25 September 2008

First report

[There are no illustrations in this longish posting because I cannot imagine what would be appropriate. When in doubt, ignore pictures is not a bad motto.]

Part of Monday was spent at a conference organized jointly by (deep breath) the Center for Security Policy with the New Criterion, Hudson Institute, City JournalManhattan Institute and our own Centre for Social Cohesion. With such illustrious sponsors there were illustrious speakers, including Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Mark Steyn, Daniel Johnson, Melanie Phillips, John O’Sullivan and David Pryce-Jones. Several postings will be needed to do it all justice and this is merely a preliminary musing.

The theme was “Free Speech, Jihad and the Future of Western Civilization” with a sub-heading mentioning libel tourism, a peculiarly British problem but that was not one of the main subjects. Since there were no lawyers on either of the panels, there could be no discussion of how the libel laws of this country can be changed as, we all agree, they must be.

A repeated theme elaborated by several speakers was the notion that the danger we are facing through soft jihad is greater than any we have faced before as neither Nazism nor Communism were so obviously ensconced in our society. There were no schools named after Lenin or St Adolph churches on street corners. Thus, our refusal to fight the jihad is liable to destroy Western civilization in a way the other two ideologies could not.

Let me, respectfully, disagree with that. The presence of mosques and madrassas (that means school) on our street corners need not be a problem as long there is a reasonable oversight as to what is taught there. No religious or educational institution is supposed to encourage people to go out and murder various others. By and large the people who attend these institutions have no power or influence in our society. (In fact, many of the youngsters have little to look forward to and that is a separate problem that needs to be addressed.)

Obviously, we cannot allow the building of extraordinarily large mosques, whose minarets will dwarf all Christian churches; nor can we have muezzins calling the faithful to prayer five times a day in Oxford. This is not a Muslim country.

However, there is an important difference between the inability displayed certainly by the establishment and various institutions in the West to fight for our culture and our civilization as against soft jihad and the refusal to do so when Nazism and, more importantly, Communism was the threat.

When the Archbishop of Canterbury speaks of the “inevitability” of Sharia law being accepted on equal footing with the ordinary law of the land or the Lord Chief Justice speaks of being
willing to see sharia law operate in the country, so long as it did not conflict with the laws of England and Wales, or lead to the imposition of severe physical punishments,
they do not really mean that they see Sharia as being superior to Western law.

Admittedly, it is difficult to work out what the Archbishop means at the best of times and Lord Phillips appears to think that Sharia should go beyond dispute resolution and, possibly, apply to marriage arrangement with all that implies for Muslim women. Nevertheless, both statements are expressions of moral paralysis and, possibly, physical cowardice rather than belief in the system.

This is very different from the real fifth column that all Western countries had for Nazi and, much more so, Communist ideology. The politicians, officials, diplomats, film producers and actors, officers during the latter half of the Second World War, academics, teachers, and others promoted Communism, openly or covertly, because they believed that the Western system of social, political, economic and moral ideas must be destroyed in order to create a higher societal structure. Not only was that much more dangerous it was also much more long-lasting.

I would argue that our perplexity in the face of the latest enemy and inability to proclaim the superiority of our own values of political, religious and social freedom have been caused to a very grerat extent by the infiltration of the much more dangerous enemy the West faced for decades until the Soviet Union collapsed in the early nineties.

At the conference Ayaan Hirsi Ali talked of soft jihad as termites. You may think your beautiful furniture is still standing but as soon as you move it there is a complete collapse – the termites have destroyed it. I am afraid it was the Communist infiltration that were the termites and the furniture that was in place and looked so nice cannot stand up to the strong movement that is being inflicted by the jihadists.

In the same way, many of us would argue that another specie of termites are the tranzis and, particularly, the European Union that is lodging in our furniture and destroying it from inside.

The extent to which that system’s agents penetrated our society has been documented in greater detail for the United States than for any European country, including Britain. Partly, this is a matter of luck – the CPUSA’s documents have ended up in the hands of competent researchers and historians, thus making it possible for the Yale series on the history of Communism to be published, starting with “The Secret World of American Communism” in 1996.

