Marginalizing extremists, at home and abroad

The trouble with folks like Mark Steyn is that all their clamor about Europe being swept away in a tide of hostile immigrants obscures the very real problem of assimilating new arrivals. Steyn, for example, is absolutely correct that criminalizing Geert Wilders’ moronic proposal to ban the Koran is antithetical to the idea of a free society. But I can’t help thinking that these warnings would be a lot more credible if Steyn and his ilk hadn’t spent so much time making wrong-headed predictions about Europe’s imminent Islamist takeover.

As for Wilders, I do hope our European cousins realize that manufacturing free speech martyrs is not a very effective way to marginalize extremists. Wilders’ substantive views are so radical they’re almost self-refuting – strip away the persecution complex and vague allusions to “defending free speech” and the guy’s platform is proto-fascistic (Alex Massie’s apt distillation: “In other words, the only way to save the western liberal tradition is to kill it”).  Would Wilders survive without free publicity from being banned in Britain and his absurd prosecution in The Netherlands? I doubt it, if only because he would no longer be able to posture as some heroic protector of free speech. Instead, he’d be stuck explaining how banning religious texts is consistent with European liberty.

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39 thoughts on “Marginalizing extremists, at home and abroad

  1. Agreed on all counts. I can’t make up my mind what is more deplorable. The sky is falling concern trolling of Steyn, Kurtz and their ilk or the mind blowing idiocy of the speech and thought controls that the governments in Europe have in place. Christ on a pogostick, I know Hitler did a number to the continent but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t permit a Hitler loving imbecile to broadcast his imbecility for all to see.

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  2. “Free” societies do not have any obligation to anyone to be so “free” that they run the real (and it is real) risk of being extinguished. If a society has developed its freedoms out of its own blood, sweat, and tears (including both triumps and grave errors), as Europe has, it ought to respect itself enough to want to continue itself. Europe, in my opinion, erred when it loosened immigration policies and allowed so many Islamic people inside. The fact is that Christian and post-Christian Europe does not have the same values as Muslims do, and therefore it is perfectly reasonable for the two different value systems to live in different geographical locations and go about life in their own preferred ways.

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    • The concept of “values” as you use it here is so vague as to be meaningless. Furthermore, your argument completely ignores the way that European societies, for many years, were not “free” for Muslim immigrants [e.g. Turkish guest workers in Germany], and the fact that Muslims have proven themselves capable of peaceful participation in “free” societies both as a minority group [USA] and as the majority [Indonesia].
      In short, you can has better argument, please?

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      • It isn’t meaningless at all. Europeans concerned about this issue know precisely how their values differ from those of Muslims living in their countries. It isn’t necessary to define meticulously when people already understand the context. Perhaps you do not, but that doesn’t change the values equation one bit.

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        • “Europeans concerned about this issue know precisely how their values differ from those of Muslims living in their countries. ”

          No, they don’t. That’s why there’s conflict.

          The idea that a constellation of countries that were at each others throats until about 60 years ago share a vision that Muslims don’t and won’t possess is ludicrous.

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          • I’m about 3/4 through the Qur’an and all I can say is that I hope Muslims are as good as Christians when it comes to “re-interpreting” their scriptures. The language is very clear… the Qur’an poses an “us versus them” worldview. Non-Muslims are to submit or die.

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    • History Student suggests that Europe has developed its freedoms “out of its own blood, sweat and tears”. When did history start for this “student”, in 2005? In fact, in 1940, all of Europe was totally subjugated by Nazi Germany. Europe was liberated by the American, Canadian, British, and Soviet armies, with America providing most of the actual financial and physical resources. After the war, America rebuilt European industry and its economy through the Marshal Plan and provided critical and massively expensive military security. Europe repayed America by their wildly irresponsible behavior in using their surplus funds, derived from their “free” brand new industry and their lack of defense expenditures, to establish socialist governments which have created totally unsustainable social benefits which have resulted in very poor economic conditions and high unemployment conditions during the last 10 years. Where is this history student going to school, in Moscow?

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  3. Looking at Wilders’ “Ten Point Plan,” I am astounded at the lack of self-awareness that would lead one to believe that this:

    “2. Stop pretending that Islam is a religion. Islam is a totalitarian ideology. In other words, the right to religious freedom should not apply to Islam…..7. Have every member of a non-Western minority sign a legally binding contract of assimilation. 8. We need a binding pledge of allegiance in all Western countries.”

    is compatible with this

    “6. We need an European First Amendment to strengthen free speech.”

