Category Archives: Fall of Rome/Europe

How not to Respond to Intimidation: Britain Afraid to Fly its Flag

(Hat tip LGF)

An astounding news item that illustrates well how bad it can get.

England afraid to fly its own flag

Following threats by extremist Islamic group, several corporations, chain of pubs ban England flag
Modi Kreitman

Following warnings by extremist Islamic group al-Muhajiroun, in which the group said that the red cross in the England flag symbolizes the ‘blood thirsty crusaders’ and the occupation of Muslims, some of the largest companies in England have ordered their workers not to wave the flags.

The flag has recently appeared in England on everything from bikinis to cars, and sold in endless versions in stores.

But the Islamic protest forced some corporations, such as cable companies NTL, Heathrow airport in London, and even the Drivers and Vehicles Licensing Agency to ban the flag in every form due to fears from reactions of Muslims.

The Sun tabloid newspaper has in recent days launched a campaign to bring back the flag, and has published a blacklist of companies preventing their workers from expressing their patriotism at work.

The Sun said that a large pub network has banned drinkers from entering with symbols of the national team.

The hero of the day is a two year-old toddler, who was thrown out with his parents from Leicester, because he wore the England team’s uniform.

(06.04.06, 16:31)

I have no independent corroboration, but this looks real. There were already problems with St. George’s Cross back in October 2005, at the same time as the Brits paid the “courtesy” to their sensitive Muslims of banning piggy banks and coffee mugs with Piglet on them in various “public” and corporate venues, a move that inspired Sandmonkey to a post entitled, “When did British start meaning Retarded?.”

What Sandmonkey, in his own inimitable way was trying to say was, “you Brits are being faced down by people who are playing with you. These are outrageous demands and you’re taking them seriously. This is manufactured grievance and you’re showing you’ve been psyched. In short, you’ve lost face.”

Oh boy. England is (and therefore we, the West are) in deep trouble. Like the Frantifada, the Danish Cartoon scandal was a territorial claim by intimidation. Go there and we riot. And like any good salami tactics, as the French say, “l’appétit vient en mangeant” [appetite grows with eating].

Note, the Brits are not the only ones under pressure. Of course, the Danes must be made to suffer for their insufferable cross; and the Hamas government wants the Israelis to change their flag, since their two blue stripes designate, in Arab conspiracist lore, the Nile and the Euphrates, the “true” goal of Israeli imperial ambitions.

Will the English wake up now? Or will they be, as the response of their corporate entities until now suggests… too polite? To cite Archie in Fish Called Wanda,

Wanda, do you have any idea what it’s like being English? Being so correct all the time, being so stifled by this dread of, of doing the wrong thing, of saying to someone “Are you married?” and hearing “My wife left me this morning,” or saying, uh, “Do you have children?” and being told they all burned to death on Wednesday. You see, Wanda, we’ll all terrified of embarrassment. That’s why we’re so… dead. Most of my friends are dead, you know, we have these piles of corpses to dinner.

Under current conditions, such an attitude means more or less: “I’d rather die, than die of embarrassment.”

Come alive! Respond robustly! The joke’s gone on long enough!

(PS: You’re embarrassing yourselves.)

Are We Waking Up Yet? Bower on Eurabia

I spent a depressingly realistic evening with Arnold and Frimit Roth, parents of Malki, a fourteen-year-old girl blown up in the Sbarro Pizza bombing of the summer of 2001. Among the issues discussed was whether Europe would wake up before it was too late. He was not optimistic to say the least, and unlike me, whose contact is largely with friends, colleagues and taxi-drivers, he’s spent time with European political and administrative figures. I hope he will share some of his experiences with us at The Augean Stables.

In the meantime, at the end of the evening I decided to start a new category: Are We Waking Up Yet? to track the process of people — American intellectuals as well as Europeans — waking up to the threat that hangs over us all. Among the ways of conceptualizing this, I recount a conversation I’ll keep anonymous. I suggested to a colleague who wanted to do some innovative conferences on the Middle East, that we do one on Bat-Ye’or’s book Eurabia, exploring the thesis, critiquing its claims, and evaluating its validity. From my point of view this seemed like a no-brainer: provocative thesis which, even if only partially correct, represents an issue of immense importance and urgency, serious academic discussion, including experts in demography, international relations, religious history, sociology, anthropology, to explore and critique… what could be more appropriate for a responsible academia to do for the society that both sustains it and should be able to turn to it for timely and well-considered opinions?

His response suprised me (although it shouldn’t have). “Absolutely not. If we do something on Eurabia, that would completely discredit us. We can do something on the problem of Islam in Europe, but we can’t call it Eurabia. That would be the kiss of death in current academic circles.”

Now the person speaking here is not at all an idiotarian. On the contrary, his writings on the Middle East represent some of the most hard-hitting and incisive I’ve read. But he knows the academic scene… better than I, a medievalist who has just begun to poach on the fields of contemporary history and political ‘science’.

So as an introduction to the question: “Are We Waking Up Yet?” I’d like to ask the following question: “Will academia address the phenomenon of Eurabia before it becomes a reality?”

To that end, I draw your attention to an excellent essay by Bruce Bower, “The Crisis of Europe,” published by the Hudson Review. (See The Belmont Club, which has its own excellent discussion of the article.)

It begins with a autobiographical statement that struck me with particular force.

My learning curve was steep. When I look back, it’s as if one day the whole business wasn’t even on my radar screen, and the next day I understood that it was the most important issue of our time.

It happened in Amsterdam, a city I flipped for in 1997 and moved to a year later.1 But it wasn’t till 1999, when I lived briefly in a predominantly Muslim neighborhood, that I took in the fact that the city was divided into two radically different and almost entirely separate communities. One of them, composed mostly of ethnic Dutchmen, was secular, liberal, and (owing to a very low birthrate) dwindling steadily; the other, composed of immigrant Muslims, lived in tradition-bound, self-segregating enclaves whose autocratic leaders despised democracy and whose population (thanks to high birth and immigration rates) was climbing rapidly. This division, I soon realized, was replicated across Western Europe. Clearly, major social friction—and more—lay down the line.

Yet nobody talked about it. Or wanted to.

The entire article is worth reading, as well as the footnotes. But below I quote the discussion of Bat-Ye’or’s Eurabia because it raises precisely the issues that academics should be discussing and are not.

