The self-loathing civilization

by Peter Baldwin

This is a slightly updated version of an article I posted a while back as the final item in a five-count indictment of  the identity politics ideology. The indictment, and the other counts, are summarized in an overview titled J’Accuse Identity Politics. Since this is by far the longest of the articles I will begin with a short summary of the argument.


Demo to no-platform Milo Yiannopoulos at Berkeley, home of the 1960s free movement

  1. Summary
  2. Does Western civilization even exist?
  3. The tyranny of guilt
  4. Fear and loathing at Sydney Uni: The Ramsay debate
  5. From free inquiry to academic monoculture
  6. The compromising of Western academia I
  7. Sanctioning slavery and rape
  8. The compromising of Western academia II
  9. Forbidden questions
  10. No comparing civilizations, we're a university!
  11. The smorgasbord theory of civilizations
  12. Two incompatible conceptions of human rights
  13. Civilizations collide in Europe
  14. The erosion of norms
  15. The great disconnect
  16. Free speech imperiled
  17. Conclusion: Those who the gods would destroy they first make mad



Identity politics mandates that we see ourselves and others as first and foremost members of one or more of an ever expanding and ever more refined list of intersecting categories along lines of race, gender, sexual orientation, and so on. It continually stresses what makes us different rather than what we have in common, our shared humanity.

These identity categorizations determine whether we are ‘privileged’, the possessor of an invisible knapsack of unearned advantages that provide a head start in life, or not: whether we should see ourselves as oppressor or oppressed. We are urged by the ideologues of identity politics to constantly reflect on our status so determined.

For example, if we have skin with a low melanin content, we must check our ‘white privilege’, irrespective of how deprived our individual circumstances. If a ‘person of colour’, we should be hyper-aware of the bad deal we have been dealt, even if a student at an elite university from a prosperous middle or upper class family. According to the ideologues being white is more than a source of unearned advantages. It is a grave moral pathology, a kind of original sin, from which only partial redemption is available by being a dutiful and unquestioning 'ally' of those deemed oppressed.

What applies to individuals also applies to cultures and civilizations. Western civilization is an oppressor on the global scale, historically and today responsible for just about all of the worlds ills, its supposed virtues such as political and intellectual freedoms are a mask and rationalization for the exercise of naked power, as is the very term ‘civilization’ which is really just an affirmation of white supremacy.

So Western civilization, if it can be said to exist at all (a point strongly disputed by some academic ideologues and political figures) is a bad thing. On the other hand oppressed cultures and identities are virtuous. Any cruel or atavistic practices, any inherent totalitarian tendencies, must be overlooked or minimized. Cultures, we are told, are incommensurable, so any invidious comparisons, even if they relate for example to the treatment of women and gays, are manifestations of cultural arrogance. All that matters is the oppressor/oppressed distinction.

The end product of all this is what one European author has described as a ‘tyranny of guilt’ that pervades Western societies, strongest in academia but increasingly permeating the education systems at all levels, the media and political realms, and most disturbing of all the social media corporations that nowadays are the gatekeepers of the digital public square. If the civilization we inhabit is this bad, then any attempt to present it in a better light, especially in the education systems, must be fiercely resisted. To worry about its survival is not just unwarranted, but racist.

This state of affairs could perhaps be dismissed as a temporary bout of craziness that we can expect to get over in due course, especially given signs of hard-core ideologues starting to devour their own. We could hope that in future we might look back on this period, especially its more extreme manifestations, the way many Chinese view the Cultural Revolution.

The problem is that this is happening at a time when the open liberal-democratic order is facing challenges from two very different but powerful forces, ones that are untroubled by the self-doubt of the West: a resurgent political Islam and the emergence of a de facto alliance of autocratic great powers based around China and Russia.

Unlike the Cold War, when the societies and economies of the adversary blocs were almost hermetically separated, both of these forces reach deep into the interstices of Western societies, with incomparably greater ability to influence people and institutions and shape events.

We are already seeing some very disturbing effects of this, especially the erosion of long-standing norms we thought were integral to our kind of society, and the growing constraints on the ability to freely debate contentious issues, especially at the epicentres of the identity politics ideology, the universities.

We should be seriously pondering what our societies will look like in several decades time if this continues, but the ability to frankly and honestly debate these matters is largely stymied by a mentality that insists on seeing such talk as racist and illegitimate, to be suppressed rather than engaged with. I see identity politics as a kind of intellectual immune disorder that prevents Western civilization from seeing clearly the threats it faces, let alone dealing with them effectively.

In responding to this slowly unfolding civilizational crisis, there is one overriding immediate priority: to defend and secure freedom of speech against the ever-expanding array of encroachments on it from both state and non-state sources.

A note on terminology

Throughout this article I use the term ‘identarian’ to refer to advocates of the identity politics ideology, rather than characterizing rival positions as left-wing or right-wing, terms that have been been largely emptied of content in recent times. As some authors have argued, identarianism (sometimes termed culturalism) comes in both left-wing and right-wing variants, with the latter affirming a concept of ethno-nationalism that ties national identity to race.

The article on Identity Politics in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy provides the following summation of 'left-wing' identarianism by the feminist theorist Sonia Kruks:

What makes identity politics a significant departure from earlier, pre-identarian forms of the politics of recognition is its demand for recognition on the basis of the very grounds on which recognition has previously been denied: it is qua women, qua blacks, qua lesbians that groups demand recognition. The demand is not for inclusion within the fold of 'universal humankind' on the basis of shared human attributes; nor is it for respect 'in spite of' one's differences. Rather, what is demanded is respect for oneself as different.

According to the identarians, it is not enough to receive 'recognition' on the basis of identity characteristics. Members of each category must invariably speak as a member of  the group(s) to which they ostensibly belong. The essence of this essentially repressive, anti-human ideology is well captured in the video below. The speaker is Ayanna Pressley, one of the 'squad' of radical Democratic party Congress members. I see the left and right-wing variants of identarianism as evil twins, rather than polar opposites.


Does Western civilization even exist?TOC

What happens when a civilization starts to loathe itself?

Or that, at least, has developed an intellectual culture that demands acceptance of self-loathing as a mark of virtue and systematically vilifies those who dissent; an intellectual culture that has been extraordinarily successful in reshaping education systems at all levels, the media, politics and the public sphere, and increasingly the private sector including the social media giants that largely control the ‘public square’ in the digital age?

And furthermore, one that insists on the celebration of all cultures except its own, including far more assertive and self confident ones with features that in former times progressives would have unhesitatingly denounced as atavistic and reactionary?

An intellectual culture that challenges the wisdom, or even the right of nation states to control their own borders, with some literally advocating open borders at a time of unprecedentedly high migration flows, and when political Islam, with its autocratic, potentially violent and  supremacist aspects has re-emerged as a potent force both in Muslim majority countries and Western nations with large Islamic populations?

This at a time when autocratic great powers, such as Russia and far more importantly China, are rising to challenge the military, technological and industrial preeminence of the West of the past two centuries, and positing very different and far less benign societal models?

What might the long-term consequences of this be? Can post-Enlightenment societies of the kind we have come to take for granted survive, and if not what is likely to replace them?

A key lesson of recent times is that the idea that there is something inevitable about progression toward a liberal order governed by Enlightenment principles, something we have tended to take for granted, is false.

Such societies are contingent, indeed fragile, a historical aberration. If they are to survive, they will need to be fought for, their virtues stressed and defended. In this context, the identarian ideology acts as an internal fifth column, a kind of civilizational immune disorder, an intellectual mutation that has transformed one of the West’s principle virtues – its capacity for self-reflection – into morbid self-loathing.                    

A common opening move these days whenever the civilization question is debated is to dispute the coherency, or even the existence, of Western civilization. Here are a couple of examples, by two individuals widely regarded as superstars of the present day intellectual pantheon: There is no such thing as Western civilization by Kwame Anthony Appiah, and The myth of Western civilization by Ta-Nehisi Coates. From the conservative side, we see claims that Western civilization effectively died with the Enlightenment, or as a result of the calamities of the 20th century starting with the first world war.

There is a lot that can be said about these articles, but at this point I note that they both put great store on the difficulty in setting a clear boundary between the West and other civilizations, particularly when changes over time are taken into account.

So what? This is an example of what theorists of argumentation term the continuum fallacy, the idea that where the boundary separating one thing (such as a particular civilization) from others is blurred or ambiguous, the thing in question cannot be distinct – indeed may not even exist. If this fallacy were accepted, it would be impossible to talk about all manner of things, from the boundaries of a city, or of Mount Everest, or even the solar system given the dispute over whether Pluto and like objects should be included.

To clarify matters, by ‘civilization as we know it’ I am referring straightforwardly to the kind of society, with  characteristic cultures, institutions and norms, that people in the Western world currently inhabit and have become used to and – a major danger – have come to take for granted having lost all sense of how historically exceptional it is.

This is a form of society that has delivered an unprecedented combination of freedoms – personal, intellectual and political - together with security against harms and unwarranted restrictions inflicted by state and non-state actors, and broadly-based material prosperity.

I am talking about present-day Western societies, not 16th century England or Spain with their heresy trials and burnings at the stake, or the antebellum American South with its abominable institution of slavery. One of the most important virtues of Western societies is the capacity for self-reflection, leading to the recognition and correction, or at least amelioration, of historical wrongs. This capacity, part of our Enlightenment heritage, differentiates Western civilization from others, such as Islamic civilization.

It is important to stress that this is a form of society no longer confined to Europe and North America where it originally emerged, and later European settler societies like Australia. While it originated in the West, it is not the exclusive property of the West, any more than the scientific revolution.

Taiwan, to take one obvious example, is a vibrant democracy with a prosperous market economy, a society with very similar norms to our own that faces a constant existential threat from its huge and increasingly totalitarian neighbour. It embodies most of the positive features of ‘civilization as we know it’: fundamental human rights like freedom of speech and freedom of religion and the right to contest and vote in free elections.

Present day Russia, by way of contrast, is not governed by these norms despite being overwhelmingly white and predominantly Christian. This is a key point given the insistence of the identarian ideologues that talk about Western civilization is really a coded way of asserting the supremacy of ‘whiteness’ and Christianity – indeed that any suggestion we have a valuable civilizational legacy is just dog-whistling to white supremacists.

As a second clarification, I am obviously not suggesting that we face an imminent threat of civilizational collapse. That would be absurd. This is a matter that requires a longer time horizon, extending over generations, and consideration of the steady erosion of civilizational self confidence that vitiates our ability to resist challenges from fundamentally different conceptions of how a society should be run.

The boiling frog metaphor is appropriate here. If we come to think our civilization is of no value, little more than the embodiment of oppressive ‘whiteness’ as the identity politics brigade insists, then why worry about its potential demise? Especially if you go one step further and insist that our societies have no culture or identity at all, let alone a civilization worth defending.

It is not just academics who say this kind of thing nowadays – we increasingly hear it from prominent media and political figures, especially in the global epicenters of self-loathing political correctness like Canada and Sweden. Take this report from the Toronto Sun:

Who would have thought Canadian values could be so controversial? Plenty of ink has been spilt in the past few weeks over the suddenly taboo topic of promoting Canadian values. The consensus from Canada’s elites has been to condemn the very idea of listing our values, let alone asking newcomers to respect and adhere to them.

But a far more controversial idea about Canadian values and identity was recently proposed by our very own prime minister. And the media barely batted an eyelash. Late last year, Justin Trudeau told the New York Times that Canada is becoming a new kind of country, not defined by our history or European national origins, but by a ‘pan-cultural heritage’. ‘There is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada,’ Trudeau said, concluding that he sees Canada as ‘the first post-national state.’

So Canada has no core identity but is just a jumble of cultures, all equally lovely. But what if that is not true? In Sweden, senior ministers have made a number of statements in a similar vein asserting that Sweden has no culture. So there is nothing to preserve really, certainly nothing worthwhile.

These are profoundly dangerous sentiments. In the early 1990s Samuel Huntington wrote that the major driver of inter-state conflicts in the present century would be a ‘clash of civilizations’. With unprecedented levels of immigration into Western societies and the identity politics ideology demanding the uncritical celebration of non-Western cultural identities Huntington’s clash now runs through the middle of many societies.

A self-confident civilization might be able to manage this combination of internal and external challenges. However the identarian project has been fundamentally about destroying that self confidence and the idea that our civilization as it has evolved embodies ideas that are worthwhile, worth asserting and defending.

In my view the long-term effect of this, if current trends continue and the identarian ideology remains ascendant, will be a societal transformation that is profound, irrevocable and very much for the worse. I say long-term, but we can already see an erosion in societal norms in countries most affected – especially Europe – that would have seemed inconceivable a few decades ago.

I fear that the Enlightenment era could turn out to be, in historical terms, a relatively brief episode. This is something that leftists, of all people, should be most concerned about. Yet instead, most who identity as left-wing or progressive champion the identarian ideology – albeit with a growing number of dissenters.


The tyranny of guiltTOC

In an earlier article in this series, I pointed to the extraordinary situation whereby in ‘progressive’ circles blatant racist abuse of ‘white people’ and ‘whiteness’ has become acceptable, or at most a minor offence, a misdemeanour. This kind of talk has become endemic in academia and on social media, but is even tolerated in supposedly respectable mainstream media such as the New York Times, as evinced by the recent appointment of Sarah Jeong to its esteemed editorial board despite a public controversy over her having engaged in vile abuse of this kind on Twitter (e.g. ‘it’s kind of sick how much I enjoy being cruel to old white people’).

Yet these same people are quick to assert their anti-racist credentials, drawing on patently absurd and circular arguments concocted by ‘critical race theorists’ in academia. The sheer moral sickness of this should be obvious to anyone with their head screwed on, not to mention the reality that it is just this kind of talk that threatens to re-awaken the genie of genuine white identarianism and supremacism, the evil twin of ‘progressive’ identity politics. There is clear empirical evidence that the kind of ‘normative threat’ posed by such abuse has exactly this effect.

In a strange echo of the old racist trope about black skin being ‘the mark of Cain’, whiteness is pathologized as akin to original sin, with the bearers condemned to perpetually hang their head in shame at their undeserved privilege, obliged to never contradict the narratives of the victimized groups they or their ancestors oppressed. All they can aspire to is to be loyal, subservient 'allies' of the oppressed.

In the earlier article I pointed to an episode of the ABC Radio National Program The Minefield titled Wrong to be White that featured two ‘critical race’ theorists, Alana Lentin from Western Sydney University and Joanna Cruikshank from Deakin University. The compere was Scott Stephens, who runs the ABC’s religion and ethics website, who soared to this giddy height of ethno-masochism as the two academics murmured their assent:

The great moral debility about being white is that people have willfully chosen the trinkets and accouterments of the accretions of power and privilege over a much more fundamental bondedness with other human beings … I mean that is, if we were speaking in a theological register we would call that a tremendous or even radical sin.

So, you see, white people are just plain bad, just miserable sinners according to these Calvinist fundamentalists of identity politics, though at least most Christians allow the possibility of sincere repentance and redemption (on her website Lentin announced she had been asked to go on the program to talk about the irredeemable nature of whiteness).



Furthermore, white people have to accept that when an accusation of racism is made, it is not appropriate for the accused nor any other white person to deny the charge, to argue back.

