Wisdom of Crowds Redux

December 22, 2015

If you cannot appreciate the “wisdom of crowds,” you will never understand American democracy or the Trump phenomenon. Trial by fire builds character – and constituencies.

The other day a headline read; “Donald Trump declares war on Muslims.” After reading the subtext, you could have concluded that the real war might be with biased journalists and lunatic Muslims, in that order.

That same day, George Stephanopoulos tried to link the Republican pole sitter to Hitler over Mr. Trump’s latest blast at immigration policy.  The raps against “the Donald” usually test the limits of credulity and fact, to say nothing of fairness. You may recall, ironically, that appeals to “fairness” are a favorite media mantra when it comes to convicts, drunks, junkies, deadbeats, dependents, immigrants, and Islamists. Pardon any redundancies.

Any push back against the conventional wisdom and Islam is vilified as a “far right” politics. You rarely hear “far left,” the invisible elephant, in any context these days.

Fair play is seldom an issue when it comes to success, achievement, or men like Trump and Ben Carson, or any political newcomer who challenges media spin or contemporary narratives of polite mendacity.

Anon, expect the next Islamic atrocity in America to be blamed on Donald Trump’s rhetoric. Were it not for guys like Trump, the argument will go, Daniel Pearl would still be filing copy.

The press might bowdlerize facts and truth, but eventually the crowd knows better. Lincoln put it best: “You can’t fool all of the people all the time.”

Unlike Lincoln, journalists hail today mainly from the political Left. No surprises there. Indeed since WWII, urban print and broadcast monopolies are a kind of permanent political condominium, a Democrat Party monoculture if you will. While Republicans spin out into industry, the Democrat revolving door tends to feed the media. Tim Russert, Nina Totenberg, George Stephanopoulos, Cokie Roberts, Chuck Todd, James Carville, and Chris Matthews are prominent examples. Parsing the press is fraught with redundancy too, yet two broad categories are evident: bimbos and mimbos.

A bimbo journalist might be any woman who lionizes political men at the expense of real men with real jobs. Or put another way, a bimbo will always confuse election with achievement. Given a choice, a media floozy will swoon for a glib Chicago toker with a law degree long before she warms to an accomplished neurosurgeon from Detroit or a shrill developer from Queens. “Mary Jane” and marijuana are joined by more than metaphor.

A fairly typical piece of bimbo copy is found in the aforementioned article by Dara Lind which claims that Trump is at “war with Islam.” Previously, you may recall, Trump had been at war with women. This is the same press loath to use words like war, Muslim, or fascism when the subjects are political terror and Islam. Hyperbole, apparently, is fair play for partisan politics, yet haram for public safety or national security issues like religious warfare.

Dara should be careful about her wish list.  A jihadist is the kind of boy that treats girls like Ms. Lind as sword bait, chattel, or livestock. Ms. Lind needs the counsel of an adult journalist, say Lara Logan, for some perspective.

Lind writes for VOX, a spin-off founded by Washington Post veterans. The stated goal of VOX is to provide more content than the Post. “Content,” when the subject is Trump, is better read as political hatchet work.

The cohort on the “mimbo” side of the media spectrum is more numerous, a target rich environment. Chris Matthews (NBC) and George Stephanopoulos (ABC) are examples.

Matthews stands out, because he, more than any partisan troll, set the tone for the Obama era. If there were any justice, Chris Mathews would get a Pulitzer Prize for pandering. Recall that he proclaimed on nationwide television that the election of a black male made “a thrill run up his leg.”

Set aside the homoerotic day dreaming, and consider only the celebration of melanin as achievement, a standard now underlined by a Noble Prize.

Martin Luther King is spinning in his grave.

With one spontaneous rhetorical orgasm, Matthews established the bigotry of low expectations as a political metric. Indeed, in seven years, Barack Hussein Obama has lived down to the Matthews marker.

Trump says that the Obama era does not bode well for the future of black politicians on the left. The Democrat slate for 2016 is in fact all white bread. The Republican offering, in contrast, is a coalition of color; a woman, an African American, two Hispanics, and a flash mob of pink/white guys. Lincoln would be proud.

Matthews may be confused or bigoted, but George Stephanopoulos is prey to abject historical stupidity. In the halcyon days of White House bimbo eruptions, George carried water for misogyny and perjury as a Clinton apologist. To be fair, loyalty is a cardinal virtue in journalism and politics alike.

