Jonah Goldberg writes that the old days of Marxist-tinted Radical Chic are sooooo 1960s and as passé as a Joni Mitchell 8-track. Unfortunately, Radical Chic is still around, but it now comes in an X-Treme new 21st Century Schizoid Man flavor:
In the 1960s, every would-be revolutionary called himself a Marxist, usually without any serious regard to what Marx wrote, said or believed. The specifics of the ideology didn’t matter, because Marxism was the oogah-boogah word radicals used to scare the fat, lazy bourgeoisie. In 1969, Stuart Schram, a specialist on Chinese Communism, wrote that “never in the course of the past century has the name Marx been so widely invoked; never has this name served to justify so many ideas and actions totally foreign to the genius of Marx.”Today, Marxism has lost its oomph. Yuppies drinking five-dollar lattes put Che Guevara t-shirts on their private-school toddlers.
And because nobody thinks Marxists are scary anymore, radicals consumed with hatred for the status quo — for America, for Western civilization or for the plain old dreariness of their boring lives — don’t bother calling themselves Marxists anymore. It’s not that they’re any more or less Marxist then they were before. It’s just that Marxism won’t get a rise out of your in-laws the way it used to.
But Islamic radicalism? Hooboy, that’s where the action is. Of course, not everybody follows the John Walker Lindh route and actually converts to Islam, just as not every Black Panther supporter became a bank robber. But who can deny that this post-colonial, anti-imperialism, indigenous-peoples-and-the-suburban-revolutionaries-who-love-them-unite! stuff is in many respects just a magnet for the same riffraff and rabble rouses of yesteryear?
Sure, there’s much to fear in Jihadism. But there’s also something deeply pathetic about it, too. And that’s worth pointing out.
The connection between the left and Islamic radicalism is explored further in this recent piece by Theodore Dalrymple. And as Mackubin Thomas Owens wrote a year after 9/11, that tragic day “revealed an emerging geopolitical reality: that the world’s most important fault line is not between the rich and the poor, but between those who accept modernity and those who reject it.”
Which also helps to explain the displacement amongst the left that Julia Gorin wrote of last year: for those who don’t believe that either side of the War On Terror is worth their time, and yet still feel a hankering to fight modernity, there’s a kinder, gentler war on progress now available.