Take Lentin’s commentary on the incident in September 2018 when the champion tennis player Serena Williams threw an ugly temper tantrum in response to a decision by the umpire. Reflecting the general public reaction to this appalling behaviour, the Melbourne Herald-Sun published a cartoon by Mark Knight that caricatured Williams, a heavily built black woman as, well, a heavily built black woman throwing a temper tantrum. What else is a cartoonist supposed to do?

The charge of racism was patently absurd, and the cartoonist and some others argued accordingly. To suggest otherwise would be to effectively place all non-white people, irrespective of their power, privilege and public profile beyond the reach of caricature. An intolerable restraint on freedom of speech. Mark Knight was subjected to a torrent of vilification, including threats of violence to himself and his family serious enough to warrant hiring security guards for his home.

You would think all reasonable people could accept that the matter is, at the very least, debatable. But no, Lentin insisted that the suggestion it could be debated was itself racist. She even had to upbraid ABC Radio Adelaide:

Unfortunately, the ABC fell into the very trap I was pointing out in the article by setting the conversation up as a supposedly ‘balanced’ debate between myself and a right-wing journalist who found ‘nothing racist’ about the cartoon. Once I expressed to the journalist that I had no intention of discussing whether or not the cartoon was racist, she cut me off and turned to the other interviewee to wax lyrical about how this was nothing to do with historical racist caricature!

How triggering, for Ms Lentin to be expected to actually debate the issue with a ‘right-wing journalist’. In an article in the Guardian Lentin rejects the very idea that a claim of racism like this can be debated:

The supposed debatability of racism is why it is possible for Knight to deny his cartoon is racist despite countless people, black women in particular, around the world saying that it is.

How convenient. To avoid the bother of having to persuade people of the truth of your accusation in the face of contrary arguments, just declare the issue ‘not debatable’! All that matters is the subjective perceptions of the alleged victims. This is truly sinister stuff, especially now that claims of racism have been given legal teeth so that, even if a claim of racism is not upheld in a court, a person can be dragged through a protracted, stressful and very expensive legal process (as with the Bill Leak case, and the QUT students case).

If ‘white people’ and ‘whiteness’ are vile it follows, needless to say, that so is the Western civilization they created, which the identarians treat as a purely white construct that is the source of most of the world’s problems and maladies.

The identity politics brigade demand that Western civilization be seen exclusively through a racial lens. The idea that a civilization can embody universal norms and values applicable to all people irrespective of race is anathema to them. Hence, for someone to say something positive about it is just plain racist, a dog-whistle to white supremacists.

This was clearly demonstrated in the left-liberal media’s reaction to the speech President Donald Trump made in Warsaw in July 2017, in which he made repeated references to ‘the West’ and ‘our civilization’. Whatever one thinks of Trump, and there is a lot to criticize, I have seen no evidence at all that when he spoke of ‘our civilization’ he meant it as the exclusive property of white people. Yet this was immediately inferred by a number of prominent left-liberal journalists.

The columnist Peter Beinart was typical. Writing in The Atlantic he said this:

The West is not a geographic term. Poland is further east than Morocco. France is further east than Haiti. Australia is further east than Egypt. Yet Poland, France, and Australia are all considered part of ‘The West.’ Morocco, Haiti, and Egypt are not … The West is a racial and religious term. To be considered Western, a country must be largely Christian (preferably Protestant or Catholic) and largely white … The most shocking sentence in Trump’s speech—perhaps the most shocking sentence in any presidential speech delivered on foreign soil in my lifetime—was his claim that ‘The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive.’

As noted above, the obvious counter-example to this is Russia, not generally considered part of the West despite being both white and Christian. It is not part of the West because, as a gangster-autocracy, it fails to reflect the values we associate with ‘our civilization’.

In past times, Beinart’s understanding of these terms would have been closer to the truth, but it is hard to sustain this case today, except in the minds of left identarians and their opposite numbers on the far right. As the conservative Christian commentator Dennis Prager put it:

Is there one liberal or conservative American who thinks that the words ‘the West’ and ‘Western civilization’ mean a celebration of white-blood purity? I doubt it.

In his book The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism the French writer Pascal Bruckner provides a long reflection on the intellectual pathologies besetting the Western world:

From existentialism to deconstructionism, all of modern thought can be reduced to a mechanical denunciation of the West, emphasizing the latter’s hypocrisy, violence, and abomination. In this enterprise the best minds have lost much of their substance. Few of them have avoided succumbing to this spiritual routine: one applauds a religious revolution, another goes into ecstasies over the beauty of terrorist acts or supports a guerrilla movement because it challenges our imperialist project.

Indulgence toward foreign dictatorships, intransigence toward our democracies. An eternal movement: critical thought, at first subversive, turns against itself and becomes a new conformism, but one that is sanctified by the memory of its former rebellion. Yesterday’s audacity is transformed into clichés. Remorse has ceased to be connected with precise historical circumstances; it has become a dogma, a spiritual commodity, almost a form of currency.

This would be bad enough if confined to universities and intellectual circles where, as research by the American social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has shown, there is something approaching an ideological monoculture. But it is not. With large proportions of young people nowadays going to university, this ideology has spread from humanities and social science faculties (the late Australian philosopher David Stove described them as the intellectual equivalents of leaky nuclear reactors) to all levels of the education system, government, politics, and the corporate sector – especially the social media giants that have unprecedented power over the ‘public square’.



We find senior public officials in the West who are unwilling to concede their societies even have a culture or identity, let alone a worthwhile civilization. Unsurprisingly, this is most pronounced in those countries where the ideology of identity politics and political correctness is strongest. I referred earlier to the extraordinary statement by Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau that Canada ‘had no core identity’, a claim that even the New York Times, that venerable publication that is now so ‘woke’ that it has no problem inviting a blatant anti-white racist onto its editorial board, finds ‘radical’.

In Sweden in 2004 the Minister for Integration Mona Sahlin informed a group of Kurds that Swedes where ‘envious of them because they have a culture, whereas Swedes have only a few silly things like the festival of Midsummer’s Night’. The following year journalists asked Lise Bergh, Sweden’s top official for migrant integration whether Swedish culture was worth preserving, to which she replied ‘well, what is Swedish culture?’, and then added ‘with that I guess I’ve answered the question’. Then there is the former prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt’s observation that ‘only barbarism is genuinely Swedish – all further development has been brought from outside’. Talk about self-flagellation!

One of the worst aspects of this is the treatment of people from ‘non-White’ cultures who not only see the positives of Western civilization, especially the freedoms it allows, but who identify with it and wish to join it.

People like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who emerged from a Somali Muslim background to become a high profile critic of Islam. Not only must she live – in Europe and the US – with constant death threats, but is subject to vilification by progressive heroes like the appalling Linda Sarsour, one of the Women’s March leaders and an open apologist for Sharia law and the Saudi regime, who tweeted she would like to rip away Hirsi Ali’s vagina (Ali was subjected to the awful procedure of female genital mutilation as a child).

Or Sarah Haider, a young American from a Pakistani-Muslim background, who founded the Ex Muslims of North America, a support group for people leaving Islam that has to function as a secret society – in the land of the First Amendment. She is denounced by her erstwhile allies on the Left as an ‘Uncle Tom’, ‘House Arab’ or ‘Native Informant’, the latter a particularly sinister expression that is starting to recur in academia.

This vilification even extends to genuinely moderate Muslims like Majid Nawaz, co-founder of the Quilliam Foundation in Britain that supports trying to reconcile Islam with liberalism and democracy. Nawaz was included on a list of ‘anti-Muslim extremists’ compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC), used and supported by social media companies as a guide to who should have their material censored,  placed in 'restricted mode' or 'demonetized'. Nawaz successfully sued the SPLC last year, achieving a $US 3.4 million settlement.

This is the racism of the anti-racists. Not only do they endorse the racial vilification of ‘white people’, they would also deny ‘people of colour’ (in their parlance) the right to criticize or part company with the cultures they were born into. Who do they think they are? Free agents, able to make their own judgments? No – they are instances of a group identity, ciphers who must stick to the prescribed script that pertains to their identity. Don’t they know that the ability to engage in civilizational self-loathing is a whites-only privilege?


Fear and loathing at Sydney Uni: The Ramsay debateTOC

So what follows if we accept that the West and its ‘white’ civilization, and the irredeemable ‘white’ people that populate it, together with a few traitorous people of colour who choose not to join in the denunciation, are so bad? Just an unbroken litany of racism, colonialism, slavery and oppression?

Here is Pascal Bruckner’s summation:

First of all, the duty to repent forbids the Western bloc, which is eternally guilty, to judge or combat other systems, other states, other religions. Our past crimes command us to keep our mouths closed. Our only right is to remain silent.

And what happens if someone has the temerity – the temerity! – to propose a university course that, by its nature, implies there might be something positive in such a civilization?

Well, pass the smelling salts!

We have to hand a fascinating case study that brings to light in very clear form the intellectual pathologies that I have just described, a microcosm of the debates occurring all over the Western world.

This is the debate over the proposal from the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilization to fund a number of courses and scholarships at several Australian universities based on the ‘great books’ courses that used to be mandatory at some of the most prestigious universities in the United States (and still exist at a few, such as Columbia University). The CEO of the Ramsay Centre, Simon Haines, summarized the objective this way in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald:

What you come out of the degree with is a sense of just how various, diverse, rich, long-lasting, extraordinary, dynamic are our intellectual, artistic and philosophical traditions,’ he says. ‘That doesn't mean you are some kind of right-wing robot that says how fantastic the West is and everybody else is hopeless, as if that was somehow a political position to take. You learn how important critical argument and political debate has been in the West. These very people who are saying these things about this degree are able to say it because we live in a society that enables you to do it.

So far, the Centre has held negotiations with three universities, the ANU, Wollongong University, and Sydney University (and now reportedly the University of Queensland). In the first two of these – ANU and Wollongong – the negotiations have concluded, with failure in the case of the ANU, success with Wollongong (update 13 August 2019: the University of Queensland has just signed an agreement with Ramsay with funding of $50 million Australian dollars to offer programs in Western civilization, against the vehement opposition of staff and student unions).

The circumstances surrounding the failure at ANU are disputed. According to former Prime Minister John Howard, who chairs the Ramsay Centre, negotiations with the university over staffing and curriculum decisions seemed to have concluded successfully until late in the piece the staff union started to campaign vociferously.

The University of Wollongong, on the other hand, managed to reach agreement with Ramsay, on terms that should have allayed any reasonable concerns about academic autonomy. According to a university spokesman, Ramsay would have representatives on selection committees, but the university would have a majority, and Ramsay representatives ‘would not have an overriding deciding vote’. The course curriculum was designed by university academics and ‘refined in consultation with the Ramsay Centre.’

Negotiations with Sydney University are ongoing, but again face vehement opposition from staff and students. At the time of writing, the state of play is that the university has submitted a memorandum to Ramsay that includes the following stipulations:

  1. The Ramsay Centre be stripped of all voting rights on academic and scholarship selection committees, but would be entitled to ‘a non-voting position on selection committees’.
  2. The course would have to comply with the university’s plan to push ‘cultural competence’ as a course outcome.
  3. The course be renamed to replace ‘Western civilization’ with ‘Western tradition’.

The Ramsay Centre would be bonkers to agree to these terms. They go significantly further than the proposal agreed with Wollongong University. Not only is the Ramsay Centre denied any voting positions (not even a minority vote, as with Wollongong), but the course would have to comply with the university’s requirement that those graduating achieve ‘cultural competency’, as part of the university’s commitment to a ‘complete institutional transformation’.

What does Sydney University mean by cultural competency? This is summed up in a video by Professor Juanita Sherwood, a Deputy Vice-Chancellor, in which she affirms that ‘culture provides norms and truths’ and that there is ‘not one way of knowing, being and doing but many and they are all equally valid’. According to the description of a course module titled Cultural Competence: Fundamentals the module aims to:

… serve as a starting point in an individual's journey towards being respectful of diversity and encouraging open and inclusive behaviour. The unit will examine the meaning of culture and cultural competence; examine social and emotional well-being in a cultural competence context as well as identity formation, worldview, socialization. The unit will address the importance of building cultural competence capabilities to recognize and address racism. The unit will also help build critical self-reflection skills and a greater understanding of diverse knowledges. The unit helps students explore the implications of being part of a University community that is located on Aboriginal land.

The initial emphasis will be on aboriginal culture, and to this end an online course has been developed the outline of which states that at its heart is the proposition that ‘Sydney always was and always will be aboriginal land.’

So graduates of this course are expected to come out understanding that there are many ‘ways of knowing’, ‘truths’ and ‘knowledges’ that are all equally valid, straight out epistemological relativism. They should also understand that, if not of indigenous origin, they are interlopers trespassing on other people’s land, people whose cruel subjugation they are implicated in, as are their descendants into the indefinite future. They are permanently cursed by the ‘tyranny of guilt’.

How, one wonders, is this to be incorporated into a course on ‘Western civilization’ (sorry – the ‘Western tradition’)? Is this supposed to undergird the student’s understanding of the Enlightenment and the scientific revolution, both of which aspired to establish verifiable objective truths about the world, not multiple ‘truths’ and ‘ways of knowing’, all equally valid. Are such ‘understandings’ up for debate, or are they just to be accepted as axioms that students must not question?

But still the Sydney University staff and students are not satisfied. According to the main spokesman for the Ramsay opponents, English and Linguistics lecturer Nick Riemer, their concern was undiminished because:

The ability to influence staffing decisions never came from the fact that Ramsay had a vote, it came from the fact that they’re holding the purse strings.

Update 4 October 2019: The Ramsay Centre has rejected a revised proposal from Sydney University that proposed a student studying a Ramsay-funded major 'would complete two core units in the Western tradition, then choose electives from the university's existing courses'.


From free inquiry to academic monocultureTOC

So, it seems, the staff and students at Sydney University do not want the Ramsay course and the millions of dollars that go with it on any terms, not even with pretty much exclusive university control over committees to select staff, design curricula, and allocate scholarships, and emphatic assurances from the Ramsay CEO Simon Haines that there will be no whitewashing of the negatives in Western history.

What would be the worst case scenario for the opponents? That despite all these concessions and safeguards, the nefarious Tony Abbott might be able to get the rest of the Ramsay board to use the ‘purse strings’ to ensure Western civilization is presented in a positive light, even maybe creating the horrific possibility that a few conservative ‘political cadres’ could emerge, and the university would acquiesce?

This from the same people who enthusiastically endorse the foisting of identarian ideology throughout every course in the university in the form of the ‘cultural competency’ requirement (nothing political, of course, about requiring all students accept that ‘Sydney always was and always will be aboriginal land’ as part of their training).

In other words, there is the risk that a minuscule counter to the near ideological monoculture that exists on university campuses these days might come into existence. There is a vast academic industry devoted to little other than the production of ‘cadres’ for the identarian worldview. In many cases, especially in any field that includes the word ‘studies’ in its title, this goes beyond academic discourse to direct promotion of a certain kind of political activism cloaked in talk about ‘social justice’.

You might say that calling universities, at least humanities and social science departments, an ideological monoculture is an overstatement. But some recent studies from the US provide some disturbing evidence to this effect.