Still, likening a developer from Queens to Hitler, is a little like comparing a half-baked apple to the apocalypse. Clearly, Stephanopoulos did not major in history at Columbia. Here’s what he missed.

The differences between National Socialism and toxic Islamism are two. True believers or sympathizers with jihad number in the hundreds of millions, the Nazi cohort of true believers was relatively small. And German fascism was based on a creed of racial superiority while Islamists are hostage to illusions of religious superiority. Both have fascism in common where dystopian violence, terror, and occupation are the primary agents of influence, colonialism, or imperial conquest.

When Islamists speak of “crusades,” they are in fact projecting the hope and tradition of ancient Mohammedan dreams. Muslims ravished (630-1094 AD) the great cities of the Greco/Roman Mediterranean basin, much as they do today, for hundreds of years before Pope Urban II (1042-99 AD) unleashed the Franks towards Jerusalem. With the exception of Iberia, western civilization never recovered most of what was lost to Islam and irredentism.

Judaism and Christianity enriched the Greco/Roman world with ideas. Islam, then as now, seeks to restrain ideas at the point of a sword, through the “martyrdom” of suicide bombers, or an iconoclasm born of rigid, rote, and primal theology.

The original crusades, like modern Islamist imperialism, were about Muslim aggression and belated European defense. Islam is again on the march today and modern Europe has not the wit, nor the heart, this time to mount an ideological or kinetic defense.

The difference between then and now is that Khalif Baghdadi has already bypassed the gates of Vienna. More than a camel’s nose now stalks the remnants of Jewish, Greek, Roman, and Christian cultures. Yes, George, what little is left of your Greek patrimony is at risk too.

Nothing in Trump’s vitae has anything to do with ancient or modern Muslim religious necrosis – or Hitler’s historic secular depredations.

Contra factual bleating which passes for truth or analysis at ABC, one that attacks those who urge the containment of fascism, is the kind of double think that makes genocide possible. Posturing for ratings at ABC, with spin that equates the plight of Jews with Muslims, is consistent with the polite domestic bigotry and racism of Chris Mathews at NBC.

The walk of media shame has inducted Wallace, Rather, Totenberg, and Williams. Matthews and Stephanopoulos cannot be far behind. Trump’s war with mendacity in America and abroad is a tale of numbers. When the issue is “trust,” American journalism wallows in the single digits in many polls. Trump’s numbers are approaching fifty percent in many places where votes matter.

Elitists try to diminish Trump’s numbers with innuendo about “high school graduates” as if a college degree ever made a difference in intelligence, character, or achievement, especially among politicians or journalists.

The more media and the establishment attack Trump, the more relevant he becomes. A strategy of confronting press and political spinners is paying HUGE dividends, if we can poach Trump’s favorite adjective.

Who knows where Donald Trump’s campaign goes? He continues to confound supporters and critics alike. Win or lose, Trump brings many subjects that we prefer to ignore into sharp focus. On every hot button topic from obese women, to soft racism, to John McCain, to press bias, to immigration, on to toxic Islam; Trump is as close to truth on issues as his critics are to pandering.

Seven years of bombs, bull shite, and Obama dithering in Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria have killed more Arabs and Muslims than ISIS. You will never see those statistics above the fold.

Trump has bloodied the waters of American politics too. When the feeding frenzy is done, the worst shills may have consumed each other and some truth about safety and national security might still float.

For the moment, the usual suspects; media, career politicians, and associated nitwits can’t imagine Donald Trump as president. Compared to whom? Surely not Barack Hussein Obama, another Bush, or Bill Clinton’s most durable gal pal.

Posit, if you will, a series of Donald/Hillary debates. The gate on those cage matches could pay off the national debt. The winner might still have enough of a surplus to renovate 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the Trump tribe.

The wisdom of crowds is the way democracy must work when media and political elites collude to fool all of the people all the time.

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Originally published in American Thinker and the New English Review

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Key words: American journalism, Washington Post, VOX, American politics, immigration, Islamism, Donald Trump, Chris Matthews, Dara Lind, George Stephanopoulos, ABC, and NBC.

 


Friday the 13th in Paris

November 17, 2015

“The influence of the (Islamic) religion paralyzes the social development of those who follow it.”  –  Winston Churchill

Islamic fanatics struck another blow for cynicism last Friday night in Paris; wholesale and gratuitous slaughter in the name of some sanguinary Muslim god. History teaches few lessons these days.

