News & Politics

The Decorous Silence of George F. Will

George Will waits while being introduced to speak at the University of Texas at Tyler, on Febuary 9, 2016 (Dr. Scott M. Lieberman via AP)

I haven’t read George F. Will in a long time, but I perused his December 13 column after Paul Mirengoff singled it out on the Powerline blog in a piece headlined “Worst Column of the Year?”

What got Mirengoff going was Will’s pronouncement that Donald Trump is the worst president in the history of the Republic. Why? Because Trump endorsed a “credibly accused child molester,” Roy Moore, for Senate. As Mirengoff quite rightly pointed out, whatever you may think of the admittedly execrable Roy Moore, the idea of judging a presidency by a single senatorial endorsement is absurd. (Also, as Mirengoff further noted, if endorsing a “credibly accused child molester” makes you the worst president ever, where does that leave Bill Clinton, cigar aficionado, or John F. Kennedy, who sneaked innumerable starlets, prostitutes, and at least one Mafia mistress into the White House?)

As it turned out, what got to me about Will’s column was not his silliness about the Moore endorsement. No, what I found myself focusing in on was Will’s reference to President Trump’s re-tweeting, on November 29, of “a video of a Muslim immigrant in the Netherlands beating a young man holding crutches.” Why did Will object to the re-tweet? Because, as he observed triumphantly, it turned out that the person doing the beating wasn’t an immigrant but “was born and raised in the Netherlands.” You see, after President Trump re-tweeted the video, Dutch authorities, purporting to correct him, were quick to identify the perpetrator as “a Dutch national.”

Fine. So, as it happens, was Mohammed Bouyeri, the savage who butchered Theo van Gogh on an Amsterdam street in 2004. The note Bouyeri stuck to van Gogh’s body with a knife quoted extensively from the Koran and also read in part: “Islam will conquer by the blood of the martyrs. It will spread its light to every corner of this Earth and it will, if necessary, drive evil to its dark hole by the sword.” At his trial, Bouyeri made a point of telling van Gogh’s mother that he had no sympathy for her, as she was nothing but an infidel.

Whether Bouyeri was born in the Netherlands or brought to the country by his Moroccan parents made no difference. What made the difference was his religion: Islam. Will is smart enough to know this. But he’s also a leading member of the polite-conservative brigade, the tea-cozy crowd, which finds anything remotely approaching a forthright discussion of the Islamization of the West downright vulgar.

(I’ve searched all of Will’s columns for the last year — which saw, among many other terrorist events, the May bombing outside the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, the London Bridge episode in June, the August van attack in Barcelona, and the Halloween truck incident in New York City — but none of those columns is chiefly or even largely devoted to Islam or jihad. Yes, in June of last year, he wrote a column, “In Britain, Anti-Semitism Endures,” in which he mentioned a couple of Jew-hating Muslim leaders, but he seemed exceedingly careful not to come off as pointing a finger at Islam.)

Trump re-tweeted two other videos at the same time as the video of the beating. One shows a Muslim smashing a Virgin Mary statue to bits; the other shows a Muslim throwing a boy off a roof. The Associated Press has confirmed the authenticity of both videos. The one featuring the Virgin Mary was, according to the AP, “released by the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria”; the other was filmed in Egypt. Both date back to 2013.

Of course, Will wasn’t alone in condemning Trump for sharing these three videos — which, apparently, the president had re-tweeted from Ann Coulter, who in turn had re-tweeted them from the counter-jihadist group Britain First. It was, note well, not the content of the videos but the source that outraged British Prime Minister Theresa May, who castigated President Trump for passing on material from Britain First. Mainstream news organizations around the world echoed May’s calumny. Universally, the charge was that simply by forwarding anything that had originated with such a dodgy group, Trump was contributing to Islamophobia. But many news media, dishonestly or ignorantly, also denounced all three videos as fake news.

Will didn’t mention either of these two other videos, which depict events of a kind that happen in the Muslim world with great frequency and that should concern a man with his influence. But he did mention the video featuring the beating of the boy with crutches — only so that he could dismiss it as “unreal.” On the contrary, it’s every bit as real as the other two videos. An article that appeared last May in De Telegraaf makes clear that the beating video depicts a then-recent incident in the province of Noord-Holland, and that both the assailant and the person who took the video were arrested shortly thereafter.

The perpetrator of the beating, according to the Telegraaf, was (at the time) a sixteen-year-old from Edam-Volendam, a town in Noord-Holland, not very far north of Amsterdam; the videographer, also sixteen, came from the neighboring village of Monnickendam. While Dutch prosecutors and police alike readily confirmed the perpetrator’s Dutch citizenship, a spokesperson for the Dutch attorney general’s office “refused to comment on the teenager’s religion as it is against their policy to share such details.”

I’m sorry, but I’ve spent two decades parsing official Dutch hogwash, and the fact that the authorities were eager to confirm the bully’s citizenship but declined to breathe a word about his background is, as far as I’m concerned, just this side of dispositive. By the way, I’ve seen the video in question, and the bully, to put it mildly, doesn’t exactly look as if he comes from a long line of Noord-Hollanders. But no matter: even if he is ethnically Dutch, certain facts about current developments in Western Europe today are indisputable. Assaults on ethnic Europeans by Muslim youths have become everyday events. Hence it’s particularly obnoxious that George Will — after quoting White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders’s apposite statement that the video of the bully and the boy with crutches captures the nature of what she described as “the threat” — sneeringly wondered aloud whether Sanders was referring to the threat “of turbulent Dutchmen.”

Now, George Will doubtless grasps that a Muslim teenager today who was born and bred in the Netherlands may well be a Dutchman on paper but, like Mohammed Bouyeri — who, in the letter he stabbed into Theo van Gogh’s body, enthusiastically prophesied the Netherlands’ downfall — may harbor nothing but contempt for the land of his birth and a determination to see it brought to its knees. Such attitudes, Will surely also knows, aren’t just a marginal phenomenon; they’re the single most crucial fact of Western European life today, and, unless the U.S. makes some drastic policy changes, they’ll be the single most crucial fact of American life tomorrow.

Over the last two decades I’ve seen those chilling attitudes on display over and over again in the streets of Amsterdam and other Dutch — and European — cities, and the video of that boy from Edam-Volendam giving a beating to the boy with crutches brings back several unpleasant memories. Some of us have been motivated by our experiences with such cruelty to stand up to an imported ideology that preaches — and practices — sheer barbarism. But George F. Will is, quite plainly, too refined a thinker, too clubbable a chap, to speak bluntly of such unseemly matters. Understandable, I suppose. But that’s no excuse for getting in the way of men like Trump who dare to take on the enemy and call him by his own name.