Readers, I have to go out for a few hours on a sudden errand. When I get back, I would like to hear from you who are in the flood zones of Nebraska and Iowa. It’s amazing how little coverage your tragedy is receiving. If I didn’t follow the Twitter accounts of Sen. Ben Sasse and Jake Meador, I would barely know a thing about it. I know the same thing happened in 2016 when we had the devastating Louisiana floods.
Please let the rest of us know what you’re seeing, how you’re doing, and how the rest of us can help.
Take a look at this:
The shaded material on the right is a clip from Kerk en Leven (Church and Life), in August of 1984. Kerk en Leven is the weekly magazine of the Catholic Church in Flanders. This, via DeepL, is the translation of the first paragraph of the shaded copy:
A few years ago, an ecumenical working group on paedophilia was established in Flanders. This working group, made up of Catholics and Protestants, aims to make the Churches aware of the phenomenon of paedophilia, to pass on information and to remove prejudices. The working group also wants to inform itself about everything that appears in the field of paedophilia. All are welcome who want to get to know paedophilia and paedophiles better, provided this is done in openness, respect and reliability.
The article goes on to say that they are meeting in a chapel, and that pastors are leading it.
The text on the left-hand column recounts what happened when a concerned mother wrote to Cardinal Danneels, and shared with him more information that she apparently got from the program happening under his auspices. Here is what the Pedophile Working Group advised:
- If your son or daughter feels the connection with the paedophile is fine, do not break that connection;
- The reaction of the environment is often more harmful than the events themselves;
- Many convinced Christians can learn something from paedophiles;
- It is preferable that a relationship of trust be established between the paedophile in the parents.
Cardinal Danneels did nothing about this, according to the text. That was the same year his dear friend Roger Vangheluwe became Bishop of Bruges. Vangheluwe would decades later be exposed as a pedophile who molested two of his nephews — and Cardinal Danneels was secretly recorded by one of the victims attempting to gain the victim’s silence.
This is the great liberal cardinal that Pope Francis invited to participate in the Church’s Synod on the Family.
If you want to know more about how berserk the Catholic Church in Belgium went after the Second Vatican Council, take a look at this long report from the Catholic University in Leuven. It’s not polemical; it’s just a summary of the Church’s catechetical efforts over the decades since the council. It’s in Flemish, but if you browse with Chrome, it will translate the text for you. Reading this document is like encountering a Catholic traditionalist’s satirical take on liberal Catholic catechesis — but it’s all too real. Here are a couple of excerpts:
[In the 1970s:] In the first two degrees of secondary education, Roman Catholic religious instruction had in mind primarily the introduction of the most important building blocks of the Christian faith. The teacher had to use the correlation teaching method that was already introduced in the first half of the seventies. In the first degree, the focus of religious instruction was on lessons about the Old and the New Testament. Secondly, a “Christian self-development” was central to the second degree. For each intended topic, the lessons not only had an eye for the world of the class, but also for “the Bible, reflection and experience in the church community.” In this way, according to Bulckens, the teaching of religion wanted ‘to teach young people how to deal with the Christian vision of life problems and tasks’. Finally, as in the previous periods, religion classes for the third degree had the purpose of a synthesis of faith. In this way, religious instruction aimed to “help young adults to develop a personal vision” and to promote “engagement in a very mixed society in dialogue with other opinions and beliefs.”
In other words, although the Roman Catholic religious lessons still cast a glance at the Christian faith, other philosophies of life gradually came to the fore. With these philosophies of life and world religions, the lessons wished to enter into constant dialogue, whereby the transfer of pure Catholic doctrine disappeared more and more into the background. Furthermore, it was absolutely unacceptable for the teacher to act as an authoritarian figure and resolutely hide behind the statements of the Catholic Church. This could, after all, arouse the students’ aversion to the Christian faith. These views were already accepted in the first half of the seventies and were partly a result of the growing pluralization in society and within the walls of secondary education. The religious teacher was therefore expected to enter into “open and honest dialogue” with the class group, so that the students could develop their own vision of the Christian faith and other views on life.
As mentioned earlier, a pure proclamation of faith and the Christian formation of the class groups were no longer the central thesis of Roman Catholic religious education. Instead of such school-like catechesis, religious instruction wanted to contribute to the personal development of every student. As a result, the lessons were arranged in such a way that for some they could have a catechistic meaning and for others “an introduction to the Christian doctrine in its cultural-historical meaning”. The parents of the pupils also received a workbook for parents in The Religion in Catholic Secondary Education given the message that a pure proclamation of faith was no longer possible. The religious education now wanted to “make young people acquainted with the Christian religion, in dialogue with the major world religions and with all kinds of humanisms, and invite them to determine their personal attitude in freedom”.
In 1988, the catechesis program was replaced by a new one called Roeach:
Just like the Catechetic Units , a learner- centered approach formed the center of gravity within Roeach‘s [the name of the new catechetical program] religious lessons through an interactive lesson. An active teaching methodology was also put forward in the current curricula. In his article, Snijkers also praised the Roeach textbook series for his ‘creative and student-oriented elaboration, in which varied questions and assignments and well-chosen impulses gradually led to knowledge and insight’. Furthermore, the Roeach working group concerned intended to create “an open and dialogical learning process”, in which students were invited to “express their opinions and determine their personal position”. To arrive at such a form of teaching, the textbook series did not only respond to person-oriented didactics, but also to task and group-oriented teaching. The group-oriented component focused on class discussions about the social and religious context in question. In this way, Roeach encouraged the students to develop a personal vision of the Christian faith in complete freedom. Again, the prominent importance of an individual-centered approach appears here.
You may recall from yesterday’s post that one of these Roeach editions infuriated Flemish Catholic mother Alexandra Colen, a politician, with its pedophilic content and illustrations, under the guise of Catholic sex education. She raised hell with Cardinal Danneels and the Church bureaucracy, but got nowhere. She pulled her kids out of Catholic school, and homeschooled them.
If euthanasia weren’t legal in Belgium, the Belgian hierarchy and Catholic Church administration should be arrested en masse for murdering Catholicism in their country.
Four more schools in Birmingham have stopped teaching about LGBT rights following complaints by parents.
Leigh Trust said it was suspending the No Outsiders programme until an agreement with parents was reached.
Earlier this month the city’s Parkfield Community School suspended the lessons after protests were held.
Campaigner Amir Ahmed said some Muslims felt “victimised” but an LGBT group leader said No Outsiders helped pupils understand it is OK to be different.
In a letter seen by the BBC, Leigh Trust said it was halting the lessons until after Ramadan, which finishes in June.
The schools involved are Leigh Primary School, Alston Primary School, Marlborough Junior and Infants School and Wyndcliff Primary School.
It’s like the Muslim parents forced the educational authorities locally to recognize that they have rights over how their children are educated. Brilliant!
Sit down, folks, this is going to be one of those long, rambling posts. TL;DR? Read Houellebecq.
I see that there’s a lot of online controversy over this out-of-context quote from my Christchurch post over the weekend:
Everything Tarrant identifies as qualities of a disintegrating Western civilization is true.
If you read the entire post, it’s crystal-clear that I’m not endorsing Tarrant’s actions or his manifesto, but rather pointing out that the killer identifies truthful things in his critique of a decadent West. As I said in the piece, in the same way that we have to recognize that Islamic terrorists base their murderous ideology in some true things, we have to do the same thing when it comes to white nationalist terrorists like Brenton Tarrant.
There are many people who react emotionally, and who think that to give any ground at all to terrorists is to in some way justify them. A lot of us on the Right — I was probably one of them for all I know — felt that way about the 9/11 terrorists. Clearly a lot of people on the Left feel that way about Tarrant. We always face the risk of falling victim to that double-edged French saying, “To understand all is to forgive all.” That is, if we try too hard to enter into the mind of a criminal, we might end up agreeing that he did the right thing.
(Side note: a college professor told me recently that he was teaching the Albert Camus novel The Stranger to his students, and that none of them could grasp that the protagonist’s signature act, killing an innocent Arab, was morally wrong. It wasn’t that they were anti-Arab; it was that they understood why the title character did what he did, and forgave him for it. This is not the point Camus wanted to make!)
Let me give you an example of something I learned that rocked my world. Back around 2006 or so, I went to Dubai, to an Arab media conference. The event brought together journalists and TV producers from around the Arab world. I went to write about it. It would be fair to say that I had an unreflective view of the introduction of mass media into Arab culture. If anything, I thought it would be a good thing, to introduce some churn into those rigid societies. I was pretty optimistic.
I had a conversation there over coffee with a veteran journalist from Lebanon, a man who was a secularist. He told me that what Westerners don’t understand is that the advent of satellite television and the Internet in the Arab world caused a tremendous shock to the systems of those countries. He said, and I’m paraphrasing,
“You in the West have had mass electronic media for almost 100 years, and you’ve all adjusted to the changes it has brought. Now, consider that a hundred years of modernization is suddenly appearing inside Arab cultures that are far more rigid and traditional than the West ever was in the modern period. How do you think people are going to react?”
