Monday, March 03, 2008

A book fair in Paris

First it was cartoons in Denmark, then movies in the Netherlands, followed by an art exhibition in Berlin. (For a summary of those events, see here.) Now the culture wars have come to a book fair in Paris. The BBC reports:

A book fair in Paris has become the subject of controversy with several Muslim countries announcing boycotts because the guest of honour is Israel. Saudi Arabia has become the latest to withdraw, following Iran, Lebanon, Yemen, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria.

The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Isesco) has also urged its 50 members to pull out from the fair, which starts on 14 March. Isesco said Israel had committed crimes against humanity in Palestinian areas.

One thing you have to say about Muslims is that, however much they may war on each other, they form a community of interest against outsiders. That's more than can be said of certain Christian bishops and Western leaders, who ignoring the fact that Muslims are more than capable of speaking out for themselves, see fit to take their part whenever they can.

If the West is ever defeated in the culture wars -- which is probable, given that the only settings in its shifter are Park, Neutral and Reverse -- it will be less due to the skill of its enemies than the absolute failure of its leadership. They have atomized their communities and trivialized the most sacred traditions of their culture. Under the banner of "tolerance", they proceed to lead their states (society would be an inaccurate term) towards the absolute destruction of self-confidence and positive belief.

Who now believes that any Western leader will tell Isesco they are hardly in a position to say anything about either humane behavior or books? Which phrase is the greater oxymoron: "Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation" or "Western leadership"?

Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves,that we are underlings.

The Belmont Club is supported largely by donations from its readers.


Blogger lord acton said...


With all due respect, I think that it is possible, not probable, that the West will be defeated in the culture wars. I have recently moved from the U.S. to London. As a fan of the conservative blogosphere, including your site and Mary Steyn amongst others, I was prepared for the worst. But there is far more backbone here than one would be led to believe by imbibing the BBC et. al.. The response to the Archbishop of Canterbury's recent mind dribblings was instructive. The eurocrats (that word doesn't trip the spell checker!!) and media elite may be hopeless. But there is more steel in the population of Europe than you might believe.

On another note, seems like a great time to short Obama stock! I believe his bubble has peaked.


3/03/2008 12:37:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

With respect to Lord Acton's comment:

"An army of sheep led by a lion would defeat an army of lions led by a sheep."
--old Arab saying...

The US stands in grave danger of electing a sheep in November as well.

3/03/2008 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger said...

lord acton,

I've often wondered how much of the "European civilization" is ending talk is really overblown. Some of my correspondents really feel Europe is in great danger, while others, notably Ralph Peters, have argued that appearances are deceptive.

My own feeling is that the "political correctness" culture is heading for a Black Swan moment. The trouble is, I don't know exactly what the Black Swan will do. I always thought that "here surely is the limit", but I've come to realize that neither Western appeasement nor Western indomitability are all they are cracked up to be.

I'll stay tuned.

3/03/2008 01:03:00 PM  
Blogger Fat Man said...

No great loss to the book fair. Other than Jihadi propaganda and useful Muslim stuff like "Wife-Beating for Dummies" how many books a year do the Muslim Countries produce or read? Under a dozen most likely.

3/03/2008 01:16:00 PM  
Blogger putnam said...

To me the question is not whether the west will win, because I sincerely doubt that it will be conquered in the next few generations.

Rather, the real question is at what cost will it purchase its survival. At what cost in lost liberties, lost wealth, and lost lives.

3/03/2008 01:29:00 PM  
Blogger Nomenklatura said...

There's nothing new about this abject defeatism - frustrated intellectuals and state functionaries have always gravitated towards the most convenient source of strength which might add force to their otherwise idle moralizing.

They always imagine (as Rowan Williams does) that they can craft a 'power-sharing deal' with the incoming source of strength, leaving them on a net basis more influential than they are today. The reality is the same in the case of militant Islam as it was with Hitler and Stalin - as soon as the powerful are in control the hopeful bumblers, their followers and their fond preferences are thrown aside.

