April 13, 2021

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Liberals without memory: Fisking Roger Cohen on Geert Wilders


Roger Cohen has another of his patented editorials, this time about Geert Wilders. Rapid fisking below.

 Somebody Else’s Babies

Roger Cohen MARCH 14, 2017

And so it begins. With the Dutch election on Wednesday, Europe embarks on a yearlong test of how far it’s ready to realign itself as an anti-immigrant, pro-Russian continent marked by ascendant nationalism, alt-Right intolerance and the fragmentation of the European Union.

The worst could happen. Nobody who has watched the British decision to quit the European Union in a strange little-England huff,

Anyone who thinks that English voters ignored all the dire predictions of econapocalypse if Britain left because of a “strange huff,” hasn’t a clue to what’s going on in the minds of people.

or the election of Donald Trump with his “America First” anti-Muslim jingoism, can think otherwise. The liberal order has lost its center of gravity.

It happened in 2000 when the progressive left sided with the Jihadis against a progressive ally (Israel), and dragged a cowardly narcissistic liberal center off kilter. (As Ian Buruma said in 2003, at the height of the suicide terror campaign against Jewish infidels: “it’s a liberal litmus test to be pro-Palestinian.”)

The only difference is that the “liberal order”, which managed to shunt aside any criticism by people who thought something was awry by exiling them to the Islamophobic, xenophobic, war-mongering, right-wing, is now discovering just how much they have alienated just how many people.

People without memory are on the march. They have no time for the free world if the free world means mingling and migration.

Tell yourself the story in which you’re the hero. That your opponents are against mingling and migration. Part of the hollow liberal narrative. It’s about the imbecilic, dogmatic, insistence of the progressives that all migration is good, all mingling is good, no barriers are good, no suspicion of the motives of outsiders is permitted. It’s you liberals who have no memory for a time before the post-WWII “liberal order.” You who forget that there are cultural and personal animosities that cannot be won over by throwing our arms open in the faith that embracing the other will transform them.

In the Netherlands it’s the rightist Geert Wilders who personifies European unease with large-scale Muslim immigration. He understood early the uses of fear.

Or maybe he understood well before you, Roger, that there was something to fear. It apparently doesn’t occur to you that the masters at using fear are the Jihadis – like the one who executed Theo Van Gogh in the streets of Amsterdam – and the largest population of Westerners manipulated by fear of Muslims are the current intellectual elite (including you).

He wants to close mosques and close borders to asylum seekers. Like Trump he marshals his movement through Twitter rather than traditional party organization.

That’s because the “left” has made it almost impossible for people to speak of their fears without getting assaulted, and impossible for them to speak it in the mainstream news media.

His tweets speak of an “asylum tsunami” and the “Islamization” of the Netherlands, where Muslims make up about 6 percent of the population but more than 15 percent in big cities like Rotterdam.

Another classic move: pick the lowest estimate rather than the higher (25+%) to make your opponent look alarmist. Rotterdam has been for many years a deeply troubled city, although my bet is it never made it onto Roger’s radar screen except as an example  of right-wing hysteria.

Wilders has been around for a long time. A dozen years ago, in a piece about his rise, I wrote: “Pour Islamic immigrants from remote villages into Europe’s most liberal culture, replete with sex palaces, drugs and ever more explicit Dutch-invented TV ‘reality shows’ — and the chances something might go haywire were real.” They did.

Ever since the murders, in 2002 and 2004 respectively, of the taboo-trampling politician Pim Fortuyn and the movie director Theo van Gogh who had explored suffocated female sexuality under Islam, the Netherlands has been Exhibit A in Europe’s questioning of multiculturalism and the political potency of illiberalism.

And let’s not forget: the danger of runaway, dogmatic, boundary-transgressing, “liberal,” cosmopolitanism. Anyone who has not read Abigail Esman’s Radical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy in the West should not weigh in on this subject.

What is new is the favorable ecosystem in which Wilders now moves. A dozen years ago no U.S. Congressman would have tweeted this: “Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

That’s a reflection of the decaying hegemony of the “liberal order.” It’s a reaction to imbecilic remarks like those of Angela Merkel in 2015, as she let in over a million Muslim “refugees” (most of them men, most of them not from the war zones in Syria and Iraq), and justified it as an economic boon. It’s a reaction to the ludicrous, near messianic notion that we can absorb anyone from any culture, just by opening our doors. Suggest that some of these folks have malevolent designs, and you’re sure to be called a racist and an Islamophobe.