I sat in on a panel of some young Westernized Arabs who were part of a project to bring MTV, or something like it (I can’t recall precisely), to the Arab world. They were very optimistic about the positive social change they were sure their project was going to bring to the Middle East. But I had had a different conversation earlier with an expat Egyptian journalist living in the West, who was much more critical — from a liberal point of view! She said that the advent of satellite TV in her country had mostly empowered religious conservatives. She came from a Muslim family that was part of the cultural elite, and had seen some of her sisters take the veil. She feared for the future. Her point to me was that the idea that introducing technology, especially media technology, into a traditional society can only bring positive change is dangerously naive.
I bring this up in context of the role immigration, multiculturalism, evolving standards on gender and sexuality, and globalist economics play in the development of Western societies. All these things are typically seen by liberals and progressives as unambiguously good things. But this is dangerously naive. To be clear, they are not unambiguously bad things either!
Here’s what I mean. Take this excerpt from a Washington Post Plum Line interview with Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend and a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination:
Plum Line: How do you view white nationalism as a policy problem?
Buttigieg: In the narrow tactical sense, it’s something we need to stay ahead of and monitor the way you would any kind of violent radical movement from abroad.
There’s a deeper phenomenon going on. As we see dislocation and disruption in certain parts of the country, from rural areas to my home in the industrial Midwest, and in the economy, this leads to a kind of disorientation and loss of community and identity. That void can be filled through constructive and positive things, like community involvement or family. And it can be filled by destructive things, like white identity politics.
Yes, it absolutely can. I find it hard to believe that that loss explains Tarrant, who seems to have been radicalized not so much from the circumstances of his life, but from his anti-social nature, and his living online. (It is worth noting too that many of the Islamist terrorist leader are not poor Muslim men, but those with educations.) Still, when people of any race or religion lose the things that ordinary folks have always used to understand who they are, and to find dignity in life, they become easy targets for hateful race fanatics, religious fanatics, or political fanatics.
Here’s a thoughtful comment by a reader going by the moniker One Male:
Every time I read about poverty or the bribery scandal of rich people buying their children’s way into colleges, the focus is always on poor blacks and Hispanics. There are more poor white people in the US than poor blacks and Hispanics combined. Having come from an impoverished area, I get to watch what society does to all these poor people. On top of the neglect they receive if they happen to be white men, they also get to endure verbal abuse and being blamed for the debauchery of the wealthy. Of several cousins and a brother, only one cousin and myself managed to go to college and make a career.
Regardless of whether all these poor white males are deserving of scorn or not. Regardless of whether they could do better for themselves or not. Constantly beating on a malnourished dog doesn’t make the dog happy, more confident or docile. Beating on the dog will eventually result in hopelessness — and we are already there. Now the dog is starting to attack. When it attacks it isn’t going to care what hand it bites. It is going to bite whatever hand is nearest.
The other day in another post there was a debate about what a John said and Rod’s own response was somewhat dismissive. What I’d like to highlight is that regardless of the merit of John’s view, he and many like him believe it. They believe it because they live it, and when you’re at the bottom every mole hill looks like a mountain. Countless white men in this country have no support, have no prospects and have no future.
My little brother is a great example. He didn’t go to college and wasn’t very smart but he was willing to work. He got a decent job doing hard work and ended up breaking a disk in his back. Now he is unhireable, and the company in question didn’t pay for the medical charges. He’ll never be married, never have kids and never attain what society constantly reminds him is success. He’ll be told he’s worthless, and on top of that, entitled.
The solution to society’s ills are undiscussable. Families are important to happiness. For people to have families they have to have jobs and women willing to marry them. Statistics show that women don’t marry below their own earnings or education. Everything is geared toward more women in the workforce. More women in college. More women in the military. More women in engineering. The net affect is a smaller and smaller pool of women willing to marry men like my brother.
No marriage no family. No family no connection to society. More men with nothing to lose and being told how worthless they are is a recipe for violence. Not because I want it to be, but because that is nature. And lo and behold, the brilliant thinkers of the world have decided that ‘nature’ no longer exists such that a man is a woman and a woman a man.
The illogic of our beliefs have been piling up for some 200 years now. That those beliefs are falling over on people and killing them is said to be senseless and yet … it is not senseless. In fact it is the only logic that matters, and that logic is the base of all existence. It can be said to be natural because it is nature itself. Fight it at your own peril but you will lose. Nature doesn’t care about right and wrong. Nature only cares about truth.
I have lots of criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement, but their existence forced me to think more about how the matter of policing looks from the point of view of many black Americans. It didn’t kill me to consider their point of view, even if I couldn’t agree with them fully. Along those lines, here are a couple of stories about displacement that I offer for your consideration.
Back in 2011, I moved back to my hometown in rural south Louisiana. West Feliciana Parish, my home, is the least populated parish in the state. People had been frustrated in the past few years with the inefficiency of the old-style “police jury” form of government, dating back to the early 19th century. Some local folks pushed for a new, update form of parish government. There were lots of public meetings to discuss the issues related to it. I started to attend them.
It was striking to me to see how racialized they were. Broadly speaking, whites were for the reform, blacks were against it. In the public meetings, some black citizens used paranoid, even racist, rhetoric to demonize the reform. I found this hard to understand. The arguments for the new system were very clear. If you didn’t like the proposal, then make an argument against it. Don’t rely on calling those who support it racist, and accusing them of making a power grab. In fact, some of the whites favoring the reform were friends of mine, and people I knew to be political liberals. They were just tired of the good ol’ boy system, and wanted change.
Then I thought about the black people who were coming to the meetings and speaking out. All of them were older than me, and had lived through a time in the parish when the white leaders were members of the Klan, or at least fellow travelers. That was within living memory. It wasn’t part of my memory, and it wasn’t part of the memory of many of those white citizens who wanted change (they had moved there since the 1970s). But you don’t just set aside those experiences. (And by the way, if you want to know why I will never, ever support white nationalism and white supremacy, read this 1964 article about events in my own hometown.)
What’s more, in the lifetime of the black people at the meeting, the black population of the parish had gone from just over 50 percent to something like 33 percent today. I can’t find the official demographic projections, but if memory serves, the black population was expected to decline in the next decade to around 20 percent of the overall (N.B., you have to be careful looking up Census figures; West Fel is home to 5,000 or so inmates at Angola State Penitentiary, most of whom are black). It hit me at one point in one of those meetings that the black people of the parish have lived through a steep decline in their political power, based on population decline. Once the agricultural economy went away in West Fel, there was little work for unskilled people to do. Unskilled black laborers moved to where they could find work.
The black people objecting to the new proposal might have been wrong — I believed they were — and they might even have been paranoid, even racist. Still, these were people who had finally achieved the right to vote, just in time for the economy to shift under their feet, and for an economics-driven exodus of blacks out of the parish to get underway. Think of the trauma! This is not to justify their political case against reform, or to paternalistically sympathize with their racist fear. But it is to acknowledge that what reformers were asking of these citizens was a lot. It was also the case that some of the blacks who spoke out against the plan were not college educated. These were country people who had not mastered the mode of discourse educated people of all races use. They were at times crude. But again, you’d have to have a heart of stone not to feel bad for their loss, and their sense of displacement.
Another story I lived through. Back in 2005, my wife and I bought a renovated house in a gentrifying neighborhood of Dallas. We had moved to the city in 2003 from New York, and didn’t have much in savings. We paid $165,000 for it. We loved the little Arts & Crafts bungalow. The neighborhood was fine, but close enough to the bad part of town that we could some nights hear gunshots. Some of our friends in the city thought that we lived in the barrio.
The thing is, in the 1980s and most of the 1990s, that neighborhood of early 20th century houses had been a slum plagued by drug violence. All those beautiful old houses were falling down. Our neighbors were a working-class Hispanic couple, and told us how much nicer it was to live in the neighborhood with all the new people (read: gentrifiers) coming in, because now it was safe to walk down the street, and to sit on your front porch at night without having to worry about stray bullets.
The neighborhood was changing fast. The people who were there before we got there — poor and working-class Hispanics — were moving out. They were selling their houses and getting good prices for them. Besides, they didn’t want to be in a neighborhood where the people weren’t like them. Before we moved in, I had a vaguely hostile opinion of gentrifiers, but living in the neighborhood, I could see how gentrification had done objective good for the neighborhood. Houses of historic architectural significance had been saved and restored. Streets that had been war zones were coming back to life. Our neighbors remembered a time when our own house had been a drug house. The man who bought it cleaned it up and made it livable again for a family, not a junkie.
But the people who had lived in that neighborhood before had been displaced. When we moved in 2010 to Philadelphia, we sold the house in a real estate market that had not recovered from the 2008 crash. Despite having put about $50,000 in improvements into the house, we sold it for exactly what we paid for it. That was the only offer we got. You can imagine how we felt a couple of summers ago when we saw the same house on the market for something like $370,000! The buyers had done nothing to it; the market had simply changed that much in seven years.
We heard too that our Hispanic neighbors had moved away. I imagine they got a good price for their house, which needed a lot of work. But I also imagine that as retirees, they could no longer afford the property taxes in that gentrified neighborhood. Had we stayed in Dallas, I’m not quite sure that we would have been able to keep up with the property taxes.
That was the first house I ever purchased. You know how they say that when you have your first child, suddenly you start looking at the world differently? That’s how it was with buying my house. I had lived as a renter in a lot of different places over the years, but I had never really regarded my previous neighborhoods the way I did when I looked at it as a property owner. I had a financial stake in the neighborhood’s stability, and that meant that I cared more than I ever had before about signs of improvement or decline. That, plus trying to understand how what I had thought was unambiguous progress — look, the neighborhood is being restored, and it’s becoming family-friendly again! — might not look that way to my neighbors … well, it made me realize that issues related to displacement were more complicated than I had reckoned.
When Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam’s 2007 study on diversity came out — the controversial one in which he found that the more diverse a community is, the less social cohesion and social capital it has — I understood it in a way that I wouldn’t have before, as someone who didn’t own a home in a neighborhood. Previously, I had believed that anyone who didn’t want people of a different race moving into their neighborhood was nothing but a racist, end of story. Now I saw that those people might, in fact, be racist, but they might also have a normal human instinct to want to live around people like themselves, because it’s easier to trust people who are like you in most ways. People like my wife and me — educated, and formed by living in institutions and in social communities that were fairly diverse — were not inclined to think about diversity and society in morally complex ways. It went against the narrative of our professional class.
Living and working in Dallas during the first decade of this century, and trying to get a handle on the immigration issue, taught me how educated cosmopolitans like me game the system to roll over people who don’t have the same skills we do to manufacture the narrative. I’ve mentioned a number of times in this space how invisible poor and working-class white people, and their interests, were in our media deliberations on the immigration issue. Generally speaking, those people were thought of by people like us as backwards racists who didn’t need to be consulted or considered, only overcome.
We media people didn’t send our kids to public schools whose classrooms were overwhelmed by migrant children who spoke no English. We didn’t have to use public hospitals whose waiting rooms were jammed tight with immigrants, legal and illegal. Our lives pretty much intersected with immigrants only at restaurants and when we needed carpentry or lawn work. They were not a threat to our way of life.
True story: I went to an impoverished Dallas school once, around 2004, as part of a press tour. I saw a sweet little Hispanic boy, the son of immigrants, stand in a class room and give an oral report on his hero. Know who he chose? Santa Anna, the great villain of Texas history, the general who took the Alamo. I kid you not. I thought, man, Texas is changing. I am not a Texan, and had no feelings about the Alamo one way or the other. But you’d have to be an idiot not to know that many native Texans — white ones, anyway — have very strong feelings about the Alamo as a condensed cultural symbol.
Here’s the thing: the kind of Texans who feel strongest about things like the Alamo are also the ones least likely to have access to a sympathetic media, and least likely to be able to articulate their concerns in a way that the dominant cultural and media narrative would find acceptable. Come to think about it, in that way they’re a lot like the poor rural black folks in West Feliciana.
I bring all of this up because of the controversy over the New Zealand shooting, and my mention in an earlier post that I believe the murderer was not wrong to mention demographic shifts in Europe as a sign of the decline of European culture. This is in no way to endorse Tarrant’s racist conclusions, nor certainly to endorse his violence. It’s simply to point out that it’s folly to expect people to sit back and watch their countries’ populations decline relative to that of migrants moving in, and to be sanguine about it. Even if you favor immigration, intelligent political management means that you have to take very seriously the social disruption that this kind of tectonic social change will bring.
Last year in France, I met a farmer who had been to nine funerals of neighboring farmers who had committed suicide. Nine funerals! The French government believes that these small farmers have to be allowed to die off because they are economically inefficient. Do you think this farmer I talked to, who had buried nine of his neighbors, gives a rat’s rear end about whether or not he is sufficiently diverse and committed to cosmopolitan international values to satisfy people in the salons of Paris? The only thing keeping him together, body and soul, was his profound Catholic faith.
Guess whose new novel is about people like that farmer? That’s right, Michel Houellebecq’s.
European culture is either dying, or it’s changing into something we don’t yet know. Wherever you come down on that issue, nobody can deny that the changes underway now are massive, and that they are driving European politics. (This is also true of US politics, though less so.) When people are not allowed to discuss these changes without being called racist, then the only ones you will have speaking out are actual racists. The 21st century is going to be a century of unprecedented migration around the globe, in part driven by global warming, and in part by the radical imbalance in population growth in Africa. Look:
If you are a European looking at this graph, you must be filled with a sense of foreboding. The politics of Europe for the rest of this century are going to be driven by nothing greater than migration. Has there ever been an entire civilization that has peaceably yielded to an alien civilization moving into its territory, if it had any alternative? I’m not asking to be rhetorically provocative. These questions have to be faced honestly by political leaders of all parties.
Go back to the top of this long piece, and read what Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg had to say about the white working class, and their sense of displacement. There is no way that any political leader can speak meaningfully to them if they believe that that leader sees them as losers who deserve their fate, because they’re bigots. Similarly, no political leader can speak to blacks, Hispanics, or anybody else with credibility if those populations see them as losers who deserve their fate. Our own politics in the US is going to grow increasingly nasty and divisive because our political parties have become so tribalized. Many of us are coming to believe that the Other Party sees people like us as the Enemy. I know I do. You — left or right — probably do too.
We have to find some other way. Do you think we can? I’m not hopeful, but I know that if we don’t, the alternative is a future with a lot more people in it like the New Zealand killer. They won’t all be young white males. They will come from all kinds of backgrounds, ethnic and otherwise, as people fear that they are losing something that gives them dignity, meaning, and purpose. The ruling class in this country — I’m talking about people like me: educated people with stable jobs and families, and with megaphones — had better pay attention. I return to the lesson I learned from watching the angry black people protesting against local governmental reform. Their anger and anxiety made no logical sense — until you thought about how much they endured under white supremacy, and how they were watching their political power slip through their fingers, because their population had declined so starkly in a single lifetime.
There was no way they could get what they wanted, politically. They just did not have the numbers within the polity to sustain the power they once, all to briefly, held. The new system was not designed to disempower them at all. They had simply failed to show up for the future, same as the native European populations today (though in the case of Europeans, it’s a matter of sub-replacement fertility; in my home parish, it’s a matter of long-term economic in-migration of whites and out-migration of blacks). The point is, managing this kind of loss within a community’s members, and not just treating them as history’s sore losers, requires a lot of political skill, including the ability to empathize with the displaced, and in a more meaningful way than simply pulling a long face and saying, pro forma, “I’m sorry for your loss.”
I wish there were a clear, easy solution to these problems. In my part of the world, it’s not hard to see poor people — white and black — who are caught in intractable situations of despair because of the choices they have made, and the way they look at the world and their place in it. I am thinking of a particular white family I know whose members are just barely getting by, and who are caught up in a tangled mess of marital infidelity, abandoned children, drug and alcohol abuse, and so forth. If those folks won the lottery tonight, they’d be broke in a year, and some of them would be dead from drug overdoses. Those people’s poverty and despair is not the fault of George Soros, or immigrants, or black people, or anybody else except (primarily) themselves. But that’s just that particular family. If one of the young men in that clan became Very Online, he might find white nationalism to be very much to his liking, because it blames other people for his miserable situation.
On the other hand, the kinds of jobs that gave people like that a way to support themselves despite their flaws aren’t around anymore, not like they used to be. That clan doesn’t have anything to do with religion, but if they did, they would be hard-pressed to find churches that expected much out of them in terms of changing their behavior. Society around here has become far, far more accepting than it was only 50 years ago, when I was a kid. On the up side, you are free to fail miserably, and nobody will care. On the down side, you are free to fail miserably, and nobody will care.
The changes that have come over our country and our civilization over the past 50 years are staggering. Think back to what I said in the beginning of this post about the Arab media conference. There was no way to hold back the technological changes coming to the Arab world — nobody I talked to there thought they were — but those I spoke with did warn me about the instability and radicalism that would be unleashed by these changes.
Come to think of it, I had a conversation at that same conference with an American academic who was an expert on the Mideast. I won’t name him here, to protect his family in Syria. He was talking about his family members there, and how they and so many Syrians were not admirers of the Assad regime, but they had come to support him out of abject fear that the civil war in neighboring Iraq would come to their country. By then I had soured on the Iraq War, but I still found it hard to work my American mind around the idea of believing that it was better to support a murderous dictator who tortured his opponents than accept the risks of freedom.
Now look at Syria. It has been destroyed by civil war. So much for us naive Americans and our refusal to understand how tribalism works within the fallen human condition.
I’ll leave you with this line from the sociologist Robert Nisbet, in his classic midcentury book The Quest For Community. He’s talking here about modern man: “What he has become isolated from is the sense of meaningful proximity to the major ends and purposes of his culture.”
What are the major ends and purposes of our culture? Of European culture? Of Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand culture? Can we even say anymore?
I don’t think we can. This is why we are disintegrating. If we can’t find a way to reintegrate ourselves strongly around something life-affirming, then we had better find a way to manage the disintegration with as little violence as possible. We don’t have all the time in the world to figure this out.
I’m a white Australian. I know that blaming myself and my cohort is illogical, but I can’t escape the feeling that all of white Australia is implicated in the deaths—a white majority that has fomented and let foment hate. Though he may have labeled himself a European, 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant was an Aussie through and through, growing up in a country town north of Sydney, steeped in mainstream Australian racism and our particular national brand of Islamophobia. He grew up in the same Murdoch-controlled mass media environment that the rest of us did—one that recently trashed Islam 2,891 times in a single year—and under the same governments, with prime ministers who have repeatedly stoked anti-Muslim sentiment for votes, with one major party making it central to their electoral strategy.