In April 2018 Mitchell Langbert, an Associate Professor of Business at Brooklyn College, surveyed 8,688 tenure-track PhD holding professors from fifty-one of the sixty-six top ranked liberal arts colleges in the country about their political allegiances. A chart showing the ratio of registered Democrats to Republicans appears below, broken down by field of study. Unsurprisingly, the lowest ratios are for technical fields like engineering and the basic sciences.

But take a look at the humanities and social science fields!

In all cases the Democrat preponderance is overwhelming, and in some cases is virtually complete. Langbert concludes:

The STEM subjects, such as chemistry, economics, mathematics, and physics, have lower D:R ratios than the social sciences and humanities. The highest D:R ratio of all is for the most ideological field: interdisciplinary studies. I could not find a single Republican with an exclusive appointment to fields like gender studies, Africana studies, and peace studies. As Fabio Rojas describes with respect to Africana or Black studies, these fields had their roots in ideologically motivated political movements that crystallized in the 1960s and 1970s.

Langbert carried out a statistical analysis showing that, in addition to the fields with no Republicans whatsoever, in twenty of the fifty-one top liberal arts colleges surveyed the proportion of Republicans does not significantly differ from zero.

The inaptly named ‘liberal’ arts colleges are worst in this respect, some of them now notorious for their vicious and in some cases violent disruptions of speakers known to depart from orthodox identarian scripts (for example Heather MacDonald and Charles Murray). As far as I know, similar surveys have not been conducted in Australian universities, but I suspect the position is similar here and throughout the Western world more generally. Recall the treatment of Bettina Arndt when she tried to speak on gender issues at Sydney University in 2018 – she was only able to speak after intervention by the NSW Police Riot squad!

Other surveys that focus on broad ideological affiliation, rather than party allegiance, show a broadly similar picture, though less extreme as a broader range of institutions are included. The aforementioned social psychologist Jonathan Haidt got together with a group of concerned colleagues (all self-described left-liberals) to found the Heterodox Academy to try and counter this monoculture. Haidt took a look at his own field and analysed the views of senior social psychologists to produce the chart below, based on their responses to nine ‘politically valenced’ policy issues that he converted to a single scale.

Most disturbing is the trend over time. Universities have always been left-leaning, but in the past couple of decades the leftist preponderance has become overwhelming. Samuel Abrams, a tenured professor at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, analysed and charted data from the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA that clearly shows the pronounced leftward shift.

No surprisingly Abrams, who describes himself as an anti-Trump moderate conservative, now finds his position under threat, despite his tenured status. After writing an op-ed in the New York Times that criticised the ideologically loaded nature of some of the college’s activities, a group of militant students calling themselves the Diaspora Coalition demanded that ‘Abrams’s position at the college be put up to tenure review to a panel of the Diaspora Coalition and at least three faculty members of color’.

How and why has this left-liberal ideological preponderance come about? Why has a leftist ideological leaning become so strong as to turn parts of academia into an ideological echo-chamber? In an important contribution the scholars Daniel B. Klein and Charlotta Stern analyse the phenomenon in terms of ‘groupthink’ theory, an account of organisational cultures that ensure that once a group achieves an initial level of dominance a dynamic is set in motion that progressively strengthens that dominance through the hiring of like-minded individuals and penalizing of dissenters through social and professional exclusion, leading to blocked career paths. This has reached a point where even tenured academics are vulnerable, as in the case of Samuel Abrams.

Klein and Stern stress the key role played by the most elite institutions, since they provide a hugely disproportionate share of the intake of new academics not just in the elite group of institutions but also those lower down the academic pecking order. They also have a key role in establishing the ideological consensus in higher education across the board, which then feeds into other levels of the education system, including schools.

The sad reality is that, when it comes to genuinely contentious matters, especially anything that offends against identarian orthodoxies, universities are among the least free sites in Australia, and all over the Western world. There is disturbing evidence that both staff and students are often fearful of expressing their views in class - and this especially affects those who might be inclined to challenge the identarian orthodoxy. This evidence is more than anecdotal: a group of social psychologists affiliated with the Heterodox Academy conducted a survey, the Fearless Speech Index, designed to assess the degree to which students feel comfortable or reluctant to speak up in class. They conclude:

The largest group differences were found on politics. Conservatives were far more reluctant to speak up than liberals during class discussions related to race, politics, and gender. They were also more concerned about every negative consequence we asked about. Interestingly, moderates tended to score closer to conservatives than to liberals. Liberals expressed low levels of fear across all topics and consequences.

Violently disruptive demonstrations, shout-downs and ‘no-platforming’ have become a standard feature, as in the recent case at Sydney University when the sexual therapist Bettina Arndt, a critic of current gender ideology, attempted to give a talk that was only able to proceed after the NSW riot police were brought in to move blockading students.

As for the Champions of Academic Freedom and Autonomy so exercised over the Ramsay Centre, they are typically silent about this sort of abuse or worse, either participate in this kind of speech suppression or concoct rationalizations for it.

Take the aforementioned Nick Riemer, the principle organiser of the anti-Ramsay campaign at Sydney University (he drafted the letter signed by 130 other academics). When a lecture at Sydney University organized by two other academics that was to be addressed by a speaker known to be defensive of Israel was disrupted (see video below) by a mob of Trotskyites led by a woman screeching into a megaphone, Riemer was there defending their action (I was actually present, and wrote an account of it that was published in The Australian newspaper).

Riemer gave a detailed defence of the disruption in a long article in the online journal New Matilda, a piece of casuistic nonsense that says volumes about the mentality that defenders of free speech on campus have to contend with these days.

Here is a sample of the learned Dr Riemer’s ‘reasoning’:

Many left-wing people, I believe, would defend the proposition that protesters have the right to disrupt any kind of public speaker, but that only disruptions of certain public speakers are right. Applied to the present case, this means anyone has the right to disrupt a pro or an anti-IDF speaker, but only interruptions of pro-IDF speakers are actually justified.

In the first paragraph Riemer asserts a general ‘right to disrupt’ any speaker. This cannot be squared with any reasonable understanding of the right to free speech, the whole point and effect of disruption being to prevent the effective exercise of the latter. Bear in mind that we are not talking about the kind of interjection familiar from parliamentary debates but the systematic drowning out of a speaker with a megaphone and sustained chanting. There was specific provision in the meeting format for questions and critique, but the goal of the disrupters was to censor, not challenge, what Kemp had to say.

Note the second sentence where Riemer justifies disrupting the expression of just one side of the debate, the side that he knows to be wrong without the need to hear any arguments. How does he rationalise this? He asserts the rightness of disrupting speech that is ‘extreme’ or ‘hateful’ or, in an Aristotelian touch, ‘fails to promote human flourishing’. He goes on to claim that suppressing such speech is, actually the exercise of free speech.

So Riemer thinks he can arrogate to himself, and others of like mind, to determine whether certain speech is permissible based on his judgment whether it ‘promotes human flourishing’; just like Alana Lentin, from the University of Western Sydney, who thinks issues like whether a cartoon is racist can be ruled as not ‘debatable’.

This fulfills the aspiration of Herbert Marcuse in his 1965 essay Repressive Tolerance. Marcuse, a foundational figure in what is nowadays termed ‘Cultural Marxism’, looked forward to a future in which ‘liberating’ rather than ‘repressive’ tolerance would prevail, the meaning of the former which he clarified thus:

Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right, and toleration of movements from the Left.

Who would get to distinguish ‘liberating’ tolerance from the repressive variety in Marcuse’s nirvana? Why, appropriately trained, or rather indoctrinated, academics of course. This would naturally require some changes to what goes on in the educational sphere:

… the restoration of freedom of thought may necessitate new and rigid restrictions on teachings and practices in the educational institutions which, by their very methods and concepts, serve to enclose the mind within the established universe of discourse and behaviour.

So much for John Stuart Mill’s famous dictum that ‘he who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that’. I guess that for the Champions of Academic Freedom and Autonomy Mill is just a dead white male


The compromising of Western academia ITOC

Unfortunately the exquisite concern with institutional autonomy and integrity and academic freedom propounded by universities when discussing a possible course on Western civilization evaporates (with a handful of honourable exceptions in the US such as the University of Chicago) when they consider offers from non-Western sources, no matter how authoritarian, indeed totalitarian, these sources might be. There are no petitions, no campaigns, no urgent staff meetings, no violent student demos, nothing.

Sydney University is one of hundreds of colleges and universities around the Western world, including thirteen in Australia, that hosts a Confucius Centre funded by the increasingly totalitarian Beijing regime. On the surface, these seem innocuous, just about facilitating the study of Chinese language and culture, rather like the Alliance Francaise and Goethe Institutes that promote French and German language respectively.

The reality is very different. In America, the National Association of Scholars (NAS) has produced a comprehensive report on the real function of Confucius Institutes. In his preface to this report, the NAS President Peter Wood gives this disturbing summation:

The name ‘Confucius Institute,’ like almost everything else about the initiative, is misleading. Confucius Institutes have nothing to do with the ancient Chinese sage. They are ostensibly centers for teaching American students Chinese language and puff courses on Chinese arts. In reality, they are instruments of what Harvard University professor Joseph Nye calls ‘soft power. That is, they attempt to persuade people towards a compliant attitude, rather than coerce conformity.

Or, as the head of propaganda for the Chinese Communist Party and Politburo Standing Committee member Li Changchun put it rather more bluntly, the institutes are ‘an important part of China’s overseas propaganda setup’.

Lucky then that the Vice Chancellor of Sydney University Michael Spence has stressed ‘we won’t run a propaganda course of any kind’ (on ABC Q & A program, 18 June 2018).

But this is not the worst of it. Peter Wood goes on:

But even this is not quite exactly right. Confucius Institutes don’t overtly force their views on Americans, but behind the appearance of a friendly and inviting form of diplomacy lies a grim authoritarian reality. The Confucius Institutes are tightly managed from China by an agency of the government. They are staffed by Chinese nationals on short-term contracts. Their relations with their American hosts are governed by secret agreements enforced in Chinese courts under Chinese law. And many students from China studying in the U.S as well as faculty members believe the Institutes are centers of surveillance. There is no positive proof that the Institutes are also centers for Chinese espionage against the United States, but virtually every independent observer who has looked into them believes that to be the case.

Even more chillingly:

In this preface, however, I am granting myself license to go beyond what we can fully verify. That’s because the off-the-record stories we collected were consistent in their portrayal of the Confucius Institutes as centers of threats and intimidation directed at Chinese nationals and Chinese Americans, and as cover for covert activities on the part of the Chinese government.

Bear in mind that at Sydney University overseas fee-payers account for around 40 percent of the undergraduate student body, accounting for 16 percent of the university’s operating revenue, and three quarters of these come from mainland China. As Wood notes, referring to the American context:

The Chinese government fully realizes the vulnerability of American colleges and universities that lies in their financial dependence on tuition. China can turn on the tap to full-tuition paying Chinese students, turn it down, or shut it off. A college or university that becomes dependent on this flow of international students is loath to offend the Chinese government. China is now by far the largest source of international students in the U.S., comprising 31 percent of the total. In 2015, there were some 328,000 Chinese students studying in American universities.

Being ‘loathe to offend’ is one thing, but Michael Spence took matters one step further by denouncing the federal government for ‘sinophobic blatherings’ when last year it introduced laws to protect against foreign interference in Australian domestic politics.

In an interview on ABC RN with Fran Kelly he displayed complete insouciance about any danger in his university’s close involvement and financial dependence on China. Challenged about the case of a Sydney Uni academic forced to make a grovelling for displaying map that failed to show territory disputed with India as part of China after a Chinese student complained, he responded that the academic was merely correcting an error. As for the detention without ground of a University of Technology Sydney (UTS) academic critical of China, well, yes there are some regrettable practices. And so on, and so forth, ad nauseam.

When it was pointed out that the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) had concerns about Chinese involvement in universities, concerns echoed by the FBI in America, especially where the Confucius Centres are concerned, he stated they failed to produce definitive proof. Definitive proof? This is the standard required for a criminal conviction. What if, on the balance-of-probabilities the claims were true, as affirmed by virtually all Western intelligence agencies? No cause for concern then?

As for the ‘concerned academics’, led by Dr Nick Riemer, who signed the letter opposing the Ramsay Centre at Sydney University, their letter brushes off concerns about Confucius with this:

The most obvious point of comparison to the Ramsay Centre, the university’s Confucius Institute, places no constraints of this kind on undergraduate education, which it has no capacity to influence by either imposing or excluding particular lines of study.

No constraints? Did Reimer and his colleagues take any steps to satisfy themselves on that score? Has he scrutinized the agreement between the university and Hanban, the Chinese government agency responsible for these centres? According to the NAS report mentioned above such agreements are generally:

...governed by secret agreements enforced in Chinese courts under Chinese law.

As it happens, information about some of these agreements has recently been disclosed and described in an article by Fergus Hunter in the Sydney Morning Herald according to which:

Australian universities hosting Chinese government-funded education centres have signed agreements explicitly stating they must comply with Beijing's decision-making authority over teaching at the facilities.

But no matter. The Champions of Academic Freedom only demand complete transparency where anything deemed favourable to Western civilization is concerned.

In any case, the university’s memorandum to the Ramsay Board stipulated that all voting members be drawn from the university. But even this was not enough, the staff’s ‘concerns’ were undiminished. After all, according to Riemer, what matters is who controls ‘the purse strings’. Unless, of course, the controllers are an agency of a foreign totalitarian regime.

And what about the students, like Student Representative Council (SRC) education officer Lily Campbell, a member of the Trotskyite group Socialist Alternative, who berated Michael Spence for even negotiating with the Ramsay Centre at the aforementioned episode of Q & A? When asked for comment by Australian Financial Review journalist Robert Bolton she ‘declined to comment on the Confucius Institute’!

Even more egregious was the behavior of her Socialist Alternative colleagues at Queensland University, who tried to conflate protests against China's government and the local Confucius Institute with racism.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when reading the lamentation in a Trotskyite paper when a Beijing-friendly Chinese overseas student deposed the Left-Green candidate for President of the Sydney University Students Representative Council recently.

Given this, what are the prospects for honest, objective scholarship about contemporary China, its political system, the nature of its relations with other countries, including Australia? The universities’ terrified reaction at the prospect of a visit by the Dalai Lama is not exactly reassuring on this score.

As a number of commentators have stressed, the main effect is likely to be what is not investigated, the contentious issues that are not explored and debated, the research that is not conducted, in order to avoid offending Chinese sensibilities.

This is a disaster. If you think this is an exaggeration, I recommend you read a speech (Engineers of the Soul: Ideology in Xi Jinping’s China) delivered to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet by John Garnaut, a former China correspondent and former principle international adviser to the department. Garnaut last year gave evidence to a US Senate committee in which he testified that 'Beijing is brazenly and aggressively seeking to interfere with Western political systems'.

The speech was delivered in June 2017 but only recently made public. It is extraordinarily revealing as to the extent of the totalitarian reversion of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) ideology.

Initially an economics journalist, Garnaut had in the past tended to look at Chinese developments through an economic lens, but the scales have well and truly fallen from his eyes:

I’m here as someone who was born into the economics tribe and has been forced to gradually concede ground to the security camp. This retreat has taken place over the course of a decade, one story at a time, as I’ve had to accept that economic openness does not inevitably lead to political openness. Not when you have a political regime that is both capable and committed to ensuring it doesn’t happen.



