Belmont Club

Mental Security Theater

Tom Wolfe once observed how curious it was “that the dark night of fascism is always descending in the United States and yet lands only in Europe”.  That maxim must have been on Jonah Goldberg’s mind when he Tweeted, following the attack on a supermarket in Paris, that “the anti-Muslim backlash in France that many people were expecting this week seems to have somehow resulted in the murder of Jews.”

But as anyone who remembers the Three Stooges will know, retaliating against an innocent party is perfectly natural. When Curley Joe wants to hit back at Moe, he swats Larry instead.  To strike Moe would be too dangerous because Moe would hit back.  When you’re not with the one you long to strike, strike the one you’re with.

The resolute determination of Western leaders to stifle at the wellsprings of terror are apparently going to result on restrictions in the West.  “U.S. President Barack Obama will invite allies to a Feb. 18 security summit in Washington to try and prevent violent extremism, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on Sunday after meeting his European counterparts in Paris.”

Among the measures proposed by the Europeans are a Passenger Name Record database and tighter control of the Internet to prevent Hate Speech.  “We need to work more closely with Internet companies to guarantee the reporting and if possible removal of all content that amounts to an apology of terrorism or calls for violence and hatred,” the French interior minister said.

Perhaps the reason why the Attorney General, not a General, was sent to Paris solidarity march is because the planned response to the recent attacks will be heightened internal security, the defenses pointed in, not out.

It is still not known what new measures Obama will propose. But Michael Crowley, writing in Politico, says the administration has gradually come to the conclusion that their past countermeasures are inadequate. Nobody knows what the administration’s Plan B will be. All that is certain is their old Plan A didn’t work.

In early 2011, White House officials realized they had a problem on their hands: the threat of homegrown Islamic radicalism. …

Denis McDonough, a top Obama aide who is now White House chief of staff, took charge of the problem, overseeing a strategy to prevent violent extremism. Released that summer, the plan focused on creating closer partnerships with community leaders to help identify budding radicals and steer them to a peaceful path. …

But after a recent string of attacks on their fellow citizens by Islamic radicals, including Wednesday’s massacre in Paris by a pair of French nationals, critics complain that the plan has been halfheartedly implemented, produced bureaucratic turf fights, lacks funding, and does little to make Americans safer at a moment when the Islamic extremist message is more prevalent than ever.

Not that the Europeans are any smarter. The Paris attacks have  hammered the last nail into the coffin of social accommodation, upon which the Euros had relied to purchase domestic peace.  With their sure-fire nostrum in ruins on the ground, Europe like Obama is casting around for an alternative. What probably won’t change is where we perceive the direction of threat.  In Western civilization’s perimeter defense we point the Claymore at ourselves.

So far the proposed Washington summit sounds more like a planned brainstorming session rather than a conference to issue marching orders. ABC News quotes the White House as saying that “the main goal is to ‘better understand, identify and prevent the cycle of radicalization to violence at home in the United States and abroad”.  That probably translates to ‘we do not know what we are going to do, but we will try something.’

When politicians are stumped they often do what doctors without a cure occasionally try: treat the symptoms and hope for the best.  What the state knows how to do is restrict, rule and regulate and therefore they’ll increase our doses of that.  Gigaom has a detailed account of some proposed restrictions that will be put on the Internet to slow the “cycle of radicalization. “The interior ministers of 12 EU countries have called for a limited increase in internet censorship.” But censorship is just the byproduct. The main deal is surveillance.

The interior ministers of France, Germany, Latvia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and the U.K. said in a statement (PDF) that, while the internet must remain “in scrupulous observance of fundamental freedoms, a forum for free expression, in full respect of the law,” ISPs need to help “create the conditions of a swift reporting of material that aims to incite hatred and terror and the condition of its removing, where appropriate/possible.”

“There seems to be no coordinated push for more internet surveillance just yet,” says Gigaom, but that is clearly where things are trending. “Increased internet surveillance and tighter border checks are ‘urgently’ needed to foil jihadist attacks of the sort that rocked Paris this week, European, US and Canadian security ministers say.”  First you admit the Jihadis on the grounds they are harmless.  When they prove otherwise you respond by treating everyone as dangerous.

They said it was “essential” that major internet providers cooperate with governments in closely monitoring and, if necessary, removing online content “that aims to incite hatred and terror”.

They also want to “step up the detection and screening of travel movements of European nationals” leaving or entering the EU’s external borders, and modify Europe’s internal Schengen freedom-of-movement rules to widen information sharing and subject suspect passengers to greater checks.

There is about these preparations a sense of curious unreality, as if we were raising giant walls against a monster lurking in the dark with no name, or blacking out great cities against the arrival of bomber fleets from an unknown — nay an unknowable — nation.  Bombers upon which not a single searchlight may be permitted to shine, whose identities are never to be speculated on — an omission made more curious by the supposed mental character of our strife, as if we were determined to persuade others by sewing our mouths shut; or resolved to defend Western liberty and culture by abolishing it.

There’s a saying that all enemies eventually come to resemble each other.  Perhaps with this in mind U2 wrote:

Choose your enemies carefully ’cause they will define you
Make them interesting ’cause in some ways they will mind you
They’re not there in the beginning but when your story ends
Gonna last with you longer than your friend

Perhaps in our case we are not permitted to see the enemy because he’s not really a stranger, but familiar, even a creditor to our kings.  But what am I saying? We ain’t got no enemies. Just partners for peace.

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