White Australians must no longer tolerate those mainstream voices who give white supremacy a platform and megaphone. Instead of brushing aside the racism in our homeland, or pointing instead toward Trump and the United States, we must call out dog whistles in our own government, in our own backyard, every chance we get. We must condemn hate speech not just when someone like Anning goes “too far,” and we must deny visas to alt-right figures who come to our shores expecting a friendly welcome not just in the wake of right-wing terror attacks, but always. We must fight the normalization of Islamophobia. And above all we must accept responsibility for the hatred we have normalized. Rather than go easy on ourselves, we must go hard.
There you have it: the Australian Left is not about to let a good crisis go to waste. White Australians in general are no more responsible for Tarrant’s vile attack than Muslim Australians in general are for Islamic terror attacks in that country. Again, though, this is about progressives instrumentalizing a terrible crime to silence their opponents.
They’re coming after me, in fact. I am scheduled to give a series of lectures in Australia in May. The Ramsay Centre invited me to give a talk under its sponsorship. I had planned to speak about classical Christian education, and the importance to us all of learning about the roots of Western civilization as an antidote to the condition of “liquid modernity” (the concept is the Marxist sociologist Zygmunt Bauman’s). Check out today’s Sydney Morning Herald. Excerpt:
A writer who responded to the New Zealand massacre by noting that “everything [shooter Brenton] Tarrant identifies as qualities of a disintegrating Western civilisation is true” and an academic who runs a fan blog dedicated to right-wing speaker Milo Yiannopoulos are some of the “distinguished visiting speakers” being promoted by the controversial Ramsay Centre.
The Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, which recently signed an agreement with the University of Wollongong to begin offering a new Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation, has come under fire for including The American Conservative editor Rod Dreher and University of Chicago academic Rachel Fulton-Brown on its 2019 lecture series speakers list.
In an article on Tarrant’s manifesto, a 74-page document which was published online and sent to New Zealand politicians in the minutes before Mr Tarrant killed at least 50 people in a mosque in Christchurch, Mr Dreher writes: “It’s a chilling document, for a couple of reasons. First, it’s grounded in both paranoid, racist grievance, and legitimate, realistic concerns.
“You may think that declining numbers of ethnic Europeans is a good thing, or something that has no particular moral meaning. But it really is happening,” Mr Dreher writes in the article that was published on Friday afternoon under a screenshot from a video of the massacre filmed by Tarrant and disseminated online.
Mr Dreher’s article is critical of the massacre, which he describes as a “despicable act”.
Here’s the article of mine to which the Morning Herald piece refers. I completely stand by it. As I’ve said, Brenton Tarrant is a devil from the pit of hell, but if we are going to fight terrorists — white nationalist terrorists, Islamist terrorists, all kinds of terrorists — we are going to have to face honestly the conditions that produce them. Here is the part of my essay that sparked controversy:
What is “degeneration”? According to [Tarrant’s] manifesto, it consists of:
- The decline in native European populations, and native European stock in the US, in terms of numbers relative to non-Europeans within those societies. [UPDATE: In the US, obviously Latino immigrants are European; I mean non-northern European in the US — RD]
- Politics and policies within European countries (that is, countries with ethnic European majorities, including the US and Canada) that disempower native Europeans.
- Widespread drug use.
- The loss of worker rights and stability under the reign of globalist capitalism.
- Environmental degradation.
- The collapse of Christianity (which he seems to value only as a force ethnically binding Europeans)
- Rampant hedonism
Here’s the chilling part: Everything Tarrant identifies as qualities of a disintegrating Western civilization is true. You may think that declining numbers of ethnic Europeans is a good thing, or something that has no particular moral meaning. But it really is happening. So are all the rest.
Who can deny this? Why is it not permitted by the Australian Left to bring this up? In no way to I endorse what Tarrant did. You don’t have to endorse Islamist terrorism to recognize that the US invasion of Iraq is a factor in radicalizing Muslims. These leftists are choosing to be ignorant of social, political, and economic factors that lead to radicalization. In fact, they want to silence anyone who talks about them. The alt-right in the US can’t stand me, considering me a Christian cuck, but Australian leftists are trying to pin the label onto me.
Here is left-wing Aussie academic Nick Riemer using the massacre to attempt to crush the Ramsay Centre, which simply wants to engage in education about the importance of Western civilization. Riemer calls the academic center an advocate for “Western supremacist politics.” Do you believe that there is a thing called Western civilization, and it is worth studying, loving, and defending? Then you have the blood of Christchurch Muslims on your hands — and you should be shamed out of the public square. This, according to Nick Riemer and Rachel Withers.
This — the Left moving to silence any critics of progressivism, and to tar everyone on the Right as a white supremacist — is exactly the kind of thing that Brenton Tarrant (who despises conservatives) wanted to happen. From his manifesto:
In this sense, Rachel Withers and Nick Riemer — a Marxist activist and leader of the Sydney BDS movement who, I discovered via Google, has been waging an ideological campaign against the Ramsay Centre for some time — are doing the bidding of the Christchurch terrorist more faithfully than the conservatives they deplore. It’s disgusting. Here is a video clip of Riemer in 2015 defending the “right” of left-wing university students to shout down speakers. This man despises free speech and open inquiry.
I don’t know if I’ll be deplatformed in Australia. I don’t know if I will be denied a visa. I’ll say here that I do not want to be responsible for the destruction at the Left’s hands of any of the organizations hosting my lecture tour, so I would not hold it against them if they withdrew their invitations. But if that happens, you will all be hearing from me, loud and often, on the subject of illiberal liberalism in Australia. And I hope that Australian conservatives fight back hard against these smears, and left-wing attempts to instrumentalize a massacre to gain political power over their opponents. It’s massively important.
The Nick Riemers of Australia want to make you all ashamed of Western civilization, and to despise it. Don’t let him get away with it.
UPDATE: As ever, Who, Whom?:
— Will (@Oil_Guns_Merica) March 19, 2019
Last week, Cardinal Godfried Danneels, the retired primate of Belgium and one of the great liberal lions of Catholicism, went to his reward. The liberal Catholic newspaper La Croix remembers him with great appreciation, but this obituary from the Telegraph is far more honest about this contemptible man’s legacy. Excerpts:
His period in office saw an unparalleled decline in the Church’s fortunes, with the influence of the once mighty Belgian Church reduced to insignificance. Danneels was also implicated in the cover-up of child abuse, but despite this he enjoyed the confidence of Pope Francis to the end.
When King Baudouin was presented with a bill to legalise abortion in 1990, he refused to sign it, eventually using a constitutional loophole to avoid doing so, by abdicating for one day. Cardinal Danneels – uniquely for someone who had taken an oath to uphold Church teaching with his blood – had no such scruples and advised the King that he could in good conscience sign.
In 1998 Danneels found himself in court as a witness defending the Church on the charge that it had knowingly covered up the crimes of a paedophile priest. There was worse to come. The Bishop of Bruges was forced to resign in disgrace in 2010 after it became known that he had abused a young man, his own nephew, for 15 years.
The nephew had previously approached Danneels and asked him to sack the bishop, but the Cardinal had not only failed to do so but had tried to get the man to keep silent until the bishop resigned at the end of his tenure. Moreover, he asked the nephew to seek forgiveness and hinted that he, the nephew, was blackmailing the Church.
Unfortunately for Danneels, the nephew had taped their conversation, transcripts of which were later published by the daily newspaper De Standaard. Danneels claimed he was “improvising” in this embarrassing conversation, whatever that meant, but he had demonstrated that despite three decades at the helm, he had no real appreciation of how serious the paedophilia crisis was.
Danneels was part of the so-called “St. Gallen Mafia” of liberal cardinals who met to game the next conclave — the one that elected Francis. Despite the fact that Danneels was caught red-handed in the Vangheluwe cover-up, Francis disgracefully gave him a prime spot on the Church’s Synod on the Family.
From National Catholic Reporter in 2010, this translated transcript of the secretly recorded phone calls between Cardinal Danneels and the abuse victim.
Take a look at this piece from a few years back by Alexandra Colen, a conservative Belgian politician and a practicing Catholic who, back in the late 1990s, appealed to Cardinal Danneels over a revolting children’s catechism. She writes:
… Cardinal Danneels…was very popular with the press in Belgium and abroad, [and] was Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels and Primate of Belgium from 1979 until 2010. The sympathy for pedophile attitudes and arguments among the Belgian bishops during this period was no secret, especially since 1997 when the fierce controversy about the catechism textbook Roeach made the headlines. The editors of Roeach were Prof. Jef Bulckens of the Catholic University of Leuven and Prof. Frans Lefevre of the Seminary of Bruges. The textbook contained a drawing which showed a naked baby girl saying: “Stroking my pussy makes me feel groovy,” “I like to take my knickers off with friends,” “I want to be in the room when mum and dad have sex.” The drawing also shows a naked little boy and girl that are “playing doctor” and the little boy says: “Look, my willy is big.”
Here is one of the drawings from the Belgian catechism. The toddler says, “I find it lovely to rub my slit.” “I like to take my pants off with other friends.” “I want to stay in the room when Mama and Papa make love.” “I love peeing.”