Garnaut concludes:

Mr Xi did not invent this ideological project but he has hugely reinvigorated it. For the first time since Mao we have a leader who talks and acts like he really means it. And he is pushing communist ideology at a time when the idea of ‘communism’ is as unattractive as it has been at any time in the past 100 years. All that remains is an ideology of power, dressed up as patriotism, but that doesn’t mean it cannot work.

Already, Xi has shown that the subversive promise of the internet can be inverted. In the space of five years, with the assistance of Big Data science and Artificial Intelligence, he has been bending the Internet from an instrument of democratisation into a tool of omniscient control. The journey to Utopia is still in progress but first we must pass through a cyber-enabled dystopia in order to defeat the forces of counter-revolution.

Then he adds this crucial point:

The challenge for us is that Xi’s project of total ideological control does not stop at China’s borders. It is packaged to travel with Chinese students, tourists, migrants and especially money. It flows through the channels of the Chinese language internet, pushes into all the world’s major media and cultural spaces and generally keeps pace with and even anticipates China’s increasingly global interests.

But this seems to be of little interest to the faux Champions of Academic Freedom and institutional autonomy, who might even dismiss it as ‘sinophobic blatherings’.


Sanctioning slavery and rapeTOC

Ponder this thought experiment. Suppose a white, male professor at one of the most prestigious universities in the Western world were to equivocate about whether slavery was a moral evil. Suppose, furthermore, the same professor was to describe the notion that consent be required for sexual intercourse as a modern Western fetish, and asserted that there is no requirement for enslaved women, in particular, to give consent.

How would that go down, do you think? Surely the professor in question would be, proverbially, hung drawn and quartered? Torn to shreds by outraged Twitter mobs? Furiously denounced by feminists and Black Lives Matter activists? There would be demonstrations by outraged students demanding his immediate sacking? Petitions from his colleagues?

After all, we live in a time when a Nobel Laureate biochemist can see his career destroyed in days for a slightly off-colour joke about women (and even this charge was based on a deliberate misquotation); and when some liberal university academics report being terrified of their students, desperate to avoid a misplaced word or inappropriate gender pronoun.

Is it conceivable that such a professor could survive, professionally and socially, and remain in good standing? Well, yes, as it turns out.

In 2017 Professor Jonathan A.C. Brown of Georgetown University did exactly this in a lecture that you can listen to in full on YouTube. But remarkably, the feminists were silent, Black Lives Matter were nowhere to be seen. His university sprang to his defence. The only people and media outlets that thought this a problem at all were ones routinely denounced as ‘right-wing’ or ‘far-right’.

You see, Professor Brown is protected by an ideological force field. The same force field that enables Linda Sarsour to be a ‘progressive’ leader of the Women’s March in America despite a litany of obnoxious tweets defending Sharia law, praising the Nation of Islam and its rancidly anti-Semitic leader Louis Farrakhan (who just recently jokingly deflected charges of anti-Semitism by saying ‘I’m just anti-termite’).

Brown is the Alwaleed bin Talal Chair of Islamic Civilization in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, where he is also the director of the Alwaleed bin Talal Centre for Muslim-Christian understanding. He is also a convert to Islam.

Here is what he said about slavery (at 1:10 into the video)

slavery cannot be treated as a moral evil in and of itself because slavery doesn’t mean anything in and of itself. The moral evil is extreme forms of deprivation of rights, extreme forms of control and extreme forms of exploitation. I don’t think it's morally evil to own somebody because we own lots of people all around us

Why would he say such a thing? As a Muslim, he is required to believe that the Quran is perfect, eternal and unalterable, and that Mohammed was the perfect exemplar of conduct. He spelt this out in a 2015 Facebook post (deleted after the controversy erupted): 


But it’s not possible to day that slavery is inherently, absolutely, categorically immoral in all times and places, since it was allowed by the Quran and the Prophet

He goes on in the same Facebook post to say:

Slave women do not have agency over their sexual access, so their owner can have sex with them

Brown elaborates on this point in his lecture:

for most of human history human beings have not thought of consent as the essential feature of morally correct sexual activity, and second we fetishize the idea of autonomy to the extent that we forget, again, whose really free? Are we really autonomous people and what does autonomy mean?

Now, it would be bad enough for a well-regarded scholar to be saying this at a time when slavery and religiously sanctioned rape were distant historical memories. But to talk like this is particularly abhorrent when such behaviours have been revived and actively practised by ISIS and like groups, where slave markets operate openly in Libya and Sudan, and where there are whole societies where slavery is rampant (for example the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, where anti slavery groups allege up to 800,000 people of a total of 3.5 million remain chattels to this day), and where outright sexual slavery by what are euphemistically described as ‘grooming gangs’ has become endemic in one UK city after another.

I wonder what would Brown say about crucifixion, a punishment mandated in the Quran (verse 5:33) and practised by ISIS, and still in the Saudi Arabian criminal code (though apparently they recently introduced a kinder, gentler version of first beheading the victim, then crucifying the corpse).

Far from condemning this creep, Georgetown University, the mainstream media and the scholarly community around Georgetown rallied to his defence. The Washington Post gave him a soft interview that allowed him to dishonestly deny the charges without confronting him with his actual words. The prestigious Foreign Policy magazine published an apologetic article that denounced criticism of Brown as:

a cacophony of a different sort — America’s far-right, anti-Muslim ecosystem that has adopted the same twisted interpretations of Islam that the Islamic State promotes

Except that, as the above quotations clearly show, these ‘twisted interpretations’ are precisely the ones Brown subscribes to! And modern ‘progressives’ spring to his defence. This is the nightmarish end point of identarian ideology.


The compromising of Western academia IITOC

Given the selective blindness of the identarian ideologues and activists to appalling abuses and attitudes if they emerge from a culture or identity deemed ‘oppressed’ – and Islamic identity seems to be trumps in the oppression stakes – it is hardly surprising that the stalwart defenders of academic freedom and autonomy have nothing to say about the huge and growing financial influence in Western academia of states like Saudi Arabia, which has spent hundreds of billions promoting its hard-line Wahhabist version of Islam worldwide.

A large part of this funding is being channeled into Western universities, think tanks and research organisations, especially those specializing in Islamic and Middle Eastern studies. The aforementioned Professor Jonathan A.C. Brown, he who finds it difficult to unequivocally denounce slavery and non-consensual sex, is one of innumerable beneficiaries of this largess, as the name of his centre suggests (though how the flow of funds have been affected by the arrest of his main Saudi benefactor for money laundering, bribery and extortion is unclear).

The sheer scale of the Saudi effort is astonishing. In the six years from 2011 to 2017 Saudi interests paid $US614 million to US universities alone, with a special focus on some of the most prestigious ones and those most influential in the foreign policy establishment (Harvard, Johns Hopkins, George Washington, George Mason, Stanford). The other Gulf states, especially Qatar, are also major funders.

An article in the online magazine Vox (How Saudi Arabia captured Washington) describes how effective this influence-buying has been. The most insidious aspect is the incentive for researchers to self-censor, staying away from topics that might displease their sponsors:

The expert, like others, described an unspoken effect whereby scholars, who are naturally aware of their funders' sensitivities, might think twice before writing critically on those issues: 'I could write about Saudi sectarianism, but then I might lose some money,' the expert said, explaining the thoughts a Gulf-funded scholar might have. 'I could write about UAE human rights abuses, but, you know, there are abuses everywhere, and there are a million other things I can write about.'

Universities in the United Kingdom have likewise been the recipients of large sums of Gulf money, again targeted mainly at the most prestigious and influential institutions. According to Kristian Coates Ulrichsen of Rice University's Baker Institute:

Almost every centre of Middle East studies in the UK is linked somehow to a Gulf backer. It's created dilemmas, especially over the last few years as the threshold for self-tolerance of any dissenting view has got lower.

In 2009 the Centre for Social Cohesion produced a major report (A Degree of Influence: The Funding of Strategically Important Subjects in UK Universities) written by Robin Simcox that documents the extent of these contributions and describes how they distort scholarship in the targeted areas.

The report found evidence of censorship of discussion of certain aspects of Islam; changes to the governance of universities to meet the demands of donors; a lack of academic objectivity with specialist centres being set up with specific political agendas; provision of platforms for some of the world’s worst regimes; and a lack of transparency in the sourcing of donations.

Unsurprisingly, Australian universities are also into the Middle Eastern financial trough, a point highlighted when the Australian National University (ANU) last year rejected a proposal to deliver a course on Western civilization funded by the Ramsay Centre. It was revealed that the ANU had accepted donations of up to $2 million each from Dubai, Iran and Turkey. The ANU has a Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, which has on its advisory board an adviser to the deputy ruler of Dubai, and a former government minister of the United Arab Emirates.

Relations between the ANU and Iran seem to be particularly close, with the ANU Chancellor and former Foreign Minister Gareth Evans and Professor Amin Saikal, Director of the ANU Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies (CAIS) leading a delegation to Iran in October 2017 with the aim to set up a regular dialogue between the university and Teheran’s Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS) on matters of mutual concern such as the Iran nuclear agreement. IPIS is a think tank affiliated with the Foreign Ministry, increasingly dominated by the fanatical Revolutionary Guards, the commander of which has vowed to ‘fight to the end to destroy Israel’, vowing that ‘the liberation of Jerusalem is near’.

I have spent some time pouring through the website of CAIS, its publications, its regular bulletins, and have yet to find anything seriously critical of the centre’s benefactor regimes, or that raise any difficult issues about Islam and its compatibility with liberal societies. Iran, in particular, is a truly horrific regime. Quite apart from its well-known genocidal intentions towards Israel, and its funding of terrorist organisations like Hamas and Hezbollah, its treatment of women and homosexuals is shocking, including public hanging of the latter. But this is of no concern to the oh-so-PC Champions of Academic Freedom who successfully campaigned against Ramsay.


Forbidden questionsTOC

Earlier in this article I referred to the French author Pascal Bruckner who in his book The Tyranny Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism described the predominant intellectual culture that is relentlessly critical of the West while being blind to the defects of other, sometimes much less benign cultures:

Indulgence toward foreign dictatorships, intransigence toward our democracies. An eternal movement: critical thought, at first subversive, turns against itself and becomes a new conformism, but one that is sanctified by the memory of its former rebellion.

While Bruckner was referring to Western culture generally, his main focus was Western Europe, especially France, where their was no shortage of exemplars, like Jean Paul-Sartre who after a trip to the Soviet Union proclaimed that citizens of the USSR had ‘entire freedom to criticize’; and after a trip to Cuba accompanied by Simone de Beauvoir wrote a series of fawning portraits of Castro. He also wrote a preface to Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth in which he states:

To shoot down a European is to kill two birds with one stone, to destroy an oppressor and the man he oppresses at the same time: there remains a dead man and a free man

Then there are Michel Foucault’s effusions about the Iranian revolution of 1978 that brought the mullahs to power, followed in short order by the extermination of the secular Left, such as:

Islam values work; no one can be deprived of the fruits of his labour, what must belong to all (water, the sub-soil) shall not be appropriated by anyone. With respect to liberties, they will be respected to the extent that their exercise will not harm others; minorities will be protected and free to live as they please on the condition that they do not harm the majority; between men and women there will not be inequality with respect to rights, but difference…

This is just typical of modern Western academia, one of innumerable examples that fit George Orwell’s category of ‘ideas so stupid that only an intellectual could believe them’.

In the previous sections I provide evidence of the extent to which ‘indulgence toward foreign dictatorships’ has become the norm in our higher education institutions. There is extraordinary insouciance from all the usual activist suspects about the establishment within Western universities of what the Chinese Communist Party authorities frankly acknowledge to be part of their global propaganda apparatus.

And few seem too bothered about Saudi Arabia and other fundamentalist Islamic states using their enormous financial clout to control what is taught in departments specializing in Islamic and Middle Easter studies. If someone, like the aforementioned Professor Jonathan A.C. Brown of Georgetown University, engages in apologetics for extremely cruel practices of such as slavery and sexual intercourse without consent (a.k.a. rape), then who are we to quibble – when Brown was called out by ‘right-wing’ media, Georgetown University, progressive academia, the mainstream media and the Washington foreign policy establishment indignantly sprang to his defence.

These are, as I noted at the start of this article, the two most powerful forces in the world challenging the viability of liberal Enlightenment civilization. Each poses a different kind of challenge.

During the Cold War era, the societies and economies of the Western democracies were more or less hermetically separated from those of the Soviet Union and other adversaries; but now the power of the Chinese regime, especially reaches deep into the interstices of both, seriously limiting the options of societies like Australia to resist increasingly blatant interference in our politics. Yet the very institutions we would like to study and provide advice on this are compromised.

The historian Niall Ferguson believes the rise of political Islam is an even greater threat, especially to Europe, given the demographic transformation likely to be brought about by high levels of largely uncontrolled immigration from the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. But instead of careful and rigorous study of what this might mean for the long-term future of European societies be have university departments and research institutions reduced to little more than apologetics.

Can we ever expect to see Islam subjected to the kind of critical scholarship that Christianity has had to weather at least since the earlier 19th century? Maybe even challenging the historical accuracy of orthodox accounts of Islam’s origins?

Not bloody likely! Any academic that did this could expect to lose funding, promotion prospects, and possibly his or her job. Aside from which, they may well find themselves and their families physically threatened, as happened to the British historian Tom Holland, who wrote a book In the Shadow of the Sword: The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire that challenges key aspects of Islam’s understanding of itself, and in 2012 was commissioned by Channel 4 to do a follow-up documentary. This is what happened when the film went to air:

Just a few minutes into the broadcast, my Twitter stream was going up in smoke. By the time the show ended, the death threats were coming in thick and fast—and not just against me but against my family as well. Channel 4 was also deluged with protests. A private screening scheduled for assorted movers and shakers had to be cancelled after the police warned that they couldn’t guarantee the security of those attending the event.

Holland discusses his book in the video below.



No comparing civilizations please, we’re a university!TOC

But if an entity like the Ramsay Centre, wants to set up a university course that might present Western civilization in a positive light, we see shock, horror, indignation. I say ‘might’ since, if established on terms anything like those recently proposed by Sydney University, the course would almost certainly be institutionally captured by staffers who would likely transform it into an academic centre for the vilification of Western civilization.

But even if these problems were to be overcome, or at least diminished, there is one kind of issue that we can still expect to be off-limits. In the Q & A episode that I cited above, Sydney University Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence said this:

We’ve clearly said to them, as I’ve said to the academic board at the university, we won’t run a propaganda course of any kind. We don’t think a course that evaluates the contribution of Western civilisation makes sense, nor indeed a course that compares civilisations.

This is just appalling. A course on Western civilization that is precluded from actually evaluating its contribution, or from comparing it to other civilizations!

Surely, given the challenges we face described above, these are the most important issues that any centre on Western civilization should consider. This is not just a matter of determining which civilization is ‘superior’, but of asking some potentially very difficult questions about the compatibility of different civilizations, and the potential for clashes between them that, manifested not just at the inter-state level, but internally within states that have embraced the strong version of multiculturalism nowadays so beloved by progressives. Yet Spence seems to want to reduce it to a bland exercise in cultural appreciation.