We say “Muslim” god because most other religions forsook ritual religious slaughter centuries ago. Indeed, the nearest historical comparison is actually political. Before contemporary jihad, the Nazis were the last imperial movement to use industrial scale pogroms to underwrite an ideological message. Ironically, the EU now opens its borders to religious fascism, more virulent than the political strain that led to the Holocaust and associated carnage of WWII. Angela Merkel and the European Union do the ironic walk of shame here.

Alas, any distinction between politics and religion in a Muslim context is now moot. Politics are mostly religious in the Ummah and dystopic religion seems to be the only relevant politics permissible in much of the Muslim world.

Indeed, the irony is compound. The most egregious exporters of religious hate and sharia bigotry are putative EU/American “partners;” or allies; i.e. Pakistan, Afghanistan, Arabia, and Persia. Withal, Europe and America are fatally impaled on the horns of the Shia/Sunni dilemma – by choice. Judeo/Christian tolerance now has all the earmarks of a suicide pact. Body counts, as Stalin prophesied, are now just another statistic.

Indeed, Islam today is both sword and shield.  Terror strikes and then retreats to sanctuary under a burka of global religious immunities. Somehow the larger bovine Muslim majority has no moral or civic responsibility for terrorists, passive aggressors (nee moderates), or those unassimilated and indigestible Muslim refugees. The EU and America are paralyzed by guilt and restraint that has no meaning for Muslim shooters and bombers. The new law of international war is now made by religious zealots while the “best” in the West assume the defensive crouch of infidel catamites.

In the after-orgy of post-Paris apologetics, few western leaders dared to mention Islam, Islamism, or the global jihad. The enemy is still the undifferentiated local, militant, terrorist, or criminal as if the ideology or motive that binds them all doesn’t matter. In the not too distant past, the threat was atomized as local phenomena like Black September, Fatah, Hamas, al Qaeda, or Boko Haram. The flavor of Islam du jour at the moment is ISIS or the Islamic state.

No matter the body count or venue, Europe and America refuse to recognize jihad as a global Islamic assault. And as with the Charlie Hebdo atrocity, the best response that Francois Hollande and France can muster now is a karaoke Marseillaise, a knee-jerk hymn to irrelevant if not discredited notions of liberté, égalité, and fraternité.

Fey responses to terror are now routine in the West. Call it cultural appropriation. Summary executions are accepted by Islamist butcher and infidel victim alike. Atrocity has been routinized, now hallmarks of 21st Century practices in the East and tolerance in the West. Suicide bombers and their victims are joined by the same moral vacuity. The former have no moral compass and the latter are loath to exert any prudence.

Excuses are epidemic. Bernie Sanders on the looney Left actually believes that global warming and ISIS are wingmen. The Sanders pronouncement is of a piece with team  Obama’s flawed assessments where ISIS has been described as the “junior varsity.”

Exaggerating a threat might be a no lose hedge but underestimating an existential threat can be fatal. Just ask Paris.

Maybe Parisians should build a monument to terror too as New York and Washington did after the Saudi Muslim attack against lower Manhattan and the Pentagon.  Appeasement, withal, seems to be the new deterrence.

For those with the attention span to notice, global Islamic terror is the most obvious symptom that globalization is not working. Democratic civility and “one-world” comity are not ascending stars, especially in the Muslim world. Societies that venerate 7th Century absolutist monoculture or cult prophets are impervious to fact or reason – much less democracy.

With the possible exception of Kurdistan and a few of the former Soviet Muslim republics, the Ummah is morphing into universal dystopic theocracy.

The quest for Islamic monoculture is facilitated by three trends: a weak or indecisive West, dishonest assessments of the threat, and a generation of leaders in the West who fail to appreciate or defend the virtue, indeed, superiority of their own culture. Indeed, of the three, the most pernicious is the last, the notion that all cultures and religious beliefs are morally equivalent.

Culture is the synergistic interplay of positive national values which allow independence, civility, cooperation, tolerance, and peaceful productivity. None of these virtues can be attributed to most of the Muslim world today. Indeed, much of the Ummah is a cesspool of human depravities. Friday the 13th in Paris is just one of too many examples.