More from Colen, describing other drawings:
The drawing also showed three pairs of parents. Those with the “correct” attitude reply: “Yes, feeling and stroking those little places is good fun.” This “catechism textbook” was used in the catechism lessons in the catholic schools, until one day I discovered it among the schoolbooks of my eldest daughter, then 13 years old. On 3 September 1997 I wrote a letter to Cardinal Danneels, saying:
“When I see this drawing and its message, I get the distinct impression that this catechism textbook is designed intentionally to make 13 and 14 year olds believe that toddlers enjoy genital stimulation. In this way one breeds pedophiles that sincerely believe that children actually think that what they are doing to them is ‘groovy’, while the opposite is the case.”
I told Cardinal Danneels that, although I was a member of Parliament for the Flemish-secessionist party Vlaams Blok, I was addressing him as a Catholic parent “who wishes to remain faithful to the papal authority and also wishes to educate her children this way.” I insisted that he forbid the use of this book in the catechism lessons: “This is why I insist – yes, the days of meekly asking are over – that you forbid the use of this ‘catechism book’ in our children’s classrooms.”
Today this case, that dates from 12 years ago, assumes a new and ominous significance. Especially now that I know that Mgr Roger Vangheluwe, the pedophile child molesting Bishop of Bruges, was the supervising bishop of both institutions – the Catholic University of Leuven and the Seminary of Bruges – whence came the editors in chief of this perverted “catechism” textbook.
She and other protesting parents did not succeed. Colen withdrew her children from Catholic schools and homeschooled them. Read the whole thing. This Danneels is the creep that Pope Francis brought to Rome to advise the Synod on the Family.
A few years ago, the Australian Catholic theologian Tracey Rowland wrote this lament for Belgian Catholicism. Excerpts:
However, against all this natural beauty and fine works of art, including the artistic works of the pastry chefs and the lace-makers, there is something deeply sinister about this country. Its Catholic culture has been trashed by a couple of generations of intellectuals at war with their own heritage.
I first visited Belgium in 2004 to attend a theology conference in Leuven. The conference Mass was the most bizarre liturgical experience of my life. It did not take place in any of the many churches in Leuven, but in the conference room itself. Part of the ritual took the form of watching a video of the 11 September 2001 attack on the twin towers while listening to mood music. One of the participants from Holland was dressed in a folk costume and looked like a member of The Village People. There was also a Nigerian priest who was treated like an idiot because he expressed respect for Cardinal Arinze. I took some flak for being critical of the culture of modernity and one polite person apologized to me by saying, “You see, around here people think of you as an ally of Joseph Ratzinger”!
My overall impression was that Leuven was like a town that had been hit by a neutron bomb – the kind of bomb that kills people but leaves buildings intact. All the Gothic buildings remained – the outward symbols of a once vibrant Catholic culture were still on view as tourist attractions – but the people who worked within the buildings seemed not to be the original inhabitants, but another people who had moved in after some terrible cataclysm and were ill at ease with what had gone before. Our Lady, the Seat of Wisdom, and Patroness of Leuven, appeared marginalized.
Read it all. It’s stunning. She wants to know how it is that the once most Catholic Belgium had come to embrace child euthanasia.
Although a large majority of Belgians – around three quarters of the population – are nominally Catholic, and a majority (though declining) of children are baptised Catholic every year, observance is extremely low even by Western European standards. The last official statistics showed weekly Mass attendance at a mere 11 per cent, but those figures were published as long ago as 1998. The very fact that the Belgian hierarchy no longer publishes estimates lends support to anecdotal accounts suggesting that observance has fallen markedly since then, even in traditionally devout Flanders. In today’s Belgium, religious observance is mainly the preserve of the elderly, or of the Muslim minority.
That was 2015. Last year, the number of baptisms in Belgium dipped below 50 percent. Excerpts:
Last year, for the first time, the ratio of children being baptised was less than 50 percent. In other words, the majority of the Belgian parents does not want to have the traditional relationship with the Church anymore.
Although religion is not just to be measured with statistics, these figures seem to confirm the diminishing interest of the Belgian population in the Roman Catholic Church. Since 2010, the decline of baptisms has been the sharpest in the Brussels diocese (32%) and in Antwerp (31%). Only in the Ghent area the number of baptisms stays relatively stable, with a decrease of 10%. The figures belong to an ongoing survey of the Belgian Bishops Conference in cooperation with the University of Louvain. The official results are expected to be published later this year. The purpose of the survey is to gain more insight in the religious life of the Belgian Catholics.
In an interview with a national newspaper, Geert De Kerpel, spokesman of the Bishops Conference, admitted the negative results of the survey but did does not see reasons for panicking. “Like any other organisation, we would prefer a growth rather than a decline, but we will not start a promotional campaign”, he said.
Of course not. To sell something, you have to have something to sell. No one will buy faith from the faithless. Congratulations, Cardinal Danneels and your generation of churchmen. Your legacy is to have helped euthanize Christianity in Belgium.
Christian-Muslim interfaith relations are at breaking point in Birmingham as the Church of England refuses to support the Muslim community in its stand against the sexualisation of primary school children at the Parkfield Community School in Saltley, an inner-city area in the Diocese of Birmingham.
Mariam Ahmed, a mother-of-two leading the protests, had appealed directly to Rt Rev’d David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham and Sarah Smith, Birmingham Diocesan Director of Education, asking for “support towards our campaign which has now been running since 7th January.”
In a detailed email, Mrs Ahmed explained that the parents were not homophobic or transphobic, they were not against anyone, they fully respected the Equality Act 2010 and they taught their children to respect everyone in the manner they would expect to be treated.
Stressing that the “main concern” of the Muslim parents was that the programme taught by the school was “not age appropriate” and psychologically “confusing young children’s minds as young as four years,” Ahmed said that “I and many other parents have had children coming home confused and with lots of questions as to what they are.”
This was not just a matter for Muslims, but for all faiths, she emphasised, as assistant headteacher Andrew Moffat was teaching a programme where only two of the protected characteristics named by the Equality Act 2010 predominated, i.e. gender reassignment and sexual orientation.
However, Bishop David Urquhart, responding through Kate Stowe his Chaplain, did not offer any support for the Muslim parents. Instead, the email stated that the diocese expected church schools “to address the requirements of the Equalities Act, recognising that it is a requirement of the law to prepare our children to live in modern day Britain.”
“That includes the right for people to choose their identity and who they wish to love. We believe it is for individual Governing Boards to decide on the resources that best suit them to deliver the Equalities Act,” the email stated.
Ahmed also spoke earlier to the Diocesan Director of Education Sarah Smith and received a similar response in a phone conversation.On previous occasions, the Diocese of Birmingham has supported Muslims to the point of upsetting secularists.
It’s not just the Anglicans:
None of the churches, including the local Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist or Free Church of England churches in the school’s catchment area have spoken out against the “No Outsiders” programme imposed by the school.
“The wheat and chaff will be separated.” Muslim academic Kate Godfrey-Faussett told Rebel Priest Media. “This is becoming more apparent when examining the reactions of people from all faith communities to the recent campaigns against No Outsiders and compulsory Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) that are undermining our human and parental rights to raise and educate our children inline with our religious beliefs.”
Dr Godfrey-Faussett, who is leading the national Stop RSE movement against the proposed legislation, added: “To declare ourselves as Muslims, Christians or Jews brings with it a duty to stand for what we believe in. We cannot simply turn a blind eye or discard politically incorrect beliefs to move with the times when the times are moving ever increasingly towards a godless immoral society.”
Who’s standing up for the innocence of children in UK schools? Not Christians. Muslims. Shame on us Christians.
I don’t know why the other Christian churches haven’t spoken out. If any of you readers have insight, or have seen examples of those churches’ leaders speaking out, please let me know. I am reminded of the 2016 fight in California over Cal grants, when the legislature considered taking away financial grants to state students who used them to study in colleges that discriminated in any way against full LGBT rights. Had the law passed, it would have meant that many conservative schools would have had to violate their corporate conscience, or close their doors. An Evangelical leader in the fight to save the schools (which was successful, but it was a close call) told me that it was difficult to get white Evangelical churches involved. They were terrified of being called bigots, which is to say that they were frightened that they would have their middle class respectability taken from them. They would rather have seen Evangelical colleges forced to close than to lose that.
Is this what’s happening in the UK? If so, then God bless those Muslim mums and dads who care more about their children than they do middle class respectability.
This is an example of why top Christian religious liberty leaders tell me that Christians in the US had better learn how to work with Muslim citizens on these issues. I’m eager to get started. Salafist jackasses and white supremacist jackasses will hate it, but the threat to traditional religious belief in practice from secularism, especially sexual progressivism, is far greater than any threat either Christians or Muslims face from each other in the United States (Europe is in a rather different situation).
Still, we’d better be careful about stereotypes. I get e-mails from time to time from Muslim parents saying they enjoyed The Benedict Option because they’re seeing their own children being drawn away from the faith and assimilated into US secular culture, and they want to know what to do to combat this. You may be surprised to discover that US Muslims are far more supportive of LGBT rights than you think (see page 91 in this Pew report). Because by far the biggest threat to religious liberty in this country is its clash with gay rights, Muslims who are orthodox on sexuality are, like their Christian counterparts, fighting both within their own religious communities, and with the secular world, over the issues related to it.
