Monday, May 1, 2017

The Fourth Reich

It was one hell of a weekend for the New York Times opinion pages. On Saturday new columnist Bret Stephens dared question the dogma of man-made global warming. Times readers, never having been exposed to such heresy, reacted… fast and furious. They canceled their subscriptions and poured out their anguish on Twitter.

Apparently, Times readers live in a bubble where theirs are the only opinions. It was as though they were warding off a witch by waving sprigs of garlic. And Stephens was merely arguing for scientific doubt. But, science has become a new religion and many scientists insist that their views be taken as gospel truth. Beyond even a smidgen of doubt.

Some Times readers  were shocked to the roots of their being to discover that theirs is not the only viewpoint. They might have suspected that other views exist, but, they were counting on the Times to protect them from such pollution.

They resemble the campus radicals who refuse to give a hearing to viewpoints that they consider heretical and that were—get this—a threat to their very being. They see ideas as weapons threatening them. John McWhorter suggested that they are trying to ward off a stench… the smell of pollution and corruption.

For the record, we applaud the Times for opening its opinion pages to a climate change heretic. If it could stop slanting the news, perhaps I would subscribe.

Anyway, if Stephens was bad,  Ross Douthat was surely worse. To the best of one’s knowledge Douthat’s effort to make the case for Marine Le Pen did not elicit the same cries of anguish as Stephens’ screed, but still, it took some serious chutzpah to publish such a thing. One suspects that left-thinking Times readers had exhausted their capacity for rage on Saturday. They didn’t have enough left to go after Douthat on Sunday. At least, not yet.

As often happens, Douthat wrote a challenging column, asking us to reconsider our general disapproval of a woman who seems destined to lose the French presidential run-off this Sunday.

The trouble with Le Pen, Douthat notes, is her association with a political party—the National Front—that has trafficked in Holocaust denial. The person most associated with this heinous opinion was Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen.

As it happens, Marine Le Pen denounced her father and purged him from the National Front… for continuing to deny the Holocaust. The two are no longer speaking.

Douthat explains:

Nor is there much evidence that Le Pen herself draws any personal inspiration from the Vichy right. However incomplete the project, she is the reason that her party has ejected Vichyites and disavowed anti-Semitism and moved toward the French mainstream on many issues.

This has been done, of course, in the hopes of gaining power. But that is how the purging of poisons always happens, and being disowned by one’s father is a quite costly and dramatic act of political purgation.

On this side of the Atlantic one draws an analogy between Marine Le Pen’s purge of her father and Barack Obama’s renunciation of Rev. Jeremiah Wright. How many people fell all over themselves proclaiming Obama’s break with the bigoted anti-Semitic and anti-white minister do not accept Marine Le Pen’s purge of her father? While no one is willing to forgive Le Pen for the history of the National Front, American liberals, in particular, thrilled to the prospect of forgiving Barack Obama for having spent twenty years listening to Jeremiah Wright… without having understood a word of what he was saying.

After mentioning that Marine Le Pen differs from the current American president because she brings a high level of political competence to her quest, Douthat addresses the salient issue.

France’s problems are in many ways worse than America’s. And France’s ruling elite—all of whom went to the same school—has no idea for solving them. Thus, Douthat finds Le Pen’s critique compelling:

These are the same sort of issues that helped Trump win the presidency, but in the European context the challenges are more severe and the populist critique more compelling.

There is no American equivalent to the epic disaster of the euro, a form of German imperialism with the struggling parts of Europe as its subjects. There is no American equivalent to the challenge of immigrant-assimilation now facing France — no equivalent of the domestic terror threat, the rise of Islamist anti-Semitism, the immigrant enclaves as worlds unto themselves.

Which means that while much of Trump’s notional agenda was an overreaction to the country’s problems, some of Le Pen’s controversial positions are straightforwardly correct.

If I may be permitted a discouraging word, Trump’s national agenda, especially the anti-immigrant part, might be an effort to ensure that America does not end up with the same problems that Europe does not seem capable of solving.

Muslim immigrants in France are responsible for a rising tide of anti-Semitism. They are committing acts of terrorism and have set off a crime wave. No one has a real solution to the problem. Worse yet, the European Union, will be forced to absorb the immigrants welcomed by German Chancellor Merkel.

Many are starting to see the European Union as a Fourth Reich—especially now that Great Britain is departing. Note how appalled the Merkel government is over the British departure. It almost seems willing to go to war against Theresa May’s government. Naturally, a Le Pen victory would remind French voters of Vichy France, when the nation was cowed into collaborating with Hitler.

Then, Douthat continues to list what Le Pen has gotten right:

She is right that France as a whole, recent immigrants as well as natives, would benefit from a sustained mass-immigration halt.

She is right that the European Union has given too much unaccountable power to Brussels and Berlin and favored financial interests over ordinary citizens.

And while many of her economic prescriptions are half-baked, her overarching critique of the euro is correct: Her country and her continent would be better off without it.