Genealogy of the Blogosphere: Swedish Example

It has been my contention since I first encountered the world wide web in the early 1990s that it represented the equivalent for the late 20th and 21st centuries what the printing press did for the late 15th and 16th centuries, along the lines of analysis first articulated by Marshall McLuhan in The Gutenberg Galaxy and laid out in great historical detail by Elizabeth Eisenstein in The Printing Press as a Agent of Change. And when I discovered the emergence of the blogosphere in the first years of the aughts (00′s), I felt like I was looking at a detailed expression of the process.

Among my working hypotheses on the origins of the blogosphere as a political force, concerns the frustration that people felt with the inadequacy of the MSM coverage of events they knew something about, and the MSM’s reluctance to publish serious criticism. Many a blog, I imagined, arose from people’s anger at not getting their letters to the editor published, something that Harry Forbes confirmed at our last blogger’s meeting.

Now, from a Swedish blogger we get another confirmation of this problem, one that links the issue to the way the media has handled the Arab-Israeli conflict after the outbreak of the Second Intifada in October 2000 (the main focus, so far, of The Second Draft). In a chapter of a long essay on the Swedish media’s handling of the conflict, this blogger writes in “Media critics complaints go bloggers” how the pervasive bias of the media for the Palestinians and against Israel (what we call the PCP), seconded by the protective layer of “officials” who are supposed to supervise the media (a phenomenon fully visible in the Al Durah affair), drove him and others to blogging.

And so the bloggers arrive on the scene. A blog like this is described as a weblog (blog is an abbreviation of web-log) where every day anonymous (or not) individuals or groups can comment on daily topics, like the media. And then the readers of the blog can usually comment on it. An easy and cheap way of getting messages out about what’s on your mind, while having a dialogue as well and exchanges of thoughts, on an international as well as local level… I too started a blog as a test run. In less than 6 months I had some 6000 hits and readers. So it’s easy to see – you do get your message out, both the political as well as the media complaints. Some Swedish politicians adopted this new tactic as well, and started blogging. Leftist Ali Esbati for example, the former youth leader of the Left party, tended to censor lengthily the well-written comments that was too hard for him to understand and respond to.

Read the rest not only of this segment, but the entire essay. A fascinating insight into both the stranglehold that a PCP-driven MSM hold over Swedish society, and the role of the blogosphere in opening up a space where serious thinking and reality testing can take place.

And of course, the kind of problems our Swedish blogger ran into with his national press repeats all over the world. For an analysis of the way the BBC and our own PBS essentially operate as Dhimmis, see Hugh Fitzgerald’s latest at Dhimmiwatch (hat-tip Sliwa News).

David Pryce-Jones on the French: Ouch

National Review Online has a hard-hitting article by David Pryce-Jones (hat-tip RM).

The Fear in France
What rioting and the rest of it means

DAVID PRYCE-JONES

France is closed down for the moment. General strike, no transport, universities and schools suspended. It’s 1968 all over again, with President Jacques Chirac in much the same terminal plight as General de Gaulle was then. Dominique de Villepin and Nicolas Sarkozy, prime minister and minister of the interior respectively, can’t quite make up their minds whether to tough it out or retreat as usual in such circumstances. Both hope to succeed Chirac next year, and are scraping up political capital. “Deaf to us all” and “The shipwreck of the Chirac state” are headlines gleefully splashed across the opposition press.

But this is how the French do things, isn’t it? People of the same occupation defend their vested interests with whatever violence they can muster. Haulers use their trucks to block roads and customs posts; farmers burn British lorries and the live animals in them; railway personnel close the system down to protect their right to retire at 50 on practically full pay. Stone-throwing and tear gas means that once again wish-fulfillment has priority over economic reality.

This time, it’s the young who believe that their vested interests are threatened. Welfare costs and regulations make hiring so expensive for employers that, for the past decade, an average of one in ten of the total workforce has been unemployed. Unemployment among the young is chronic, running at 23 percent. Villepin hopes that a First Job Contract, or CPE according to its French initials, will alleviate this blight. Tentative, not to say timid, CPE would allow employers to take on anyone under the age of 26 without any commitment to security for a period of two years. To those at the barricades, this approach to hiring and firing is outright surrender to American capitalism and therefore brutality, and they insist on privileged security — or as one critic sneered, they all want to be civil servants. The Chirac-Villepin combination, however, has railroaded the law through the National Assembly, and refused to take an opt-out when the legality of proceedings was referred to a special constitutional court. Slight as the issue may seem, much more than conditions of youth employment is at stake.

This desire to be civil servants is precisely what Jean-Claude Milner argued lay at the core of the absence of an independent intelligentsia in France. Now, apparently, the sense of entitlement extends to the rest of the work force. This is characteristic of third world economies.

Anti-Zionism as Cultural AIDS and its Cure: Reflections on France VII

Anti-Zionism as Cultural AIDS and its Cure: Reflections on France VII (Conclusion)

How do you tell very smart people some (what to you seem) obvious things that they cannot seem to see? If it were just an intellectual argument – like the year 1000 – I can deplore the results, but it’s not life-threatening. The ship of historiographical consensus may have sunk long ago, but ultimately… does it really matter? Isn’t what medievalists do pretty irrelevant to what’s going on today?

But here, if what I think I perceive is 70% accurate, the French, the Europeans really are picking up their heads from the sand, and looking out like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming train.

How does one explain a dangerous situation to someone in denial. How do you wake up the driver who’s fallen asleep at the wheel on icy mountain roads is such as way as to wake her quickly enough, but without panicking him. How does France wake up before she careens off the mountainside, last overheard repeating in his sleep the received wisdom that the Roman Empire never really fell.

Were France to careen off the edge, I for one cannot contemplate that with equanimity. That would constitute a tragedy too great too great to contemplate no matter how unpleasantly self-destructive the French behave. France is part of our heritage and part of our inspiration. Granted, that which so inspired from France is now in short supply. But even at the most “rational” dimensions of positive-sum thinking, France’s health is the interest of cultures of freedom. It’s fall – which would almost certainly bring about the fall of other, many European countries with similar problems?