There are so few of us — same with Orthodox Jews — and we face such intense opposition. As a Christian, I am inspired by the courage of those Muslims in the UK who stood up to the progressive education bureaucracy, even though they are standing alone. You know what I would like to see? A conference gathering American Muslim, Orthodox Jewish, and Christian leaders to talk about religious liberty struggles we’re all now facing, and will face in the future, and to talk about how we can work together, despite our very real differences. Drop me a note at rod — at — amconmag — dot — com if you are interested in something like this. I’ll talk to some friends of mine, and we’ll see what we can put together.
Salafists — extreme Muslims — are the enemy of Christians and Jews (and also Muslims who don’t conform to their radical views). But the Salafists aren’t going to try to close down Christian and Orthodox Jewish schools, and compel faithful Christians and Jews to affirm (or lose their jobs and businesses) things they cannot in good faith affirm. White supremacists are the enemy of Muslims, Jews, non-white Christians, and white Christians who reject their racism — but they aren’t going to attempt to shut down our schools, businesses, and careers, or compel us to violate our consciences. Think hard about this.
More recently, however, the populist right has taken on a distinctively religious tone. Rather than offering a vision of salvation, it has embraced a certain eschatology — a theory of the end times. The threat of liberalism, in this view, has become so dire that the wrong outcome of a presidential race could mean the end of U.S. civilization. One appalling defense of Trump dubbed 2016 the “Flight 93 election,” on the theory that conservatives have but two choices: “charge the cockpit” or “die.”
But the appeal of Trump and his supporters is distinctive. It is used as a mental preparation for extreme measures. If the political world is really headed toward disaster, then the normal political tools — things such as civility, persuasion and governing skill — are outmoded. If it is really just minutes to midnight for America, then maybe the situation requires an abrasive outsider willing to fight fire with napalm. Desperation increases the appetite for political risk.
There are serious dangers to the cultivation of desperation. It transforms opponents into enemies. It turns compromise into heresy. And it paves the way for authoritarian thinking and measures.
Hmm. I tend to see Trump as a kind of katechon holding back the deluge, but I don’t take seriously those people who claim that God has his hand on Trump, and certainly not in any eschatological way. The election that ends Trump’s presidential career will be like a dam break. A lot of pent-up energy from the left is going to roll down like thunder. I don’t believe a single presidential election could make or break the United States. Our decline is not primarily political; political decline is one manifestation of something broader and deeper. Once Trump and Pence are out of the White House, a lot of things that were held back will be free to be expressed by the Democrat that takes over. Those who are concerned about religious liberty had better be laboring now to get ready for what’s coming.
UPDATE: I guess I should clarify one thing. I believe that there is, as St. Paul says, a “katechon” — some mysterious thing holding back the eschaton. I certainly do not believe that Donald Trump is that thing, in the particular Christian meaning of the term. I am speaking of Trump as a katechon, in a narrow, wholly political sense. I think the Trump-and-the-End-Times literature that has emerged among a segment of Christians is not to be taken seriously. But what should be taken seriously as a political phenomenon is the widely held view on the Right that after Trump, a deluge is coming. It is fair to say that Trump has played a role in intensifying the deluge, but at this point, it can’t be stopped. Maybe conservatives can muster enough votes to win the White House in 2024 (assuming a 2020 victory), but eventually demography is going to win. Conservative Boomers are dying out, and the young are very, very much on the Left. This is what I’m talking about.
“He spent most of his time on computers, and learning the in and outs of computers, and playing games on computers,” she told 9News.
“I don’t think girlfriends were on the agenda — he said getting married was too hard.”
He played a lot of violent video games, and was a loner. And, the town where he spent his high school years is not a happy place for males like him. More:
Timothy McManus, 23, a religious teacher at South Grafton High School, said the town is struggling with high rates of teen suicide, prompting the government to open a mental health facility.
“The kids are struggling with a range of mental issues surrounding the family,” said McManus, who also works as a youth pastor at the Hub Baptist Church in Grafton.
“Then there is a lack of employment opportunities for those aged 18 to 25.”
I think the New Zealand killing is a much bigger deal than these things tend to be. I’ve heard some complaining among my political tribe that our media don’t notice when scores of Christians in Nigeria are murdered in one stroke by Muslim fanatics in Boko Haram. They’re correct to point out the disinterest — some of which may be politically motivated — but from the point of view of Western news audiences, what happened in NZ really is a more significant act — and it’s not because the lives of Muslim worshipers in New Zealand are worth more than the lives of Christians in Nigeria.
This requires unpacking. First, take a look at this thread:
I’ve been following responses to the #NZMosqueAttack, and it’s obvious the West’s system is cracking. Civil strife and social breakdown aren’t far off.
I’m confident we can course correct, but we are rapidly running out of time. /1
— Jeff Giesea🌿 (@jeffgiesea) March 16, 2019
What scares me the most is the breakdown of civil discourse. We won’t be able to avoid civil strife if we can’t debate and discuss challenging topics openly. The left, by shutting down discourse through violence and deplatforming, is leading others toward violent extremism. /2
— Jeff Giesea🌿 (@jeffgiesea) March 16, 2019
The impulse (seen here) to conflate legitimate concerns about mass immigration & multiculturalism with white nationalism, and conflate all nationalisms with “violent white supremacy,” will only make things worse. It plays into the shooter’s goals. /3 https://t.co/atKvpHmWzq
— Jeff Giesea🌿 (@jeffgiesea) March 16, 2019
So, we must be careful not to overreact to the #NZMosqueShooting with mass censorship, deplatforming, gaslighting, and the like. There *are* legitimate issues & grievances to discuss, and there must be space to channel them through the democratic process. /4
— Jeff Giesea🌿 (@jeffgiesea) March 16, 2019
Giesea then refers to this piece from two years ago, in the New Yorker, asking the question: Is America sliding towards civil war? The author interviewed Keith Mines, a national security expert who studies civil wars. Mines thinks that the US is likely to face a new civil war in the next ten to fifteen years. Excerpt:
Based on his experience in civil wars on three continents, Mines cited five conditions that support his prediction: entrenched national polarization, with no obvious meeting place for resolution; increasingly divisive press coverage and information flows; weakened institutions, notably Congress and the judiciary; a sellout or abandonment of responsibility by political leadership; and the legitimization of violence as the “in” way to either conduct discourse or solve disputes.
Entrenched national polarization, with no obvious meeting place for resolution? Check.
Weakened institutions, notably Congress and the judiciary? Check.
Sellout or abandonment of responsibility by political leadership? I’m not quite sure what data I could cite here to support this claim, but ask yourself: does our current political leadership seem responsible to you? On either side? And, do you think that the American people have created the conditions in which responsible political leaders would arise? I don’t. I mean, I am very happy to blame the political class, because I think they are actually blameworthy. But I don’t want to give a pass to the rest of us. We can’t even agree today on what a “responsible” political leadership would look like.
Increasingly divisive press coverage and information flows? Absolutely — and this is something I want to talk about with regard to the NZ killing.
Yesterday a reader of this blog got in touch to say that he was recently tutoring a college student, and heard the undergraduate make a strange remark about a particular historical event. The claim was demonstrably, unambiguously false, but the kid thought it was the gospel truth. It was an alt-right claim. My source, the tutor, asked the kid where he heard such a thing; the kid said he got it from YouTube, where he gets all his news and information about the world.
“This is how so many of the college students today are,” said my source, who works with them on a major US campus. “They learn about the outside world from YouTube and social media. They don’t even stop to think about whether or not it’s a credible source.”
My interlocutor got in touch with me because he said that 4chan and related sources are radicalizing some white males he sees on his campus, and it scares him. I am sure that antifa and its analogues on the social media left are doing the same thing on the other side. The key point here is that news and information has become radically decentralized, and authority has been all but destroyed. My source yesterday told me that the big question of my generation — are the media biased to the left or the right? — doesn’t exist for the young today.
This is not news, I know. We’ve been talking for years about the fragmentation of the media and the separation of people inside information silos. What I don’t believe that we’ve really confronted is what happens when we construct an information environment for ourselves that only allows the most radical information through the filter.
For example, I follow the trans-critical Twitter account 4th Wave Now, which was founded by a liberal mom who questioned transgender ideology when her teenage daughter claimed to be male (the daughter has now desisted, and identifies as a lesbian). Someone leaked to them screengrabs of a private Facebook group for parents of trans kids. Today, 4WN posted images showing how the administrators and others silence anyone who questions the ideological narrative. Check out this thread for more. The people on the forum self-censor for the sake of constructing a particular worldview, and treating those who don’t share it as mortal threats. Seriously, look:
3. Admin intervenes: “We’ve all been there” but remember — it’s suicide or transition. The not-so-implicit message is that even raising questions means the child “does not receive support at home,” with dire consequences. Misuse of the NCTE 2014 stat follows. pic.twitter.com/VXTHNZRQaF
— 4thWaveNow (@4th_WaveNow) March 18, 2019
“Suicide or transition.” Now, consider that in the white supremacist online forums to which Tarrant subscribed, the narrative is either radical resistance or racial and civilizational suicide. What Tarrant and his ideological confreres are doing is “eliminating the grayzone.” Analyst Justin Lee explains what this means. Excerpt:
The influential editorial “The Extinction of the Grayzone,” published by the Islamic State’s online magazine Dabiq in 2015, lays out a strategy for radicalizing “moderate” Muslims living in the West. These moderates constitute the “grayzone” — Muslims who have neither fully apostatized and joined the “Crusaders,” nor joined the camp of the genuinely faithful (the Caliphate). The strategy is to turn up the heat on grayzone Muslims — through precipitating Islamophobia — so that they are forced either to abandon their faith entirely or to radicalize:
The Muslims in the West will quickly find themselves between one of two choices, they either apostatize and adopt the kufrī religion propagated by Bush, Obama, Blair, Cameron, Sarkozy, and Hollande in the name of Islam so as to live amongst the kuffār without hardship, or they perform hijrah to the Islamic State and thereby escape persecution from the crusader governments and citizens.