That is what Republican congressman Steve King of Iowa declared over the weekend (and was hailed by David Duke, the former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, who tweeted “God Bless Steve King”; most Republicans remained silent). Fascist genetics now have a place on Capitol Hill.

No this is not fascist genetics. It’s about culture. But that wouldn’t sound so good, so what the hey.

James Fallows of The Atlantic tweeted that King should go to military bases or Afghanistan to “see how many of ‘someone else’s babies’ are in uniform” for the United States. Wilders-loving King might also go to Ellis Island for a refresher on the American idea.

The inability to think out of a cookie-cutter paper bag – Immigrants good; people who worry about even some immigrants, bad – is pretty astounding. But when you’re in the progressive bubble that writers at the Atlantic and the NYT inhabit 24-7, it comes so trippingly off the tongue.

Nor, a dozen years ago, would you have sensed that both Russian president Vladimir Putin and Trump will be watching the Dutch election and wishing for the same result: a Wilders victory.

In the ideology of Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, Wilders, the French nationalist leader Marine Le Pen, Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, and Poland’s rightist string-puller Jaroslaw Kaczynski are part of the vanguard in what Bannon sees as the coming “very brutal and bloody conflict” for a white-dominated Christian order against Muslims, migration and miscegenation. In a Europe dominated by such politicians, Putin would hold sway because he thinks the same way.

If that’s the case – and it’s pretty appalling – the “liberals” have no one to blame but themselves. For decades they’ve ignored the voices of alarm, forcing people with concerns to turn to the only people who listen to them, these regressive right-wing voices. Roger, James, the gang of deplorable “liberals” have no solutions to offer for the problem, because they deny it’s a problem. To acknowledge it would mean losing the ability to preen on the global stage as bien-pensant angels who would never think badly of another culture.

Wilders, in the fragmented Dutch parliamentary system, has no viable route to becoming prime minister. But if his Party for Freedom emerges as the biggest party, it will signal that the momentum remains with a nationalist resurgence that could also carry Le Pen to victory in the French election whose first round takes place next month.

I was in Amsterdam a few weeks ago and met Henk Overbeek, a political scientist. Of a possible Wilders victory, he said, “It’s in the air.” Yes, there’s something in the air. It’s called disruption at any cost. Out with the old. In with the new.

That’s out with the old, disastrously incompetent, dishonest, dissemblers who have been running the country into the ground with their policies. It’s what got Trump elected.

Overbeek spoke to me shortly after the conservative prime minister, Mark Rutte, had published a letter revealing how far rightward Wilders has pushed the Netherlands. He said the “silent majority” would no longer tolerate immigrants who “abuse our freedom.” He added a warning: “Act normal or leave.”

One might argue that that could have been a liberal demand many years ago – live up to liberal values of tolerance and respect for others – that would have done much good for both the immigrants and the natives. Instead, the “liberals” have defined “left” as tolerating any behavior (including rape) lest one look bad, and made holding people to Western standards some kind of crazy right-wing tribal thing.

There’s a Dutch expression “Act normal, that is crazy enough,” which captures a don’t-stand-out, keep-your-head-down tradition.

Actually, one could read it another way: be as crazy as you want, just don’t impose your craziness on others.

But Dutch society has frayed. It’s become volatile. A furious row between the Netherlands and Turkey in recent days revealed the strains.

Note the intransitive verb. Roger, can you follow Strunk and White’s advice (“who hit whom?”) and say, “Muslim immigrants have frayed Dutch tolerance with their intolerable behavior.”

Rutte put his foot down to prevent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey from using democratic Holland to further Turkish autocracy.

The prime minister prevented two Turkish ministers from whipping the large Turkish community in the Netherlands into voting for increasing Erdogan’s powers in a referendum next month. Big Turkish rallies on the eve of the Dutch election would have played into Wilders’ hands.

Erdogan, in grotesque fashion, proclaimed that Nazism has risen again in Dutch guise. Rutte boasted of his “red line.”

Not so grotesque. Hypocritical no doubt, but that’s an Erdogan specialty. But it’s also quite close to the free use of people like you, Roger, of terms like “fascist genetics.” Okay, maybe it is grotesque, but then so are you.

Rutte was right to set it. The European battle to preserve the liberal order is not a time for squeamishness. Erdogan is by now in Putin’s authoritarian camp. If the Netherlands succumbs, France cannot be far behind.

And you will continue clucking your tongue in disapproval, without a second’s thought to how you and your friends, smug in your sense of “liberal” moral superiority and openness, have contributed to this tragedy that unfolds before us.

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