mass expulsion if she had the power to do so?
Though governments and the media try to play the issue down, it is a looming crisis that may swell into civil war.
(Continuing from the post immediately below, being a commentary on an article by Gwynn Guilford and Nikhil Sonnad at Quartz, about the political philosophy of Stephen K. Bannon, whom President Trump has appointed Chief Strategist.)
The authors write:
It’s important to note that “Judeo-Christian values” does not necessarily seem to require that all citizens believe in Christianity. Bannon doesn’t appear to want to undo the separation of church and state or freedom of religion enshrined in America’s constitution. After all, both of these are traditions that have led America to success in the past. What he believes is that the founding fathers built the nation based on a set of values that come from the Judeo-Christian tradition. …
But the values the founding fathers built the nation on did not come from “Judeo-Christian values”; they came from a revolution against Christian values – the Enlightenment.
True, “Nature’s God” is mentioned in The Declaration of Independence, which also declares that Men “are endowed by their Creator” with certain rights. But when one looks at the actual values that the Declaration and the Constitution enshrine, they are the values of the Enlightenment – individual freedom, self-determination, tolerance, responsible ownership, rationality, patriotism: not the values of any religion.
It is [in Bannon’s view] through … the primacy of the nation-state’s values and traditions — that America can drive a stake through the heart of the global, secular “establishment”.
In addition to enriching themselves and encouraging dependency among the poor, global elites also encourage immigrants to flood the US and drag down wages. Immigrant labor boosts the corporate profits of globalists and their cronies, who leave it to middle-class natives to educate, feed, and care for these foreigners. The atheistic, pluralist social order that has been allowed to flourish recoils at nationalism and patriotism, viewing them as intolerant and bigoted. …
Atheism has nothing whatever to do with it. Hundreds of thousands of the immigrants have been Muslims, and however secular the Left governments have been, they have demanded that the host nation treat the – extremely intolerant – newcomers with deference. But it is true that those who welcome the Muslims “recoil” at nationalism and patriotism.
[Bannon] pointed out that each of … three preceding crises had involved a great war, and those conflicts had increased in scope from the American Revolution through the Civil War to the Second World War. He expected a new and even bigger war as part of the current crisis, and he did not seem at all fazed by the prospect. …
War with whom?
Bannon is left searching for a major, existence-level enemy. Does the “Party of Davos” alone qualify? Who else could this war be fought against?
In the 2014 Vatican lecture, Bannon goes further. “I think we are in a crisis of the underpinnings of capitalism, and on top of that we’re now, I believe, at the beginning stages of a global war against Islamic fascism. … I believe you should take a very, very, very aggressive stance against radical Islam…. See what’s happening, and you will see we’re in a war of immense proportions.” …
We agree with Bannon about that too.
Bannon’s remarks and his affiliations with anti-Muslim activists like Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer leave the impression that the enemy might well be Islam in general.
Yes. And so it is. Islam has declared war on the West, and sooner or later the West must fight and win it.
[He] entertains the argument that Islam’s “war” against Christianity “originated almost from [Islam’s] inception.”
He endorses the view that, in the lead-up to World War II, Islam was a “much darker” force facing Europe than fascism.
It was as dark. And Turkey and most of the Arabs were allies of Hitler and Mussolini.
Other ideas he has supported include: a US nonprofit focused on promoting a favorable image of Muslims is a terrorist front …
If they mean Hamas-affiliated CAIR, which seems most probable, then again Bannon is right …
… the Islamic Society of Boston mosque was behind the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing …
It very likely was …
and Muslim-Americans are trying to supplant the US constitution with Shariah law.
… Bannon’s diatribes against the media brim with spite toward journalists’ arrogance, superiority, and naivety.
“Spite”? The media are spiteful. Say “anger” instead, and there are millions of us who share it with him.
… [R]ecently, he told the New York Times that the media “should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while”. He added: “I want you to quote this. The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.” …
Again, we agree.
In his 2014 Vatican speech, he says:
I could see this when I worked at Goldman Sachs — there are people in New York that feel closer to people in London and in Berlin than they do to people in Kansas and in Colorado, and they have more of this elite mentality that they’re going to dictate to everybody how the world’s going to be run. I will tell you that the working men and women of Europe and Asia and the United States and Latin America don’t believe that. They believe they know what’s best for how they will comport their lives.
