The climate of unreason 0

We often quote Melanie Phillips, chiefly her columns in the Spectator, because we often think she is right. We also admire and are grateful for her courageous writing against – among other controversial subjects – the Islamic conquest of Europe, most notably in her book Londonistan.

In her new book, The World Turned Upside Down: The Global Battle Over God, Truth, and Power, she  expresses opinions on religion and science that we  do not agree with, though we find quite a lot of other ideas in it that we like.

She writes of “the climate of unreason”. Unfortunately, with this book she is contributing to it.

Here is what she writes about ‘Islamism’  – a concept invented by non-Muslims to avoid offending Muslims, or their own sense of fairness, or both, when they’re speaking critically of what Muslims do and believe:

I have used the word “Islamist” to denote those who wish to impose Islam upon unbelievers and to extinguish individual freedom and human rights among Muslims. There are, however, scholars who hold that Islam is an inherently coercive ideology and that therefore “Islamist” is a meaningless word that creates a false distinction. It is not my purpose here to enter that particular argument. I use the term “Islamist” not to make a theological point but to allow for the acknowledgment of those Muslims who support freedom and human rights and who threaten no one – and who are themselves principal victims of the jihad. I believe it is very important to acknowledge the existence of such Muslims who have a peaceable interpretation of their religion, just as its is very important not to sanitize and thus misrepresent the doctrines and history of Islam as a religion of conquest.”

While we welcome her plain assertion that Islam is a religion of conquest, we can only wonder who these Muslims can be who embrace the religion but not its ideology of conquest and forced submission, since that is what it is about and all that it is about.

She goes on:

The book explores the remarkable links and correspondences between left-wing “progressives” and Islamists, environmentalists and fascists, militant atheists and fanatical religious believers. All are united by the common desire to bring about through human agency the perfection of the world, an agenda which history teaches us leads invariably – and paradoxically – to tyranny, terror and crimes against humanity.

Again we are largely  in agreement with her, but are surprised by the inclusion of atheists in her list. “Militant” atheists, she says. Perhaps on the model of “Islamists” she could have constructed the word “atheism-ists” to distinguish them from those atheists “who support freedom and human rights and who threaten no one”.

Who are these militant atheists? Where are they placing their bombs? We know that there are atheist progressives, atheist fascists, and atheist environmentalists (just as there are atheist conservatives, atheist libertarians, atheists altruists), but we had not noticed that it is atheism they are trying to impose on the rest of the world. Collectivism, yes. Poverty, yes. World government, yes. But atheism – who says so, when and where, and above all, how? Her book, though it deals with some left-wing atheists whose political views we strongly disagree with, does not tell us.

Suicide, not murder 1

In a must-read article, Mark Steyn writes in the National Review about the possibility of American decline, pointing out that it is a matter of choice, and that the Democrats now in power are offering that choice. Here are some paragraphs:

Permanence is an illusion – and you would be surprised at how fast mighty nations can be entirely transformed. But, more importantly, national decline is psychological – and therefore what matters is accepting the psychology of decline. Within two generations, for example, the German people became just as obnoxiously pacifist as they once were obnoxiously militarist, and as avowedly “European” as they once were menacingly nationalist. Well, who can blame ‘em? You’d hardly be receptive to pitches for national greatness after half-a-century of Kaiser Bill, Weimar, the Third Reich, and the Holocaust.

But what are we to make of the British? They were on the right side of all the great conflicts of the last century; and they have been, in the scales of history, a force for good in the world. Even as their colonies advanced to independence, they retained the English language, and English legal system, not to mention cricket and all kinds of other cultural ties. Even in imperial retreat, there is no rational basis for late 20th century Britain’s conclusion that it had no future other than as an outlying province of a centralized Euro nanny state dominated by nations whose political, legal and cultural traditions are entirely alien to its own. The embrace of such an alien fate is a psychological condition, not an economic one.

Is America set for decline? It’s been a grand run. The country’s been the leading economic power since it overtook Britain in the 1880s. That’s impressive. Nevertheless, over the course of that century and a quarter, Detroit went from the world’s industrial powerhouse to an urban wasteland, and the once golden state of California atrophied into a land of government run by the government for the government. What happens when the policies that brought ruin to Detroit and sclerosis to California became the basis for the nation at large? Strictly on the numbers, the United States is in the express lane to Declinistan: Unsustainable entitlements, the remorseless governmentalization of the American economy and individual liberty, and a centralization of power that will cripple a nation of this size. Decline is the way to bet. But what will ensure it is if the American people accept decline as a price worth paying for European social democracy.

