In my 2010 essay ‘Debunking the “Islamisation” Myth‘, I wrote of the worrying growth of a paranoid ideology of cultural pessimism based around fantasies of the rapid and ongoing ‘Islamisation’ of Europe, and of the workings of powerful and nefarious forces beyond our control. As I wrote, there is nothing new in this.
Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century cultural pessimists saw a variety of issues as coming together to bring about an apocalyptic collapse of the West, ranging from technology, modern art, and democracy, to miscegenation and the supposed machinations of ‘the Jews’:
Such narratives of doom are persuasive because they offer easy explanations for the very real problems we face in modern society, yet they do so not by laying out a positive vision for the improvement of Western civilisation, but rather through a relentless condemnation of modernity as a degenerate negation of an imagined ideal culture of old. Such doom-laden assessments of the world have always been popular. Pessimism sells, and always has done. It is almost as though human beings thrive on fear and despair.
But why do people today, in increasing numbers, believe in the current cultural pessimist narrative of Islamic takeover?
In part, the answer lies in the highly selective and sometimes dishonest way in which the popular media (in particular the tabloids) have presented the contemporary situation regarding immigration and Muslims. When The Daily Star, a British tabloid with a large circulation, invites its readers to take part in a telephone poll on the question ‘Is Islam taking over Britain?’, it is easy to see why many readers would assume that perhaps it actually is.
In part, the answer also lies in the rise of the Internet. Should an individual be so inclined, they can subscribe to any number of blogs and websites providing them with a daily diet of ‘evidence’ that Britain and the West are being ‘Islamised’, insulating them from facts and arguments that provide a different picture.
But, over and above all of these, there seems to be a widespread desire to believe in the ‘Islamisation’ myth, just as there was a desire in previous generations to believe in the evil influence of technology, or the destructive nature of miscegenation, or the notion of degeneration. The ‘Islamisation’ myth says less about the actual power of Muslims and Islam in the West and more about the willingness of people to believe in powerful forces beyond their control that ‘explain’ the perceived ongoing decline of Western civilisation. Scapegoats are always popular – the Jews are destroying the West, the blacks are destroying the West, gays, feminists, modern artists, ‘Frankenstein foods’, computer games, pop music, reality TV, corporations, George Bush, Marilyn Manson, atheists, ‘evolutionists’, Fox News, and on, and on, are all destroying the West.
Pinning perceived Western decline on a myth of ‘Islamisation’ is simply the latest and most popular in a long line of ‘explanations’ for modern maladies, but it is also a dangerous myth. It is dangerous because it makes sensible criticism of Islamism appear to be just another manifestation of bigotry and paranoia, and it is dangerous because it is contributing to an increasing vilification of all Muslims, which can have serious and violent consequences.
The fact of the matter is that Islamist groups in Europe are a problem, although the threat they pose in real terms is all too often vastly overstated. Sections of the Left are also a problem, in particular those that have got into bed with Islamist movements. However, to buy into the notion that the West is in a period of apocalyptic doom is simply irrational, and irrationality breeds violence:
That the ‘Islamisation’ myth is growing in popularity should be of concern to those who seek a more rational world. It is not the irrationalism of Islam that poses the greatest threat (or even any significant threat) to Britain [or the West in general], but rather the growth of a culture of despair, for despair creates an environment in which the irrational, the violent, and the oppressive really can flourish.
It will be tempting for many to attempt to portray Breivik as a ‘far-right’ neo-Nazi, in part because in so doing, his connection to the ‘anti-Islamisation’ movement appears to be severed. However, the fact of the matter is that there is no evidence that Breivik was an anti-black, anti-Semitic Hitlerite of the Blood & Honour/Combat 18 ‘lone wolf’ variety.
Indeed, that subculture, usually not shy about its admiration for violent terrorists (such as, for example, The Order) has been quick to condemn Breivik as a man who is a ‘race traitor’ and in bed with ‘the Jews’. Here are a selection of comments from members of the Stormfront neo-Nazi forum:
My best guess is that it was the Israeli MOSSAD once again.
It is very likely the MOSSAD trained him and provided him with stuff.
WNs [white nationalists] should openly denounce this Zionist terror attack.
Zionist killer was reported to enjoy killing these kids, he was totally 100% insane Yiddish psycho, type that you can see in Israel hilltops.
leucocyte, in a thread titled ‘Norway youths discussed Palestine prior to attack’:
That’s why the Mossad/IDF went in there and killed them.
In my view, seeking to pin the responsibility for this attack on specific individuals in the non-Nazi ‘anti-Islamisation’ Right is also mistaken. It is too easy to point to people like Robert Spencer and simplistically lay the blame for the attacks directly with them.
Robert Spencer does not advocate violence, nor is he by any means the only major figure in the ‘anti-Islamisation’ crowd. The vast majority of readers of websites such as Jihad Watch don’t go out and attack or kill people as a result of reading them. To assume there is an easily identifiable and inevitable relationship of cause and effect between the writings and views promoted by the likes of Spencer and the murderous actions of Breivik is simply false.
However, the Breivik case certainly does indicate that the kind of paranoia and cultural pessimism found in the circles that people like Spencer inhabit is indeed potentially dangerous. The EDL are likewise an example of the kind of violence and bigotry that is emerging from this subculture, and the promotion of that group by people such as Spencer and Pamella Geller certainly shows that those writers are a little too comfortable with the idea of ‘confrontation’ against the supposed ‘Islamisation’ conspiracy.
The more this paranoid ideology grows, the more the danger increases that there will be other Breiviks. It is time the people who have relentlessly promoted notions of ‘Islamisation’ and impending cultural doom take a long hard look at exactly what they are doing, and exactly where this is likely to go.