Here's George Orwell on this phenomenon in the 1930's and 40's:

"The English intelligentsia, on the whole, were more defeatist than the mass of the people — and some of them went on being defeatist at a time when the war was quite plainly won — partly because they were better able to visualise the dreary years of warfare that lay ahead. Their morale was worse because their imaginations were stronger. The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it, and if one finds the prospect of a long war intolerable, it is natural to disbelieve in the possibility of victory. But there was more to it than that. There was also the disaffection of large numbers of intellectuals, which made it difficult for them not to side with any country hostile to Britain. And deepest of all, there was admiration — though only in a very few cases conscious admiration — for the power, energy, and cruelty of the Nazi régime. It would be a useful though tedious labour to go through the left-wing press and enumerate all the hostile references to Nazism during the years 1935-45. One would find, I have little doubt, that they reached their high-water mark in 1937-8 and 1944-5, and dropped off noticeably in the years 1939-42 — that is, during the period when Germany seemed to be winning. One would find, also, the same people advocating a compromise peace in 1940 and approving the dismemberment of Germany in 1945. And if one studied the reactions of the English intelligentsia towards the USSR, there, too, one would find genuinely progressive impulses mixed up with admiration for power and cruelty. It would be grossly unfair to suggest that power worship is the only motive for russophile feeling, but it is one motive, and among intellectuals it is probably the strongest one."
- Second Thoughts on James Burnham (1946)

Regarding the potential role of the ordinary people, we should remember that the appeasers Chamberlain and Halifax had the whole of British elite opinion (including the BBC) behind them until 1940, and that the people who finally vetoed Halifax as Chamberlain's replacement and led to the installation instead of Winston Churchill and a policy of determined resistance were Clement Attlee and Arthur Greenwood, the leaders of the decidedly non-elite Labour Party.

In this respect the standard track for Western countries faced with a totalitarian threat is for their elites to lead them to the point where abject surrender is the only logical next step, at which point ordinary people finally wake up and say no.

3/03/2008 01:36:00 PM  
Blogger Benj said...

Beautiful comment Nom - thanks for invocation of Orwell (who always considered himself a man on the left even as he was busting fellow travellers - And thanks too for that reminder re the role of the Labor Party and the alliance with Churchill. It wasnt' a one-off deal. There's a beautiful account of how Church beat back the tory creeps who resisted Worker Education Propgrams after WWII - Here's a piece from 1989 by a women of the left. Way ahead of the game in responding to the Islamicist threat...THe American Right was not too good when it caem to defending Rushdie...

Before the War

This piece first appeared in 1989 in the Village Voice

By Ellen Willis

Make no mistake: Ayatollah Khomeini’s call for Salman Rushdie’s execution is not simply a piece of lunatic demagogy directed at an individual, but a serious act of political intimidation with far-reaching consequences. The Iranian head of state has declared war – quite literally – on Western secular, democratic institutions. He has rallied his international troops in his most daring bid yet to extend the power of Islamic theocracy beyond his own country, even beyond the Moslem world, by force. Do the people and the governments supposedly committed to democratic values have the will to fight back?

Already Khomeini has won a few battles. Rushdie can hardly be blamed for going into hiding, and perhaps it’s too much to expect of his publishers that they go on with his book tour as a protest, with a video or audio tape of Rushdie taking his place. But Vikings’ craven statement that they never intended to offend anyone by publishing Rushdie’s book and “very much regret the distress the book has caused” is inexcusable. So is the action of the Waldenbooks, the country’s largest books chain in taking Satanic Verses off the shelves. (As the company’s executive vice-president, Bonnie Predd, sententiously put it: “We’ve fought long and hard against censorship. But when it comes to the safety of our employees, one sometimes has to compromise.” (How about simply offering any nervous employee a few days off.?) In France, Presses de la Cite, Rushdie’s publisher, has ‘postponed’ publication of the French edition (you remember France, home of Voltaire, but more recently the drug company that tried to scuttle the abortifacient RU 486 under pressure from anti-abortion activists). Nor will the West German house Keipenheuer and Witsch publish Rushdie’s book as scheduled.

There is no indication that the world’s governments are taking Khomeini’s move as seriously as it deserves. Britain has made the strongest statement, which nonetheless falls short of declaring that officially putting a price on the head of a British author exercising the right to free speech in his own country is an act of war against Britain and will be viewed as such. The United States has confined itself to a routine condemnation of terrorism. Canada gets the prize for moral oafishness. Revenue Canada, a government customs and taxation agency, has temporarily banned further imports of the Rushdie book, pending an investigation of the possibility that it contains “hate literature” (the ban was announced the first day of Canada’s National Freedom To Read Week). Will Britain, the U.S., or anyone else move to bring this issue before the United Nations? If they do, is there any chance the UN will vote for meaningful sanctions against Iran? And if not, will those Western nations that call themselves democracies get together to impose sanctions on their own, The last two questions are, I’m afraid, rhetorical.