To borrow a metaphor from the Muslims, France is in the heart of “realm of freedom”, and her loss would be a catastrophe for the culture of freedom we have fought so hard over the last millennium to establish. I personally have deep personal ties to France (the French, especially the Parisians, are an aquired taste), but any sane person cannot contemplate France’s fall with pleasure. To think otherwise is to indulge the desire to take vengeance on France, to get French Derangement Syndrome, to wish ill on them even at our own costs.

Doubts: Can I be Right and all these People Wrong?

So maybe I am exaggerating all this. Maybe I’ve gone too far, projecting my millennial “readings” on France, as I did on Y2K. Pretty soon, I’ll be predicting that by 2010, as a century earlier, France will have it’s first execution of Jews on charges of plotting against the one true religion. Ridiculous. Shake it out of your head. As someone noted on the Medieval List:

You know, it is probably a good idea not to get to caught up in the phenomena one is supposed to be studying. I shall now be unable to sleep for trying to retrieve a half-forgotten quotation about scholars getting infected by the madness they were describing.

And yet… and yet… the dynamics sure look familiar.

A French friend, a medievalist, writes back from cheery Provence…

Next time you come, you must come here and don’t spend all your time with those northern intellectuals. We had a good laugh as we read you.

Didn’t Sidonius Apollinarus write from somewhere near there in the late 5th century, enjoying the good life?

The Jews, Europe’s First Dhimmis

Maybe if my amused friend’s note had at least addressed the “Jewish question” a bit, I’d have been more reassured.

But no. French gentiles are, with few exceptions, extraordinarily uninterested in what Jews have to say. Since 2000, an extraordinary turn has increasingly imposed itself in French public discourse. The Jew cannot testify. His evidence, as Jewish, is systematically discounted, consistently denied on charges of “communautarisme” [partisanship]. The 21st-century Jew is France’s (Europe’s?) first Dhimmi. And that is not because he is the least and most miserable of the minorities in France, but because he is at once the most vulnerable and, in civil society, the most dangerous. In a society that prizes freedom, tolerance and self-criticism, Jews will rise to prominence. And for those, like the demopaths and the hate-mongerers who despise and fear freedom, the Jews are the ones whose discourse one must silence. Historically speaking, war mongers first knock off the Jews, and societies that let them do this end up either at war with their neighbors (Nazis) or with themselves (medieval and Spanish inquisition).

Ask anyone who defends Israel to the slightest degree, and they will report, as did RM in an email of March 21:

En effet la diabolisation d’Israel a atteint un tel degré que le simple fait de défendre ce pays suscite presque immédiatement un soupcon : êtes-vous juif ? non je ne suis pas juif … ah mais alors pourquoi vouloir défendre l’indéfendable.
[In fact, the demonization of Israel has reached such a degree that the simple fact that you defend that country almost immediately raises the suspicion, “are you a Jew.” “Uh, no.” “So why do you want to defend the undefendable.”]

This experience has happened to many. When I first met one of the French consuls in Boston, I told him about this problem. He responded, “well, given the evidence, it’s not hard to understand why someone would oppose Israel. Why are you surprised?”

Okay, it’s a “reasonable” argument. But unanimity? No one independent enough to look with reasonable dispassion and come up with a reading that says, “the Palestinians exaggerate at best, and given the circumstances, the Israelis are behaving more decently than most nations — certainly than Arab nations would given the nature of the attack and the disparity in power? No one?

“When the fishes all swim in the same direction, it’s because they’re dead,” noted Pierre-André Taguieff, one of those righteous gentiles who denounces the Judeophobia of the French (and gets accused by Tariq Ramadan of being Jewish as a result.

Or, “when all the intellos face the same direction it’s because a culture of honor and shame has invaded academic life, and no one dares stand opposed to the public consensus. Of course, in the long run that gives you naked kings. And the real question now is, can we afford that?

In the coming showdown, it’s going to be a question of freedom vs. dominion. Can we have sufficient respect for the other that freedom is possible? Or will we allow a thugocracy to take-over, alpha males and their ideologues imposing a new reign of dominion of one man on another, of intimidation, of mutual suspicion, a new dark age every bit as bitter as the early medieval, and late Carolingian, whatever we hear about thriving markets and flourishing towns.

Selling out the Jews at a time like this seems crazy. They are masters in positive-sum. They adopt rapidly to the rules of civil society, become professionals, give passionate commitment to the ideals that democracies cherish, even to the point of endangering fellow Jews. Here are agents of tolerant modernity, people with a very high threshhold to violence (Warsaw ghetto uprising only came in April 1943) who can help spread a culture of civility, where otherness, even opposition, is easier to acknowledge, and things turn rapidly from violence to discourse. No wonder, when a typical Frenchmen looks at public figures — professionals, media folk, talking heads — he thinks France is 20% Jewish.

And when these people tell you that your growing Arab minority is making life intolerant for you, when they appeal to your judges, policemen, journalists and intellectuals to come to their aid, you tell them, “I don’t believe your testimony… and anyway, you can’t blame them, look at what your doing to their brethren in the “Occupied Territories.” Does that make sense? Either practically or morally? Is any intellectual culture that can look at the Arab-Israeli conflict and come out so decisively and pervasively anti-Zionist fair? Everyone swims in the same direction?

Counsel of Evil: Mearsheimer and Walt’s French Foreign Policy

I have, in my series of essays on France, argued that the French attitude towards Israel is self destructive, that it opens the door to Eurabia’s deadly embrace, that it punishes friends and rewards enemies. This, of course is not uniquely French, it buzzes through Europe at high energy levels. People, especially people on the left, have passionately negative attitudes towards Israel: Israel Derangement Syndrome.

One sees it also in the USA, with the Mearsheimer-Walt paper.

This second-rate job by highly placed academics on the “American Israel Lobby,” essentially argues for a French foreign policy towards the Arab world. The council of Eurabia, quite as morally vapid as any banal evil, counsels the obvious: our interests lie with an alliance with the Arabs and their petrol dollars, and Israel, while useful during the Cold War, now holds us down in the pursuit of our national interest.

The authors document what they call “unstinting support” of Israel, and then ask what could justify such support?

This extraordinary generosity might be understandable if Israel were a vital strategic asset or if there were a compelling moral case for US backing. But neither explanation is convincing. One might argue that Israel was an asset during the Cold War. By serving as America’s proxy after 1967, it helped contain Soviet expansion in the region and inflicted humiliating defeats on Soviet clients like Egypt and Syria. It occasionally helped protect other US allies (like King Hussein of Jordan) and its military prowess forced Moscow to spend more on backing its own client states. It also provided useful intelligence about Soviet capabilities.