And we think that is true.
But this cosmic avenger role Bannon seems to claim as voice-giver to the “forgotten” middle-classes hints at a deeper relish of conflict. … In particular, the aesthetic of his documentaries can be nauseatingly violent. Torchbearer is a tour de force of gore. (There are at least six separate shots of falling guillotines, as well as lingering footage of nuclear radiation victims, mass burials from Nazi gas chambers, and various ISIL atrocities.)
Events brought about by self-appointed elites and savage jihadis. Should they be ignored? Forgotten?
The authors then ask what all this means for the Trump presidency, and give us their answer:
Even before he took charge of Trump’s campaign, in Aug. 2016, Bannon’s philosophies pervaded its rhetoric. If there was any question about the role his views would play in the Trump administration, the last two weeks have made it clear: The president’s leadership hangs from the scaffolding of Bannon’s worldview.
Trump’s inaugural address was basically a telepromptered Bannon rant. Where inaugural speeches typically crackle with forward-looking optimism, Trump’s was freighted with anti-elite resentment. He described a Bannonistic vision in which the “wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world.” The “forgotten men and women of our country” — a meme that Trump claimed, but that appears in Generation Zero — had a cameo too.
Trump heaped blame on the “establishment,” which “protected itself” but not American citizens from financial ruin. “And while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land,” Trump continued. “We’ve made other countries rich, while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon.”
“America first” is Bannon’s economic nationalism in slogan form. Trump’s vow to “unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate from the face of the Earth” was a mellowed-out version of the West’s battle against “Islamic fascists.”
There’s more. Trump’s remarks that the “Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity,” that “most importantly, we will be protected by God,” and that children from both Detroit and Nebraska are “infused with the breath of life by the same almighty creator” seemed kind of bizarre coming from a not-very-religious man. …
We are glad of that.
Within days of the inauguration came the dizzying spurt of executive actions — written by Bannon and Stephen Miller, [another] White House policy advisor …
Now the authors, whose hostility to Bannon has been growing in clarity and force, openly show their antagonism to the Trump administration:
Bannon’s philosophy toward Islam seems likely to have influenced the order, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States”. Recalling that line about how immigrants are not “Jeffersonian democrats”, the document prescribes ensuring the allegiance to America’s “founding principles” and the US constitution of anyone admitted to the country, including tourists.
How is that an unreasonable requirement?
Trump also implied in a TV interview with the Christian Broadcast Network that he wanted to prioritize Christians refugees over Muslims, accusing the US government of favoring Muslim refugees over Christians in the past (a claim for which there’s no evidence).
That is an outrageous statement. The Christians of the Middle East have been, and are being, atrociously persecuted by Muslims, yet far more Muslims – who do not have any values in common with most Americans – have been let in enthusiastically by President Obama, while Christians, who do, and who need asylum far more urgently, have been admitted in far smaller numbers. They were deliberately excluded by Obama. See here and here.
Some argue (fairly convincingly) that Trump’s ban risks lending credence to ISIL recruitment propaganda claiming that the US is leading the West in a war on all of Islam.
And that is an absurd argument, not convincing in the least. ISIL/ISIS has been doing its atrocious deeds for years. Everyone knows it. It is long past time for it to be opposed, eliminated from the face of the earth – and all possible ways its operatives can enter America shut off. A banning order is common sense.
Another of the new administration’s focuses — the danger posed by Mexicans flooding over the border — is also a central theme of Bannon’s vision of America under siege. …
“America under siege”. Has Bannon made such a claim? Or Trump? A belief to that effect is attributed to President Trump by his opponents, but has he or Bannon ever actually said it? Anyway, the authors present some spurious arguments against Trump’s executive action which declares that “many” unauthorized immigrants “present a significant threat to national security and public safety” – something we all know to be true – and they back them up with reference to pronouncements made by “criminology and immigration experts”. The plain fact that “unauthorized immigrants” are in the United States illegally bypasses the authors’ consciousness.
Finally, Trump’s withdrawal of the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multilateral trade deal supported by what would count as the “elite”, includes a special shout-out to “the American worker”, the classic Bannon theme.
The TPP was a rotten project. It was supported by the “elite”. American workers have been overlooked and made poorer. Bannon is not the only observer to have noticed that and Trump did not need Bannon to point it out to him.