The attack on Rushdie and the anemic response to it are not occurring in a vacuum. Democratic secularism is increasingly vulnerable to a religious fundamentalism that in all its forms – Christian, and Jewish as well as Islamic – is increasingly feeling its power. And Western governments, far from resisting anti-democratic absolutism, have been abetting it. The Thatcher government has enthusiastically pursued its own censorship of books and other media. The U.S. has, of course, been in bed with fundamentalist Christianity since the election of Jimmy Carter. The Reagan administration never got too exercised about violent attacks on abortion clinics, refusing to include them in its antiterrorist rhetoric, the political climate surrounding abortion has become so intimidating that no American drug company has been willing to test RU 486, must less market it. Our government also supports, on the grounds of the right to freedom and self-determination, the fundamentalist guerrillas in Afghanistan, who – if, as now seems likely, they end up in power – may make Khomeini look mellow. Is there anything left of the West’s loudly proclaimed commitment to freedom that goes beyond such ironies? More and more that question, too, begins to seem rhetorical.

3/03/2008 02:20:00 PM  
Blogger Manny C said...

There is hope yet Wretchard.

3/03/2008 02:21:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Certain countries will simply surrender to Islam, and others will not.

The Netherlands will certainly surrender. Modernity has been a crushing blow to them and they'd rather escape it. Why not Islam? It's certainly better than freedom. The Dutch have sought to surrender to Nazism, Communism, and now Islamism. Wilders movie will likely be banned, and the man imprisoned, for riling up Muslims abroad.

By contrast Denmark seems set to fight. Poland, most of Eastern Europe as well will fight.

Britain is lost, and will surrender as quickly as possible, along with Ireland. Neither believe at all in the value of Western Civilization and take loss of the British Empire as proof that Western Civilization was flawed and doomed from the start.

France might actually fight. Italy perhaps as well. Spain will certainly surrender, they have been looking to do so in penance for Franco. Germany will probably split. Southern and Rhenish Germans (the Catholic part) will fight, as well as former East Germany. Austria also will likely fight. But Northern Germany will certainly surrender.

Brits have no pride at all in their flag, people, history, or culture. Britain has already surrendered (and with it, Ireland). The French, Austrians, Catholic Germans, and Italians don't feel shame in their culture, history, peoples, or symbols and so will likely fight. The Spanish due to Franco feel deep shame in Spain so will surrender at the first opportunity if they have not in fact already done so.

3/03/2008 03:35:00 PM  
Blogger Das said...

Seattle's media and arts elites are already in good form for this kind of thing:

A few years ago a local gallery held an exhibition of religiously provocative art called "Gods & Monsters." There were the usual paintings of messed up or otherwise blasphemed Christian and Jewish themes, et al. The one art object satirizing Islam however, was pulled from the show at the urging of Seattle arts leaders Regina Hackett and Larry Reid.

And this before anyone in the Muslim community had a chance to weigh in on the work (it was a Koran with the likeness of the Bamiyan Buddhas cut into its pages).

This will be a spread pattern all over the intellectual landscape of the west: elites granting a vast equanimity to those hacking away at the West whilst forbidding the slightest satirical poke at Islam.

Like all isolated provincials (surrounded by 5 major military installations) Seattle's media/intellectual elites believe themselves to be O-so-cutting edge. Sheesh...

3/03/2008 04:07:00 PM  
Blogger Chipotle said...

"One thing you have to say about Muslims is that, however much they may war on each other, they form a community of interest against outsiders."

A friend living in West Africa told me it works this way: Me against my brother, my family against my clan, my clan against my tribe, my tribe against the believers, the believers against the unbelievers.

3/03/2008 04:13:00 PM  
Blogger newscaper said...

One more positive datapoint?

Young Iraqis are losing their faith in religion

3/03/2008 06:04:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

So what are these books that these arabs have on offer for this paris book fair? I'm curious at what we'll be missing.

3/03/2008 06:31:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

In May of 2003, Steven den Beste wrote the following analysis of which countries were allies that America could count on. It had become breathtakingly clear at that point that France would do ANYthing to bring us down a notch or 20, but I remember being stunned at the perfidy of Canada as pointed out by den Beste.

It's interesting to take den Beste's list of "friends of America" from 2003 and compare it now to the countries who are actively going under, giving way to the Muslim swarm.