    Massie’s statement that “In other words, the only way to save the western liberal tradition is to kill it” is dead-on. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean a heck of a lot if it only applies to people and speech that Wilders likes (i.e., white people, a pledge of European allegiance).

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    • Word.

      The best tool that the “West” (and enlightenment culture, for that matter) has always had is decent stand-up.

      This is why the anemic response to The Satanic Verses and the Mohammed cartoons was so very infuriating. Instead of discussing the best ways we should tell Muslim Immigrants that “life sucks, wear a (redacted) helmet”, we’re discussing the importance of respecting other cultures.

      (I do suspect that had the response to Rushdie’s novel and the cartoons not been so godawful that these things wouldn’t have happened now… sow the wind, get the whirlwind.)

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        • This is why the argument of “free speech for me, but not for thee” strikes me as a hair disingenuous.

          When a guy wrote a book in England, there were some guys in Iran who said “we’re putting a price on his head”.

          The response to this was not “FREE SPEECH, YOU THEOCRATIC CENSORS!!!” but “well, to be sure, free speech is a concern, but you have to understand, certainly, other cultures need to be respected too, historically oppressed people, imperialism, racism, and other things”.

          This sounded like “free speech for thee, but not for me”.

          By the time that we get to the Mohammed cartoons, the pattern is well established. Instead of discussing freedom of speech, we’re discussing whether it’s smart to piss off a guy with an axe. To be sure, certainly, of course, you have to understand.

          If we set a precedent where we signal that we don’t *REALLY* care about freedom of speech, we shouldn’t be surprised when people internalize that particular sermon and start saying stuff that indicates that they don’t care about freedom of speech either.

          To start crowing about freedom of speech loudly at this point reminds one of Republican Lawmakers who clear their throats and start talking about the importance of fiscal responsibility and limited executive powers.

          It’s not that the principles they claim to hold aren’t worth holding. It’s not that at all.

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  4. First of all I like your phrase “wrong-headed predictions”. It does, of course, betray a certain basic understanding of the word “predictions”, but I supposed when someone (as many bloggers tend to) has a very specific world view, then any “predictions” that they don’t agree with must automatically qualify as “wrong-headed”.

    Just last week I tried to pound some sense into a friend of mine due to his “wrong-headed prediction” on the Patriots game. But he was too stupid to see my wisdom for what is was worth. Maybe I should start a blog.

    Also, if I didn’t know better, I would think from your post that Mr. Wilders was some fringe character in Holland. But perhaps your problem-solving ad hominem prose style works better when directed at one man with funny hair, rather than a Dutch electorate that recently ranked Mr. Wilders’ political party as tied for 1st in the country.

    And as for the presupposition that begins your post; the trouble with folks like Mark Steyn (in my wrong-headed opinion)…is that they are far too few these days.

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    • “And as for the presupposition that begins your post; the trouble with folks like Mark Steyn (in my wrong-headed opinion)…is that they are far too few these days.”

      Xenophobic, unqualified pundits are in surplus at the moment.

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      • True, Steyn is unqualified to be a pundit on most Mainstream Media outlets, if only because he hasn’t been bought or brainwashed…as that does seem to be a prerequisite these days. And from what I’ve read, he knows more about more cultures than most of his critics combined …but of course those who read him just smile and chuckle when they see his critics reflexively shout “xenophobe, islamophobe, racist…”.
        The left is a self perpetuating parody these days.

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  5. I am so glad to see this defense of “Free speech”. Good to know that the author of this blog supports my rights to call homosexuals and woman anything I wish. Obviously, I can also call moslems anything I wish, because my speech hating them deserves just as much protection as their speech hating everything Western or Liberal. Right?

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      • I appreciate your opinion and you are absolutely entitled to your opinions but still, the fascist argument with Wilders is preposterous. I accept your attempt to kill his political arguments with the classical sudden-death (if I might say so) ad-hominem attack that he is a (proto-) fascist. That is of course not even remotely true, you just have to look up his party’s political program, which is basically libertarian. And, if I might add, as a European myself, his arguments regarding the Muslim immigration to Europe are not so stupid either. I suppose it is a difference for people like you (please correct me if I am wrong) you visit the continent from time to time and stay infancy hotels or other nice places, or to grow up in the old industrial towns of Austria, as did.

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  6. I lived for a spell in old yurp and noted the great difficulty they have assimilating anyone new. I suspect the reason it’s easier in America- or, at least, the US has been much more successful at assimilating newcomers- is that there’s still some flexibility in the meaning of “American”. In most of Europe, they’re crushed under the weight of history. Being a member of the nation hasn’t changed much since King Al I did battle with the Roman Empire. One on hand, it’s great if you like history, being in places with such a strong historical sense. If you’re looking for a dynamic society, however, the right word for it might be sclerotic. Anything that kills the sense of propriety would likely be beneficial.