Days before the latest Paris slaughter, the President of the United States declared unequivocally that ISIS had been “contained.” Here again we have another triumph of false hope over experience. The White House, the Pentagon, and the American Intelligence Community still treat Islamism as a public relations problem to be “managed” largely with hyperbole, wishful thinking, and domestic mendacity. The Islamists win in places like New York, London, and Paris because they understand that real victories in real wars war come from the barrel of a gun not the mouths of fools.

Huntington was correct; the “clash of civilizations” is here. If the latest Muslim massacre in France does not underline that clash, it’s difficult to imagine what kind of losses or atrocity might have to be endured to convince the West.

Immigration, nonetheless, is not the only Trojan horse in the Muslim kit. The pathologies of Islamic culture are well recorded at the expense of women, children, ethnic and non-Muslim minorities. Alas, there is no single Islamic Trojan horse; the phenomenon today is more like a diseased herd at full gallop. Allahu akbar!

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This essay appeared previously in the Small Wars Journal, November 2015.

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Political Revolt and Religious Reform

May 8, 2011

“Revolution is a transfer of power; reform is the correction of abuses.”  Lytton

 

Scholars and politicians are still trying to make a case for Muslim “democracy” in the wake of an ongoing viral Arab revolution.  These arguments, as they have since the beginning, are underwritten by two grand assumptions; a “moderate” Islamic present and an enlightened Muslim future. If asserted conclusions and wishful thinking were evidence, such speculations might be supportable.

The predicate of “moderation” imagines an Islam that is ecumenical and tolerant; in short, a culture of persuasion, not an imperial political ideology. Such assumptions tend to ignore the realities of global militants, jihad financiers, and aggressive proselytizers.

Fearful politicians and an uncurious Press reserve most of their anguish for relatively minor and geographically remote groups of Muslim radicals such as Arab al Qaeda and the South Asian Taliban. The Pyrrhic victory laps associated with the recent summary execution of Osama bin Laden are symptomatic. Concurrently, the larger international Islamist movement grows apace, largely unexamined and unchecked.

Global terror attacks now number over 50 thousand incidents per annum; and most anti-secular insurgencies worldwide, while nearly exclusively Islamic, are dismissed as unrelated or isolated events with local motives. Islamic terrorist organizations now number in the dozens and more than a few operate globally. Petrodollar financing of mosques, religious schools, and religious cultural centers also operates beneath the radar of international concern. Religious proselytizing organizations such as Hizb al-Ikwan al-Muslimum (Muslim Brotherhood), Hizb ut Tahir (Party of Liberation), and the Tabilighi Jamaat (Society for Faith Propagation) now have a gross membership in the hundreds of millions.

PEW surveys of Arab attitudes towards jihad, terror, Jews, and religious law reveal significant support for the Islamist agenda. In some countries those sentiments exceed fifty percent of the population. The most facile defense of irredentist Arab attitudes are the blanket claims, like those made by White House advisors, that negative sentiments are  “unislamic” or  fringe phenomena, not representative of  true Islam or genuine Arab opinion. Islamic leaders seldom make such fatuous claims about “moderation,” yet factual terror statistics and factual opinion surveys seem to have little impact on non-Islamic apologists.

More than a few militant groups, work several facets of the jihad imperative; violence and good works. Hamas and Hezb’allah (Party of God) are two prominent examples – bloody sedition masked under a burka of community service.

Nonetheless, the largely unwarranted assumptions about Muslim moderation are not near as troubling as forecasts or wishful thinking about Muslim “democracy.”

It is religious reform and tolerance, not political revolution that makes democracy and republicanism possible. Islam does not recognize a distinction between church and state. Indeed, contemporary Islamic clerics and scholars hold that religious/secular distinctions create a “hideous schizophrenia” in the West – the source of all European and American degeneracy. Such dogma offers few prospects for renewal, internal or external to dar al Islam.

Developed societies do not find the sacred and profane mutually exclusive. For too many Muslims, such enlightened tolerance is neither a virtue nor a likely future.

 The Christian Experience

 The keystone for secular/religious harmony is the admonition to “render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s” found in the synoptic gospels (Mathew 22:21). Indeed, the early Christian tradition followed a polytheistic Roman model which, short of political revolt, was very tolerant – and at one time, republican. Indeed, the man Christians knew as Saint Paul was in fact, unlike Christ, a literate rabbi and a Roman Citizen. He lived in three worlds and thrived.