The possibility that many of these positions are right and good, and the fact that many people support Trump in espousing them, are not considered by Guilford and Sonnad.
Bannon savors the power of symbolism. That symbolic power infused Trump’s campaign, and now, apparently, his administration’s rhetoric. … So it’s possible that the narrative flowing through Trump’s inaugural address and executive actions is simply what Bannon has calibrated over time to rouse maximum populist fervor — and that it doesn’t reflect plans to upend America.
There’s also, however, the possibility that Bannon is steering Trump toward the “enlightened capitalist”, Judeo-Christian, nationalistic vision that he has come to believe America needs.
Which it is, we can’t know, of course: Only Bannon knows what Bannon really wants. What we do know for sure, though, is that a man who has … a deep desire for a violent resurgence of “Western civilization” now has the power to fulfill it.
A “violent resurgence” of something dubiously called “Western civilization”. Is that deplorable? Is there no such thing as Western civilization? Is it not under attack?
Is there some means other than violence to destroy ISIS?
Or to stop Iran from nuking the West as it plainly intends to do?
The mind-set, assumptions, prejudices, and obliviousness to stark dangers that Guilford and Sonnad manifest, illustrate the need for the vision shared by President Trump, Stephen Bannon, and Stephen Miller to be acted upon by all necessary means.
The defeated Democrats and their furious supporters of the fourth estate have not tried to find out what Donald Trump and his like-thinkers actually think. They accuse him and his supporters of being everything they consider vile. So it’s a welcome development if some journalists try to find out what he believes, what he stands for, what he aims at.
Two researchers, apparently already convinced that President Trump’s own ideas are not discoverable at present (a conviction stated with a hint that he doesn’t have any), studied instead his closest adviser, a man with a philosophical turn of mind, and investigated him through what he had said and done in the past. If there is to be such a thing as Trumpism, it would be formed by this thinker, they deduce.
The adviser is Stephen Bannon. His official position in the White House is Chief Strategist. Democrats use their whole vocabulary of five or six political insults to denigrate him: “bigot”, “racist”, “xenophobe”, “Islamophobe”, “Nazi” (a favorite screech by mobs who are increasingly Nazi-like), and even one label not always used as an insult by the Left – “anti-Semite”.
But the two researchers, Gwynn Guilford and Nikhil Sonnad, tried to find out what Bannon’s ideas really were. And they wrote an article about him, to be found at Quartz:
What does Donald Trump want for America? His supporters don’t know. His party doesn’t know. Even he doesn’t know.
If there is a political vision underlying Trumpism, however, the person to ask is not Trump. It’s his éminence grise, Stephen K. Bannon, the chief strategist of the Trump administration.
… Through a combination of luck (a fallen-through deal left him with a stake in a hit show called Seinfeld) and a knack for voicing outrage, Bannon remade himself as a minor luminary within the far edge of right-wing politics, writing and directing a slew of increasingly conservative documentaries.
“The far edge of right-wing politics” they say. So Bannon is on the “far right”? We conservatives only say that someone is on the “far right” if we mean someone like Mussolini, or the Black Hundreds, or Vlad the Impaler, or Genghis Khan. To us conservatives, Mr. Bannon does not sound or behave like any of them.
So now we expect that this article might not be a friendly portrait of its subject.
Bannon’s influence reached a new high in 2012 when he took over Breitbart News, an online news site, following the death of creator Andrew Breitbart. While at Breitbart, Bannon ran a popular talk radio call-in show and launched a flame-throwing assault on mainstream Republicans, embracing instead a fringe cast of ultra-conservative figures. Among them was Trump, a frequent guest of the show.
Trump “an ultra-conservative figure”? A lot of conservatives complained that he wasn’t conservative enough. Many insisted he wasn’t conservative at all.
And the question arises – why not examine what Trump said as a guest on that show? Is it not possible that something Trump said now and then influenced what Bannon thought?
They established a relationship that eventually led Bannon to mastermind Trump’s populist romp to the White House, culminating in his taking the administration’s most senior position (alongside the chief of staff, Reince Priebus).
“Populist”, we suspect, is a pejorative to the authors. And what of “romp”? What is a romp? A caper, a frolic, a bout of jolly play – nothing serious like standing for election as the president of the United States with a smart strategy for winning.
