Weekend Reading

March 10, 2007

Another period of spotty blogging is ahead (paying work beckons, you know how it is), but for today let me point out some of the articles I most enjoyed and appreciated reading in the last couple of days:

Civil War historian James M. McPherson reviews a new book about Abraham Lincoln’s attitudes toward slavery, and the way his shrewd handling of the combative factions within the Union can be misinterpreted.

A devastatingly argued and sometimes lethally funny review of winger hack Mark Steyn’s book America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It, the latest addition to the conservative “Arabs Will Breed Like Rabbits Until They Overrun Europe” bookshelf. I especially like the closing paragraphs, which pretty much sum up the state of conservative intellectual incoherence that makes a mockery of the war on terror:

Steyn’s wider response to Islamism is to make democratic societies more like the one the Islamists want to build. He sees democratic debate and concern for human rights as unforgivable signs of weakness, mocking those who oppose torture and saying the war in Iraq has been fought “with kid gloves”. He has suggested debate about the war should be confined to a war cabinet of five people, and that anybody who disputed their decisions would be “disgusting”. “The Muslim critique of the West – that we’re decadent vulgar narcissist fornicating sodomites – is not without more than a grain of truth,” he writes, saying that the destruction of Europe’s feminist and gay rights advances wouldn’t especially bother him. He agrees that secular Europe is spiritually barren, decadent, depraved. At times, it’s hard to see why he opposes Islamism at all, except because of a Schmittian hatred of the Absolute Enemy and a distaste for Islamist symbols.

Europe cannot defeat the far-right poison of Islamic fundamentalism by turning to a parallel far-right mythology of its own. Once before we logged the race of babies. Once before we invented conspiracies like the Protocols of the Elders of Mohammed peddled by Steyn. It is a startling indictment of the intellectual standards of the American right that they have welcomed this Eurabian fiction with anything other than cheap, repulsed laughter.

Sounds a bit like Osama Bin D’Souza’s The Enemy at Home, doesn’t it? When conservatives prosecute their “culture war” against the rest of America, they do sound uncannily like the Islamists. How can you keep the Islamist barbarians away from our gates when homegrown barbarians are already inside them? How can you rally the troops against Koran-praising fanatics when the halls of our government are infested with Jesus-whooping fanatics working to undermine science, medicine and democracy?

Happy reading.


2 Responses to “Weekend Reading”

  1. Scott Stiefel Says:

    The only version of “Eurabia” I’ve ever seen that didn’t make me laugh was in progressive sci-fi master Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Years of Rice and Salt, where it happens because the Black Death wipes out 99% of Europe instead of 30-50%.

  2. I had a similar conversation with Politifax editor Nick Acocella about this a number of years ago. The problem with the American political scene is that opinions and alliances change almost overnight and hot news stories come and go like yesterday’s Star-Ledger. But the die-hard Christian Dominionists and radical Islamists who are trying to force their narrow versions of religion on an entire planet don’t think ahead to the next weekly public opinion poll or Rush Limbaugh broadcast. These folks act in terms of centuries. Just listen to/read their rhetoric. The Christian fundies talk like making the 3,000 year-old book of Leviticus the law of the land (or John’s Book of Revelation a reality in the modern world) while the Islamists are still sore over battles waged by their ancestors in the seventh century. And that’s what scares the crap out of me. They’re definitely in for the long haul – are we?

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