In my view it is essential that there be scope to argue for (and against) the distinctive virtues of Western civilization, indeed for the very concept of civilization itself, which modern academia seems to revile. I recently came across a brilliant paper by Daniel Gordon, a historian at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (‘Civilization’ and the Self-Critical Tradition) that provides a comprehensive debunking of this mentality. His thesis is summed up in the following extract from the article abstract:

The radical theorists discussed in this article have portrayed ‘civilization’ as a sign of colonial arrogance inherited from a hyper-rational and chauvinistic Enlightenment. In contrast, this article traces how a key term was born in the liberal atmosphere of the Enlightenment and generated an expanding space of self-doubt afterward. When we appreciate that a large slice of modern Western civilization is a critical inquiry about the meaning of itself, and when we recognize that the language of civilization helped create a public sphere of doubt even within the colonial enterprise, we can conclude that the radical theorists discussed in this essay are less than reliable guides to the contours of European cultural history.

This Enlightenment inheritance, leading to the ability to conduct a ‘critical inquiry about the meaning of itself’ is the most distinctive feature of Western civilization, perhaps its cardinal virtue, making possible the correction of historic wrongs like slavery, colonialism, slavery and gender-based discrimination. According to the American sociologist, political writer and (non-identarian) left-wing activist Todd Gitlin:

… the Enlightenment is, to paraphrase German philosopher Jürgen Habermas, an ‘uncompleted project.’ Crucially, it is self-correcting. The abominations that litter the history of modernity do not refute the value of the Enlightenment. To the contrary. They go to show that Enlightenment has to be fought for by those who believe in it, even when, as in much of the 18th century, it does not win popularity contests, and even when its practitioners commit gaffes.

As I pointed out in a previous article in this series, the repudiation of this understanding of the Enlightenment has become a widely held tenet of the current academic orthodoxy. The Enlightenment is something to be reviled along with everything else about ‘white’ Western civilization. The postmodern ‘left’ has gone over to the camp of reaction.

So, which other civilization has this self-reflective quality? This is a crucially important question given that unprecedented levels of immigration are transforming the demographics of many Western countries, forcing rival cultures to brush-up against each other as never before. Surely, contrary to the view of Sydney University Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence, we need to be asking this question rather urgently, rather than disallowing it.


The smorgasbord theory of civilizationsTOC

If we are to believe some of the ‘superstars’ of contemporary academia like Kwame Anthony Appiah it is all really a non-issue, since there is no such thing as Western civilization anyway. In a long article in the Guardian (There is no such thing as western civilization) Appiah tries to make this case with a long and detailed account of the fuzziness and historical contingency of civilizational boundaries which, notwithstanding its erudition, commits the all-to-common continuum fallacy that I discussed above.

An important feature of Appiah’s argument is his rejection of what he terms ‘organicism’, that he defines as:

A vision of culture not as a loose assemblage of disparate fragments but as an organic unity, each component, like the organs in a body, carefully adapted to occupy a particular place, each part essential to the functioning of the whole. The Eurovision song contest, the cutouts of Matisse, the dialogues of Plato are all parts of a larger whole.

He concedes that there are organic wholes within the cultural sphere, like the music, set-design and dance of an opera, but insists ‘there isn’t one great big whole called culture that organically unites all these parts’.

In effect, he endorses the view expressed by Justin Trudeau that I cited above that there are no essential national or civilizational cultures, just different piles or combinations of interesting and generally benign cultural traits that can be mixed and matched to taste in his ideal multicultural nirvana.

You will find hip-hop in the streets of Tokyo. The same is true in cuisine: Britons once swapped their fish and chips for chicken tikka masala, now, I gather, they’re all having a cheeky Nando’s … Once we abandon organicism, we can take up the more cosmopolitan picture in which every element of culture, from philosophy or cuisine to the style of bodily movement, is separable in principle from all the others - you really can walk and talk like an African-American and think with Matthew Arnold and Immanuel Kant, as well as with Martin Luther King and Miles Davis. No Muslim essence stops the inhabitants of Dar al-Islam from taking up anything from western civilisation, including Christianity or democracy. No western essence is there to stop a New Yorker of any ancestry taking up Islam. (my emphasis)

There you have it – all one big happy jumble of cuisine, dress, religion, ways of walking, ethical values, taste in pop-music, constitutional norms, hobbies. Burger King, fishn’chips, tikka chicken - take ya pick!

The manifest absurdity is revealed if we juxtapose the last two sentences in the quote above. The final sentence ‘No western essence is there to stop a New Yorker of any ancestry taking up Islam’ is obviously true; indeed someone taking that step can expect to be celebrated, like Susan Carland here in Australia.

But to say ‘No Muslim essence stops the inhabitants of Dar al-Islam from taking up anything from western civilisation, including Christianity or democracy’

Eh? This is not just false, it is grotesque. All the main schools of Islamic jurisprudence prescribe death as the punishment for apostasy, as mandated in the Islamic holy texts. A dozen Muslim countries have the death penalty for this offence. Even in the West, someone taking this step can expect, at the very least, to be subject to severe social and familial ostracism, and furthermore to be denounced by ‘progressives’ as an identity traitor, an Uncle Tom or Native Informant, as happened to the young Pakistani-American woman Sarah Haider. Haider founded the Ex Muslims of North America after defecting from Islam. Check out the video below to see the response from her erstwhile colleagues on the liberal-left.

And as for democracy, Islam stipulates that Sharia be the supreme law of the land. Democracy, to the extent it is supported, is viewed as a means to the end of Islamic dominance, as spelled out by Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan ‘Democracy is like a streetcar. When you come to your stop, you get off.’

It is remarkable such a distinguished academic as Appiah can make such an egregiously ignorant remark – and get away with it. Leftist publications and think tanks take his analysis as Gospel, citing the above article as if it provided definitive proof of the non-existence of Western civilization. It comports perfectly with the identarian worldview that all civilizations are incommensurable and equally lovely (except, of course, ‘white’ Western civilization, which his vile) with equal claims to our respect. So Appiah’s position is a very safe one to take in the milieu of modern academia.

To make his case for his smorgasbord view, Appiah lumps together the trivial (cuisine, clothing) with the profoundly important (norms and values, institutions of governance). It would make no essential difference to the kind of society we have if all Australians changed their food tastes, all started eating Indian. It would not matter, in any fundamental sense, if we all started wearing Sikh turbans or orange Buddhist robes (though identity-abnegating garments like the Burka are another matter).

But norms and values are another matter. Swap Islam for Christianity, and you have a completely different kind of society: one in which there is very little space for secularism, one in which the distinction between the religious and secular realms is non-existent, as required by the Islamic texts. All manner of things that secular leftists used to value, like freedom of speech, especially the freedom to debate religion, would be imperiled, not to mention women’s equality and gay rights (notwithstanding the absurd and notorious claim by ABC personality Yasmin Abdel-Mageid that Islam is ‘the most feminist of religions’).


Two incompatible conceptions of human rightsTOC

Kwame Appiah juxtaposes his smorgasbord theory of civilization (my term) with what he claims is the fallacious ‘organicist’ view that civilizations are organic unities in which each part is carefully adapted to a particular role in that totality just like the organs in a human body. In rejecting organicism, he implies that the very talk of civilizations is meaningless – indeed that there is no such thing as Western civilization (not sure if he would say that about other civilizations however).

This is an obvious straw man. No-one, as far as I know, claims an inherent unity between all aspects of Western civilization that ties together, to take one of his examples, Beyoncé and Burger King with Plato and Aristotle.

However if we focus on the most important features of civilizations, rather than the ephemera that fascinate Appiah, it is clear that there are important linkages. In the case of Western civilization, the intellectual freedoms of the Enlightenment facilitated an explosion of scientific knowledge that included breakthroughs (e.g. Darwinian evolution) that contradict long-held religious dogmas. This influence rapidly spread to the economic sphere. In his book The Enlightened Economy the economic historian Joel Mokyr argues:

the beginnings of modern economic growth in Britain depended a great deal on what key players knew and believed, and how those beliefs affected their economic behaviour. 

He contends that Britain led the rest of Europe into the Industrial Revolution because it was there that the optimal intersection of ideas, culture, institutions, and technology existed to make rapid economic growth achievable

As the scholars I cited earlier make clear, the intellectual freedoms that arose from the Enlightenment gave rise to the self-reflective aspect of Western civilization that brought forth movements to address its defects, such as slavery, racism and discrimination based on sex and sexual orientation. This capacity for self criticism is a unique feature, not found in any other of the major world civilizations.

Let’s strike a contrast between contemporary Western civilization and the Islamic world. We frequently hear it said that the latter should not be seen as a monolithic, and indeed it is not. However there is a concept with Islam of an Islamic world community, literally ‘One Nation’ called the Ummah, bound together by a common set of core beliefs based on the Islamic scriptures. The Ummah now reaches deep into Western societies, as the historian Niall Ferguson observes:

Now little remains of Western imperialism, aside from America's waning military presence in the Middle East and Asia. Then, the frontier between West and East was located somewhere in the neighbourhood of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Now it seems to run through every European city.

Given which, you would think it behoves us to try and understand clearly the nature of this civilization, how it differs from our own, and the extent to which these two civilizations can be reconciled. Precisely the questions that the Vice Chancellor of Sydney University seems to want ruled out of bounds.

This is obviously a vast topic, but a useful starting point is to compare conceptions of human rights in the modern West and Islam (rather more important than some of the matters that interest Appiah, like what we have for lunch).

The post-Enlightenment Western conception of human rights was codified in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948 with the support of 48 nations, including the entire West as well as most of the third-world, including the main Muslim-majority nations.

It includes all the most important rights we are familiar with: freedom of expression and movement, guarantees of the right to life and liberty, equality before the law, prohibition of discrimination based on sex, language, political opinion, of slavery, and so on.

It also guarantees in Article 18, the right of all people to change their religious belief, either individually or in community with others, in public or in private.

Eleanor Roosevelt holds the declaration 

At the time of adoption, this received the assent of the vast majority of UN member nations. This included all the Muslim majority countries, with the exception of Saudi Arabia, which abstained citing the Declaration’s incompatibility with Sharia law (a number of Soviet-bloc countries also abstained, for their own reasons).

Here is an interesting early portent of what was to come from the identarian ideologues decades later: the American Anthropological Association objected to the declaration as reflecting a Western paradigm, and argued that the West’s history of ‘colonialism and evangelism’ made them a ‘problematical’ (don’t academics love that word!) representative for the rest of the world. They proposed three ‘notes for consideration’ during the drafting process:

  1. The individual realizes his personality through his culture, hence respect for individual differences entails a respect for cultural differences
  2. Respect for differences between cultures is validated by the scientific fact that no technique of qualitatively evaluating cultures has been discovered, and
  3. Standards and values are relative to the culture from which they derive so that any attempt to formulate postulates that grow out of the beliefs or moral codes of one culture must to that extent detract from the applicability of any Declaration of Human Rights to mankind as a whole.

According to some commentators this is the first appearance on the world stage of cultural relativism, the core of the present day identarian ideology. It seems the anthropologists have a lot to answer for! Actually it is an odd blend of relativism and scientism, exemplified by the obvious non sequitur in item 2 that affirms the incommensurability of cultures as a ‘scientific fact’.

Such notions cut little ice at the time, and the Declaration was overwhelmingly adopted. Within the Western world, and especially in the aftermath of the war against European fascism and Japanese militarism, these ideas were taken as axiomatic (though obviously many of the non-Western signatories honoured them in the breach).

Today we live in a very different climate. In one Muslim-majority country after another, hard-line Salafist interpretations of Islam are ascendant, including hitherto moderate states in our own region like Indonesia and Malaysia. In 1990 the Islamic world decided to push back against the Declaration, producing their own version: The Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam. This declaration has received the unanimous assent of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the body representing 57 Muslim-majority states.

The Cairo declaration tries to echo the structure of the UN declaration, but differs starkly in content. In essence, and this is clearly stipulated in Article 24, all rights and freedoms are subject to Sharia, which is the ‘only source of reference’. This includes freedom of speech which is addressed in Article 22:

Everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Sharia. Everyone shall have the right to advocate what is right, and propagate what is good, and warn against what is wrong and evil according to the norms of Islamic Sharia.

Sharia, among many other things, prescribes the death penalty for blasphemy and apostasy. So much for freedom to debate religion. As for women, the approach is typified by this provision on freedom of movement (Article 12):

Every man shall have the right, within the framework of Sharia, to free movement (my emphasis)

Cairo declaration

To sum up, the Cairo declaration effectively negates many of the core human rights protections stipulated in the UN declaration. This presents an obvious problem for the identarian apologists for Islam in Western academia. Typically, they allude to alternate ‘non-fundamentalist’ interpretations of Islam, interpretations that nowadays seem to have lamentably little clout and following, especially amongst members of the Islamic scholarly class who can rest on the tenet that the core doctrines, especially in the Quran, are ‘eternal and unchangeable’.

From time to time, we see calls for the Cairo declaration to be revised, such as this op-ed that appears on the website of the liberal Brookings Institution. This article, published in 2012 makes all the obvious points about the incompatibility with the UN Declaration, but refers hopefully to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) setting up a permanent Human Rights Commission within the organisation headed by Secretary General Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu. The author thinks this ‘presents a unique opportunity for genuine revision of the Cairo Declaration’.

Fat chance! In an interview with the French news service France24 İhsanoğlu made clear that likened making fun of Islam to screaming ‘Fire’ in a movie theatre and was adamant it must be banned. Needless to say, nothing of significance has come of this review.

What this shows is that, contrary to Appiah, there is a high degree of coherency in both Western and Islamic civilization. And it goes well beyond the human rights sphere: the reality is that Islam is an all-encompassing religio-political system, one that unlike Western civilization does not recognize any clear division between the civil and religious realms; and one in which the idea that Islam should coexist with other religions and belief systems as equal peers in the long term is utterly foreign. The Quran and other texts are emphatic: Muslims are obligated to fight to ensure Islam is supreme (note this is not the same as saying that all must convert to Islam).

Contrary to the identarians and strong multiculturalists, religions are not simply aspects of identity that must be respected equally. They are belief systems, and belief systems differ in their substantive contents, and these differences can matter immensely.

These are issues that need to be debated, openly and honestly, but the capacity to do this has been severely compromised in Western societies in recent times.


Civilizations collide in EuropeTOC

Thirty years ago in the wake of the end of the Cold War it seemed possible to think that Western-style liberalism had triumphed, that it would in due course become the norm worldwide, that it was the end point of human sociocultural evolution. This was the thesis put forward by Francis Fukuyama in his book The End of History and the Last Man.

In response, his former teacher Samuel Huntington wrote a much-discussed article for the magazine Foreign Affairs that argued that far from being the end point of history, Western liberalism would face new challenges, and that civilizational conflicts would be the major driver of inter-state conflicts in the 21st century.

It is nowadays hard to dispute that Huntington’s view has been vindicated. I found Fukuyama’s argument implausible at the time, and it seems patently ridiculous in the light of subsequent developments. Attempts at the time to refute Huntington have not aged well, for example take these observations, written in 1993, about the outlook for Turkey by the distinguished Lebanese-American scholar Fouad Ajami:

But Huntington is wrong. He has underestimated the tenacity of modernity and secularism in places that acquired these ways against great odds, always perilously close to the abyss, the darkness never far … Nor will Turkey lose its way, turn its back on Europe and chase after some imperial temptation in the scorched domains of Central Asia. Huntington sells that country's modernity and secularism short …There is no journey to that imperial past. Ataturk severed that link with fury, pointed his country westward, embraced the civilization of Europe and did it without qualms or second thoughts.

