Remember when “anti-Communist” was a preferred leftist term of abuse? “Oh, you’re an anti-Communist” — translation: you’re not one of the trendy people and, moreover, you probably harbor “McCarthyite” tendencies and think Ronald Reagan (the American cowboy) is more of a hero than Mikhail Gorbachev, the glamorous prophet of perestroika.
Think back to the 1980s. Was there any cool person you knew who didn’t glamorize Gorbachev? Every academic (near enough) did, and of course the media slobbered all over the guy. Was he a Communist to the very end? Yes, but for Dan-Diane Sawyer-Rather, for the battalions of scribes who scribbled about such things in the pages of the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Washington Post and other approved outlets, Gorbachev was the hero, Reagan the crazy, trigger-happy anti-Communist.
“Star Wars”: Oh, with what contempt they uttered that dismissive phrase. “Evil Empire,” forsooth. What a dangerous clown he was. Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, his plan to deploy a missile defense system (which, incidentally, he offered to share with the Soviet Union): what a joke, what a stupidity! It was ruinously expensive and [deep breath] would never work and destabilizing and why-would-we-need-to-protect-ourselves-from-a-cuddly-sophisticate-like-Mikhail-Gorbachev-with-his-chic-wife?
Then, quite suddenly, the Soviet Union was no more. It just, you know, vanished. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall.” Reagan said that one day in Berlin and, presto-change-o, down came the wall. Star Wars, SDI, had helped expose the empty, burnt-out shell that was the fag-end of the lumbering, senile Communist redoubt. And then at last all the beautiful, right-thinking (i.e., left-leaning) folk who had ridiculed Reagan and Star Wars and his repulsive talk of the Soviet Union being an “Evil Empire” — suddenly, they woke up and realized what fools they had been and thanked Reagan and those who had supported him for helping to end one of the most monstrous tyrannies in history …
Except, of course, they did no such thing. Reagan was still, must always be to blame, though enough water has passed under the bridge by now that he is no longer scary because he has receded into the impotence of history.
No one talks about anti-Communists now because that threat — under that name, anyway — has more or less passed. Today’s anti-Communists are the Islamophobes, those folks (like me) who think that the Islamic effort to spread Sharia (i.e., Islamic law) is fundamentally incompatible with liberal democracy with its principles of free speech, freedom of religion, and political equality of men and women.
“Islamophobia”: what sort of beast is that? A phobia, as I have been at pains to point out in this space and elsewhere, is an irrational fear or hatred. Is it irrational to fear and hate an ideology that denies the equality of the sexes, murders apostates and homosexuals, wishes to subjugate the non-Islamic world, and has consigned Jews and Christians to the perilous second-class citizenship of dhimmitude? (“First the Saturday People,” runs an Islamic slogan, “then the Sunday People”: first we’ll deal with the Jews, then move on to the Christians.)
Who rules the language, rules the world. Orwell knew that. And so does the Left. “Islamophobia” is a mendacious neologism designed to obscure the reality of Islamic ideology. Major Nidal Hasan shouts “Allahu Akbar” and murders 13 people at Fort Hood. What do you call that? I call it “Islamic terrorism.” The Obama administration insists it’s “workplace violence.” In 2007, some young Muslim packs a Jeep Cherokee full of propane canisters and detonates it at the Glasgow airport. What do you call that? I call it “Islamic terrorism.” Jacqui Smith, then the British home secretary, insists that we call it “anti-Islamic activity.” (How’s that for an example of the “no-true-Scotsman” fallacy?)
In a brilliant, no-to-be-missed column for Frontpage.com, the Scandinavian-based Bruce Bawer reports on the Left’s latest piece of linguistic mendacity: “counterjihad.” Yesterday it was the anti-Communists who were the bad guys. Today, it’s the counterjihadists.
The “counterjihadists” are the villains — the hysterics, the fools, who see a Muslim under every bed, with a bomb in his turban. Meanwhile the good guys are the counter-counterjihadists — the journalists, activists, and others who make a career of slamming Islam’s critics, whom they frequently represent (especially over here in Scandinavia) as “conspiracy theorists.” For just as the anti-Communists of yesteryear were viewed not as sober, well-informed students of life behind the Iron Curtain but as obsessive, ignorant haters, we counterjihadists are viewed not as people who’ve read the Koran and studied Islamic societies and subcultures but as semi-literate morons and bigots.
Bawer reminds his readers that it was Susan Sontag, the repellent pseudo-intellectual doyenne of all-things-Left, who made it possible for Leftists to admit that Communism might just be a tad incompatible with liberty. Bawer quotes my late colleague Hilton Kramer on this metanoia:
As a result of “the collapse of the intellectual Left in France,” he wrote, anti-Communism, which had long been out of fashion among “those American intellectuals who habitually take their political cues from Paris,” was now, suddenly, chic. Still, it was crucial for the likes of Sontag to communicate to their confrères that their anti-Communism was “somehow different, more cosmopolitan perhaps, maybe even sexier, and certainly more refined,” than that of the crude mouth-breathers who’d been anti-Communists for decades and whom Sontag & co. would come to deride as (no kidding) “premature anti-Communists.”
“Premature anti-Communists,” eh? What manner of beast is that? It’s someone who speaks the truth before the beautiful people have ears to hear it.
You can, as Bawer mournfully notes, expect a repetition of that dialectic with respect to Islam — always assuming that we have the wit to come to our senses about that toxic ideology before it is too late. “What,” Bawer asks, “is the best we counterjihadists can hope for?”
Could it be this: that the winds of intellectual fashion will shift someday (sooner, one hopes, rather than later) in such a way as to make it attractive for today’s opportunistic left-wing counterparts of Susan Sontag to snatch the banner from our hands and take counterjihadism mainstream — acting all the while, naturally, as if they’d invented it themselves, or rescued it from the philistines? Might such a development, moreover, actually help turn the tide in the struggle against jihadist Islam? If it did, to be sure, those of us who were here first would, unquestionably, be smeared even in the moment of victory (should it ever come) as “premature counterjihadists” — oafs and barbarians who’d held down the fort until the real heroes came along.
Bawer is right that it would be a small price to pay. But, like him, I’m not holding my breath.