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  7. The problem with this blog post is not that it is incorrect. Geert Wilder’s calls for defending free speech through banning free speech are certainly illogical. The problem the post fails to recognise is that current assimilation problems have been caused by the multicultural set and oppurtunistic politicians who have failed to value their own languages and culture above that of Muslims. Allow immigrants of different cultures and encourage them to practice their religion. However, when their values come up against your own basic standards, their’s should never ever be given deference. Most importantly, never ever let physical violence pass without a strong decisive counter blow. If we Westerners had stood up for ourselves in the past-Rushdie, bourkas, riots, everyday street violence, publishing cartoons, allowing our own nut cases like Wilders speak their mind-none of this crap would still be happening. Now free speech is being challenged and the waters are getting murkier and murkier. Stand up for yourselves dammit and don’t be afraid of those weirdbeard bullies. They’re all closeted gays anyways.

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    • I don’t buy this. I mean my understanding is that the assimilation problems were precisely because Europe’s weakening but still present class system kept minorities, particularly Muslims discrete and fairly insular.

      I mean there are still certain Eastern Europeans that are merely tolerated in the hallowed halls of Western Civilization Europe.

      I could be totally off base here but it seems to me that in the space between feeling threatened by Muslim immigration and guilty for centuries of toolness, Europeans established an alienating distance that served more as an impediment to successful cultural integration than anything else.

      The telling thing to me is that America may not have universal health care but we’ll elect a female president or another minority one before a French Moroccan becomes President of France or a Turk becomes Chancellor of Germany.

      The problem wasn’t that Europe folded and bent over backwards to be hospitable hosts. The problem was that Europe bent over backwards to not deter immigrants but then never really attended to them.

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  8. “If we Westerners had stood up for ourselves in the past-Rushdie, bourkas, riots, everyday street violence, publishing cartoons, allowing our own nut cases like Wilders speak their mind-none of this crap would still be happening.”

    What constitutes free speech isn’t fixed within particular or immutable parameters, not even in the West. You presume unanimity is somehow achievable in a wildly disparate set of countries, most of which have had major restrictions on speech until very recently.

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  9. “What constitutes free speech isn’t fixed…” Well why not? Why isn`t it self evident? You can say what you want or not short of physical threats and defamation of character. And no, a relgion or a long dead prophet do not constitute characters. Descendents of colonists need to get over the past. They have done nothing wrong and their forbearers lived in tough times. We know better now, get over it and stand up for what’s right.

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    • ““What constitutes free speech isn’t fixed…” Well why not? Why isn`t it self evident? ”

      I don’t know… maybe because people are people? Why is defamation of character so offensive, or advocacy of violence, if said advocate is not committing violence themselves? You’ve imposed two very broad exceptions to a very broad concept. Does your version of free speech include the right to view or disseminate child pornography, snuff films, or bomb-making instructions? Because a lot of people wouldn’t find viewing child pornography to be a self-evident right. And I’m sure a number would.

      This very discussion exists because a singular concept of free speech is not self-evident or fixed. Why on earth would it suddenly become so?

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  10. Perhaps the only answer to Europe is the Koran. Today Europe is the poster child for the concept of “Freedom Without Responsibility” Islam might well bring a sense of order and civility that appears to be lacking.

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  11. Ah yes, those “wrong headed” projections. Problem is you don’t say yourself, or link to, anything demonstrating how they are “wrong headed”. The population projections are quite correct, but Steyn never claims Islamist majorities, only large, non-integrated populations demanded and getting increased compliance with Sharia and all things Islamic. At the moment, aside from the Islamist demands Britain complies with (like Sharia courts) we have the self imposed removal of “piggy” banks at financial institutions and separate swimming hours for Muslim women in public pools. Add to this the self imposed literary and artistic censorship (often out of fear of reprisal) and you apparently are one of those “nothing to see hear folks” pundits. You don’t get out much do you?

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  12. Oh, and we mustn’t talk about the honour killings, (aka balcony suicides in Sweden), forced marriages and female circumcisions, ‘youths’ in Paris burning cars and rioting over their alleged discrimination (apparently not bad enough to go home to their Islamic paradises). Nor can we talk about the killing and discrimination of Christians and other religions in Islamic countries. Muslims are not immigrants, they are invaders who have never integrate in any way to their new countries. Repeat, never. They cannot, the Koran forbids it and if you don’t know that conversing with you is pointless.

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