Then there are is the historical fact that the Venona documents that produced a remarkable list of individuals, some of whom have not yet been identified, were decoded in the United States, though often with British help. The declassification of documents was possible because of America’s Freedom of Information Act, which actually allows people to find out matters of some importance. Similar attempts to find out names of agents have failed in Britain and in European countries.

There are other issues: the famous libel laws that have prevented many an historian from disclosing the truth about the situation in Britain; and a curious desire to bury and ignore the past, often coupled with misplaced compassion for the now elderly agents or their families if they themselves have died.

Even in the United States McCarthyism is a word to invoke shivers of horror in many a right-thinking individual and George Clooney can get away with making a deeply dishonest film about the period, “Good night and good luck”. Ed Murrow may have been “a useful idiot” but the man at the heart of the story, Lawrence Duggan, was most definitely a Soviet agent and his death, allegedly a suicide, remains deeply suspicious.

The announcement that the Rosenbergs were definitely spies by one of their co-agents produced a frisson of astonishment in the New York Times.

In other words the debate is not ended and a great deal more is likely to come out on the subject of those “invisible” groups of agents, most of whom were in some position of power and influence. Compare that to the position the soft jihadists hold in our society.

Some, either Muslims themselves or their sympathizers, who, nevertheless, do not actually want to live in a Sharia-run society, have acquired positions in such organizations as the Canadian Human Rights Councils (that are now being investigated and may well cease to exist soon). Some, like Khalid bin Mahfouz, have enough money to manipulate the disgraceful British libel laws in order to impose censorship on all those who try to discuss what he has been doing with his money. But most of the mosque-goers and madrassa-attenders are on the fringes of society. That causes problems of its own but they cannot be compared with the likes of Harry Dexter White or Alger Hiss.

This is not to say that I do not find soft jihad seriously disturbing. Attempts to silence research, debate, even artistic expression whether through our libel courts, the Canadian Human Rights kangaroo courts or the manipulation of the American legal system and academia (so what else is new?) are outrageous and must be resisted.

(Incidentally, all those people who were so schocked by the fact that Governor Palin, as Mayor of Wasilla, asked the City Librarian about the possibility of certain books being withdrawn, not actually suggesting that she should do so, were very silent when Cambridge University Press, terrified by Khalid bin Mahfouz’s determination to bankrupt them if necessary, demanded that all libraries worldwide should withdraw copies of “Alms for Jihad”. Luckily, the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association recommended that American libraries refuse to comply and many readers seconded that.)

The decisions taken by the OIC and the Human Rights Council are also worrying. We all know that these organizations should have no influence on what happens in our countries at all and we also know that there will be creeping indirect influence. In fact, as I have suggested before on the BrugesGroupBlog, the transnational organizations are, in many ways, a greater danger to us than the Islamists.

We cannot allow books being pulped or withdrawn from publication because there are people around who do not like what is being said with respected writers and researchers like Rachel Ehrenfeld being prevented from publishing her work; we cannot have journalists like Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant bullied and harassed by sinister commissars for truth, who are not accountable to anyone and who have no legal framework within which they must operate (though, I understand they are now being investigated by various law enforcement agencies); we cannot accept that the likes of Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch should be silenced because they dare to point to unpalatable truths.

At the same time let us not forget that there are other forces that try to abolish liberties that had been fought for. The EU, as my colleague has reported, is once again trying to control blogs and bloggers, no doubt for the good of us all.

Over on the other side of the Pond, there are constant Democrat threats or promises to reintroduce the “Fairness Doctrine”, whose aim is to close down the highly successful right-wing radio channels and programmes. There were reports of Obama campaigners closing down Clinton-supporting blogs and trying to derail interviews with the likes of Stanley Kurtz on the subject of Obama’s links with the not-all-that-remorseful former Weatherman Bill Ayers and their joint behaviour over the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. Those egregious Holocaust denial laws not only go on in countries like Germany but there have been proposals to extend them to other countries. And, of course, we all, in Britain, live under the constant threat of the libel laws as operated by rich crooks with the aid and support of some (not many) members of the judicial profession.