It’s impossible to know for sure what Bannon will do with his newfound power; he honors few interview requests lately, ours included. (The White House did not respond to our request to speak with Bannon.) But his time as a conservative filmmaker and head of Breitbart News reveals a grand theory of what America should be. Using the vast amount of Bannon’s own publicly available words — from his lectures, interviews, films and more — we can construct elements of the vision for America he hopes to realize in the era of Trump.
Bannon’s political philosophy boils down to three things that a Western country, and America in particular, needs to be successful: Capitalism, nationalism, and “Judeo-Christian values”. These are all deeply related, and essential.
We will be commenting on that below.
America, says Bannon, is suffering a “crisis of capitalism”. … Capitalism used to be all about moderation, an entrepreneurial American spirit, and respect for one’s fellow Christian man. In fact, in remarks delivered to the Vatican in 2014, Bannon says that this “enlightened capitalism” was the “underlying principle” that allowed the US to escape the “barbarism” of the 20th century.
Since this enlightened era, things have gradually gotten worse. (Hence the “crisis”.) The downward trend began with the 1960s and ’70s counterculture. “The baby boomers are the most spoiled, most self-centered, most narcissistic generation the country’s ever produced,” says Bannon in a 2011 interview.
Is there a good argument that he is wrong about this? If so, we would like to hear it.
He takes on this issue in more detail in Generation Zero, a 2010 documentary he wrote and directed. The film shows one interviewee after another laying out how the “capitalist system” was slowly undermined and destroyed by a generation of wealthy young kids who had their material needs taken care of by hardworking parents — whose values were shaped by the hardship of the Great Depression and World War II — only to cast off the American values that had created that wealth in the first place. This shift gave rise to socialist policies that encouraged dependency on the government, weakening capitalism.
Again, we would like to hear a refutation of that judgment.
Eventually, this socialist vision succeeded in infiltrating the very highest levels of institutional power in America.
It did indeed. It was in pursuit of a long-term plan of the New Left which its adherents called “the long march through the institutions“. Nothing fictitious about it. Not an invention of paranoid “far-right” conservatives but of the Italian Communist leader, Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937), eagerly taken up by the New Left in the late 1960s everywhere in the Western world.
“By the late 1990s, the left had taken over many of the institutions of power, meaning government, media, and academe,” says Peter Schweizer, a writer affiliated with Bannon’s Government Accountability Institute, a conservative think tank, in Generation Zero. “And it was from these places and positions of power that they were able to disrupt the system and implement a strategy that was designed to ultimately undermine the capitalist system.” …
Anything untrue there? Anything misleading? Not that we can see.
Underlying all of this is the philosophy of Edmund Burke, an influential 18th-century Irish political thinker whom Bannon occasionally references.
It figures that he would. Edmund Burke is generally considered one of the foremost philosophers of conservatism.
In Reflections on the Revolution in France, Burke presents his view that the basis of a successful society should not be abstract notions like human rights, social justice, or equality.
Indeed not. Those are the political obsessions of the contemporary Left: “human rights” for some by imposing obligations on others; “social justice” at the cost of justice itself which can only be applied to individuals; “equality” at the price of liberty, through tyrannical state enforcement.
Rather, societies work best when traditions that have been shown to work are passed from generation to generation. The baby boomers, Bannon says in a lecture given to the Liberty Restoration Foundation (LRF), failed to live up to that Burkean responsibility by abandoning the tried-and-true values of their parents (nationalism, modesty, patriarchy, religion) in favor of new abstractions (pluralism, sexuality, egalitarianism, secularism).
Now obviously we have a difference of opinion with both Burke and Bannon on one of their preferred values: religion. But it certainly was valued by Burke, and is valued by most American conservatives. (Burke had a Catholic mother and a Protestant father. He believed strongly in the importance of Christianity as the foundation of conservative politics. And Bannon is a Catholic.)
By “modesty” the authors mean chasteness. We gather that, because the authors name its opposite as “sexuality”. As sexuality is not a value, we have to understand it to imply “immodesty” or promiscuousness as one of the “new abstractions” opposed to Burkean conservatism.
By “pluralism”they can only mean multiculturalism and globalism.