Is that so hard to imagine? Every time I retail the latest indignity imposed upon the “citizen” by some or other Continental apparatchik, I receive e-mails from the heartland pointing out, with much reference to the Second Amendment, that it couldn’t happen here because Americans aren’t Euro-weenies. But nor were Euro-weenies once upon a time. Hayek’s greatest insight in The Road To Serfdom is psychological: “There is one aspect of the change in moral values brought about by the advance of collectivism which at the present time provides special food for thought,” he wrote with an immigrant’s eye on the Britain of 1944. “It is that the virtues which are held less and less in esteem and which consequently become rarer are precisely those on which the British people justly prided themselves and in which they were generally agreed to excel.

The virtues possessed by Anglo-Saxons in a higher degree than most other people, excepting only a few of the smaller nations, like the Swiss and the Dutch, were independence and self-reliance, individual initiative and local responsibility, the successful reliance on voluntary activity, non-interference with one’s neighbor and tolerance of the different and queer, respect for custom and tradition, and a healthy suspicion of power and authority.” Two-thirds of a century on, almost every item on the list has been abandoned, from “independence and self-reliance” (40 per cent of people receive state handouts) to “a healthy suspicion of power and authority” – the reflex response now to almost any passing inconvenience is to demand the government “do something”, the cost to individual liberty be damned. American exceptionalism would have to be awfully exceptional to suffer a similar expansion of government and not witness, in enough of the populace, the same descent into dependency and fatalism. As Europe demonstrates, a determined state can change the character of a people in the space of a generation or two. Look at what the Great Society did to the black family and imagine it applied to the general population: That’s what happened in Britain…

One sympathizes with Americans weary of global responsibilities that they, unlike the European empires, never sought. The United States now spends more on its military than the next 40 or so nations combined. In research and development, it spends more than the rest of the planet put together. Yet in two rinky-dink no-account semi-colonial policing campaigns, it doesn’t feel like that, does it? A lot of bucks, but not much of a bang. You can understand why the entire left and an increasing chunk of the right would rather vote for a quiet life. But that’s not an option. The first victims of American retreat will be the many corners of the world that have benefitted from an unusually benign hegemon. But the consequences of retreat will come home, too. In a more dangerous world, American decline will be steeper, faster and more devastating than Britain’s – and something far closer to Rome’s.

In the modern era, the two halves of “the west” form a mirror image. “The Old World” has thousand-year old churches and medieval street plans and ancient hedgerows, but has been distressingly susceptible to every insane political fad from Communism to Fascism to European Union. “The New World” has a superficial novelty – you can have your macchiato tweeted directly to your iPod – but underneath the surface noise it has remained truer to older political ideas than “the Old World” ever has. Economic dynamism and political continuity seem far more central to America’s sense of itself than they are to most nations. Which is why it’s easier to contemplate Spain or Germany as a backwater than America. In a fundamental sense, an America in eclipse would no longer be America.

But, as Charles Krauthammer said recently, “decline is a choice.” The Democrats are offering it to the American people, and a certain proportion of them seem minded to accept. Enough to make decline inevitable? … In the words of [the seldom so insightful historian] Arnold Toynbee: “Civilizations die from suicide, not from murder.”

Intolerance of the intolerant 14

Tom Pinney – 1st year History Student at University of York – writes of the UAF’s questionable attack on the thoroughly despicable Nick Griffin, the recently elected BNP leader:

It has been a sad week in British politics. The British people have elected two members of the British National Party (BNP) to European Parliament and I am personally appalled. However, not only am I appalled that just under a million British people voted for a party which has as clearly racist agenda, but also the actions of the Unite Against Fascism (UAF) group.

On Tuesday, while giving a press conference outside Parliament, BNP leader Griffin was pelted with eggs and forced to abandon the event. “Exactly what the leader of a fascist organisation deserves,” I hear you cry. And you would be right; however the reasons the UAF gave for their actions were a little, to say the least, suspect.

In an interview with the BBC, a spokesperson for the UAF claimed that the “[UAF] doesn’t believe in free speech for fascists.” As far as I’m concerned, denying anyone a platform, particularly a democratically elected representative of this country no matter what their views, is abhorrent and is reminiscent of BNP policies themselves. By giving these fascists a platform they will be exposed as the immoral, racist autocrats they are. The UAF’s opposition to freedom of speech is an insult to the population of Britain, who deserve the right to decide what they want to hear and to whom they want to listen.

Attacking these people plays into their hands, turns them into martyrs for their cause and makes them into the victim. As the BBC interviewer pointed out, Nick Griffin advocates non-violence. Now I don’t believe for a second this to be true; however using violence and aggression to push through your opinion is a method best left to be employed by extremists who lack the intelligence to engage their political opponents in open discussion. The only way to beat extremism in all its forms is free speech and an open platform for all. As Nick Griffin is often quoted as saying: “Power is the product of force and will, not of rational debate.” Wouldn’t it be ironic, if these adamant anti-fascists end up becoming their own worst nightmare – forcing their own views down people’s throats, all for the ostensible good of the country.