Up to the time of Constantine, few people made a distinction between Jews and Christians. A Christian was a kind of reform Jew.  Early Christian theologians, and later Enlightenment philosophers, were admirers of Greek and Roman secular notions of democracy and republicanism: Albertus, Augustine, Aquinas, and (especially) Erasmus were prominent.

The seeds of civilization were first embalmed in sectarian amber with Constantine’s Edict of Milan (313 AD); a proclamation whose net effect made Christianity the state religion of a fadingRoman Empire.Constantine, weary of internecine wars in Europe moved the Roman capital to the Bosporus where classical civility awaited its fate at the hands of the Ottomans.

The end of the Roman Byzantine epoch was forecast in 1054 AD when the western and eastern rites of the Christian church excommunicated each other – a divide which persists today.  By 1453 AD, the lights of Constantinople were dimmed by Mehmed II after a siege that lasted less than 60 days.

If Constantine had the gift of prophesy and could have foreseen the tyranny of Holy Roman Emperors and corrupt Catholic Popes, he might then have given polytheism, and the entire Greek and Latin pantheon, a second look.  Monotheism was a hop, skip, and jump from religious monoculture, a straitjacket that was not undone inEurope for a thousand years.

Rome and Constantinople did not perish from a single cause. Indeed, the decline of both was slow enough that Western Europedidn’t rouse itself from the dogmatic stupor of the Dark and Middle Ages until it was too late. The last vestiges of Classical Rome, and many Greek antecedents, were devoured by monotheistic cannibals; Christianity on the north and west and Islam to the east and south. The Renaissance and the Enlightenment barely saved Europeand Christianity from themselves.

Much of the problem with historical religious tyranny is the assumed superiority of monotheism and the infallibility of associated clerics or “prophets.” Orthodox or fundamentalist monocultures are invariably authoritarian and characteristically intolerant. In the modern Arab world, autocratic secularism and religious exclusion often share the same pulpit.

Diversity and pluralism are celebrated as secular virtues, yet somehow these values don’t travel well with doctrinaire monotheists. True cultural diversity would include religious practices, not just racial demographics. Ecumenicism, another value attributed to Islam, is also a one-way street as any non-Muslim pilgrim to Tehran,Riyadh, orMeccawould discover.

A thousand years after the fall of Rome, but mere decades after the fall of Constantinople, the Christian Reformation challenged both an absolute Church and a host of absolute monarchies. Here, many of the key Enlightenment players were clerics. Luther and Erasmus were seminal; two monks ordained into the same Augustinian order. It was Erasmus who most notably disputed Fra Luther’s determinism and argued to retain key Catholic ideas of choice and free will.

The American Experience

The ink had hardly dried on Luther and Calvin’s absolutism, notions of predestination and fatalism, when a thousand apostates bloomed. Many Christian free thinkers fled from the intolerance and religious wars of Europe to the relative freedom of the British and French colonies in America. Once there, the Protestant varieties of Christianity continued to multiply, many of them restoring Catholic values that Luther had rejected. Prominent among these were free will, redemption, clergy, and good works.

It was left to Americans to fire the forge of democratic ecumenicism; a furnace where freedom, republicanism, and the best common law traditions of Judaism and Christianity would be alloyed.

Most of the European Enlightenment gloss that was to grace the boilerplate (Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights) of the American experiment would have been unknown to most citizens of the original colonies. Indeed, the various state assemblies and elected representatives were created a century before the 1776 war against England. The Virginia House of Burgesses first sat in 1619. A “burgess” was a free man.

The 13 American republics were as much a product of secular neglect as religious reform. England cared little about colonial governance as long as imperial commerce and revenues were assured.  Indeed, the Church of England had little influence before the Revolution and less after. And the early democratic pretensions of the states were limited; the voting franchise was restricted to property owning, white males.

Nonetheless, the early American republics were unique in two respects. The choice of government, if not governors, was a bottom-up phenomenon. And religious tolerance was not so much a choice, as a necessity. The young American democracy developed in tandem with two religious “awakenings,” in fact an American religious reformation which produced a diversity of Christian sects inAmerica that Luther and Calvin could never have imagined. The spires of Christianity and Mogen Davids of Judaism, the American religious mosaic, are still visible today in every town from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

The story of how the “Awakenings” changed Puritan thinking was best told by Nathanial Hawthorne in the fictional Scarlet Letter.