Russia seems to be holding its own, while England (which was a friend of America and an active fighter against Islamic terrorism) appears to be going under.

India and Japan are much more involved than den Beste had assigned them to be, possibly because we've been exremely generous in buying them off with nice nuclear toys.

And all the Middle EAst countries have coalesced into an anti-Israel/anti-American stance so that Jordan nor Egypt and certainly not Saudi Arabia could be considered either a "friend of America" any more, nor an anti-terrorism participant.

* * *

"So here's what I originally wrote. Strikethroughs represent original placements now revealed to be wrong. Text in red is changes based on current events.

Level 3 friends: These are nations which will fight beside us (the United States), who will commit fully to the war, and whose help we will be grateful to have. There will be no doubts about their friendship once this is over. Canada [strike through], Australia, the UK

Level 2 friends: These nations will make a substantial commitment and will definitely align with us, but will mostly make a passive contribution e.g. basing privileges, intelligence, diplomatic support. If parts of the war are fought in their territory, they will be involved: Israel, Qatar, Oman, Pakistan[strike through], India[strike through], Japan, Kuwait?, Turkey[strike through], some of the 'stans, Georgia, Poland, The Czech Republic, New Zealand[strike through], Spain, Italy

Level 1 friends: Basically friendly bystanders, they won't do anything to impede us but also won't contribute a great deal to the struggle; some intelligence, perhaps; cooperation in hunting down spies and terrorists, maybe a handful of non-combat troops, but not really a great deal that matters: The Netherlands, Germany[strike through], the Scandinavian nations, Spain[strike through], Italy[strike through], Portugal, Russia?[strike through], The Philippines?, Indonesia?, Latin America (except Cuba), South Korea, Taiwan, Jordan?, the rest of the 'stans, the Baltic republics, Ireland, Switzerland, New Zealand, India

Neutrals: Occasionally impeding us, occasionally helping us, but never really making much difference either way, these nations won't matter: France?[strike through], China?, UAE, SE Asia (i.e. Thailand, Viet Nam et al), Greece, Belgium, Balkan nations (i.e. Romania, Slovenia et al), Ukraine, Belarus, Mongolia, Bangladesh, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Turkey, Pakistan

Level 1 enemies: Nasty looks in our direction and doing their best to put sand into the diplomatic gears but in practice making little difference: Cuba, African Muslim nations (except Libya) including Egypt?, sub-Saharan Africa, North Korea[strike through], Canada, Germany, Russia

Level 2 enemies: Actively working against us but not directly involved in the combat: Lebanon, Libya?, Yemen, France, North Korea

Level 3 enemies: Before we're through, all the governments of these nations will have to be replaced one way or another, and they'll probably have to be occupied. Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, the Palestinians?, (the Taliban)

Anarchies: These are places without governments. They may end up being battlefields. Afghanistan, Somalia

Easily my biggest misjudgment was Canada. But it's an understandable mistake; there was a time when Canada would go to any length for us."

* * *

3/03/2008 06:59:00 PM  
Blogger El Baboso said...

One thing you have to say about Muslims is that, however much they may war on each other, they form a community of interest against outsiders.

The same could be said of the Chinese. Both they and the Muslims have a history of absorbing and assimilating (Mongols and Turks) their invaders or spitting them out whole (Crusaders and colonialists). European cultures tend to fight them at the borders or disintegrate. It is interesting that the primary group loyalty in China and Dar al Islam have always been to the tribe or clan while in the West, it has always been to the polis or state.

Thus when China or Dar al Islam are first invaded, they seem to disintegrate. In reality, loyalty is transferred from the state to the tribe and clan, which act as barriers to the invader's culture. The conqueror either assimilates or leaves with precious little of his legacy left behind.

The West instead fights bloody battles on its frontiers against the barbarian. At some point, it simply tires of the struggle. When the state falls to the invader, there is no clan or tribe for the citizen to transfer his loyalty to.

The United States represents something different altogether. I'm not quite sure what that is yet, but when I figure it out, I'll let you know.

3/03/2008 07:01:00 PM  
Blogger Chip Ahoy said...

nomenklatura, excellent post. Thank you for that.

3/03/2008 09:23:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Except El Baboso, Europe threw out the Muslims from Southern France, Southern Italy, Sicily (along with the Vikings no less), and of course Spain. All during a time when Vikings as well as Muslims threatened Europe. And clan and family were quite important, to dynasties and what religion people took to the eternal clan warfare of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales.

