November 25, 2006

Worrying Rhetoric

George Orwell once said that he worried about some American conservatives- like James Burnham- he feared that they actually admired Stalinism- they thought that Stalin's efficiency in killing people was something that the US should emulate.

Sometimes reading people like Mark Steyn one wonders whether he too actually admires Islamic Fundamentalism. Take a look at the Daniel Pipes's New York Sun review of Steyn's latest book wherein Pipes quotes Steyn comparing Europe's postmodern decadence to Fundamentalist Islam's youthful vigour and you'll see what I mean. Matt Carr has documented some of the roots of the Eurabian ideas in this article he undermines many of the main arguments about this issue from American columnists. But more interesting in the course of this article is how much of the rhetoric is about religion itself for example he describes one writer George Weigel in these terms:

In an article entitled ‘Is Europe dying?’, published by the neocon bastion, the American Enterprise Institute, the American writer and Catholic theologian George Weigel referred to Europe’s ‘crisis of civilizational morale’ and the ‘disease of the human spirit’ caused by ‘exclusive humanism’ and a ‘failure to acknowledge Christian ideas and values’.

Weigel therefore joins Steyn in arguing that Europe undermined of its religious values has become decadent- one catches a note of the Dauphin's comment in Henry V that if the English come over and win then all the women of France shall beget with them a race of Norman basterds to reform France. What is fascinating about Steyn and Weigel in these quotations is that they show admiration for what they affect to most despise- like Burnham the anti-Stalinist who envied Stalin's appetite for blood- these are anti-fundamentalists who envy fundamentalism's appetite for religious rectitude.

We should always beware of confronting intolerant ideologies with extremist intolerant rhetoric- many cold warriors Isaiah Berlin, George Orwell and others combatted totalitarian ideas by being untotalitarian- in this new struggle about ideas we need to remember, like Berlin and Orwell did, not to appease an ideology that is criminally foolish either by compromising with it or by emulating its harsh intolerant dictats. If they could do it in the 1940s and 1950s facing a nuclear armed Stalinist state, we can do it now facing a terrorist threat.