The point I am making that the censorship and other aspects of the soft jihad are imposed through fear not through ideological agreement. In the first place, it is physical fear. If we don’t agree to stop investigating the Koran or pointing out that almost all recent terrorist acts were committed by Islamist groups, they might come after us. We might be blown up or murdered in the street like Theo van Gogh was. At best we shall have to live under permanent protection like Ayaan Hirsan Ali and other outspoken Muslims and ex-Muslims do or like Geert Wilders, the Dutch parliamentarian does, or like the Danish cartoonists do.

There is also the matter of intellectual cowardice. Too many people in the establishment and, one has to admit, outside it are terrified of proclaiming a point of view, particularly if it sounds nasty or unpleasant. The exceptions are the United States and Israel. You can say anything you like about them. Actually, you can say anything you like about any right-wing analyst or politician, as Governor Sarah Palin has found out.

The third intelinking thread is moral cowardice or, rather, a moral paralysis, the result, I submit, of the activity of those termites. Faced with a determined onslaught by people who are not particularly interested in convincing us but in overcoming our possible resistance by any means necessary, too many of us find it hard to define what it is we are fighting for and how to go about the fight.

The EU, needless to say, has been part of the problem. By insisting that member states abandon their own identities and histories in order to become part of the grand project; by officially proclaiming that part of the project is not upsetting anybody (except those who oppose it) as Commission President Barroso made it more or less clear in a waffly statement about the Danish cartoons and certain reactions to them, the EU has made our fight against the enemy that is trying to destroy our culture that much more difficult. Come to think of it, the EU, together with other tranzis and many of our own establishment, has refused to acknowledge that the enemy exists and is armed.

However, this is a war we can win. The Islamists, unlike our earlier enemies, are offering very little. Few people want to live under Sharia law or go back to a particularly backward version of the social structure of the Dark Ages. So they are beatable as long as we remain determined to do so and that means, among other things, not handing over Muslim populations to their rule.

The idea of imposing Sharia on Muslim communities in the West, thus creating a legal apartheid and condemning millions of people who should be living under our laws to that backward social structure ought to be repugnant.

We can stand up to these people, rescue their victims (those unfortunate youngsters who have been seduced by highly unpleasant imams and the women who are trapped in Sharia family rules, for instance) and, in the process, reassert those values that make the West, in particular the Anglosphere, the most attractive and energetic part of the world.

Going back to the conference, I want to quote two of the speakers (others will turn up in other postings), both writers I admire greatly and who have made appearances on the blog: David Pryce-Jones (here is his blog) and John O’Sullivan.

Mr Pryce-Jones is an expert on Middle Eastern history and very knowledgeable on Islam. In fact, he is considerably more knowledgeable than many of the Imams that spout hate-filled rubbish and all those who protest against “Islamophobia”. (Nothing new in that, many eurosceptics are more knowledgeable about European countries and their history as well as the EU than all those who scream “swivel-eyed Europhobes”.)

He started his comments by mourning the degradation that has fallen on the North African and other Arab Muslim countries in the last few decades, blaming it on the absolutist political systems that have grown up in them since the Second World War.

The nationalists got rid of the few nascent political institutions that the French and the British left behind (very few, as it happens) and turned the countries into oppressive one-party states. When these did not produce all or even some of what they promised, a power struggle ensued with the radical Islamists taking over, often in very bloodthirsty fashion. (Let me just add that the story of radical Islamism growing out of left-wing, Soviet supported Communist or quasi Communist regimes has not been properly told. It is so much easier to blame Western imperialism. The latest issue of the Salisbury Review has a fascinating article on this process in Algeria by the Portuguese writer and politician Patricia Lança but you have subscribe to the magazine to read it in full.)

