The slaughter of Christians and the fanatical frenzy of the Mohammedans is beyond human imagination.
“Because perfect democracy does not exist anywhere, the imperfect democracies of the West can be damned and the worst forms of political power legitimated.” â€” Pascal Bruckner,Â The Tears of the White Man.
What sort of pink-tinted spectacles do you need to march while chanting, “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the Gas”? Or to march alongside the black flags of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria? It is not just the new Romantics that bow down to the myth of Islam as the path to peace. Governments, church-leaders, do-gooders of every stripe accommodate every demand made by Muslim minorities. “Shari’a law? No problem.” “Islamic Banking? Why not?’
What answer can there be to explain such wished-for self- defeat?
It is terribly easy to romanticize. Human beings do it all the time. But romanticizing can get out of hand. Think of all those millions of German women who swooned as Hitler drove past; the groupies of Stalin, the steadfast admirers of Osama bin Laden, or the women who offer to marry murderers on death row. Charisma, as Max Weber told us, is not so much an innate characteristic of a leader or guru as something brought to him by others.Â 
Hitler was not a good-looking man, not tall, not prepossessing, not particularly intelligent, not a great orator — more a strident tub-thumper — yet millions of Germans loved him and died for him. In the end, Germany itself all but died for him.
Today, the romanticizing of sociopaths has not ended. However much we know about the clay-footed idols of the past, or the enormities committed by those demagogues and rabble-rousers and charlatans, many of us just transfer our allegiance to the next monster-in-waiting.
Those in Europe and the United States who romanticized Communism and the Soviet Union in Europe have gone through such transitions more than once since the days of the 19th-century anarchists and Marxists. Often they have woken up, only to fall asleep again. They have idolized Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Che Guevera, and Ho Chi Minh. Some, such as the former German Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, have moved in a less delusional direction. Disavowing violent activism, he wound up as a Green party parliamentarian who supported NATO and intervention in Bosnia. Others still just stumble on from hero to hero, cause to cause, embracing whatever seems most anti-democratic, “anti-establishment” or most comfortable among their friends.
In recent years, however, these graying adolescents of the European and America “Left” have moved in a direction that could not have been predicted even in their own darkest nightmares. They have allied themselves with the most fascistic, reactionary and anti-liberal forces on the planet. Today they march arm in arm, not as fellow-travellers with the Vietcong or the Fidelistas, but step by step alongside anti-Semitic Islamists: pro-jihad extremists who threaten death and destruction on all of Western society, including the very people now defending them. The gay solidarity groups back the speech of radical Muslim clerics who, in the Middle East, would kill any stray homosexual crossing their path. There go the sisterhoods, arm in friendly arm with men who despise women and would put all of them back into niqabs, burqas and house-seclusion at the first opportunity. There go the fresh-faced young women-converts to Islam, on a desperate hunt for husbands to dominate and possibly beat them while dreaming of children to train as future martyrs. And there march Neturei Karta and other Jewish extremists and leftists, hand in hand with their future killers.
The Communists in Germany often gave their lives to prevent the Nazis from destroying their country. Many died in concentration camps. Brave idealists from many countries fought in the Spanish Civil War to prevent the fascist forces of Franco from taking over. But their heirs today march through the streets of European cities chanting “We are all Hamas now!” and worse, the genocidal, “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas.”
The anti-fascist Marxist sympathizers have never quite died out, but other, sinister, things have happened, beginning with the extraordinary eruption of outrage that convulsed parts of Europe and the United States in 1968 and 1969. These same Romantics, appalled by the steady decline of the Soviet Union and the successes of the liberal democracies, turned on the societies that had fed and clothed them. The anti-Vietnam war protestors, for all their purported moral concern, simply joined forces with the enemy. It was no longer a case of “war is bad” — not unreasonable to say in the abstract — but, “we want the Vietcong to win and to defeat America.”
In the same period, support for third-world countries (especially Communist regimes) burgeoned. Western intellectuals, students, madcap suckers for victimhood, hippies, “anti-establishment” rioters and many more suddenly found themselves enamoured of the cult of death peddled by Che Guevara, Chairman Mao and the PLO. It did not matter that these were all mass murderers or terrorists, so long as they fought the brave fight against “Western imperialism,” now declared the greatest evil in the world.