Scott Atran, director of research in anthropology at CNRS, raised the alarm on this strategy — and our failure to counter it — in a 2015 essay on the Islamic State’s revolutionary ambitions. “We might wish to celebrate diversity and tolerance in the grayzone,” he writes, “but the general trend in Europe and the majority of the U.S. political establishment and population is to collude in erasing it.” The Islamic State knew it could depend on European and American Islamophobia to swell its ranks.
The Christchurch shooter adopted the same strategy, swapping the Muslim Ummah for whites of European descent. With this act of terror, he aimed to put pressure on what might be called “whites of the grayzone.” He employs a lot of bog-standard conservative and declinist language in his manifesto, knowing that associating himself with these ideas will draw media ire for conservatives (whom he utterly despises). His goal is to inspire anti-white hatred, in the same way the Islamic State attempted to inspire Islamophobia. In both cases, it greases the rails of radicalization.
More, on Tarrant’s strategy, as articulated in his manifesto:
He’s counting on the left to blame conservatives and right-wing populists for his crimes. The idea is to precipitate — or, as he would phrase it, “accelerate” — a racial purification of the right by making every political battle a matter of race.
Read the whole thing. Lee says the only way to resist what Tarrant is trying to do is for the right to resist victimization narratives, and for the left to resist the temptation to turn every point of contention between left and right into a battle over white supremacy.
He’s right about that, but I am not optimistic that we can do it. Our national media follows more or less the same script every time there’s a mass terror attack: if radical Muslims carried it out, the media focus on how much innocent Muslims suffer from the acts of the radicals; now, when Muslims really are the victims of white supremacists, the narrative remains the same. Please understand: I do not say this in a gripey “whatabout” spirit! Justin Lee is correct to say that people on the right need to resist the urge to embrace victimization. The point I’m making is that the mainstream media coverage will serve Tarrant’s ultimate goal if journalists read and report on events according to the standard liberal narrative.
(That’s the mainstream media — the ones who both express and shape the worldview of the establishment’s leaders. I think we can safely say that the forces of radicalization on both the left and the right will massively intensify on social media.)
As I wrote over the weekend in the post titled “Radicalization & Degeneration,” what massively complicates our response to this is that there is some truth in Tarrant’s cultural diagnosis (just as there was, and is, some truth in the Islamist ideologue Sayyid Qutb’s diagnosis, and the Unabomber’s). We would be extremely foolish to dismiss these violent radicals as senseless. Western culture really is in a condition of decline and possible fall, and fighting white nationalism cannot possibly require being in denial about that — not if it’s actually going to work.
Look, I know well the tendency we all have to want to refuse to give these blood-soaked monsters any legitimacy; that comes from a good place inside us. But it is dangerous, because it blinds us to the appeal these radicals have to others who are living in conditions that the rest of us can’t recognize, or don’t understand.
Tarrant is a young man who is friendless, womanless, aimless, rootless, hopeless, and jobless. He comes from a town where there is little to no economic future. [UPDATE: Two readers from Grafton point out that the town might be a hard place to be poor, but that Tarrant did not grow up poor there, and he was not unemployed. Thanks for the clarification.] On the Internet, he found a pseudo-community that gave him a sense of meaning and purpose, and vindicated his feelings of victimization. As I’ve mentioned here recently, in reading lately about the Sovietization of Eastern Europe after 1945, I learned that the rootlessness and hopelessness of masses of people displaced by the Great Depression and war made quite a few willing to accept communist totalitarianism as a way forward. It gave them a sense of brotherhood, of dignity, and of purpose. Sure it was a lie, a monstrous lie (as they all discovered eventually), but it gave these nowhere men and women a reason to live and die. That’s incredibly powerful.
I don’t see how we stop the current process. The Internet empowers men like Tarrant — and societal trends are creating more of them. Here’s Geoff Dench writing in Quillette:
On virtually every indicator that anyone might want to consider, men in Britain and various other Western states seem to be performing very badly at the moment, both for themselves and for the communities in which they live. Not that this is particularly unusual. Throughout history, men have been inclined towards being social outsiders. Their usefulness to communities varies much more than women’s, and depends greatly on the way in which social institutions define and reward their roles. Whereas most cultures seem to recognize this, in the West we have increasingly pretended that it is not the case.
And we are now paying for our mistake.
Many people are asking themselves whether some of the radical social experiments attempted in recent generations are viable in the long term, or should now be ditched. It is not too late to face up to the problem. But we have such an accumulation of policy errors to deal with that we require a thorough re-orientation of public discourse before we can expect any specific measures to have much positive effect. The sort of shift we need encompasses some key elements of the sexual division of labor, grounded in stronger marriage institutions, and linked with a conceptual unscrambling of men’s roles, both private and public.
It’s worth pointing out that China and India are going to have a hell of a mess on their hands given that for political and cultural reasons, they have sex-selected societies in which the male-female ratio is hugely imbalanced. This story about the pain and loneliness of men in China and India who will never marry or know female companionship will bring tears to your eyes — and, if you have any common sense, it will scare you, because all those men are vulnerable to a charismatic leader who will acknowledge their suffering and channel it into something violent and destructive. I’m serious; read it, because there’s something very, very powerful here. Excerpt:
Suresh Kumar once dreamed of getting married, with a procession through the lanes of Bass, a bride adorned in gold and the kind of ceremony that was once a near-universal rite of passage for Indian men. But after one potential engagement fell apart, no other suitable brides could be found. He even went back to earn his high-school degree in hopes of being a more attractive suitor.
Still no one. Now Kumar is in his mid-30s, long past what is considered marriageable age in India, and is beginning to face a hard truth: that a wife and a family won’t happen for him.
“People say, ‘You don’t have a wife and children at home to care for; why are you working so hard?” Kumar says. “I laugh on the outside but the pain that I have in my heart only I know.”
The men themselves are isolated, left out of major family decisions and subject to ridicule, with little in the way of support or mental health services. Worse, in the traditional culture of villages, those who miss out on marriage have no hope of female companionship; dating or having a girlfriend is out of the question.
One recent evening, a family threw a rooftop party to celebrate the birth of a boy. Parties to welcome girl babies are still so rare they are covered by the local newspaper. Before the guests arrived, Kumar huddled in a stairwell nearby, sweating over a cast-iron pot, cracking jokes with friends as he fried sweet pancakes for the guests. He likes to cook, he says, but the role occasionally unbalances him.
During a harvest festival last year, his mother was delayed in another town. So Kumar was left to prepare the pancakes on his own. As he flipped the cakes in the bubbling oil, he grew teary-eyed, thinking of how there was no wife and kids to eat the treats he was making.
With a wife, he says, “there would be somebody to make tea for me, to tell me when to take a bath. We don’t have much value as unmarried men in this society. Everybody thinks, ‘What problem does this man have? What is lacking in his family? What is lacking in him?’”
Sooner or later, someone is going to come along to answer that question in a way that turns that pain outward, and focuses it on some scapegoat. That’s what Brenton Tarrant did. That’s what Antifa does. That’s what ISIS does. And so on.
That bring us to Keith Mines’s fifth condition for civil war: the legitimization of violence as the “in” way to either conduct discourse or solve disputes.
Clausewitz famously said that “War is the continuation of politics by other means.” When normal politics breaks down, we should not be surprised when violence erupts. Earlier this year, riding in a Dublin taxi, I listened to the driver, a middle-aged man, talk about how glad we was that Ireland was done with the Church, but how he also despises the ruling class of all parties. He said they are only in it for themselves, and to protect their own privileges. The cost of living is going up and up, he said, and the elites have locked people like him and his children out. If the Yellow Vests movement comes to Ireland, he said, he will probably take to the streets with them.
Ireland is a democracy. Why would a man like that conclude that normal politics don’t work for people like him? Whether or not the man is making an accurate judgment about political prospects in Ireland, this is what he believes is the truth, and he is angry about it — so angry that he would likely take to the streets to demonstrate if the right leaders came along. What’s interesting to me is that this man has no faith at all in Irish democracy’s leaders.
What happens when people come to believe at best that they have no stake in a political order, and at worst that the people administering that political order consider people like them to be enemies to be crushed? This is something that we are not allowing ourselves to see. If you read Tarrant’s manifesto — which you can find online; I’m not going to link it here — you see that he doesn’t just despise the left, but also conservatives, as well as business leaders who, in his view, profit from immigration “”Kill your local anti-white CEO,” he advises). He is truly diabolical, even calling for the murder of non-white children. It’s easy to regard Tarrant as one of life’s great losers, a fool who got lost in an online pseudo-reality in which he is a great warrior participating in a life-or-death civilizational struggle, instead of what he really is: a friendless weirdo who couldn’t find a girlfriend.