Backing Israel was not cheap, however, and it complicated America’s relations with the Arab world. For example, the decision to give $2.2 billion in emergency military aid during the October War triggered an Opec oil embargo that inflicted considerable damage on Western economies. For all that, Israel’s armed forces were not in a position to protect US interests in the region. The US could not, for example, rely on Israel when the Iranian Revolution in 1979 raised concerns about the security of oil supplies, and had to create its own Rapid Deployment Force instead.

It is a work of admirable Eurabian logic, which suggests that the Jews are an impediment to the more “rational” alliance with the Arab world. Indeed, they argue, Israel is a liability in the war on terror and the broader effort to deal with rogue states.

The lack of understanding imbedded in such thinking suggest an impressive moral obtuseness. The layers of “othering” the Israelis – we have nothing but calculated ties between us – and “saming” the Muslims — an alliance with them is as good as an alliance with the Israelis — necessary to come to their conclusions, suggest a cultural illiteracy that only a post-Saïdian world could produce.

The terrorist organisations that threaten Israel do not threaten the United States, except when it intervenes against them (as in Lebanon in 1982). Moreover, Palestinian terrorism is not random violence directed against Israel or ‘the West’; it is largely a response to Israel’s prolonged campaign to colonise the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

This logic replicates perfectly the logic of both European appeasement of the Nazis in the 1930s (give them Czechoslovakia and they’ll be satisfied), and the al Durah alliance that has worked so brilliantly for the French over the last half-decade. We sell out Israel and our Jews, dedicated allies and participants in our democracies, to pacify nations and people who despise and fear us, and will turn on us whenever we displease them, as in the Danish Cartoon affair. An alliance with them is as good as one with the Jews.

After all, they only hate the Jews and not us; indeed they only hate us because we support the Jews. And if we turn on the Jews, they will appreciate and respect us for selling out our friends and embracing our enemies.

The big difference between the USA and Europe, is that here we still have a sufficiently independent and lively intellectual community, that the piece, with all its shoddy scholarship and infantile logic, gets a thorough critique, even from people who are not known for their pro-Israel attitudes. In Europe, this kind of stuff dominates public discourse.

As Pierre-André Taguieff puts it, “When all the fishes swim in the same direction, it’s because they’re dead.”

Falling Asleep in the Skid: Reflections on France Part VI

The earlier segments of this essay can be found at Paris Notes, Spring 2006.

Falling Asleep in the Skid: The Spell of Language.

So for all the movement, the wheels still skid, the resistance to waking up is still strong, the paralysis in action still powerful.

On my last night in Paris, I go out with a couple of my friends from when I went to Ecole Normale Supérieure back in the early 70′s. One is Jewish, the other not. The Gaulois is one of the most intelligent, thoughtful, and good-hearted people I know… himself from an immigrant (father from Italy), and a sterling example of what the French “melting pot” is capable of producing, including honest patriotism. He is neither anti-American, nor as far as I know, hostile to Israel (although that’s not a topic we’ve discussed at length).

He is also open to thinking about Judaism without a zero-sum agenda, and hence, strongly aware of what Jews have contributed to French (and more broadly modern) culture, especially over the last two generations, since the Holocaust. He talks enthusiastically about “believing without belief,” a kind of zen, or post-modern religiosity which he thought might offer a way to re-infuse disenchanted moderns with religious nourishment, a phenomenon he finds particularly strong among Jews. He has no problem eating dinner in a kosher restaurant, and doesn’t make nervous jokes about being taken for a Mossad agent.

I try to talk to him about the danger I see the French in (as I have at some point in every other conversation we’ve had since 2003). He’s not interested. Our Jewish normalien friend, knows the people at the table next to us, two couples in their sixties. He introduces us to them and we exchange pleasantries. Without rehearsal, I ask them what their impression of the current situation (no need to specify). One works in a public school, and responds as if on cue:

The Jews are leaving, especially the young. In the suburbs it’s become intolerable; even in the cities, in comfortable neighborhoods it’s very difficult. The expression “sale juif” [dirty Jew] is common in public, in the market places. People even call Chinese “sale juif” to insult them. The non-Jews don’t know what’s going on and don’t seem to care.

My friend’s response to this news:

There is no anti-Semitism in France. Look at the demonstrations for Ilan Halimi. [My Jewish friends tell me that aside from the politicians, the crowd was almost entirely Jewish.] The problem with the banlieu [suburbs] is a matter of socio-economic disparities, not a culture-clash. The Danes never should have published the cartoons: No good can come from gratuitously offending another religious sensibility. We need to open ourselves up, not shut down communication.

I try to respond and he cuts me off.

I can’t take the discussions of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The situation is too complicated, too difficult. And both sides grind you up in their handmills — moulinette bleu, moulinette rouge — it’s exhausting.

I don’t have the heart to disagree with so many statements. He looks tired. I let it slide. We speak of meeting other people at our next encounter. We shall see.

Au cœur d’une bande du “9-3″, le plaisir de la violence

The pleasure of violence in the current riots. This is what got the Vandals their reputation and gave us the term vandalism. Note the way that parts of the subway increasingly become lost territories.

Au cœur d’une bande du “9-3″, le plaisir de la violence
LE MONDE | 24.03.06 | 13h15 • Mis à jour le 24.03.06 | 15h19

Jusque-là, ils étaient restés relativement calmes. La cinquantaine de jeunes avaient bien chahuté un peu dans le métro, tiré une sonnette d’alarme, dépouillé un adolescent de son lecteur MP3. Entre eux, ils en étaient encore aux blagues adolescentes – concours de pets et boules puantes. Tout a subitement changé à l’arrivée place d’Italie, où commençait la manifestation anti-contrat première embauche (CPE) du jeudi 23 mars. En un instant, la bande, que Le Monde a suivi de Bobigny jusqu’à l’esplanade des Invalides, terme du défilé, s’est transformée en une meute, remontant le cortège pour terroriser les manifestants.
Il faudrait pouvoir décrire minute par minute la violence inouïe de ces jeunes – une quarantaine de garçons et une dizaine de filles, nettement plus calmes – venus principalement de Bobigny et de Drancy (Seine-Saint-Denis) : les claques distribuées au hasard alors qu’ils courent le long du cortège ; les petits groupes de cinq ou six personnes qui se jettent sur un lycéen, le font tomber et le rouent de coups ; les jeunes filles tabassées à coups de pied ; les “balayettes”, dont ils sont si fiers, qui renversent leurs victimes ; les pierres jetées aux policiers ; les portables volés, les appareils photo arrachés. On les suit et on voit leurs sourires, on les entend se raconter leurs performances : “T’as vu ce que je lui ai mis !” Au moins une quinzaine d’agressions ont ainsi été commises en une heure par le groupe.