Posted under Uncategorized by on Thursday, June 11, 2009

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America’s Mussolini 3

One of our readers, A.G.S., sent us an idea he had for an article comparing America now to the early days of Mussolini’s Italy. The thought came to him, he wrote, when he read Mario and the Magician by Thomas Mann. He outlined the article he had in mind and asked me [JB] if I would complete it. At first I was a little skeptical; I felt he was exaggerating. But the more I thought about it, the more I found myself in agreement with him. The following is the result of our collaboration.

*** 

In his famous story Mario and the Magician, Thomas Mann demonstrates how fascism under Mussolini corrupted the Italian populace. At the start of his regime a general feeling spread among the Italians that it was right to impose conformity, and society was gripped by a mood of collective censoriousness. In the story, set in an Italian holiday resort, a child takes off her bathing suit to wash the sand out of it in the sea, and her momentary nudity arouses the wrath of the crowd on the beach, the police are informed and the child’s family is fined. The story as a whole is about the destruction of individual will during an evening’s entertainment by an evil hypnotist. The allegorical implications are unmistakeable.

As in Italy then, an atmosphere of authoritarian regulation is spreading in the US now. There is a powerful demand, emanating from the president and his circle, for mental and physical conformity.

Proofs of this intent abound. Group action and community involvement are encouraged, with the aim of inducing non-conformists to fall in line. The Department of Homeland Security issues a memo warning that persons who have a political point of view different from the present federal government majority are a threat to society. Anyone challenging the theory of anthropogenic global warming, which the Democrats in power have embraced as an orthodoxy, is denounced as a heretic. In the cause of mitigating the projected undesirable effects of climate change, the government proposes to dictate what sources of energy you may use and to what extent.  It will regulate the temperature of your house, the clothes you may wear, the food you may eat, and the car you may drive. In sickness and infirmity your body will be treated as the government decides when its nationalized health policy is imposed. Government will decree what opinions you may express on talk radio, in the universities and schools, and soon in any public forum. By ‘spreading the wealth around’ it will set a limit to how high any individual may rise by his own efforts.  Government will rule on how much business managers may be paid and under what union-dictated terms an employee may work.

When conformity is legislated and imposed by force, dissent criminalized and punished, authoritarianism has become tyranny. 

Obama is the Mussolini of America.

Liberal Fascism 0

A book we strongly recommend is "Liberal Fascism" by Jonah Goldberg.

Goldberg states firmly and truly: "Fascism, properly understood, is not a phenomenon of the right … it is, and always has been a phenomenon of the left. This fact – an inconvenient truth if ever there was one – is obscured in our time by the equally mistaken belief that fascism and communism are opposites.. In reality… in terms of their theory and practice, the differences are minimal."

And if that comes as a surprise to some readers, this further truth will probably surprise them even more: "American Progressivism – the moralistic social crusade from which modern liberals proudly claim descent – is in some respects the major source of the fascist ideas applied in Europe by Hitler and Mussolini." And: "Modern liberalism is the offspring of twentieth-century progressivism, which in turn shares intellectual roots with European fascism."

The book is crammed with evidence for these contentions.

Goldberg draws the right distinction between  classical liberalism (free-market liberalism, individualism) and statist liberalism, the would-be totalitarianism that "views  everything as political and holds that any action by the state is justified to achieve the common good [and] takes responsibility for all aspects of life, including our health and well-being, and seeks to impose uniformity of thought and action."  This is the liberalism of political correctness, of bans on drinking and smoking, of prescribing what and how much we should eat. It is the liberalism, or more accurately the fascism of Al Gore and the other Man-Made Global Warming fanatics who would change our way of life to something austere and miserable in the name of a higher good; and of "Hillary Clinton and her friends – the leading proponents and exemplars of liberal fascism in our time", to whom an entire chapter is devoted, and whose universal health-care proposal is a perfect example of tyranny in the name of the general good. 

Of course American liberalism, he concedes, is not intended to be a brutal but a "nice" totalitarianism, "nannying, not bullying".  But it is "definitely totalitarian in that liberalism today sees no realm of human life that is beyond political significance."

The author rightly traces all modern totalitarian regimes back to Rousseau and the French Revolution. But totalitarianism did not begin there. He stresses that statism is often presented and welcomed as an alternative religion. What he neglects to mention is that the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages was as cruelly totalitarian as it could get, and so were branches of Protestantism where and when they had the power to be so.

Posted under Uncategorized by Jillian Becker on Thursday, May 8, 2008

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