Meanwhile Turks ruled Arabs for well, nearly 800 years. While first Mongols ruled China (for nearly as long) then European powers carved out great chunks of it. Warlordism and clan and tribe provide stable-unstable societies.

The societies don't change much, but never advance much either.

3/03/2008 10:00:00 PM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

I dream a society in which no one will have to live in fear of death for inadvertently offending any Muslim, any more than they might be threatened by any other faith.

While there are many educated and temperate Muslims, they are clearly in thrall to the aggressive, chauvinistic, and fanatical of their faith. Moreover, it appears that the great majority of those who are capable of assimilating into non-Muslim societies emigrated decades ago specifically to escape a culture they found oppressive. Like many other expatriates, they were willing to forsake comfortable or at least well-paid jobs or relatively prestigious positions for a chance at the sort of freedom they'd heard was possible in the West.

In sharp contrast, the more recent migrants --- such as the workers who in the 1970's began eagerly to flock into France from North Africa and Germany from Turkey --- came mainly to take better-paying jobs than they could find in their own countries, and never intended to stay in societies whose values they otherwise utterly rejected. When East and West Germany reunited, those immigrant workers were made suddenly redundant, and rather than return to their home nations where employment was no more certain and welfare nonexistent, they stayed and went on the dole. France in its turn seems to have experienced unexpected economic doldrums after encouraging the migration of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers, who have likewise elected to take the French Leave because presumably conditions continue to be worse in their home nations.

I've seen persuasive reasoning to suggest that this is an inevitable upshot of the Socialist disease of the EU. That is, nations that experienced astonishing levels of employment, wealth, and accelerating saturation of benefits to citizens in the first decades after WWII, find that their workers increasingly take the services for granted while electing to retire from productive work at ever earlier ages. This pattern can only be sustained by the vigorous importation of foreign unskilled labor from "third-world" countries. As the imported workers come to comprise increasingly greater fractions of their host nations, they begin to recognize the disparity between their lot and that of the beneficiaries of the welfare state their labor is propping up.

Take a look at the comments of Daniel Del Castillo in The Chronicle of Higher Education in an article from the issue dated 05 March 2004. One of his important sources is Farouk El-Baz, an American scientist of Egyptian extraction, who makes devastating rebukes of the failure of the Arab nations, which he has offered in various forums.

Quoting from one of my own posts from last year,

"Almost any culture can steer some of its own to extremist attitudes and behavior — America has had its share of Unabombers and Timothy McVeigh’s. But Islamic terrorism, Jihad, the barbarity that defines Shariah — these have returned to the fore as the Islamic Arab cultures wallow in the greatest abundance, wealth and power they have ever known, from the sale of their oil at prices very much controlled by their own cartel OPEC.

Meanwhile, do they use this wealth to create, to educate themselves, to become self-sufficient? While some of the oil wealth has been applied to construction projects, the arab states have mostly become massive welfare societies, hiring (and brutalizing) alien nationals to do their menial jobs, electing Koranic studies rather than engineering degrees. Farouk El-Baz, member of the US National Academy of Engineering, points out that “during the past two decades, South Korea registered in the US over 44 times the number of patents from all Arab countries combined...” and “ ... the number of books translated in all 22 Arab countries is equal to one-fifth of those translated into Greek.”

In sum, Arab Islam has become a cipher, a synonym for intolerance, anti-intellectual bullying bigotry; an enduring cautionary model of suicidal fanaticism not seen since the Kamikaze tactics of the Japanese in World War II.

The thugs in charge in these countries are making the mistake of believing the bullshit of their own press agents, and forgetting actual history. Japan and Germany were after all defeated, and compelled to re-form and refashion themselves into a form that at least is capable of getting along with the other kids in the playpen.

It is worth recalling that the bloodletting that finally accomplished those changes totalled something on the order of a hundred million deaths.

3/03/2008 11:39:00 PM  
Blogger F451-2.0 said...

I find it instructive that when discussing the state of the west's will to win, constant and purposeful effort is made to inflame division between allies engaged in an existential war.

To what purpose does one seek to engender animosity both here in both our homes and amongst those fighting abroad.

It is as though one believes that neither our forces nor our enemies
at home and abroad can read.

Strange that.

And were it only true that at times past when the world was on fire, first in had always been the case.

Lists indeed.

3/04/2008 11:57:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Powered by Blogger