Sightings of Spine: Reflections on France Part V

[For the earlier posts in this series, see Paris Notes, Spring 2006.]

So are the French waking up? And if so, are they like someone who’s fallen asleep at the wheel and wake up after they’ve smacked into the central median strip only to watch the car careening across the highway into a boulder on the other side?

The analogy is poor, since the social process is happening too slowly for sustained paralysis without something inhibiting a sane response. Unquestionably, the events of the last several months have sobered the French. Traditionally left-wing papers print things that they never would have said before, much as the murder of Theo van Gogh untied the tongues of Dutch observers in an otherwise PC-smothered discourse. Daniel Leconte, a notably courageous journalist where the al Durah affair is concerned, wrote a very strong denunciation of Islamism in Libération congratulating Charlie Hebdo on its courage in printing the cartoons.

Is it enough? Will it last? Or, as in the past, when the MSM briefly caught on, will they sink back into the old patterns of denial and silence?

Having affirmed that the victory over terrorism would come through more democracy, in the name of what twisted logic should we now say that we should renounce here what many democrats and intellectuals would supposedly like to see flourish over there? What desertion of our post this must seem in the eyes of those, Lebanese, who have payed with their lives for having said “The Arab tragedy” (Le Malheur Arab) was above all the responsability of their own elites?

In other words, how will self-criticism ever “take” over there, where the honor hungry alpha male elites control the media, if we won’t even hold the line here, where supposedly the battle for freedom of the press has already been won?

Jews Leaving, Muslims Rising: Reflections of France Part III

For the earlier segments of this essay, see Paris Notes, Spring 2006.

The Jews I meet with show heavy signs of wear. One of the sweetest and smartest of the French Jewish intellectuals I know, a woman of Tunisian origin, one of the single-generation acculturaters, comes towards me without knowing I see her. Her face is so drawn with care that I have difficulty identifying her. I go by her haircut, until, upon seeing me, her smile comes back and wipes away the lines of worry.

The Halimi Affair, whose Jewish and Muslim dimension the French Jews know about in much greater detail than their Christian and post-Christian fellow-citizens, has that community in a panic.

People are affolés, like the thirties. People are leaving. Especially the Jews. But if you try and make the parallel to the thirties, you get cut off. Your colleagues won’t talk to you, stop having you speak at colloquia.
In 2002, the cry was “Synagogue brulé, République en danger.” In 2006, it was “Ilan Halimi brulé, République en danger.”
It’s gotten worse. Before we had hope. We told ourselves, they’re unaware. If we can get them to look at this clearly, we can persuade them. Now we’ve persuaded them, and they do nothing.
The level of appeasement is depressing: every time the Muslims get angry, the French trip over themselves to calm their passions. It’s far worse now. I am losing hope for France.
Even the French communities in good neighborhoods, with fancy Kosher restaurants nearby, are feeling the cold wind blow.
Now, in market places, in schools, even when it doesn’t involve immigrants, Jew is used as an epithet. You can even call a Chinese “dirty Jew” if you want to insult him.

In other words, in the world of honor-shame in French culture today, the Jews are the dhimmis, the ones publicly singled out for humiliation.

Americanophilia or Americanophobia: Reflections on France Part II

[This is Part II of a multipart series. For Part I, see here.]

So this time, when I got to France, I found that many of my old friends, people who had disagreed with me and disapproved of my morbid imagination for the future, more readily agreed with me. “Nous ne sommes pas en désaccord!” [we don’t disagree] – which is about the best one can hope for – insisted one with passion. The people I spoke to, even the most indifferent earlier, even the ostriches, seemed sobered. And the Jews reported more success trying to tell their non-Jewish neighbors about their fears. The French have even come up with a new term – les Gaulois – to designate culturally French (as in “nos ancêtres les Gaulois…” like Asterix)), as opposed to native-born French, which necessarily includes the growing population of un-assimilated, maybe anti-assimilationist children of Arab and African immigrants.

One might even say, some of the Gaulois were finding some clarity on who were the good guys. At the first café we went to, late Saturday night, the waiters, who began the evening making snide remarks about us behind our backs (including the way I wore by beret), upon realizing that were Americans who spoke French, grew quite warm. It turned out that at least two of them wanted to move to America.
“What about anti-Americanism?” I ask the waiter who was marrying an American girl and hoping to go to the States to start a restaurant.
“Oh, that was bad back at the time of the Iraq war, but no longer,” he said, with a reassuring confidence.

A wave of anti-Americanism that poisoned the Western alliance and has contributed so much to making Sadaam Hussein’s removal a nightmare in the winter of 2003, was in his eyes a passing squall. Not a problem.

It reminded me of the remark that an FBI guy said to some scholars about the Waco catastrophe: “We didn’t do anything wrong, and we won’t do it again.” Except that this Gaulois who wanted to jump ship to America wasn’t even saying “We won’t do it again.” There was not even the admission that the wave of pro-Chirac anti-Americanism was a stupidity that hurt France. Just a promise that, right now, we don’t feel any anti-Americanism.

There’s plenty of unconscious evidence that even Chirac regretted pissing the USA off, that your average Gaulois was beginning to realize that they were not in as good shape as America. No sign of an awareness that this spasm of anti-Americanism that they presented to me as a thing of the past, was actually embedded in certain profoundly self-destructive French traits, and that France needs to prepare to resist it on the next occasion of its appeal. Indeed an AOL poll of the French (i.e., those most attuned to the international community), finds 69% think that Chirac’s confrontation with the US was his single greatest accomplishment in his 10 years in power. (Interesting that it never occurred to those setting up the poll to include the same item among the options for Chirac’s failures.)