Hester Prynne is not simply the story of a fallen angel redeemed. The back story is even more fascinating. Hawthorne was writing in midst of the Yankee critique of Luther and Calvin. In the process of trying to reform Catholicism, Puritan zealots had rejected beliefs in free will, penance, and good works. Hawthorne, a writer with Puritan roots, and his fictional adulterers, helped to restore these core values to American variants of Christianity. In the end, Hester’s scarlet letter becomes: a red badge of courage, an affront to clerical hypocrisy, a symbol of personal responsibility for moral choices, and ultimately, an icon of good works; the path to redemption – in this world, if not the next:

“…the scarlet letter had the effect of the cross on a nun’s bosom. It imparted to the wearer a kind of sacredness which enabled her to walk securely amid all peril.”

Europe took its “democratic” cues fromAmericafrom that point forward.  Historians seldom note that the US Constitution never mentions democracy. Republican founding fathers had little faith in the wisdom of crowds.

Subsequent, political and commercial success in Europe and America was made possible, not by the decline of religion, but by the rise of reform; republican reforms that released the constructive energies of true political and spiritual diversity.

The Civil War was America’s great secular renovation; it was made possible by diverse religious campaigners that insisted on social justice. The abolitionist movement,Lincoln’s Republican Party, and the Underground Railroad began, and were sustained, by the conscience of congregants.

Europe might well take credit for social “democrats” as these were linear descendants of Luther, Calvin, Marx, and Lenin. Ecumenical Judeo/Christian republicanism, however, was a product of the American experiment, and the wellspring of Yankee exceptionalism.

How the French went wrong, just a few short years after the American Revolution, is another story. The Richelieu precedent and religious homogeneity probably didn’t help – or possibly Voltaire died too soon and Robespierre lived too long. The French Catholic monopoly survived in any case. To the south, in Spain, a stifling secular/religious oligarchy prevailed through a bloody Spanish Civil War and well into the 20th Century.

The Russian Revolution of the early 20th Century was in many ways similar to the French. The Slavic upheaval began with all the usual cant about freedom and democracy, but the face of reality soon became terror and totalitarianism. The great error of Marx and Lenin was to make an enemy of the Church, instead of cultivating and harnessing the energy of congregants, Communists created a massive spiritual fifth column in Eastern Europe. With that, the “revolution without guns” of the late 20th Century became, as George Keenan forecast, inevitable. Ultimately, the old believers ofEurope swept the secular atheists of Marxism into “the dustbin of history.” Today, the Russian prime minister wears a crucifix.

Religious contributions to American and European success were not limited to Christians. Jewish gifts to the development of democracies were substantial.

The Jewish Experience

The conflict between theocratic Jews and secular Romans reached a boiling point in the First Century (66 AD), a tipping point during the Second Revolt (132 AD). For most Jews, the Diaspora was an opportunity to turn lemons into sorbet. They did this by adapting themselves to 19 centuries of secularism in exile while retaining local diversity of religious traditions. In spite of, or because of, depredations, Jews made exceptional artistic and scientific contributions to a world of nation states. They “rendered unto Caesar” on a global scale while preserving a unique and, at the same time, a value-added culture. The keys to Jewish success were acceptance, however pragmatic, of secular authority in public affairs – complemented by traditional tolerance of spirituality.

Like the American experience, necessity was the mother of Jewish invention; tactical assimilation served a larger strategic goal of cultural survival. The Jewish Diaspora is the gold standard example of symbiotic secular and religious values in a successful society. Tension between the sacred and the profane is both necessary and sufficient for survival and progress. All success is a product of perseverance, competition, and struggle. Conflict is good – and inevitable. Utopian religious or secular monoculture is not just impractical; it is also impossible.

The great danger of Islamism is not that it might succeed, but the damage it does before it fails.Israelis likely to be the first casualty.

Today, we again hear national politicians and prominent Muslim clerics, reviving a primitive bigotry, as they talk of “wiping Jews off the face of the earth.” What are we to think – that such declarations are signs of moderation? No rational world can fail to recognize the historic and global contributions of Jews, the symbolic significance of Israel, and the categorical imperative (to borrow a thought from Emanuel Kant) to defend them both.

The Islamic Experience

Too much of Islam has never evolved or repaired the depredations of orthodoxy. Utopian monocultures, religious or secular, are impossible in this world – and possibly the next. Short of radical reform, Islamism is doomed to ruinous failure.