Breaking absolute power is immensely difficult though, as Mr Pryce-Jones pointed out, the much-maligned Bush regime seems to have managed it and Iraq may well turn into an exemplar for the rest of the Middle East. It is certainly a worrying precedent for the rulers of those countries.

In the meantime, Mr Pryce-Jones advocates a new and more attractive Congress for Cultural Freedom that will give a forum to those Muslim thinkers and writers who are not so much “moderate” as that is a meaningless term but intent on turning Islam into a modern ideology that can survive without too much bloodshed into the twenty-first century and develop into the future.

The original Congress for Cultural Freedom was set up by the disillusioned left to counter the very effective Communist propaganda and other activity that was destroying Western culture and society. It was financed by the CIA because no-one else would. I think we can all agree that its work was but partially successful.

A Congress that would be opposing Islamism will have to be different as it will have to concentrate on the Muslim countries and communities themselves. In the West, it will have to proclaim the importance of Western values and culture and fight cowardice and abject desires to surrender rather than a powerful ideology.

John O’Sullivan, Executive Editor of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, pointed out that not all threats to free speech come from radical Islam. He should know. He and his staff are fighting very tangible threats and attacks in many countries, not least Russia.

He further pointed out that the lack of decent British patriotism that can be passed on to the young (and old but let that pass) has created problems for everyone in this country, not just the Muslim communities. (This, too, is a point we have made frequently on this blog.)

He suggested a programme of five points:

End multiculturalism and concentrate on teaching that decent British patriotism that includes a great deal of history, not forgetting that within a liberal (in the true sense of the word) Western culture there can be many divergences.

Something nasty to be done with the establishment, whose idiocy and dishonesty has, if not exactly landed us, certainly has kept us in the mess we are in. Of course, the establishment tends to be rather left-wing these days so let us not have any more nonsense about the poor underprivileged left, ranting against power structures that disappeared decades ago.

A serious reform of the police, which has become “the paramilitary wing of the Guardian”, a phrase so clever that many of us in the audience immediately made a note of stealing it.

An alteration to immigration rules that would prevent all those endless first cousin marriages to people from backward villages in the Indian sub-continent. This, needless to say, will start working towards an improvement in the situation of women in the Muslim communities.

The fifth point was the most important one as this is something we can all do immediately: resistance to foolish intellectual fashions, no matter where they come from.

So there we are dear readers. A first report on the many subjects raised by an important conference and a general musing on the subjects covered. I may add that quite a few people on the panel and in the audience might not have agreed with my opinion. Unsurprisingly, I remain convinced by them.

12 September 2008

Who should decide - Part 2

[This is a continuation of a posting I put up yesterday.]

Let us have a look at Jonathan Freedland's piece first because it comes from the same stable that tried to influence the last presidential election by urging Guardian readers write to voters in Ohio, suggesting to them that for everybodys sake they should vote John Kerry (D). Ohio, incidentally, the last major State to declare, went Republican.

Mr Freedland's piece is riddled with inaccuracies. He rehashes all the accusations against Governor Palin, having clearly not heard the truth about any of them; he calls Andrew Sullivan a conservative, something that has not been true for some time; he assumes that it is black candidates who do worse in elections than in polls, whereas the truth is that it is left-wing candidates; and he actually thinks that the ill-fated Berlin rally was a good thing. Then he delivers what he thinks are the killer punches:

If Americans choose McCain, they will be turning their back on the rest of the world, choosing to show us four more years of the Bush-Cheney finger. And I predict a deeply unpleasant shift.

Until now, anti-Americanism has been exaggerated and much misunderstood: outside a leftist hardcore, it has mostly been anti-Bushism, opposition to this specific administration. But if McCain wins in November, that might well change. Suddenly Europeans and others will conclude that their dispute is with not only one ruling clique, but Americans themselves. For it will have been the American people, not the politicians, who will have passed up a once-in-a-generation chance for a fresh start - a fresh start the world is yearning for.