The 1968 rebellions slowly died away, but their hardline sympathizers remained. Many, such as the Weather Underground in the U.S., the Red Brigades in Italy, the Direct Action group in France, and the Red Army Faction/Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany turned to violence, yet were beloved of many who saw them as fearless fighters against Western governments and institutions. Their cold-blooded assassinations and bombings sent a frisson of admiration among those wished that permanent rebellion might actually be a meaningful goal in life.
Something else happened, however, that was to have — and still has — a lasting effect on how these Romantics see the world. This was “Third Worldism,” the cult of unexamined, misguided, and often exaggerated respect for the non-Western world. Built at first on understandable and even commendable instincts of pity for the poor and oppressed in Africa and Asia, this sympathy before long was turned into an instrument for hatred of the West. Here again, angry young people dreamed up shimmering visions of a Utopia from the many insanities that engulfed country after country in their favored regions. The illusion was linked to frequently naÃ¯ve beliefs that saw wisdom, spirituality, and human perfection in Eastern charlatans such as Guru Maharaji and Bhagwan Shree Rajnesh. As thousands of gullible young Westerners (and not a few riper dreamers) went out to the East in a bizarre replay of late 19th-century occultism, or costly trips to Tibet or the Sahara in search of enlightenment, many more stayed at home to wage their war on the West by affiliating themselves with romanticized figures and groups from Mao Zedong to the “freedom fighters” of the PLO. Anti-colonialism was the latest chic.
No one has drawn a more engaging and penetrating picture of Third World Romanticism than the French philosopher Pascal Bruckner.Â He saw the start of the problem in European hatred of the United States following World War II:
Neither France, nor Italy, nor Germany could forgive America for having liberated them from the Nazi and fascist yokes…. The little American cousin had surpassed her European elders in vigor, power and creativity. It is hard to forgive assistance when it shows up such weakness.
But when it came to the Third World, the haters of America performed a massive U-turn:
Being non-European is enough to put one on the side of right…. What seems criminal in Cuba, Angola, and Guinea has the real purpose of washing away the far greater crime of colonialism.
To admire the crimes of Cuba or China is to damn the West for its liberalism and democratic practices:
Because perfect democracy does not exist anywhere, the imperfect democracies of the West can be damned and the worst forms of political power legitimated.
There is one catch:
But almost everybody… was ignorant of the countries they talked about; that explains both the emptiness and the radicalism of prattle about the Third World.
Bruckner is scathing, but total ignorance of other countries, cultures and religions seems to play a crucial role in the current denigration of Israel and the romanticizing of cults such as Hamas or Hizbullah, more black-hearted than the Nazis whom these Romantics so often feign to despise.
Bruckner also draws vivid attention to the inversion of values that characterizes this admiration of the Other:
The only societies that seem worthy are those that contradict our values, and our attempts to escape the grasp of our cultural milieux are a shameful way of asserting our superiority.
And at one point he gets to the nub of the issue:
The question of Israel is fundamental in this regard. Through non-recognition of the Jewish state, the entire Western World is held to be illegitimate.
When the Romantics refuse to recognize Israel as legitimate, they are using its existence as an indictment of the Western values that brought it into being in the first place.
The new Romantics had already come out strongly in favor of Palestinian “resistance” movements. The 1972 massacre of Israel athletes at the Munich Olympics was in part enabled by the anti-Semitic West German Red Cells. Many in other countries applauded the attacks, and some went on to help attack other Israeli or Jewish targets.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, something else was brewing fast. This was Islamism, which first came to global prominence when, in 1979, a hardline coalition of the Iranian Communist Party (Tudeh), the Marxist Fedayeen Organization, and Islamist visionaries led by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, carried out the greatest revolution since 1917. With the Shah ousted, however, and his functionaries headed for the firing squad and the hangman’s noose, the religious revolutionaries turned on their erstwhile comrades and all but wiped them out. This came as a shock to Romantics outside Iran, including America’s Revolutionary Communist Party, which had cheered on the Iranian coup d’Ã©tat in tandem with thousands of Iranian Marxists in American universities.
|History has taught that revolutions devour their own children: Jahangir Razmi’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of Islamist revolutionaries in Iran executing Kurdish men and others in 1979.|
Now, you might think this would have taught the European and American Romantics a lesson â€” that it pays to choose your friends carefully or that revolutions devour their own children. But for almost unfathomable reasons, that lesson was never learned. Today’s Romantics march side by side with Islamists â€” secularists, atheists, anti-totalitarians alongside religious fanatics who would slit their throats, shoulder-to-shoulder with sexual revolutionaries, feminists, lesbians, and gay men whom the Muslim hardliners would as happily stone to death or hang in a back room in Iran’s Evin prison.
