Whenever people outside of the media say that journalists are afraid to criticize Muslim radicals or print cartoons the radicals find offensive is because journalists are afraid they’re going to be blown up, I tell them that is not true. The truth is that they loathe ordinary unenlightened people more than they fear jihadists. There is always this great unwashed mob of right-wing lunatics just looking for an excuse to carry out pogroms against Muslims in the wake of Islamic terrorism. The fact that these Muslim-bashing episodes are always just that — episodic, I mean — never seems to change their minds.

Brendan O’Neill gets to the heart of this worldview. Excerpt:

Islamophobia is a myth. Sure, some folks in Europe and elsewhere no doubt dislike Muslims, just as other losers hate the Irish or blacks or women. But the idea that there is a climate of Islamophobia, a culture of hot-headed, violent-minded hatred for Muslims that could be awoken and unleashed by the next terror attack, is an invention. Islamophobia is a code word for mainstream European elites’ fear of their own populations, of their native hordes, whom they imagine to be unenlightened, prejudiced, easily led by the tabloid media, and given to outbursts of spite and violence. The thing that keeps the Islamophobia panic alive is not actual violence against Muslims but the right-on politicos’ ill-founded yet deeply held view of ordinary Europeans, especially those of a working-class variety, as racist and stupid. This is the terrible irony of the Islamophobia panic: The fearers of anti-Muslim violence claim to be challenging prejudice but actually they reveal their own prejudices, their distrust of and disdain for those who come from the other side of the tracks, read different newspapers, hold different beliefs, live different lives. They accuse stupid white communities of viewing Muslims as an indistinguishable mob who threaten the fabric of European society, which is exactly what they think of stupid white communities.

Remember the fear in the media prior to the release of Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ movie — that the film would set off anti-Jewish pogroms around the country? Didn’t happen, did they? The concern within media circles was real; I remember it well. And yet, it was absurd. I knew that at the time, as did just about every Christian. Whatever Mel Gibson’s spite for the Jews, you will find no more philosemitic Gentiles in this country than Evangelicals — precisely the main audience for this film. And Catholic anti-Semitism, at least in America, is (thankfully) a relic of the distant past.

Are there people who hate Muslims simply for being Muslim? Sure. Are there people who respond to Islamic terrorism through acts of bigotry, even violence, against mosques and Islamic institutions? Yes. And shame on them all. Hunt them down, arrest them, throw them in jail.

But there are no anti-Muslim mobs massing in the streets. The mob that massed in the streets of Paris and other European cities on Sunday to protest jihad did not disperse and burn down mosques on their way home (unlike mobs in Muslim countries that torched embassies to protest Muhammad cartoons a few years back). We are not them. We once were, and are capable of becoming them again, as the history of the West shows, but we are not them now. The more interesting question is what the intense, genuine, but unjustified fear of the phantom Islamophobic mob says about the mindset of media elites and others who hold it.

A partial answer: Media coverage of events like this, as well as diversity initiatives to combat various phony “phobias,” are often nothing more than culture-war status contests among whites. And it’s also a way of avoiding having to examine their own multicultural prejudices in light of actual evidence from the real world. They need the Islamophobic mob to exist, so they’ve invented it.

UPDATE: It seemed obvious to me from the content of this post — the part where I acknowledged that there are people who hate and fear Muslims, and commit violent acts against them, and I condemn those people — that I’m not using “myth” as a synonym for “untruth,” but rather as a synonym for “explanatory narrative”, usually one that is impervious to falsification.

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