And the manner of that decision will matter, too. If it is deemed to have been about race - that Obama was rejected because of his colour - the world's verdict will be harsh. In that circumstance, Slate's Jacob Weisberg wrote recently, international opinion would conclude that "the United States had its day, but in the end couldn't put its own self-interest ahead of its crazy
irrationality over race".

Even if it's not ethnic prejudice, but some other aspect of the culture wars, that proves decisive, the point still holds. For America to make a decision as grave as this one - while the planet boils and with the US fighting two wars - on the trivial basis that a hockey mom is likable and seems down to earth, would be to convey a lack of seriousness, a fleeing from reality, that does indeed suggest a nation in, to quote Weisberg, "historical decline". Let's not forget, McCain's campaign manager boasts that this election is "not about the issues."
Well now, let us try to sort this rubbish out. First of all, one cannot start by dismissing Sarah Palin, whose one great fault is that she is an outsider by Washington DC standards and then demand that Americans vote for the insider and call it "change" and "fresh start".

Furthermore, after the Democrats discarded Hillary Clinton, surely not voting for the McCain/Palin ticket would mean that the American electorate is motivated more than anything else by crazy irrationality over gender. If not voting in Obama is racist, not voting in Palin must be sexist. You see, Mr Freedland, two can play that stupid game. (As a matter of fact, whoever loses in 2008, Palin will emerge as the winner. Tough luck Mr Freedland.)

But, of course, it is more than that – we are talking about Americans not recognizing their own “self-interest”, which consists of being liked by Mr Freedland and Slate’s Jacob Weisberg and the mob in Berlin who applauded wildly whenever Obama mentioned completely irresponsible things such as solving the Darfur problem and global warming. (Incidentally, Senator Obama’s contribution to the problem of global warming is not, as you would expect, very helpful, as this account makes it clear.)

The conclusion one finally draws from that attack column is that as far as Mr Freedland is concerned Americans have to prove their non-racist credentials by voting in a black man (or, in this case, a mixed race one) and any black (or mixed race) man will do as they are in Mr Freedland's mind completely interchangeable. Ahem, isn't that rather racist?

I know of a very large number of Americans who read everything Thomas Sowell or Shelby Steele writes, are followers of LaShawn Barber's blog (woops, she is a black woman so she does not count), think Clarence Thomas is a good Supreme Court judge and would happily vote for Michael Steele (more here). (Incidentally, the last two of these have received a staggering amount of racist abuse from the left. Clearly, this does not bother Mr Freedland.) But they will not vote for Barack Obama not because he is black (well, mixed race) but because of who and what he is. He himself, not the rest of the male black population. That is what politics is about, Mr Freedland, in a democracy and not the sort of oligarchic government you are happy with.

Nor do I see why America needs to prove its anti-racist credentials to countries where ethnic minorities do not exactly prosper (a look at the situation in France might be instructive). The present Secretary of State and her immediate predecessor are both black. The fact that neither has managed to overcome the problems with the job is irrelevant. Their white predecessors did not either.

There are numerous black Senators, Representatives, Governors, Mayors (oh yes, they are important in American politics, despite Mr Freedland's ignorant comments), State legislators. The mere fact that a black (well, mixed race) man was chosen to be the candidate for one of the main parties is a huge achievement. Then again, the fact that a woman has been chosen to be the Vice-Presidential candidate for one of the main parties is also a huge achievement. And she, unlike Geraldine Ferraro, stands a good chance of winning and, probably, going on to becoming the Presidential candidate.

So much for Mr Freedland. Let us turn our attention (and, I trust, vitriol) to the BBC World Service poll. Goody, goody, the "World Wants Obama as President". Well, the majority of the 23,500 people asked in this poll across 22 countries does, anyway. Not decisive, I should have thought, particularly as these would be people who had access to the BBC and, more to the point, to whom the BBC had access.
A total of 23,531 people in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Nigeria, Panama, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Turkey, the UAE, Britain and the United States were interviewed face-to-face or by telephone in July and August 2008 for the poll.
Of course, one has to add that in July and August Senator McCain had had very little coverage in much of the world media (including the American MSM) as it was before his brilliant pick of Governor Sarah Palin as his Vice-President. Is the BBC going to conduct another poll that would take recent developments into account? I think not.