The next day, in an internet place crowded to the gills, I sit down on a cushion near a single man at a table for two. He eyes me suspiciously. “Vous permettez?” I say, eyeing the chair on the other side of the table.
“Puisque vous avez demandé, bien sûr,” [since you asked, of course], he tells me kindly. The French are interesting. If you are polite and show them respect, they can be very generous. If not, they can be extremely difficult.
We talk. He begins to carry on about “Baboush” [W] and how, if he could, he would wring his neck. This man was the opposite of the waiters we talked to the night before. Here was the anti-Americanism of March 2003, preserved, distilled, well over 80 proof. As I tried to suggest that maybe the French attitude, however right or wrong it might be, was self-destructive, he consistently cut me off, telling me how he was ex-military and knew the inside track, and passionately repeating his violent hatred of Baboush.
I moved away from him as quickly as possible, and later heard him on the phone to a friend talking about a woman: “Il faut lui flaquer une gifle, la salope. C’est une pute… je lui torderai le cou.” [You have to slap the bitch around… she’s a whore… I’ll wring her neck.]

I don’t remember this kind of verbal violence in public. Is it me? Or the new atmosphere of wireless Starbucks look-alikes? Or has Paris taken on a greater coarseness in public.

We go to Normandy. At the hotel, the woman confides to us: “My two sons are planning on leaving. While I pay for their education they’ll stay, but as soon as they’re done, they’re planning to leave and they want to go to America.”
“Why?”
Because the country’s going to hell. Because the bureaucracy favors the Arabs.
She tells the tale of her son-in-law getting refused family aid, but, since he’s dark-skinned, when he wears a keffiya, he gets it right away. Urban legend? Symbolic? Of what?
Because even though the riots didn’t strike their neighborhood [Bayeux centre ville], they weren’t far away. And because they believe that the riots were only a dress rehearsal.

We visit old friends from way back (the wife is a childhood friend). They are from the upper classes – educated, Catholic, intellectually lively, international in outlook, with smart kids who travel the globe studying and doing internships. In the past, the husband has taken the principled position of the ostrich in response to my warnings.

Not this time. This time he’s eager to talk, and quite open in his concerns. A description of what I have been trying to say for three years now.
“So what do you think the French will do?”
“Mais nous sommes tétanisés,” he says. [We’re paralyzed.]

What can you do when you pick your head up and see you’re between the tracks and the train is bearing down on you?

For Part III, see here.

When the Ostrich Lifts up Its Head: Reflections on France Part I

[This is the first installment of a multi-part essay, Paris Notes, Spring 2006 on my most recent visit to Paris (March 4-14). It is linked to a series of earlier essays posted as Essays on France.

“Nous sommes tétanisés,” said my French friend. [We are paralyzed.]

The French are beginning to wake up, beginning to lift up their Ostrich head from the sand. As opposed to the frequent dismissals I ran across in the past – when it wasn’t accusations of racism – I now met an increasing number of people willing to say, “we don’t disagree” (the French really don’t like to say “you’re right”). But, as my friend put it, we don’t know what to do. “We’re paralyzed.”

I have been visiting France fairly regularly all my life, but particularly since 2000, the nature of those visits has changed, and I’ve watched a radical split occur between the Jewish community in France (which has grown increasingly alarmed at the violence against them) and your typical Frenchman and woman, who consider Jewish alarm – if they even notice it – as, well, alarmist. (For earlier posts on what I noticed, see here and here.)

I haven’t been in France since last Spring, so a number of factors played in the mixture. Obviously the Fall (Ramadan) 2005 riots that started in the Parisian suburbs and spread through France sobered people considerably, despite the official position of the media, political, and academic elites that this was not a religious or cultural issue, but one of socio-economic inequities that could be solved by addressing those inequities. But more recently, there had occurred two things that sobered them considerably.

First, the Danish cartoons. Most every Frenchman I spoke with (especially the non-Jews, who are in most denial about the religious dimension) mentioned them. Even the French, who do not have much of a sense of humor about other people making fun of them, understood that the Muslim reaction revealed a level of immaturity beyond anything they had, in their cognitively egocentric slumber, ever imagined. It was for them a sobering look at a religious mafia, intimidating anyone who dare criticize it. The cultural gap between the French and an Islam which, they had begun to acknowledge, played an increasingly powerful role among its immigrant population, lay bare before their eyes.

Second, the slow torture of Ilan Halimi, a Jewish youth, kidnapped and tortured to death over a three-week period in one of the “territoires perdus” of the Republic, awoke the French to the depth of barbarity that had grown up under their noses. That Islamic hatred played a role came across unmistakably with the calls to the Jewish parents and the reading of Quranic verses over the sound of their son tortured in the background. But the gang was really more a mostly Muslim collection of immigrant sons from the hood, from the “territoires perdus.”

Indeed the most terrifying part of the tale came when the leader of the gang got arrested in the Ivory Coast (whence his parents had emigrated before his birth). His picture smiling and making the V sign with his fingers shocked people with its utter lack of any sign of conscience, and his subsequent interview confirmed the impression. Indeed the photo was so shocking, that after consulting with three lawyers, AFP took the photo down because it was “a blow at the private life” of the suspect, but “above all, there was no imperious necessity to diffuse this highly provocative photo.”

Ah, if only they had felt that way about Muhammad al Durah, they might have spared themselves much pain. But that would have meant sparing the Jews and the Israelis.

But those with eyes, like Nidra Poller, could see. Youssouf Fofana was not a religious fanatic poisoned by paranoid underground hatreds. Here was Nietzsche’s blond beast in blackface, without conscience, a predator who feels no need to apologize to his prey. Robust sadism. The barbarians at the gates… in the suburbs. And their neighbors, who remained silent for weeks as they heard the cries of the tortured youth – not even an anonymous call – illustrated how powerful the dominion of the killers in these territoires perdus.

For Part II, see here.

Barbarians at the Gates: The Second Fall of Rome?

Israel Insider has a new piece by Avi Davis, a freelance journalist based in LA on a topic we’ve treated at this blog before.

AWAITING THE NEW FALL OF ROME
By Avi Davis

In his work, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, the historian Edward Gibbon describes how a vacillating Roman Senate, with the army of the Barbarian Goths at its city gate, debated fretfully about the Roman Empire’s future. Apparently unknown to them, a civil rebellion, led by slaves and domestics, had erupted within the city walls, leading to anarchy. Days after the appearance of the enemy, the gates were opened from within and the Barbarians poured in to pillage Rome. Within a week, 1100 years of empire building had come to a close.