We now know better. Around this time the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was at an early stage of his political career. After he become Prime Minister he and his party were widely praised for developing a moderate strain of political Islam: ‘he was extolled in the West for successfully tying Islam and a democratic rule of law with a robust market economy’.

Nowadays we see Turkey sliding into the grip of increasingly strident and repressive Islamism, effectively reversing the legacy of Ataturk. Furthermore a disturbing irredentist strain has recently entered Erdogan’s rhetoric with new maps being issued that reclaim parts of the Ottoman empire. Some have even suggested that his end goal is the re-establishment of a Caliphate.

But Fouad Ajami was right about one thing: Erdogan has not turned his back on Europe. On the contrary, he has become increasingly involved in European politics, mobilizing the large Turkish ethnic communities in countries like the Netherlands and Germany.

Like many devout Muslims, Erdogan is profoundly aware and proud of the history of his creed, and of the Ottoman empire that at its height occupied a large part of Europe, only being turned back at the Gates of Vienna in 1683. Furthermore there is a view widely held amongst hard-line Muslims that once a land is Muslim it can never be relinquished (a doctrine that was invoked by Islamic militias during Australia’s action to free East Timor from Indonesian dominance in 1999).

In his book Islamic Imperialism: A History Efraim Karsh (professor and head of the Middle East Studies Program at King’s College, London) describes the imperative to conquest mandated in the scriptures:

… this is what Muhammad asked of his followers since he had fled from his hometown of Mecca (in 622) to the town of Medina to become a political and military leader rather than a private preacher: not to rid themselves of foreign occupation but to strive for a new universal order in which the whole of humanity would embrace Islam or live under its domination. As he told his followers in his farewell address: ‘I was ordered to fight all men until they say ‘There is no god but Allah’.

Erdogan clearly subscribes to the dictum ‘demography is destiny’, publicly urging Turkish families in Europe to start a baby boom in their new countries, urging them to have ‘not just three, but five children’, accelerating a demographic transformation brought about by immigration and high Islamic birth-rates that is effecting just about every country in western and northern Europe.

Just how rapid this transformation will be, and what its ultimate end-point will be, is hotly debated. The great Arabist scholar Bernard Lewis ruffled feathers a few years back by predicting that Europe will be Islamic by the end of this century ‘at the very latest’ because of below-replacement-rate native birth rates, large Muslim families and continuing immigration. Europe would, he claimed, dissolve into ‘part of the Arab West, the Maghreb’.

That is the inevitable outcome if you simply extrapolate current birth rates, but some demographers argue there is a tendency for immigrant birth rates to converge with native rates the longer the duration of settlement. The latest projections by the widely-respected Pew Research Centre show the Muslim population growing substantially out to 2050 even if zero migration is assumed, and a tripling on their high-migration scenario, growing to 17.2 percent in the UK, 18 percent in France and 19.7 percent in Germany.

A key variable, and one that is impossible to predict, is the likelihood of more spikes like the one in 2015 triggered by the Syrian civil war. This must be considered highly likely given the demographic explosion predicted for Africa, South Asia and the Middle East and continuing instability in these areas. What is even harder to predict is the policy response of Europe to any such developments.

We can probably assume some governments will be less accommodating than in 2015, but will they collectively muster the will to prevent further influxes? There is a presumption that the only humane policy response to crises like this is to open the gates to new waves of permanent settlers, and that to do otherwise bespeaks callous indifference. The British public sector economist Sir Paul Collier has challenged this assumption, arguing that vastly more people who are affected by wars and conflicts could be helped by an approach that provides temporary accommodation close to countries of origin coupled with active measures to provide employment and lay the foundations for post-war economies.

However European elites seem uninterested in a debate along these lines, seemingly resigning themselves to an ongoing massive influx into the indefinite future. In April of last year French President Emmanuel Macron predicted in a television interview that ‘great poverty’, ‘climate change’ and ‘geopolitical conflicts’ will see Africans flooding into Europe ‘for many years to come’.

In this interview Macron cited population projections in a book The Rush to Europe by French-American journalist and professor Stephen Smith, who predicts that in thirty years Europe will have ‘between 150 and 200 million Afro-Europeans, compared to 9 million at present’ (see video below):

In this same interview Macron makes clear that, in his view, France and Europe are obligated to accommodate this huge influx:

We have a migratory phenomenon that is there and will last, because there are geopolitical conflicts, climatic and African demography that is there and that is a real bomb. In this context, I remain attached to the right to asylum, which is constitutional since 1946. It requires us to welcome all women and men who risk their lives in the country they come from. And we welcome them: the right to asylum is constitutionally defended and respected.

In a similar vein, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker asserted in an interview with the German radio station Deutsche Welle that:

If we don't offer legal ways of emigrating to Europe, and immigrating within Europe, we will be lost. If those who come — who are, generally speaking, the poor and needy — are no longer able to enter the house of Europe through the front door, they'll keep making their way in through the back windows

When the interviewer asked Juncker ‘Isn't fear overcoming reason with regard to immigration?’ he replies with the Olympian arrogance so typical of European elites:

No — there are the Commission's proposals, which also have the backing of the European Parliament. Now it's up to the member states to follow the path of wisdom.

What we are seeing here is a social experiment without precedent being played out across the whole of northern and western Europe. We regularly see attempts to downplay its significance, such as claims that the acceptance of Huguenot refugees into England in the late 17th century after the cancellation of their civil rights in France shows that Britain has ‘always been a nation of immigrants’. There is simply no comparison between accepting 50,000 Protestants who were more-or-less coreligionists of the native population with the vast scale of current migration from cultures with profoundly different norms.

The latest measure to ensure that states and their populations ‘follow the path of wisdom’ is the formal adoption in December 2018 of the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. This extraordinary document has drawn immense controversy, with some 20 states (including the US, Australia and a number of European sates) refusing to sign on.

The Compact has been criticized for blurring the distinction between refugees and economic migrants and effectively affirming an internationally recognized human right to migration. While the wording acknowledges that decisions about migration are ultimately matters for sovereign states, concerns have been raised that activist courts in some jurisdictions may well factor the compact into immigration decisions. The Crown Law Office of New Zealand published an opinion that:

courts may be willing …. To refer to the Compact and take the Compact into account as an aid in interpreting immigration legislation

Among the more disturbing aspects of the pact are provisions committing governments to actively shape public debate about immigration (in a later section I argue that in Europe especially this is already heavily constrained). In Objective 17 states commit to:

Promote independent, objective and quality reporting of media outlets, including internet based information, including by sensitizing and educating media professionals on migration-related issues and terminology, investing in ethical reporting standards and advertising, and stopping allocation of public funding or material support to media outlets that systematically promote intolerance, xenophobia, racism and other forms of discrimination towards migrants, in full respect for the freedom of the media

This is profoundly disturbing. Anyone who has followed debates about these matters in recent times would be well aware that the terms ‘intolerance’, ‘xenophobia’, ‘racism’ are, to put it mildly, heavily contested and often thrown at anyone who disputes the wisdom of open borders and uncontrolled entry, little more than curse words to suppress debate.

And don’t you like the final touch of adding ‘in full respect for the freedom of the media’?


The erosion of normsTOC

So how is this great European experiment working out, an experiment that other Western nations (such as Australia and Canada) seem intent on replicating?

Consider France, the country with the largest proportion of Muslims in Western Europe (8.8% in 2016). When it comes to negatives, we tend to focus first on the ‘headline’ item of terrorist attacks, some of the worst of which have occurred in France.

This is obviously important – much more important than glib comparisons of mortality risk with road accidents that we often hear imply. Terrorist attacks are designed to create a pall of fear over a society, and they succeed in this very well, compelling affected societies to implement intrusive surveillance measures. The ubiquitous ‘bollards’ that blight public buildings are a constant reminder of this.

When these attacks occur we typically see a concerted effort by mass migration advocates in the media and politics to deny any connection to the risk of terrorism. For example after the November 2015 Bataclan theatre massacre in Paris the former head of the Australian Human Rights Commission Professor Gillian Triggs (who was in Paris at the time) stated in a radio interview:

I understand Australia’s PM Malcolm Turnbull has been very clear in saying that we must not conflate concerns about refugees and migrants with these terrorist attacks and I really applaud him for taking such a strong position.

How can they not be conflated? We now know that most of the terrorists who carried out the Balaclan attack came in as ‘refugees’. Not all, of course, some were already resident in France and Belgium. But that prompts another question that people are not supposed to ask: the link between Islam, a creed that enjoins its followers to fight to achieve global supremacy, and which calls on devotees to strike terror into the hearts of unbelievers, and the wildly disproportionate share of terrorist attacks its followers perpetrate.

However more insidious effects flow from the emergence of parallel societies governed by very different norms to the host societies within large urban areas such as the banlieues in France, the so-called ‘no go’ areas we now see in a number of European countries. In October last year the outgoing interior minister in Emmanuel Macron’s government Gérard Collomb made some sobering observations in an interview with the weekly magazine L’Express. After touring the inner cities of Marseille, Toulouse and Paris, he said:

The situation is very difficult and the phrase ‘Reconquering the Republic’ is apt because in these districts it’s the law of the strongest that reigns, that of the drug dealers and radical Islamists, which has supplanted the Republic.

He went on to endorse earlier parliamentary testimony by Patrick Calvar, head of the General Directorate for Internal Security, the top domestic security agency, that France was ‘on the brink of a civil war… Europe is in great danger, extremism is growing everywhere’. Calvar was particularly concerned about the possibility of cycles of retaliatory violence following incidents like the mass sexual attacks by an estimated 2000 mainly migrant men on 1200 German women in Cologne and other German cities on new year’s eve 2015.

There is another recurring feature of the official response when unpleasant episodes like this occur: the attempt, generally unsuccessful, at concealment. In the case of Cologne, the police report on the following day described the festivities as ‘lively but generally peaceful’! Initial reports grossly understated the number of victims and perpetrators, the official report with corrected figures only appearing after an inordinate 6-month delay. There was what can reasonably be described as a conspiracy of silence involving police and media organisations.

But what about the ‘vibrant diversity’ we are told to expect by the champions of identity politics? Consider this account of the transformation of the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek, where both the Bataclan and Brussels terror attacks were incubated, by the cultural anthropologist and war photographer Teun Voeten who watched it happen as a resident for nine years:

Over nine years, I witnessed the neighbourhood become increasingly intolerant. Alcohol became unavailable in most shops and supermarkets; I heard stories of fanatics at the Comte des Flandres metro station who pressured women to wear the veil; Islamic bookshops proliferated, and it became impossible to buy a decent newspaper. With an unemployment rate of 30 percent, the streets were eerily empty until late in the morning. Nowhere was there a bar or café where white, black and brown people would mingle. Instead, I witnessed petty crime, aggression, and frustrated youths who spat at our girlfriends and called them ‘filthy whores.’ If you made a remark, you were inevitably scolded and called a racist. There used to be Jewish shops on Chaussée de Gand, but these were terrorized by gangs of young kids and most closed their doors around 2008. Openly gay people were routinely intimidated, and also packed up their bags.

Far from being vibrant and diverse, Voeten is describing what can only be considered a fearful and repressed monoculture.

In the article Voeten describes a ‘culture of denial’ by Belgium’s progressive elite that stymies debate about the reality of what is happening. Those who do speak out are treated in the familiar way by the ideologues and defenders of identity politics: ‘Observers who point to unpleasant truths such as the high incidence of crime among Moroccan youth and violent tendencies in radical Islam are accused of being propagandists of the extreme-right, and are subsequently ignored and ostracized.’

 Police conduct a security operation in Molenbeek

The same culture of denial can be found in Britain, where the shocking violent abuse of very young girls, mainly white but with a significant number of Sikhs, from predominantly low income and often dysfunctional families was allowed to occur on a very large scale at multiple locations for decades. The perpetrators were predominantly Pakistani men organized into what were termed ‘grooming gangs’, a euphemism for what in reality was sexual enslavement.

For most of this period, all the arms of the state that were supposed to protect the girls - the police, prosecutors, social services, local councils and politicians – ignored the problem despite being presented with evidence of what was going on. Social workers and other whistle blowers could find themselves being disciplined for speaking out. In some cases it went beyond negligence to actual complicity on the part of police and officials.

There was also a distinct lack of interest on the part of the media until the silence was finally broken in a landmark report by Times journalist Andrew Norfolk in 2012 on what had been occurring in the northern English town of Rotherham. This was followed by two official reports, the most important by the chief social worker of Scotland Professor Alexis Jay, seen in this video on the release of her inquiry. She pulls no punches in describing the extremity and the scale of what had occurred (1,400 victims in Rotherham alone). Andrew Norfolk speaks about the grooming gang scandal and cover-up in the video below:

According to Professor Jay, police often treated victims with contempt, sometimes arresting them while taking no action against the perpetrators. Incredibly, in two cases police arrested fathers trying to rescue their daughters from their abusers (Jay report section 5.9)

Since Rotherham grooming gangs have been found to be operating in a multitude of British cities, the most recent revelations concerning gangs in Telford and Huddersfield.

And what about the politicians, especially those champions of the working class in the UK Labour Party? According to one of their number, the former MP for the seat of Keighley in Yorkshire Ann Cryer – who actually did try to raise the grooming gang issue in 2002 – she was shunned by police, social services and imams, and by elements in her own party.

So why this neglect? The former Labour MP for Rotherham Dennis McShane admitted that as a ‘Guardian reading liberal leftie’ he shied away from the issue, telling the BBC:

I think there was a culture of not wanting to rock the multicultural community boat if I may put it like that.

McShane’s successor as MP for Rotherham wrote an article in 2017 following the exposure of another gang in Newcastle that called on her colleagues to frankly face up to the nature of the problem. For this, she was forced to resign as Labour’s shadow equalities minister after making a grovelling apology for ‘causing offence’.

Champion was denounced by another Labour MP Naz Shah (Bradford West) for writing an article that ‘is not only irresponsible but is also setting a very dangerous precedent and must be challenged.’ Shah, who is notorious for her blatantly anti-Semitic tweets, shared (and liked) a tweet that said:

those abused girls in Rotherham and elsewhere just need to shut their mouths. For the good of #diversity!

So was she disciplined for this? Not likely – she was actually promoted to Sarah Champion’s former post of shadow equalities minister. As the saying goes, you can’t make this stuff up. The debasement of this once great party under Corbyn is a historic tragedy. Clement Attlee and Harold Wilson must be spinning in their graves!

The mindset that enabled this to go on was nicely summed up by the distinguished British philosopher Roger Scruton:

The result of this has been that police forces lean over backwards to avoid the accusation of racism, while social workers will hesitate to intervene in any case in which they could be accused of discriminating against ethnic minorities. Matters are made worse by the rise of militant Islam, which has added to the old crime of racism the new crime of ‘Islamophobia’. No social worker today will risk being accused of this crime. In Rotherham a social worker would be mad, and a police officer barely less so, to set out to investigate cases of suspected sexual abuse, when the perpetrators are Asian Muslims and the victims ethnically English. Best to sweep it under the carpet, find ways of accusing the victims or their parents or the surrounding culture of institutionalised racism, and attending to more urgent matters such as the housing needs of recent immigrants, or the traffic offences committed by those racist middle classes.


