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Jewish World Review May 10, 2002/ 28 Iyar, 5762

Mark Steyn

Mark Steyn
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The home office of extremism |
On Sept. 12, 2001, the New Yorker's theatre critic John Lahr, musing on the events of the day before, wrote: "I do smell destabilizing violence in the wings. In fear, the nation, to my mind, has always proved mean-spirited and violent."

Lahr is American but lives in London. And, among both his European neighbors and members of America's Lahrfable tendency back home, this view was widely held. The Yanks' crude, xenophobic, redneck instincts would quickly reveal themselves. Members of the Muslim-American community, if they weren't all rounded up, would be forced into hiding. Some feminist groups began organizing a network of safe houses for Muslim women, on the assumption that "women of cover" (as President Bush calls them) would soon have to go into deep cover.

Well, sure enough, the crude, xenophobic rednecks did assert themselves. But not in America. In Europe. Muslims kill thousands of Americans in America, and there's a big anti-Muslim backlash . . . in France! Oh, and also Denmark, the Netherlands, Portugal and those other provinces of Eutopia where explicitly Islamophobic parties are now a significant part of the political calculus. What d'you reckon Le Pen'll get today? Just his 17 percent base? Maybe 20? And how many voters will stay home? France's domestic intelligence agency has apparently advised the government that Le Pen will pull at least 30 percent. There can't, surely, be that many French electors willing to vote for a xenophobic hatemonger, can there? I mean, this isn't Mississippi, is it?

For the Europhiles in the U.S. media, the events of recent weeks are bewildering. It's barely two months since they were reporting approvingly every smug crack by EU Commissioner Chris Patten and French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, and regretting that Washington was so out of step with Europe. But then the synagogue attacks became too frequent to ignore, and Le Pen whupped the competition, and frankly, if you can pick only one place to be out of step with, Europe's an excellent choice. Like the man almost said, I do smell destabilizing violence in the wings. In fear, the Continent, to my mind, has always proved mean-spirited and violent. Somehow, when Patten and Vedrine were deploring American "simplisme," it never occurred to us their idea of sophistication was a culture in which the most interesting political question is which strain of anti-Semitism--anti-Jew or anti-Arab or anti-both--is more potent.

The rise of the anti-immigrant parties in France, Belgium, et al is supposedly due to crime. It's true there seems to be a lot of it over there. You're six times more likely to be mugged in London than New York. In the Los Angeles Times, Sebastian Rotella was perplexed: "As crime has dropped in the United States in recent years, it has worsened in much of Europe, despite generous welfare states designed to prevent U.S.-style inequality and social conflict."

"Despite"? Try "because." In December, Mickey Kaus, the thinking conservative's thinking liberal, advanced the theory that welfare causes terrorism. Among the examples cited was Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker, who became an Islamofascist nutter while living on welfare in London. What else is there to do all day? Go down the pub? Lie on the floor listening to your neighbor's car being stolen? If you're putting in a 10-hour shift at Fat Dave's Auto Body, you're too wiped out to wipe America out. But in the fetid public housing of Paris, Frankfurt and Rotterdam the government will pay you to sit around the flat all day plotting world domination.

It should by now be dawning on U.S. Europhiles that the Continent's done everything American progressives have wanted for years and it doesn't seem to be working out. Thanks to the recent body-counts at Erfurt and Nanterre, Europe's currently outpacing the Yanks at high-scoring gun massacres. At the last attempted U.S. massacre, at the Appalachian School of Law in West Virginia, there was a gun-totin' student on hand to pin down the would-be mass murderer until the cops arrived. But in Europe--"a gun-control utopia," as the Los Angeles Times sees it--there's no one to stop the corpses piling up.

Whose fault is all this? Hey, that's easy! According to Charles Pasqua, a former French Interior Minister, "There is a general climate of violence that has developed over the years and an American-style evolution of French society." This is a familiar argument. Almost every "American" nightmare the elites warn against is, in fact, an already well-established European reality: downmarket TV, xenophobic electorates, rampant lawlessness. Nonetheless, Olivier Duhamel, a French Socialist Member of the European Parliament, regrets that "we've gone back to a degenerate democracy of the kind you find in the United States." Bien-sur! Austria's Joerg Haider got 29 percent, Le Pen 17 percent, the anti-Muslim Danish People's Party's 12 percent. You know what "strident" "extreme" Pat Buchanan got in the 2000 presidential election? 0.42 percent.

In the days immediately after Sept. 11, when American Muslim women were supposedly afraid to leave the house, their neighbors took to wearing headscarves in solidarity and standing guard outside mosques. The few anti-Islamic incidents never became a widespread epidemic because the common decency of Americans quickly asserted itself. The Berlin police recently advised Jews not to go out in public wearing skull caps or other identifying marks of their faith. Are there any Germans minded to mimic those American women who took up the hejab in solidarity with their Muslim sisters? Perhaps they'd like to wear skull caps in solidarity with their Jewish brothers? Don't all raise your hands at once.

About a year ago, I wrote a column about the Euro-elite hailing the age of the "ugly European." Back then, the ugliness was strictly rhetorical--the smugness of the Pattens and Vedrines. But in the course of 12 months the ugliness has gotten a lot uglier. Muslims killed thousands of Americans, but there are no anti-Muslim parties, just a goofy president who enjoins schoolkids to get an Islamic pen pal. America has millions of Muslims, but they don't firebomb synagogues and beat up Jews and, if they did, the police wouldn't turn a blind eye. Meanwhile, France has a presidential candidate who makes oven jokes, a foreign minister who believes in the international Jewish conspiracy, and a No. 1 best seller that claims the plane that crashed into the Pentagon never existed. Heigh-ho, look on the bright side, Duhamel: Europe may be "mean-spirited and violent," but at least it's not American.

JWR contributor Mark Steyn is Senior Contributing Editor of The National Post. Comment by clicking here.

05/01/02 Slipping down the Eurinal of history: France, the joke is on you
04/23/02 It's time to snap out of Arab fantasy land
04/16/02 Mideast war exposes 'ugly Europeans'
04/09/02 Arafat has begun his countdown to oblivion. Now it's time to crush the Palestinian uprising
03/27/02 The good, the bad and the Gallic shrug
03/20/02 Grand convocation of the weird

© 2002, Mark Steyn