But 50 people are dead in Christchurch because this weirdo acted out his role-playing fantasy with live ammunition — and broadcast it to angry dispossessed white males around the world whose only connection is through the Internet.
As we know from Tarrant’s manifesto, he is hoping to provoke a strong backlash from the left, especially in the US, around gun violence. He is an accelerationist, meaning he wants to heighten the tensions in liberal democracies, and bring about actual fighting. His hope is that the left will push too far. Along those lines, and about violence, take a look at this Atlantic essay from the April issues, posted online a few days ago, by David Frum, titled, “If Liberals Won’t Enforce Borders, Fascists Will.”
Demagogues don’t rise by talking about irrelevant issues. Demagogues rise by talking about issues that matter to people, and that more conventional leaders appear unwilling or unable to address: unemployment in the 1930s, crime in the 1960s, mass immigration now. Voters get to decide what the country’s problems are. Political elites have to devise solutions to those problems. If difficult issues go unaddressed by responsible leaders, they will be exploited by irresponsible ones.
Notice this paragraph; remember that this was written before the Christchurch attacks:
When natives have lots of children of their own, immigrants look like reinforcements. When natives have few children, immigrants look like replacements. No wonder that, according to a 2016 survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic, nearly half of white working-class Americans agree with this statement: “Things have changed so much that I often feel like a stranger in my own country.”
Tarrant titled his manifesto: THE GREAT REPLACEMENT.
One more Frum quote:
With immigration pressures bound to increase, it becomes more imperative than ever to restore the high value of national citizenship, not to denigrate or disparage others but because for many of your fellow citizens—perhaps less affluent, educated, and successful than you—the claim “I am a U.S. citizen” is the only claim they have to any resources or protection. Without immigration restrictions, there are no national borders. Without national borders, there are no nation-states. Without nation-states, there are no electorates. Without electorates, there is no democracy. If liberals insist that only fascists will enforce borders, then voters will hire fascists to do the job liberals refuse to do.
Yes, borders are arbitrary. And, yes, more people are arguing that we should care as much about people in faraway lands as we do about our fellow Americans. But the practical effect of making this argument is to enable the powerful to care as little for their fellow Americans as they do for people in faraway lands.
One big takeaway from the Frum essay — something I took away from it, not necessarily something Frum endorses — is that we are living in a time of massive global disruption, resulting in an unprecedented move of peoples; this is affecting us in the US, as it is most people, but our elites — especially liberals — don’t recognize or don’t care about how it’s affecting the native-born.
Right now, a lot of the poor and working class — especially whites — have turned their despair onto themselves, via drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide. What if they turned that outward? What if their children were to become radicalized online? How would we stop it? Would they not be correct to judge that the US elites consider them to be expendables and deplorables? Understand me: there is never justification for killing innocent people of any race or religion. My point is that social trends, in particular some embraced and advocated by liberal elites, are further fragmenting and alienating people — and technology is creating the conditions for some of these rootless men to nurture their own sense of alienation and grievance, and to turn that into violent acts.
I’ll leave you with this last thing. Here’s news from Arlington, Virginia, today:
In Arlington County, Virginia, not even kindergarteners are exempt from pro-transgender messaging. So reports The Washington Post, which, earlier this month, featured an article about Ashlawn Elementary School, which honored National “Read Across America Day” by hosting a transgender spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). The spokesperson read a story about a transgender child for a room full of kindergarten children.
Prominent media outlets claimed parents were notified beforehand and allowed opt their children out of the event. But those outlets got the story wrong. The letter, written solely in English despite the school’s sizable non-English-fluent population, nowhere mentions “opting out.”
This keeps happening. Public schools are indoctrinating kids into gender ideology. A friend e-mailed from the Pacific Northwest to say:
Yesterday in church a woman told us how concerned she is for her two granddaughters because of the gender indoctrination they receive in their school. While driving them to a party, one girl asked her, “How many humans will be there?” Later the other girl said, “Look what that human is wearing.” Quite unconsciously now they do not use “boy” or “girl.”
The girls are 3 and 4 years old. This is coming from their pre-school teacher!
These gender ideology activists and their institutional allies are destroying public schooling, but that’s not a new thing. What we have to worry about is when they try to destroy homeschooling and private schooling that does not endorse their view — and believe me, that is coming down the line, within the next couple of decades.
You want to foment violence? Tell people that they have to subject their children to this stuff, and have no choice. Start taking children away from their families so the state can jack them full of sex-change hormones. Note well that the mainstream media will only report from a position of affirming this extreme biological radicalism, and framing those who oppose it, or even question it, as bigots who are threatening the lives of children. As Jeff Giesea said in one of the Twitter posts with which I started this long comment:
There *are* legitimate issues & grievances to discuss, and there must be space to channel them through the democratic process.
Messing with people’s children and cutting them out of the democratic process is a sure way to create radicals. Allowing mass numbers of people from other countries to immigrate into one’s country while more and more people born here come to believe the people running the country would like to see them crushed and eliminated is a sure way to create radicals. Building a society that systematically or accidentally marginalizes and humiliates males — especially males of a particular race, by design — is a sure way to create radicals.
Here are relevant passages from a Carlo Lancellotti essay on Augusto Del Noce:
Rejection of transcendence has the effect that all human realities (the state, sexuality, work, the family) lose their symbolic or ideal significance and become “dumb,” completely devoid of any finality beyond the satisfaction of the immediate material or psychological needs that can be studied scientifically. It is in this sense that scientism, according to Del Noce, is the philosophical premise of the sexual revolution. At the same time, political struggles take an absolute value, replacing religion as the focus of social concern and the source of people’s identity and meaning.
The flip side of the politicization of reason is the absolutization of politics, which to Del Noce is another definition of totalitarianism. Every aspect of reality is interpreted in terms of a political narrative, which becomes the interpretative key for all aspects of social life: law, education, medicine, the family. Society at all levels splits along political lines because “culture is entirely subordinate to politics” and “the idea of politics is subsumed within the idea of war.” The older totalitarian movements had no desire to find a political accommodation between social classes or races: one side must eliminate the other. Likewise, no compromise is possible with “repression” and “bigotry.” They must be simply fought and, ultimately, eliminated.
Now, to quote the Constitutional Peasant (but not with comic irony), now you see the violence inherent in the system. More Lancellotti:
Reading Del Noce today it is hard to escape the impression that the philosophical premises of today’s situation were firmly in place by the early sixties, and that at a fundamental level not much has happened since, except for a slow process of decomposition, as befalls an organism that is no longer living. A society that consistently embraces scientism and instrumentalism must literally stop thinking in the properly philosophical sense, and become incapable of generating new ideals and new forms of life. It can only live by slowly consuming the “reserves of meaning” it received from the past, until they run out and its contradictions explode.
It’s the exploding of these contradictions that we may be seeing now — most of all the idea that you can have a stable society of radical individualists unbound to the past, the future, or anything outside of themselves. In the case of very online white supremacists, as in the case of the legion of teenagers documenting their gender dysphoria in evangelizing YouTube clips, we are watching the disintegration of the human personality reified and transmitted like a virus via electronic vectors into the hands of countless individuals who have been prepared for it through socialization via online discourse. The medium is the message, and the message is: you and your online friends are the only reality there is.
At the time, Del Noce’s remarks about the totalitarian aspects of modern Western society did not receive much attention. Today, he is remembered as a distinguished historian of ideas—especially of Italian political thought in the twentieth century, of Gramsci and Gentile—but his views about the contemporary world are often considered excessive, or even reactionary. After all, the totalitarian ideologies of the twentieth century seem firmly confined to the dustbin of history. We do not live in fear of being arrested by the secret police and sent to a concentration camp. How can anybody seriously think that we live in a totalitarian situation?
Del Noce would reply that these objections are reasonable but superficial, because what really defines totalitarianism is, once again, the subordination of both ethics and culture to politics. Coercion by force is not necessarily the best method to that effect. A better way is to remove the “equipment” that makes it possible to transcend politics: philosophical reason, nonutilitarian liberal education, national tradition, the family as a vehicle of ideal values. What is true is that the new totalitarianism is very different from older forms because it is a totalitarianism of disintegration, even before being a totalitarianism of domination. It dominates by disintegrating. Del Noce describes it also as “negative millennialism” because it radically rejects the past but cannot propose new values. Ironically, it is extremely “conservative” in the narrow sense of protecting the economic and political status quo, while it slowly dissolves its host society into what Del Noce calls a “non-society,” because no shared ideals bind together its members.
In such a situation, resistance is in constant danger of becoming a sequence of reactive responses to every new turn in the process of decomposition. Del Noce considers it a mistake to think that the Western “crisis” can be overcome by purely political means, especially because totalitarian cultures prevent real debate precisely by politicizing everything. The technological society does it by framing every discussion in terms of the opposition of “progressive” and “conservative.”
Read the whole thing. Del Noce is onto something massively important throughout these passages. Keep his final line above in mind as you watch, read, and listen to the debate play out over how to react to the New Zealand attacks. The media’s reflexive framing it as a matter of “progressive” and “conservative” responses conceal more radical questions at stake. Brenton Tarrant is a devil from the pit of hell, but the terrible truth is that he sees some fault lines of conflict within our civilization more clearly than many of us middle class normies do. Outsiders of all kinds often do.