Sixteen hundred years after that epochal event, it should surprise no one that new barbarians threaten the safety and security of the continent Rome once controlled When the body of Ilan Halimi turned up last week on a railway track outside of Paris the group responsible was identified as the Barbarians. Yet these were not Goths, Huns or Vandals of ancient times, but Muslim criminals whose intent was clearly to commit a racial murder. The torture to which Halimi was subjected and the methods with which he was eventually dispatched should remind everyone in Europe of the original provenance of the term “barbarian” – that of men intent on destruction of centers of Western culture and civilization.

Historians are actually quick to point out that the “barbarians” didn’t want to destroy Rome, they wanted to take it over. The issue here is really a matter of distinctions, rather than opposing one gross generalization with another. While the leadership, the German generals, many of whom had fought for Rome, negotiated with Rome, they may have had in mind a desire to move in and take over without destroying. Of course, that hardly means that they didn’t destroy in taking over. In other words, there are often vast differences between intention, capacity, and the consequences of acting on intentions which one is incapable of carrying out. The military forces that the German leadership brought with them were not up to the demands of a culture which had made significant strides in pruning back the “plunder and distribute” mentality of tribal warrior societies. “Vandal” as an adjective, comes from the Vandals, whose troops were notorious for their “gratuitous” destruction.

Similarly, I think, one can argue that the more educated Islamist leaders, like Tariq Ramadan, anticipate not only taking over Europe, but keeping Europe as prosperous as it is today. For those from cultures that do not understand the nature of modern western society and its positive-sum dimensions, who still work from the plunder and distribute” paradigm, the world of modernity is only a variant on their own, and running the show once one has taken over should be no more difficult that the aftermath of a coup-d’état in a Muslim country. Cognitive egocentrism runs both ways.

The actions and justifications of the present day Barbarians, are of course, more than a match for their ancient predecessors. The brutal slaying of Halimi , a young French Jew of no particular importance, has opened the eyes of the European public to the dangers of the Muslim jihadist culture as no other act of terrorism or criminality has done until now. Tens of thousands protested the murder – recognized universally as an attack – not on just a Jew, but on France itself. Not even the brutal slaying of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh or the murder of the gay Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn has quite provided the same political impact. That is because in the wake of the recent French riots and the worldwide disturbances caused by the publication of the Danish cartoons, European politicians now recognize that radical Islamic sentiment is no longer confined to a few scattered sects, focused on anti-Semitic provocations, who can be tamed through dialogue and discussion. It rather represents an ideological pandemic spreading voraciously in European cities, which vouchsafes the notion that the murder of Jews, gays, conservatives, journalists, editors – and in fact anyone who is perceived as a barrier to Islam’s advance, entitles those with requisite religious belief to issue and execute death warrants. And further, that flimsy , ignorant responses and the cognitive dissonance of denial only fans these flames higher.

This may be a bit premature… wishful thinking. My sense, after spending a week there (and I’ll post on that this weekend), is that although people are waking up, some of them, like the proverbial ostrich, have lifted their head from the sand, noticed that they are between the tracks, and that the train is bearing down on them. “Nous sommes tétanisés,” said one of my friends. We are paralyzed. In my opinion, we’re still not at the stage of awareness and mobilization Davis had described above.

A word should certainly be offered to those secular humanists who still believe that amelioration of the economic plight of Islamic urban centers will substantially change the attitudes of the jihadists in their midst. This view not only ignores the historical pattern of the jihadist culture and motivation; it is a sop to the Islamists – clerics and leaders – who see such soft-pedaling as a weakness to be exploited. One must wonder at the blindness of European politicians who still believe that the fire bombings of synagogues, the murder and harassment of Jews or the torching of Jewish businesses are merely isolated examples of urban unrest, economic disenfranchisement or even latewnt anti-Semitism. They are, in fact blows, aimed against Western civilization. Imams and Islamic clerics throughout Europe have prophesied for years about the West’s imminent collapse. They do this while employing the liberal values of tolerance, openness and dialogue to protect their mosques while propagating hatred, racism and incitement to murder beneath the shield of freedom of speech.

Good description of dupes and demopaths. And the blindness of the elite is really deep-seated. The more I try and explain to my French friends and colleagues about the ways in which the anti-Zionism/Judeophobia are part of a larger pattern, the more they resist and tell me that I’m “communautariste” (partisan, not objective) and unfair to the Muslims, who just want a fair deal. I am more convinced than ever that the blindness Davis describes is a form of cultural AIDS, and anti-Zionism is how we get infected.

Most Western countries have not , as yet, recognized the profundity of the threat. But for some there is a growing measure of clarity. Last week Peter Costello, the Australian treasurer, made public his government’s opinion that those who do not subscribe to Australian values or deny the supremacy of Australian law over Islamic law should be denied both citizenship and the right to enter Australia. Costello went further, in an interview on television, in declaring that even Australian citizens who fail to pass this basic litmus test should be subject to deportation. The Australian government, particularly its feisty prime minister John Howard, have been well ahead of the rest of the world in legislating firm controls against incitement and racism emanating from their country’s mosques. But few Western leaders have been as forthright as Costello in recommending deportation as a measure against a country’s citizens for denying the basic values upon which their own societies are founded.

Meanwhile, time is running short for Europe. Without recognizing that an unbalanced emphasis on pluralism at the expense of security, will gradually erode the moral superstructure of liberal democracy, there will be thousands more Ilan Halimis – Jew and non-Jew alike – tortured in third floor apartments and dying on the streets of restive Islamic communities.

For that reason, no one should be deceived. Barbarism has returned to Europe. But this time the barbarians are not just outside the city, battering at the walls. They are inside it, with sufficient political clout and public sympathy to open the gates from within.

For further reflections on this topic, see Nidra Poller’s most recent article: Gang of Barbarians.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Project

PZ posted recently on “The Project.” I think it worthwhile to add that this text deserves careful study. The single best link is at Scott Burgess’ Daily Ablution. The text is now out in translation in French. Comments at Powerline. The connection with Eurabia deserves attention.