By “egalitarianism” they mean socialism.
For both Burke and Bannon, failure to pass the torch results in social chaos.
Once in power, the liberal, secular, global-minded elite overhauled the institutions of democracy and capitalism to tighten its grip on power and the ability to enrich itself. The “party of Davos“, as Bannon long ago dubbed this clique, has warped capitalism’s institutions, depriving middle classes everywhere of the wealth they deserve.
Leaving aside that secularism does not interfere with democracy or distort capitalism, did that not happen? It did.
This pattern of exploitation came to a head in the 2008 global financial and economic crisis. Wall Street — enabled by fellow global elites in government — spun profits out of speculation instead of investing their wealth in domestic jobs and businesses. When the resulting bubble finally burst, the immoral government stuck hardworking American taxpayers with the bailout bill.
An incomplete description of what happened. The house-owning bubble was not caused by Wall Street; it was caused by Democratic governments insisting that financial institutions give mortgage loans to people who could not afford them. So yes, Wall Street was “enabled by global elites in government”.
This is the kind of thing that led Bannon to say in that 2011 LRF lecture that there is “socialism for the very wealthy”. The rest of the country, he says, is [sic] “common sense, practical, middle-class people”.
There is also “socialism for the very poor,” he adds. “We’ve built a welfare state that is completely and totally unsupportable, and now this is a crisis.”
Bannon wants all of this liberal-sponsored “socialism” to end. He celebrates CNBC host Rick Santelli’s famous 2009 tirade about “those who carry the water and those who drink the water”, which sparked what became the Tea Party, a populist movement focused on tax cuts, fiscal scrimping, and a narrow interpretation of constitutional rights. Channeling the spirit of the Tea Party, Bannon blames Republicans as much as Democrats for taking part in cronyism and corruption at the expense of middle class families.
What Guilford and Sonnad call “fiscal scrimping” we, like the Tea Party, call “fiscal responsibility”.
What they call “a narrow interpretation of constitutional rights”, we call “rights according to the Constitution”.
But, yes, there were Republicans as well as Democrats who took part in cronyism and corruption at the expense of the middle class.
So far, the authors’ attempt subtly to convey a portrait of a stuff-shirt bigot would convince only those who already think of conservatives as stuff-shirt bigots. But nothing that has been said (except to us the mention of religion as a good thing), actually puts a single black mark against Mr Bannon in conservative eyes.
“We don’t really believe there is a functional conservative party in this country and we certainly don’t think the Republican Party is that,” says Bannon in a 2013 panel in which he discusses Breitbart’s vision. “We tend to look at this imperial city of Washington, this boomtown, as they have two groups, or two parties, that represent the insiders’ commercial party, and that is a collection of insider deals, insider transactions and a budding aristocracy that has made this the wealthiest city in the country.”
In short, in Bannonism, the crisis of capitalism has led to socialism and the suffering of the middle class. And it has made it impossible for the current generation to bequeath a better future to its successors, to fulfill its Burkean duty.
So what exactly are these traditions that Americans are meant to pass along to future generations? In addition to “crisis of capitalism,” one of Bannon’s favorite terms is “Judeo-Christian values*.” This is the second element of his theory of America.
Generation Zero, Bannon’s 2010 documentary, has a lot to say about “American values”, and a lot of this matches closely the ideals of the Tea Party. But since 2013 or 2014, Bannon’s casual emphasis on American values has swelled to include a strong religious component. The successful functioning of America — and Western civilization in general — depends on capitalism, and capitalism depends on the presence of “Judeo-Christian values.” …
The article continues to discuss Bannon’s views on the connection between capitalism and “Judeo-Christian values” at some length. We’ll cut most of it out, but will also stress that our disagreement with Stepehen Bannon on this point in no way weakens our agreement with his historical analysis, his advocacy for capitalism, or his strong preference for nationalism over globalism.
In obstinate opposition to a universal assumption, we deny that there is any such thing as “Judeo-Christian values”. The values of Judaism and the values of Christianity are not only different, they are contradictory. (See our post, Against “Judeo-Christian values”, August 26, 2014.) The very fact that we agree with the rest of the Burke/Bannon political philosophy without being religious, disproves their contention that “Capitalism, nationalism, and Judeo-Christian values … are all deeply related, and essential”.
(To be continued)