What answer can there be to explain such wished-for self-defeat? From the 1970s on, the Romantics could find salvation in a hatred of democracy, colonialism, imperialism and the West in general and idealize the Third World and the Islamic world, for was that not where the anti-Western revolutionaries had lived their lives as victims of universal terror, pawns of American imperialism, proud bearers of the endless proletarian struggle?
In the end, that old specter, anti-Semitism, came once more into focus. In the 1930s, British Socialists and others had fought the Nazis and given their hearts to the Jews. That strain of moderate Romanticism — close at times to the sort of liberalism that underpins the liberal democracies — remains. But the new Romantics still bear the imprint of the Red Cells who joined forces with PLO murderers in Munich.
Today in France, anti-Semitism endangers the lives and property of Jews, who are being driven out of their own country by a coalition of “left-wing” Romantics and Islamists. The French communists once hoped to engage with the working classes, yet never won the victories they sought. The French proletariat, though happy, like all French man and women, to go on strike as often as possible, was never prepared nor willing to launch a revolution or wheel out the guillotines for a new round of the Terror. But, in recent years, it has dawned on them that they have on their doorstep a ready-made band of potential terrorist revolutionaries — the masses of Algerian, Moroccan and other Muslims and Islamists — agitators of whom the French government is already afraid.
A French Jewish agency recently told the major French paper,Â Le Figaro, that “For 2014, one will have to register a record number of departures of French Jews for Israel since its creation in 1948. It will safely exceed 5,000 people. In 2013, there were already 3,300, an increase of 73 percent compared with 2012.”
It is now fashionable to be anti-Semitic again, so long as you disguise it as anti-Zionism and anti-Israelism. Here, the Romantics can join hands, not only with the Islamists but with the anti-Semitic new Nazis in Europe, where, over the last several years, hatred of Jews has re-emerged as a major political force.
What sort of pink-tinted spectacles do you need to march while chanting, “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas”? Or to march alongside the black flags of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria that terrorize millions and threaten to slaughter thousands as those who hold them dream of glory and triumph? Throughout Europe, it is not just the new Romantics that bow down to the myth of Islam as the path to peace. Governments, church leaders, do-gooders of every stripe accommodate every demand made by Muslim minorities. “Shari’a Law? No problem.” “Islamic banking? Why not?” “Muslim prayer groups obstructing our roads and pavements? They have every right.”
This all illustrates a different sort of acquiescence: infatuation probably born out of fear rather than out of revolutionary zeal and hatred of the abominable West. Both are dangerous, but there is still time for democratic publics everywhere to turn back the tide of submission to Islam. Given its history and predilections, the Romantics will cling to the coat-tails of Hamas, Hizbullah, the Islamic State, and the Muslim Brotherhood until they triumph. When that happens, the Gays for Palestine, B’tselem, the Marxists, the Presbyterians, the Socialist Workers Party, EAPPI, the Quakers and everyone else will smile as they are led to the gallows, knowing they have wrought a great change in the world but destroyed democracy, love and liberty, and personal freedom in their tragic journey to romantic fulfilment.
Â See Max Weber (S. N. Eisenstadt ed.)Â On Charisma and Institution Building, Chicago, 1965. And see Laurence Rees,Â The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler, London, 2013.
Â On Fischer’s development, do read the very fine account by Paul Berman,Â Power and the Idealists, Or the Passion of Joschka Fischer and its Aftermath, New York, 2005; and, while you’re at it, read his broader and no less incisive story of the American and European left inÂ A Tale of Two Utopias: The Political Journey of the Generation of 1968, New York, 1996.
Â There are a great many books and articles about this period, but for a graphic depiction of the lunacy of the times, you must read a work of superlative fiction, Keith Maillard’s 2006 novel,Â Morgantown.
Â Most famously in his 1983 study, translated asÂ The Tears of the White Man. Bruckner himself marched in the 1968 demonstrations, but he later became one of the French New Philosophers (nouveaux philosophes) who broke with Marxism, in the 1970s — many in a moral reaction to the revelations in Solzhenitzyn’sÂ Gulag Archipelago.Â Among them, Bruckner moved to a position critical of multiculturalism and what he termed “Third Worldism.”
Â Tears of the White Man, New York, 1986, p.15
Â Ibid p. 21
Â Ibid p. 26