The great disconnectTOC

In an earlier section I described how elite opinion views the huge migrant influx that has gone on for decades and accelerated greatly in 2015. For the likes of Merkel, Macron and Juncker it is something that must be accommodated, and is in any case inevitable, and those inclined to think differently must be steered, in the words of European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, to the ‘path of wisdom’.

But what do the ordinary people of Europe think? Two recent polls shed important light on this question, and underscore the extent of the disconnect between European elites and general public opinion.

In early 2017 the Royal Institute of International Affairs, commonly known as Chatham House, conducted a survey of 10,000 people in 10 European countries, in which people were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the following statement:

All further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped

This survey was conducted in the wake of President Trump’s announcement of a temporary halt to immigration from a group of Muslim countries deemed to pose an especially serious terrorist risk. The above proposition is much stronger: a permanent ban on immigration from all Muslim countries.

The result, according to the Chatham House report, was ‘striking and sobering’:

Overall, across all 10 of the European countries an average of 55% agreed that all further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped, 25% neither agreed nor disagreed and 20% disagreed. Majorities in all but two of the ten states agreed, ranging from 71% in Poland, 65% in Austria, 53% in Germany and 51% in Italy to 47% in the United Kingdom and 41% in Spain. In no country did the percentage that disagreed surpass 32%.

In February the Századvég Foundation did an even larger survey with 1000 respondents in each of the 28 countries of the EU asked a range of questions about the feeling of prosperity in their countries, attitudes to the European Union, globalization, the migration wave and terrorism. Charts showing the results can be viewed here.

The results were broadly consistent with the Chatham House survey. Again, there was remarkable level of unanimity on the questions regarding immigration, with large majorities in most countries saying illegal immigration and rapidly growing Muslim populations are a serious problem. On the latter question Sweden recorded the lowest proportion, with 55% agreeing it is a very serious or somewhat serious threat. These results are consistent with earlier surveys.

Most people are clearly disturbed by the transformation they see around them: in their streets and neighbourhoods, schools, universities and other institutions. If this counts as ‘Islamophobia’, then there is obviously a lot of it about. Is it fair and reasonable to characterize such people as bigots, racists, xenophobes, fascists – even Nazis – as is common today?

Or, in a less extreme register, as low-class, poorly educated white people, the sad ‘losers’ in an age of globalization, old white people destined to die off in due course to be replace by new generations less hesitant to follow the ‘path of wisdom’? In the UK it has become common, especially on social media, to disparage older white working-class people as gammons after a cut of pork of pinkish coloration that supposedly resembles the complexion of angry white people.

A bit racist, and ageist, you might say? Not at all! According to representatives of fashionable opinion like the world-class nitwit Owen Jones, a regular in the pages of the Guardian and BBC panellist:

Gammon is a racist slur, we are told. Let me put this gently: affluent white men with reactionary opinions are not a race.

An interesting inversion of the argument used to justify the academic orthodoxy that Islamophobia is a form of racism, encapsulated in the headline in a Huffington Post article Muslims Aren’t A Race, So I Can’t Be Racist, Right? Wrong.

Jones follows with another of the standard tropes that recur in academic discourse:

Reactionary affluent white men are not being harassed by police officers, disproportionately driven into poverty and precarious work, systematically underrepresented… (etc etc, ad nauseum)

Notice how the anathematized gammons have suddenly become ‘affluent’, which does not exactly chime with the other trope about them being the ‘sad losers’ from globalization, perhaps more to be pitied than condemned. But this is all of a piece with the new ‘progressive’ racism that I briefly discussed above, and in more detail in an earlier article, the academic justifications for which are invariably incoherent and/or circular – just bigoted nonsense on shaky academic stilts.

In an important book published in late 2018 the political scientists Roger Eatwell and Mathew Goodin report on research that provides important insights into what is bothering ordinary people throughout Europe and explains the emergence of what they term ‘national populist’ parties in one country after another.

In a nutshell, the research shows that in all the surveyed countries high proportions of the non-elite population believe that none of the mainstream parties reflect their concerns. An Ipsos-MORI poll conducted in 2017 that asked whether traditional politicians ‘do not care about people like me’, the proportions agreeing ranged from 45 percent in Sweden to an extraordinary 78 percent in France (and 67 percent in the US).

The following excerpt summarizes their conclusions:

They question the way in which elites have become more and more insulated from the lives and concerns of ordinary people. They question the erosion of the nation state, which they see as the only construct that has proven capable of organizing our political and social lives. They question the capacity of Western societies to rapidly absorb rates of immigration and ‘hyper ethnic change’ that are largely unprecedented in the history of modern civilization.

They question why the West’s current economic settlement is creating highly unequal societies and leaving swathes of people behind, and whether the state should accord priority in employment and welfare to people who have spent their lives paying into the national pot. They question cosmopolitan and globalizing agendas, asking where these are taking us and what kind of societies they will create. And some of them ask whether all religions support key aspects of modern life in the West, such as equality and respect for women and LGBT communities.

Maybe, just maybe, we should consider the possibility that these hoi polloi actually have a more accurate perception of reality than their elite disparagers? The foregoing sections of this article strongly suggest this might be the case.

At the very least, don’t the viewpoints summarized above deserve proper debate and consideration? After all, you can hardly characterize any of them as hopelessly ill-informed and bigoted, anti-democratic, maybe ‘fascist’ or ‘Nazi’. Eatwell and Goodin go to some length to refute the neo-fascist label (with a few exceptions like Golden Dawn in Greece and Jobbik in Hungary). They point out that the prevailing view is to strengthen democracy and free speech rather than destroy it. Ironically, in our era it is the ‘progressives’ of Antifa and like groups that most closely emulate the thuggish tactics of 1930s fascists;

As if to underscore the disconnect, in January 2019 a group of 30 prominent members of Europe’s intellectual Great and the Good led by the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy (commonly know by his initials BHL) composed a public call-to-arms published in four major newspapers that begins with the sentence ‘The idea of Europe is in peril’ and claims that the rise of ‘populism’ is the continent’s biggest challenge since the 1930s.

They fear that a populist tide will sweep over the continent in the European elections scheduled for May 2019. This, they assert, will:

…give a victory to the wreckers. For those who still believe in the legacy of Erasmus, Dante, Goethe and Comenius there will be only ignominious defeat. A politics of disdain for intelligence and culture will have triumphed. There will be explosions of xenophobia and antisemitism. Disaster will have befallen us.

What is striking about this diatribe is its complete failure to even try to grapple with the issues and concerns that have led to the continent-wide populist-nationalist upsurge, well summarized in the excerpt above from Eatwell and Goodin. It is as if it arose inexplicably out of the earth.

The authors of this screed profess their concern for Europe’s great cultural and intellectual, dare I say civilizational, heritage. But where does the threat to this come from? Who is it that deprecates this heritage, to the point of asserting its nonexistence? In earlier sections I discuss some of the main intellectual and political figures who engage in this sort of denial.

Here is another one: In 2017 the German integration minister Aydan Özoğuz (party affiliation SPD) wrote a newspaper commentary claiming that a specific German culture ‘aside from the language is simply not identifiable’ as ‘already historically, rather regional cultures, immigration and diversity have shaped our history’. She then added this profundity:

Globalisation and pluralisation of lifeworlds leads to a further diversification of diversity.

Wow! Forces you to ponder what the ultimate limits of diversity must be. Ironically, it was left to the one of the co-leaders of the populist-nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD), Alexander Gauland, to correct her on this point in a speech in which he goes through a lengthy recitation of German cultural and intellectual figures (Bach, Schiller, Goethe, Kant etc).

The AfD is one of the new populist-nationalist parties. In the space of a few years it has come from nothing to having 94 members in the parliament (Bundestag). It is, needless to stay, frequently labelled as ‘neo-Nazi’, and it is undoubtedly a right-wing party with many positions I obviously do not share.

But neo-Nazi? Read the sub-titles on the speech below by Gauland on the Brexit negotiations in which he laments the treatment of ‘our British friends’, reminding the parliament that the British ‘bled for a free Europe on the beaches of Normandy’. Seems like an odd thing for a German neo-Nazi to be saying. Gauland’s co-leader is the much younger Alice Weidel, an open lesbian, who in an interview with Israeli television mourns the ‘unspeakable twelve years’ of the Third Reich and affirms that Judaism has, and always had, a place in German life. Is this something a neo-Nazi might say?

Most importantly, Bernard-Henri Levy and his colleagues ignore the elephant in the room, the elite insistence on seeing nothing problematical about Islam, nothing incompatible with the great traditions they extol, and their ignoring the inability or refusal to effectively control the continent’s borders that threatens to swamp European civilization, especially if the accommodating stance advocated by Macron and others prevails.

There is a rather stunning irony in the letter’s reference to an ‘explosion’ of anti-Semitism, from sources unspecified. The copy of the letter in the Guardian links to another article reporting on Molotov cocktail attack in 2017 on a synagogue in Gothenburg Sweden and a second attack on a Jewish cemetery in Malmö. The perpetrators of the synagogue attack were two Syrians and one Palestinian who had arrived in Sweden in the same year.

These intellectuals are right to assert that anti-Semitism is a rising problem, one so serious that around 38 percent of European Jews have considered emigrating, but wrong in their implication that it is mainly the ‘far-right’ that is to blame. A study by Johannes Due Enstad at the University of Oslo asked a group of Jewish victims in a sample drawn from France, the UK, Germany and Sweden, to categorize the perpetrators as right-wing, left-wing, Muslim or Christian extremist. As the chart below makes clear, the perpetrators come overwhelmingly from leftists and Muslim extremists.


A more extensive survey conducted by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights reached broadly the same conclusion. When it came to antisemitic harassment:

The most frequently mentioned categories of perpetrators of the most serious incidents of antisemitic harassment experienced by the respondents include someone they did not know (31%); someone with an extremist Muslim view (30%); someone with a left-wing political view (21%); a colleague from work or school/college (16%); an acquaintance or friend (15%); and someone with a right-wing political view (13%).

While it is essential to resist categorizing all Muslims (and leftists) based on the actions of violent extremists, and harassment of visibly Muslim people should be rigorously prosecuted, we must recognize that Islam has its own civilizational heritage, its own norms and values, that are very different and in key respects incompatible with those of the post-Enlightenment West. What will be left of the civilization of Erasmus et al that so concerns BHL after a few more decades of massive and largely uncontrolled migration? That is surely the real existential question for Europe and the West.


Free speech imperiledTOC

If there was one norm that, until recently, was seen as integral to Western civilization, at least since the Enlightenment, it was the very strong presumption in favour of free speech. This was seen as essential for argumentation and debate to be able to sift truth from falsehood, a view encapsulated in John Stuart Mill’s dictum: ‘he who knows only his own side the case knows little of that’.

When people heard viewpoints with which they strongly disagreed, they were expected to argue against them rather than attempt to suppress them, the ideal response being ‘I disagree with you for the following reasons’. In the age of identity politics, the typical response is: ‘I am offended by what you way, and you should not be allowed to say it, and furthermore the fact you say it marks you as a bad person who should be punished’.

The old presumption in favour of free debate extended to the use of mockery and ridicule, even when the subject matter was religion. This was brought home to me when I recently read a biography by the American author Susan Jacoby of the famous, and notorious freethinker Robert G. Ingersoll (The Great Agnostic, 2014). A lawyer and veteran of the American Civil War, Ingersoll was arguably the best-known orator of late nineteenth century America during an era when public oratory was one of the main forms of entertainment and political debate. He was also a significant figure in the Republican Party. His nickname was ‘the great agnostic’, the title of Jacoby’s book.

Ingersoll toured the length and breadth of the United States speaking against organized religion to sell-out audiences, subjecting Christian and other religious beliefs to critical scrutiny and ridicule. Jacoby gives a hilarious account of what took place at these meetings. Often most of those attending the meetings would be devout believers. Despite their faith, such believers, according to a journalist attendee quoted by Jacoby:

…appreciated Ingersoll’s wit at the expense of their own faith. ‘foreordination laughs jostled freewill smiles,’ the reporter recalled, ‘Baptist cachinations floated out to join apostolic roars, and there was a grand unison of orthodox cheers for the most unorthodox jokes.

This is how devout Christians responded to someone challenging their most cherished beliefs, in a much more religious age, and in a society awash with guns. It also reminds me of the hilarious exchanges that used to occur every Sunday afternoon at the Sydney Domain (the equivalent of London’s Hyde Park Corner) between fundamentalist Christian speakers and militant atheists of the Rationalist Society.

However, in the age of identity politics, in which religion is an aspect of identity, something that someone is born with in much the same way as skin color, in which there are ‘oppressor’ and ‘oppressed’ religions, things have changed markedly. Christianity, as an oppressor religion, is fair game. No-one puts their life on the line by disputing, defaming or mocking it in films or plays (recent examples: The Da Vinci Code movie and the musical The Book of Mormon).

But try doing the same with Islam. Even in America, the land of the First Amendment, someone engaging in such behavior would be putting their life in peril, and at the very least be subjected to concerted and possibly violent attempts by ‘progressives’ to shut them down. Consider the case of the British-Iranian secularist Mariam Namazie, a co-founder of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. She has been repeatedly threatened and no-platformed on university campuses and elsewhere. At the same time, according to a report prepared by Namazie’s organisation, extreme Islamist groups are given free reign on campuses throughout the UK.

For example, when she was due to speak at Goldsmith’s College, part of the University of London, a petition was organised that, incredibly, was strongly backed by the college feminist and LGBT clubs, who claimed her presence created an ‘unsafe’ environment. The university authorities did allow her meeting to proceed, but it was disrupted in a highly threatening manner (see video below). Sound systems were unplugged, attendees threatened with hand gestures suggesting shooting in the head.

The bottom line is that Islam is not seen as a belief system, with beliefs and tenets that can be disputed – let alone mocked. It is an oppressed identity, and must be respected and protected.

Things are even worse in Europe, where there are no strong legal protections of free speech comparable to the First Amendment. We are seeing the re-introduction of de facto blasphemy prohibitions by stealthy and not-so-stealthy means.

In an extraordinary recent decision, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) upheld a decision by an Austrian court that penalized a woman for publishing remarks about the marriage and age of sexual intercourse of Mohammed’s wife Aisha. The remarks cited passages in the hadith collection of Sahih Bukhari, which all the main schools of Islam view as authentic and therefore canonical.

But no matter: the ECHR held the comments:

went ‘beyond the permissible limits of an objective debate’, constituted ‘an abusive attack on the Prophet of Islam’, and thereby conflicted with ‘the rights of others to have their religious feelings protected and to have religious peace preserved in Austrian society’. Her statements had purportedly ‘been likely to arouse justified indignation in Muslims’, and were ‘capable of stirring up prejudice and putting at risk religious peace’.

So in Europe, it seems, avoiding arousing ‘justified indignation’ and ‘putting at risk religious peace’ trumps the freedom to criticize religion. Presumably similar concerns explain the disgraceful decision by the UK government to reject calls to grant asylum to the shockingly persecuted Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi, sentenced to death for blasphemy and imprisoned for nine years in a windowless cell until acquitted on appeal by the Pakistan Supreme Court. Even after being acquitted, Bibi had to go into hiding after numerous death threats – one survey found that 10 million Pakistanis would be willing to personally kill her.