As for whether the continent would be better off without the Euro, I will leave it to others to decide. Since Macron has already been pushed around by Merkel, one expects that once he is president she will continue to treat him like a junior partner. It’s not quite the same thing as the ridicule he has received from the British tabloid media, but still.

The Telegraph reported the run-in on Sunday:

Emmanuel Macron, the man widely expected to be the next French president, tried to help Greece avoid crippling austerity measures but was frozen out of negotiations by Germany's Angela Merkel, the Sunday Telegraph can reveal.

The confrontation at the height of the 2015 Greek debt crisis is revealed in “Adults in the Room”, the new memoir of Yanis Varoufakis, the controversial former Greek finance minister who tried - but failed - to win debt relief for Greece. 

The episode sheds new light on the potentially awkward relationship between Mr Macron and Mrs Merkel who, polls suggest, is on track to win a record-equalling fourth term as German leader later this year.

Douthat ends his column by suggesting that he prefers Macron to Le Pen. History matters, he adds, and the history of the National Front disqualifies it from holding serious public office. And yet, beyond the fact that Macron is likely to have a very difficult time governing the nation, failure to address France’s Muslim immigration problem will surely bring her back.

We have not heard the last of Marine Le Pen.


James said...

I think there's a fair chance Pen will win. If not the other will be a figurehead or worse.
Walt, did you "rise" to the occasion?

trigger warning said...

"History matters, [Douthat] adds, and the history of the National Front disqualifies it from holding serious public office."

If party history matters that much, surely the Democrats should be disqualified from holding serious public office.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

"Apparently, Times readers live in a bubble where theirs are the only opinions."

Indeed. But remember -- they are more intelligent, open-minded and accepting than all others...

NYT readers are a direct reflection of shifting Democrat sentiments, both on Twitter and on campus, as the WSJ's Quotable & Notable shows today:

From “A Survey of Dartmouth’s Political Landscape” by Alexander Agadjanian and Amanda Zhou in the Dartmouth, a student newspaper, April 26:

This sentiment of openness to politically divergent roommates was not equally distributed across students of different political stripes. While 61 percent of independents and 69 percent of Republicans said they would be comfortable with a roommate of opposing political views, only 39 percent of Democrats said so. Few independents (16 percent) and Republicans (12 percent) said they would be uncomfortable, while statistically Democrats were as likely to say they would be comfortable as they would be uncomfortable.

Ares Olympus said...

I admit, I don't understand people who are afraid of opinions. Of course, I'm no better than those who refuse to renew subscriptions to protest since I read for free.

I'm glad Bernie Sanders spoke up recently in defense of people's rights to have opinions and share them without threat.

Things can always be bracketed as "X believes Y" and the important thing isn't what "Y" is, but that you have clear statements of what "X" means by "Y", and then you can extrapolate logical consequences of potential interpretations "Y" and see how far you can go before "X" starts qualifying limitations on "Y" or "X" at least starts getting nervous.

I heard Turkey just blocked access to Wikipedia. Interestingly Wikipedia is the top google search on the subject.
In a tweet Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales expressed his support for those criticizing the decision as censorship, saying "Access to information is a fundamental human right. Turkish people I will always stand with you to fight for this right."

I am almost surprised that Wikipedia hasn't yet been sucked into the "Fake news" debate, but I suppose it has in some circles, and Conservapedia is the trust alternative source when you don't want to hear things from a different point of view than your own.

It does seem impossible to suppress any point of view these days. I can see why we'd want to in some cases, like ISIS websites that romanticize life as a true believer in a perfect community of true believers, against the hated world that lies to Muslim youth. And so there can be standards for suppression, but its better to use argument, like reformed-ISIS fighters who escaped their naivity and can tell us what pulled them in and why it was wrong, and hopefully other youth will be interested in the limits of their own fantasy without following the same dangerous mistakes first hand.

Walt said...

@James. As I said, that was the last semester I taught there and mostly for that reason, but in that instance I said, no I wouldn't and nor, based on all her previous non-work, would I pass her for the semester but if the dept wanted to pass her, that would be up to them, And they did.

Sam L. said...

The French are once again trying to talk themselves out of catastrophe. I don't see that working out well this time, either.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

The vampire comment is not anonymous, it is written by J.H. von Allgeier,
I'm going out in search of blood. I fear no sprigs.

Unknown said...
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Stuart Schneiderman said...

From the Nightbringer site:

Garlic is best known for its properties of averting vampires. However, it was considered equally effective in warding off the evil eye, demons, and witches.

From All about spells:

he use of garlic is known all over the world, not only as a tasty accent to foods, but also as a charm against evil spirits. Even in places such as China or Malaysia, people smear the forehead of their children to protect them from Vampires, and in the West Indies too, garlic is used as a means of protection against the evil practices and Magical Spells of Witches and Sorcerers.

See also the Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft and Wicca.

As for the word sprigs-- it was a joke.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Stuart, what is Starhawk's recipe?

James said...

"it was a joke"
As the great post modern neo philosopher FL said:

Sam L. said... (Found link at Neoneocon)

Unknown said...
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