We recall that old parlor game: if you could take ten books with you to a desert island, what would they be? Obviously, the list is something of a “moveable feast” and may be modified as our tastes and intellectual needs change over the years, but this is a time in which certain books have become essential to our understanding of the tumultuous era we live in. Jamie’s Glazov’s Showdown With Evil, a selection of FrontPage interviews that he has conducted for the site over the last eight years, is one of those “desert island” books, meant to illumine and accompany us in discretionary solitude.
Of course, in today’s wired (or wireless) world, which is also a world in which a “terrorist event” can detonate anywhere and at any time, there are really no more desert islands where one can disregard the burdens and confusions of the real world and pretend that one is not implicated in history. There is no doubt an Internet café on Bouvet Island and a terrorist lurking about on Tristan da Cunha. The world we now experience has banished solitude and turned it into a nostalgic reminiscence, leaving us awash in information and susceptible to the unpredictable irruption of violence. This is one of the principal tenets of Glazov’s politically incorrect chrestomathy, a book which is a “body of learning.” But although there may be no more islands where we can retire from the turmoil of the world, there are introspective oases we can find here and there in books like this one.
On the one hand, Showdown With Evil applies to specific contexts now very much in the news. For example, it is especially timely in the light of the Oklahoma amendment prohibiting the introduction of Shari’a law and CAIR’s legal suit to block its implementation. It is also relevant for anyone intent on clarifying the issues involved in the ongoing controversy over the Ground Zero mosque or the debate over the selective voyeurism of airport screening techniques. But in a larger sense, it supplies a panoptic overview of the preeminent struggle of the modern age between a resurgent and supremacist Islam and a deeply conflicted West whose survival instinct is being ruthlessly probed and tested.
The book is divided into eight sections, grouped under umbrella titles: “Obama’s Destructive Path,” “Unholy Alliance,” “The Religion of Peace,” “The Terror War,” “The Evil Empire,” “Leaving the Faith,” “The Titans,” and a concluding interview with the interviewer himself, “Looking to the Future of Freedom,” each prefaced by a brief introduction. Richard Perle provides a short but compendious foreword in which he signals the major themes of the collection, namely, the apology for Islam promoted by the useful idiots of the day who are “drawn almost entirely from the Left,” the “parallels between the Left’s indifference to Soviet totalitarianism then and Islamic fundamentalism now,” and the emotion-fraught journey of important contemporary thinkers from the stultifying and destructive ideology of the Left, aka “the political faith,” to a more discerning, open, and realistic perspective on the political and cultural world.
The authors/interviewees collected between the book’s covers constitute a veritable Who’s Who of significant voices: Norman Podhoretz, Christopher Hitchens, William F. Buckley Jr., Natan Sharansky, Victor Davis Hanson, Phyllis Chesler, Andrew McCarthy, Theodore Dalrymple, Kenneth Levin, Robert Spencer, and Andrew Klavan, to mention only a few. Unlike so many in the liberal media, they do not crouch before the facts. A particularly resonant phrase from Hanson’s offering might have served as a premonitory epigraph: “there are no easy solutions, as is always true when the postmodern meets the premodern.” But of course, there are difficult solutions proposed throughout the collection, if we are prepared to attempt them.
The interviews locate themselves in the volatile intersection between the past and the future (otherwise known as the present continuous), and between what McCarthy calls “the fever swamps of the Left” and the promise of the restoration of political sanity. With the exception of Dalrymple’s chapter on the fallacy of opiate addiction treatment, they prize apart the “unholy alliance” between Islamic jihad and utopian socialism, that is, between true barbarism and false sophistication, with the latter enabling the former. In so doing, these “essays” — for that is how they often read — furnish us with a map leading us out of the cognitive wilderness we currently inhabit. Indeed, there is much here to profit the reader along a tonal spectrum of virtuoso performances, from the passionate sobriety of David Horowitz to the bracing indignation of Brigitte Gabriel to the jabbing irreverence of Ann Coulter.
Himself an author of distinction — his United in Hate: The Left’s Romance with Tyranny and Terror makes a critical addition to our understanding of the Leftist pathology — Glazov is also an exceptional interviewer, knowing when to ask a leading question (Buckley calls him “a very pleasant extortionist”) and when to introduce an explanatory comment or append a modest rebuttal. For although Glazov and his FrontPage guests share a common political philosophy, these encounters are not always smooth sailing, occasionally requiring Glazov’s prodding or amplification and supplementing the exchange with a modicum of dramatic tension. But, no less sensitive to the interviewer’s art, Glazov knows when to recede and allow his subject free rein to expand on the issues under discussion.
The result is a volume that acquaints us with the ideas of some of the major figures on the political scene today. At the same time, these ideas develop seamlessly across the diverse sections of the text, since the various themes being addressed are, for the most part, inter-related and reflect one another’s abiding concerns.
Singularity and continuity thus work hand in hand, giving us a book that is doubly compelling and in the process whetting the appetite for a sequel. I can see Showdown With Evil as the first in a series, an initial installment in what Umberto Eco has aptly called the Encyclomedia, the alignment of digital packages with the standard currency of print. The Net makes for fast and sloppy reading whereas the book, as Eco says, encourages us “not only to receive information but also to speculate and reflect about it.” Eight years worth of interviews, with more to come, afford a cornucopia of material awaiting transfer from screen to page and from evanescence to fixity.
Jamie Glazov is to be commended for advancing a necessary dialogue between writer and reader and — who knows? — perhaps contributing to a much-desired and long-awaited slowdown of evil.
Showdown With Evil: Our Struggle Against Tyranny and Terror, 255 pages, Mantua Books. Available at Amazon.com.