You can see the Brits problem about this, given the large number of immigrants from this part of the world. Consider the fate of courageous Pakistani officials who tried to protect her, like Punjab’s governor Salman Taseer and minorities minister Shabhaz Bhatti. Both were assassinated for their trouble. When Taseer’s killer Mumtaz Quadri, was brought to trial:

Qadri’s fans include a large part of the Pakistani lawyers’ association, whose members, in their trademark black suits, showered rose petals on him as he entered the courthouse. They volunteered by the hundred to defend him pro bono.

This is the attitude of a large part of the legal profession in the UK’s third largest immigrant source country! So fears about what might eventuate should Bibi be granted asylum are understandable. But what does that say about the direction Britain is going in as mass immigration continues unabated, as well as other nations facing a similar situation? And what if the frankly lunatic views of Emmanuel Macron cited above advocating an accommodating attitude to tens of millions more immigrants were to prevail?

There is an obvious need to frankly debate these matters. But all over the Western world we see concerted efforts to muffle such debates using rationalizations constructed by the ideologues of identity politics. Much better to try and stop people talking about it rather than engage with the substantive problem.

A standard method is to designation of certain types of speech as ‘hate speech’ or ‘hate crime’, with increasingly severe penalties (in the US, by contrast, the Supreme Court has consistently refused to recognize any such category). In Britain, for example, hate crime is defined by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) as follows:

Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice, based on a person's disability or perceived disability; race or perceived race; or religion or perceived religion; or sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation or transgender identity or perceived transgender identity. (my emphasis)

So it all depends on the subjective perceptions of the victim ‘or any other person’. What sort of a basis for a criminal prosecution is that? The CPS definition adds a note (to address criticisms about the obvious lack of terminological precision) clarifying what is meant by ‘hostility’. Here it is:

There is no legal definition of hostility so we use the everyday understanding of the word which includes ill-will, spite, contempt, prejudice, unfriendliness, antagonism, resentment and dislike.

So be careful who you dislike or are unfriendly toward as this might put you in the gun for a ‘hate crime’. As the Americans like to say, you could convict a ham sandwich on that sort basis – and indeed they have gone at it with gusto, with the number of prosecutions running at around 15,000 annually, though with a curious lack of interest in anti-Semitic hate crimes, the number of prosecutions for which is miniscule.

Online hate crimes have become a special priority, with the former Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders declaring that the CPS treats ‘online hate crimes as seriously as those committed face to face’.

This is the same CPS that only very recently secured its first conviction for female genital mutilation (FGM), rightly described by a House of Commons select committee as an ‘a national scandal that is continuing to result in the preventable mutilation of thousands of girls’. FGM has been a criminal offence since 1985 with penalties of up to 14 years imprisonment, and according to NHS statistics is being reported by hospitals at an average rate of 15 cases per day. This is only explicable in the moral universe of identity politics in which, as Germaine Greer notoriously said, taking strong action to stop FGM would be ‘culturally arrogant’. A similarly lethargic approach is taken by the CPS to honor crimes and forced marriages, not to mention the horrific grooming/sexual slavery gangs (described in an earlier section) that operated without impediment for decades.

When it comes to speech acts deemed ‘hateful’ by anyone, however, you can expect Sergeant Plod of the thought police to spring into action. There have been some astonishing cases recently, including a woman arrested and detained for 7 hours for ‘misgendering’ an interlocuter on Twitter, and the police phoning a 74 year-old woman to tell her to ‘tone down’ her blog posts on issues of gender. Then there is the interesting new priority on non-crime hate incidents, anything said that makes people feel bad but is not actually a crime.

If I invoke George Orwell at this point I might be accused of something akin to Godwin’s Law which states that as any online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1 (i.e. absolute certainty). However I am going to risk it anyway given disturbing signs the UK police are getting into the thoughtcrime business.

Consider this case, where a man by the name of Harry Miller was interrogated by police after he posted a Tweet questioning whether transgender women were real women. According to Miller, a former police officer himself, he was told by the officer doing the questioning that while he had committed no crime, he needed to ‘check my thinking’, adding ‘we are heading absolutely towards some Orwellian state and the police are using 1984 as an operating manual and this frightens the life out of me’.

Even more extraordinary is this case where a man who posted social media comments critical of Islam was called in for questioning by Lancashire anti-terrorist police after posting comments on social media critical of Islam. Again, there was no suggestion of a crime having been committed. Yet the anti-terrorist police took it upon themselves to interrogate this person guilty of nothing more than making some of the same observations about Islam that I have made in this article.

He was asked ‘what are your political beliefs’ and warned he ‘should be careful of dangerous ideologies… lest he go past the point of no return’. The police suggested he have a chat with a local Imam, to set him straight. All the while repeating that they ‘are not the thought police’ as they prove the contrary. He received three further home visits by the police subsequent to the interview, supposedly to ‘check how he was going’. Just incredible.

No wonder that, according to a YouGov poll, a third of people in Britain ‘believe they cannot speak freely on controversial subjects such as immigration and religion for fear they may be criticized, lose their job or be prosecuted’.

Not only are do people in Britain feel restricted in what they can say, they also face restrictions on who they can hear. Again, this applies especially to high profile critics of Islam, such as the American Robert Spencer, banned from visiting Britain in 2013 by then Home Secretary Teresa May. The stated ground for the ban in the letter from the Home Office was that Spencer was on the record having said the following:

…it (Islam) is a religion and a belief system that mandates warfare against unbelievers for the purpose of establishing a societal model that is absolutely incompatible with Western society because of media and general government unwillingness to face the sources of Islamic terrorism these things remain largely unknown.

The letter goes on ‘the Home Secretary considers that should you be allowed to enter the UK you would continue to espouse such views’ and that this ‘may foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK’.

In other words, Britain is unable to admit someone who states what are he believes to be undeniable truths about Islam. Spencer certainly is a strong critic of Islam, but his points are made in a scholarly fashion and amply substantiated with references to Islamic scriptures and other sources. He has never advocated violence against anyone, and has repeatedly asserted that engaging in harassing or intimidating behavior against Muslims is ‘never justified’.

By contrast, Spencer can point to an ever-growing list of extremist preachers who have no difficulty entering Britain and preaching without let or hindrance, wryly observing that they typically espouse the same understanding of Islam but unlike him they strongly favor such provisions. These kinds of restrictions are becoming endemic to Europe, though obviously easier for me to document in the British case for linguistic reasons.

We are seeing a kind of stupefied paralysis, with Europe unable to honestly and frankly debate the profound changes in their societies out of a twofold fear: fear of being branded with the lethal taints of racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia; and fear of the actual violence that may befall any high-profile critic of Islam.

Instead, the authorities put immense resources into monitoring and policing speech acts, while ignoring or downplaying the very serious crimes and other consequences flowing from these societal changes.

Here in Australia we are starting to see similar pressures to curtail freedom of speech where Islam is concerned. There is a constant drumbeat to extend federal and state anti-discrimination laws to include religious vilification. The ALP has committed to harmonising all federal anti-discrimination laws, and in the process making religious vilification illegal, while such laws are already in force in Victoria, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory.

One approach proposed by those wishing to extend these provisions is to launch test cases to see if courts can be persuaded to interpret the meaning of ‘race’ to include religion. A recent case in NSW heard by the state’s Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal (CAT) shows how a de facto ban on religious vilification would require only a slight change in common law interpretation.

The case arose from a complaint prompted by the following observations made in 2016 by Channel 9 commentator Sonia Kruger:

there is a correlation between the number of people who, you know, are Muslim in a country and the number of terrorist attacks. Now I have a lot of very good friends who are Muslim, who are peace-loving who are beautiful people, but there are fanatics. And does the population and the correlation between those two things, is it having an impact? And does the population and the correlation between those two things, is it having an impact? I mean, if you look at Japan, Japan has a population of 174 million. It has a hundred thousand people in that country who are Muslim. We never hear of terrorist attacks in Japan. Personally I would like to see it stopped now for Australia. Because I want to feel safe, as all of our citizens do, when they go out to celebrate Australia Day. And I’d like to see freedom of speech and Lisa I think, you know we’re seeing journalists threatened… .

When the host of the program asked:

But just to clarify Sonia, are you saying that you would like our borders closed to Muslims at this point?

Kruger replied:

Yes I would… for the safely of the citizens here, I think it’s important

The NSW Anti-Discrimination Act prohibits racial vilification, defined as follows:

It is unlawful for a person, by a public act, to incite hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of, a person or group of persons on the ground of the race of the person or members of the group.

The case hinged on the interpretation of the Act’s definition of race, specifically whether the inclusion of ‘ethno-religious origin’ should make vilification on the ground of religion unlawful. This matter was discussed at length in the decision, with a number of cases cited reaching opposite conclusions. The CAT ultimately decided that, on balance, vilification on the ground of religion did not fall within the ambit of the act.

But it was a close run thing. So close, in fact, that the tribunal, having rejected the complaint, decided that:

In case we are wrong in this conclusion, we set out our findings on the remaining issues in the case

Their findings on the remaining issues were all in favour of the complainant. The most disturbing aspect was the rejection of the defence allowed in the act permitting statements:

done reasonably and in good faith for purposes in the public interest, including discussion or debate about an exposition of any act or matter

The tribunal found that Kruger’s comments where made in good faith, without malice, and not for an improper purpose. However they did not accept that they were ‘reasonable’, on the ground that her comments could have been made in a ‘more measured’ fashion, and that:

she could have referred to the need for Australia to engage in greater security checking of people wishing to migrate to Australia who may happen to be Muslims and the need to prevent a drift towards radicalisation amongst Muslims currently in Australia, rather than simply stating that 500,000 Muslims represents an unacceptable safety risk which justifies stopping all Muslim migration

It is extraordinary, and sinister, that a tribunal like this sees its role as getting involved in determining what it is ‘reasonable’ to say about a contentious public policy issue. In effect, Kruger would be penalized for stating what to most ordinary people (as confirmed by the polling in Europe cited above) is the bleeding obvious: that there is a relationship between the size of a Muslim population and the risk of terrorism, so that Paris, London and Brussels are at greater risk than Warsaw, Prague or Budapest.

This is not to say, as Kruger stressed, that all Muslims should be regarded as terrorists or potential terrorists, or to deny that most Muslims are decent people. The tribunal suggest that better scrutiny of migrants may mitigate this risk.

What additional measures, over and above the extensive checking already carried out, do they have in mind? What if the problem is doctrinal, embedded in the tenets of the creed? These are all matters that should be open to members of the public to debate. But who is going to risk being dragged before some star chamber if what they say is not deemed reasonable? This is sinister stuff, made possible by an ideology that insists on treating religion as an aspect of identity that must be protected, rather than a belief system open to disputation.


Conclusion: Those who the gods would destroy, they first make madTOC

What a strange world it is that we have come to inhabit, in the era of identity politics.

A world where those who identify as progressives can praise, and elevate to a leadership position, someone like Linda Sarsour who defends Sharia law, the regime in Saudi Arabia, and the ferociously anti-Semitic Nation of Islam; while denouncing genuine progressives like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Sarah Haider who defect from Islam.

And where these self-same progressives demand the legal persecution of anyone with the temerity to not comply with the loopiest extremities of the current iteration of gender politics and seek to ban and if possible prosecute public critics of this ideology.

An ideology that denounces, in the most extreme terms, the liberal civilization that allows such people to spout their nonsense, even paying them generous salaries to do so. Where people who are as white-as-ivory-soap denounce whiteness, and white people, as possessed of a grave moral pathology, and like Elizabeth ‘Pocahontas’ Warren - a serious contender to be the next President of the United States – search for any specious reason to claim membership of an ‘oppressed’ identity.

To say such an ideology is incoherent does not do justice to it: it is just plain mad.

Yet despite this it has been able to achieve a position of enormous power throughout the Western world, able to fetter free speech and enforce its strictures in universities, to infect school curricula with its nonsense, to shape political agendas of mainstream parties, to impose its writ by legislation, to destroy and prosecute its opponents and critics. And perhaps most disturbingly, to get the enormously powerful social media companies, the gatekeepers of the new digital public square, to censor and exclude those who dispute or ridicule its claims.

Most seriously, it is an ideology that is blind – insistently and systematically blind - to the two major threats to our liberal civilization: a resurgent political Islam that, thanks to ill-considered immigration policies, now runs through the middle of many major Western cities; and the re-emergence of autocratic great powers that, unlike during the Cold War, reach deep into all aspects of our societies and can exert major influence on our economies and political systems.

Both of these challenges should be manageable, but for the fact that it is very difficult to conduct honest debates about their implications, and how they should be responded to. Identity politics leads logically to an attitude of insouciance. After all, if ‘white’ Western civilization and those who built are utterly reprehensible, its being subsumed by other far more self-confident cultures is can hardly be a problem.

The naivety of the ‘progressives’ who promote the identarian ideology is astonishing. They seem to ignore, or dramatically underplay, the potential for conflict between all these oppressed identities. Muslims and LGBT activists will all just get along, rubbing shoulders in a joyous celebration of mutual respect, diversity and inclusion, confident that only a few Muslims will take seriously the penalties their creed prescribes for homosexuality.

At some point this kind of delusion collides with reality. In an earlier section I described the experience of the Dutch cultural anthropologist Teun Voeten, who resided in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek for a decade and witnessed its transformation from a diverse working-class community to a fearful and repressed monoculture.

More recently, consider the experience of Andrew Moffatt, the deputy head teacher of a primary school in Birmingham, England, who introduced a program to challenge homophobia in his and other local schools, who said he was threatened and targeted via a leaflet campaign’ after piloting the program at the overwhelmingly Muslim school. This was followed by a parental boycott of the school, with 600 children withdrawn. The school dropped the program, followed by other schools in the area, ignoring pleas by identarian boosters like Guardian columnist Owen Jones, who protested that ‘a theological battle does not have to be won to establish bonds of solidarity between two oppressed groups’.

Maybe, just maybe, at some point the inhabitants of Guardian-world will wake up to the reality of what they have wrought, realizing that as in Molenbeek the multiculturalist order is just a transitional phase before the shutters come down. But by then it might be too late.

It is tempting at times to think that we must have reached ‘peak political correctness’. However, time and again, we find it leaping to new extremities. Who could have imagined a few years ago the current iteration of gender politics, with Facebook recognizing seventy-one genders?

Academia, where most of this stuff has been incubated, is the harbinger. Just recently I heard a podcast on the ABC where a Dr Sarah Fine of London University who describes herself as a philosopher of immigration was insisting that nation states have no inherent right to control their borders and that potential immigrants have a right to a say in national policy.

Another addition to the Orwell's list of ideas so crazy that only an academic could take them seriously. Sarah Fine is far from alone in promoting this notion in academia; and now it is starting to crop up in opinion articles in the New York Times.

There are a number of metaphors that can be invoked to characterize identity politics: a civilizational immune system disorder that prevents threats being engaged with; or a Trojan horse that allows hostile forces to enter unimpeded.

Whatever your choice of metaphor, it is an insidious ideology that really does pose a ‘threat to civilization as we know it.’

The self-loathing civilization
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