The sacred texts of Judaism and Christianity were written by many hands; insuring degrees of observance and a rich diversity of interpretations. The holy texts of Islam come from a solitary source – or at least that’s the claim.  The genius of Talmudic and New Testament commentary is the daily effort to make them relevant to a developed world. Republican democracy is impossible without such religious pluralism and complementary political diversity.

There are too many examples of sovereign religious and political absolutism in the Arab League, so it is instructive to look elsewhere; examine a nation likeTurkey, a NATO member; and every apologist’s favorite Muslim “moderate.”

Turkey is an instructive example of contemporary Islamic backsliding and intolerance. Put aside for a moment the ethnic cleansing of apostate Kurds and infidel Christian Armenians. Put aside also associated genocide denials. Consider instead the erosion of Kamalist secular values and the systematic intimidation of the military since the Islamists came to power in 2002; a military long thought to be the guardian of secular values is now cowed by clerics. Consider also the fate of the Eastern Rite Christian church in Anatolia. The Erdogan government has closed the last Christian Orthodox seminary inIstanbul by fiat; virtually guaranteeing that one of the oldest congregations in Christendom, without clergy, will be suffocated in a generation.

Mehmed II showed more mercy to the Christians of Constantinople in 1453. And the Church of Rome shows as much concern for their Christian brothers in Turkeytoday as they did in the 15th century. Then as now, Europe may be, as Oriana Fallaci claimed on her death bed, its own worst enemy. Admitting modern Turkey to the European Union makes about as much sense as making Somalia the 51st American state.

Tayyip Recep Erdogan is not just the prime minister; he is also head of Turkey’s largest religious party, a party which garners well over three fourths of the national vote. And Erdogan is Islamism’s most eloquent spokesman on the subject of moderation. The prime minister claims that the adjective “moderate” before the noun “Muslim” is an insult:

“These descriptions are very ugly; it is offensive and an insult to our religion. There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam and that’s it.”

The Turkish prime minister does not abide the notion of moderation, how arrogant is it for Western journalists, politicians, and academics to insist on perpetuating this myth?

If theocratic monoculture is the price of racial pluralism, then claims about Islamic diversity are a social fraud. And if European and American commercial imperialism was a crime against Muslim history, surely Islamic religious imperialism is a crime against the future. Freedom and democracy have always been impossible without religious reform.

Epilogue

The world is both enriched and bedeviled by spirituality. Religion is a basis for ethics in classical education and an ancient curb-level contributor to common law. Too frequently, Western scholars and politicians are uncomfortable with religion; unable to recognize its potency and unwilling to condemn its excess.

The European and American Enlightenment is a telling example. Academics wax eloquently about the political and scientific contributions of John Locke, Charles Darwin, Adam Smith, and Thomas Jefferson, but few are inclined to value the spiritual reforms of Disiderius Erasmus, Roger Williams, Jonathan Edwards, John Carroll, or Abraham Geiger.

History is usually written by self-proclaimed agnostics, timid academics with little sympathy for spiritual grass roots, or the people who actually make history. At the same time the academy will defend the moral equivalence of political Islam in the name of ecumenicism; literally defend intolerance in the name of tolerance. The complicity of Islamist right and the secular left is one of the great ciphers of the new century.

For good or ill, political scientists are often too eager to ingratiate themselves to an “ism” or a political fad. The politically correct view of Islam today, now mandated apparently from10 Downing Street and the White House, is that militant Islam and national security threats are mutually exclusive. The belief that democracy will follow Arab revolts appears to be, like Islamophobia, another neologism.

White House papers insist that the language of national security analysis be altered so that no link between religion and threat can be established or implied. Somehow the religious incantations and the bombs of suicide assassins are unrelated; and now Muslim revolution is inextricably linked to democracy? Such scenarios divorce evidence from reason. Monolithic religion, like totalitarian politics, has always been a threat to civility and human progress. There is little evidence to suggest that contemporary Islamic imperialism is any different.

The “awakenings’ of American history were religious reforms. The carnage in the Arab world is a lot of things, but religious reform is not one of them. Indeed, the images from Arab television (chanting mobs of burkas, green banners of jihad, and contorted faces of clerics like al Yusuf al Qaradawi); reveal an Arabia that is not so much awakening as sleep walking back through history.

Revolts may change regimes, but only reform will correct historical error.

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The author attended Catholic schools in the Bronx and New Rochelle, New York. This essay appeared in the 7 May 11 edition of Global Politician.