Several things strike me about the piece, apart from the comment:
In the United States, three polls taken since the Republican party convention ended on Thursday (local time) show Senator McCain with a lead of 1 to 4 percentage points - within the margin of error - and two others show the two neck-and-neck.
One wonders whether there was any mention of the margin of error when Obama's lead was below 5 percent, which has happened a number of times. Again, I suspect not. It's the way you tell 'em.

The summary of the figures is odd:
The margin in favour of Senator Obama ranged from 9 per cent in India to 82 per cent in Kenya, while an average of 49 percent across the 22 countries preferred Senator Obama compared with 12 percent preferring Senator McCain. Some four in 10 did not take a view.
Right. So nearly half the world, according to this, actually has no view on the subject. That's very interesting. I didn't see that in all the headlines. The spread is also interesting. The margin of preference was nine percent in India, a country that has close links with America and is worried about the defence situation in Asia.

In Kenya, that seat of freedom and democracy, the margin was 82 percent. Would that have anything to do with the fact that Obama's father (who had abandoned him and his mother when the child was two years old) was Kenyan? Surely not.

We have been here before in 2004 when we wrote about the sheer arrogance of presuming to dictate to the Americans how they should vote here and here. The subject came up earlier in this campaign as well.

Let me sum up: the American President and the American Congress are elected by the American people according to the rules laid down in the American Constitution, which has been around for well over 200 years. This is called constitutional democracy. The alternative of acclaiming the POTUS by journalists, NGOs, tranzis and people they condescend to ask is not acceptable. Though it may suit Senator Obama's campaign who lost a lot of good will in America when they had their man strut around as if he was already the President. Unfortunately, America has this small thing called an election. Oh dear, I am repeating myself.

Then there is a question of governments and elections in the countries where they so blithely tell us who should be the American President. Just how much say do the people of China, Egypt, Indonesia, Kenya, Lebanon, Nigeria, Russia and the UAE have in the selection of their own government, a matter of greater concern to them, one would have thought?

So we come to the last and, for us, the most important point. Does Mr Freedland ever mention the fact that in Britain around 80 per cent of the legislation comes from the European Union with the Parliament, even if it is aware of it, unable to strike it down? Has the BBC ever conducted a poll about the fact that legal decisions in Britain can be overthrown by the ECJ and legislation properly passed in Westminster can be declared invalid by the same body?

This is what I wrote in July in response to the notion that "we" should have a say in the choice of the POTUS:
To which one can say only one thing: who is this "we"? We, the people of European countries, do not have a say in the selection of our real government. Nor do we have a say in whether to have a completely new constitutional arrangement, to wit the Constitutional Reform Lisbon Treaty imposed on us. When the people of one European country are graciously allowed to vote on the subject and say no, plans are made to disregard their vote. So, before we claim a right to impose our views on the Americans on who should be their President perhaps we should take a closer look at what is happening in our own countries.

Furthermore, is it not strange that "our" opinion always seems to be on the side of the Democrats and the more left-wing and anti-American their rhetoric is, the more "we" seem to like them? Could it be because we are fed a succession of … ahem … inaccurate stories about American politics by our own media and various political pundits? Or could it be that "we" are only a very small proportion of the population?
Well now, let me ask that question buried in the first paragraph: before we start interfering with the American constitutional structure are we to be allowed to decide whether we want the Constitutional Reform Lisbon Treaty imposed on us and is Mr Freedland going to write an angry article about the need for Britain and other European countries to turn over a new leaf and resume their existence as democratic countries? I take that is a no. After all, it is so much easier to make irresponsible statements about the next occupant of the Oval Office.