It’s difficult to assess things like this. On one level, given the devastating impact that the forgery, Protocols of the Elders of Zion has had on the Jews, it is extremely dangerous to suggest that members of a religion are bent on world conquest. On another, each case needs to be weighed on the evidence, and the evidence for Islam’s imperialist propensities are farily strong. (I will post later on the elements that make some forms of monotheism imperialist.)

If indeed there is a plan to carry out the Islamicization of Europe (and eventually the world), pretending it does not exist can only assist. And acknowledging the plan does not mean that we need demonize and ostracize every Muslim as part of the plot. Not only are many Muslims the target of Islamists, but there may be some who seek a form of Islam that can live in a multi-religious universe without seeking to dominate. It does mean, though, that we need to be informed and to ask hard questions.

So weigh the evidence, and do so carefully.

On the Fall of Rome: Response to Kip Watson

Kip Watson of Truth+Hope.net sent a long and thoughtful comment on my Fall of Rome post, and it seems to important to just leave in the comment section. So here it is with my interlineal response.

(Sorry for the long-winded comment, but this is an area where I think well-meaning people are making some serious mistakes.)

It would be truly ungracious of me, given the length of my posts, to object to lengthy responses.

I enjoy your site. Your Pallywood and Al-Durah videos in particular are two extremely insightful and intelligent pieces of journalism. However, I must take issue with one or two of the implications of this post.

It’s a widespread ‘meme’ on the Right to regard Muslims as invaders, but 19th Century inequalities in Islamic societies notwithstanding (the Dhimmi concept and such), it’s quite unfair to characterise Muslims as barbarians, even by implication, and the vast majority came here legally, in some cases after having been specifically invited (eg. via targeted advertising – Australia did this).

Thank you for making me clarify. First, I’m not sure what you mean when you use the term barbarian. I am comparing the relationship of Muslim immigrants to Europe vis-a-vis Europe with those of Germanic warrior tribes vis-a-vis Rome. The term barbarian was used by the Romans to describe the considerably more primitive level of social organization of the Germanic warrior tribes. Muslims come from societies in which social hierarchy is a fundamental feature of life — patriarchal dominance, power hierarchies, very limited social mobility, stigmatization of manual labor, elaborate forms of deference to social superiors, self-help justice, vendetta, honor killings and the other elements of a dominant “honor-shame culture” which has a particularly strong hold on Arab culture in our day. By the standards of modern civil societies, these are all precisely the features of a medieval culture that we had to bring under control in order to create socieites that tried to guarantee civil rights. Since these patterns characterize Muslim cultures around the world who provide the immigrants to Europe (Arab and non-Arab), then I think the comparison holds. Granted that, unlike the German tribes of the first millennium CE, Arab culture is literate, in comparison with the extent of European literacy, however, the “literacy gap” is comparable and the social impact of the gap is significant. And given the severe problems that Arab immigrants have with the Western school system, that gap is not easily overcome.

The Fall of Rome, the Fall of Europe

The Fall of the Roman West, ca. A.D. 500/6000 A.M.

“…an imaginative experiment that got a little out of hand…”

Thus says Walter Goffart about the “fall” of the Roman Empire in the West, a process he prefers to see as a cultural and political transformation fueled more by accommodation rather than violent invasion and political extortion. Goffart represents a school of historians who, pointing to the survival of Roman remnants — administrative structures, prominent families, social structures — argue that Rome went out with a whimper rather than a bang, if one could even say that it went out at all. Some medievalists actually argue that Europe is still Roman until the late 10th century.

Nor is this argument merely a seminar-room battle: the new revised view is for public consumption. Here is the introductory text to a large public exhibit in 1997 co-sponsored by the German and French governments, and worked on by prominent medievalists from both countries:

What will remain of our images of invasions and violence, of Barbarians plunging the Roman Empire and its institutions in the night of decadence? The Franks, were they really these devastators and the Merovingians, rois fenéants (lazy kings — what every schoolchild learns in France)?

This is the question [sic] this exposition on The Franks, Precursors of Europe intends to answer, proposing an ample vision of the Frankish world from the 3-8th centuries.

Archeology, throwing new light on these “barbaric” years, reveals to us today a culture and an art the inscribe themselves as a hinge between Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages.

This passage, far from being brusk, was the result of a long, slow process during which the Franks would confer a common identity, based on Roman structures to a complex geopolitical map: Wisigoths, Burgunds, Alamans, Thuringians [NB: no mention of Gallo-Romans].

And Europe will constitute itself, not from serious ruptures, but from a long mutation, just as Gaul will become later, France under the sign of the continuity, whether it is a question of power and adminstration, of law and language, of society, of economy, of religion.

In a word, it is a process of immigration which became a successful integration that it pleases us to present in these 13 rooms of the Petit Palais.

Tout se passe dans le calme. (I later found out that the dominant school of medieval French historiography takes it for granted that the historian’s job is to “de-dramatize.”)

What I actually found most astonishing about the exhibit was that there was so little change in Germanic culture during over five hundred years of contact with the Roman Empire during which, about mid-way in that half-millennium, these Germanic tribal warriors took over Roman territory in a process the exhibit and so many other historians present as a transformation. The grave goods were very similar in style and content at the end to what they were at the beginning: swords and broaches. This was not a culture given to rapid assimilation of elements of a more sophisticated culture, and having these fellows at the top of the political hierarchy could not possibly have been the same as having an educated Roman administrator with a sense of the res publica (public affairs).

A recently posted interview with two authors of books on the fall of the Western empire challenge this “the tea party at the Roman vicarage” school of thought, and go back to an earlier interpretation that saw the process as “violent and unpleasant.” Ward-Perkins notes:

I argue what is currently an unfashionable view (though, in my opinion, it is blindingly obvious) – that the Roman world brought remarkable levels of sophistication and comfort, and spread them widely in society (and not just to a tiny elite) [by pre-modern standards, that is — RL]; and that the fall of Rome saw the dismantling of this complexity, and a return to what can reasonably be termed ‘prehistoric’ levels of material comfort. Furthermore, I believe that this change was not just at the level of pots and pans, important though these are, but also affected sophisticated skills like reading and writing. Pompeii, with its ubiquitous inscriptions, painted signs, and graffiti, was a city that revolved around writing – after the fall of the empire, the same cannot be said for any settlement in the West for many centuries to come.