Whistling past the graveyard

Wherein I must take issue with something ZMan says, which I’ll put in bold.

One of the underappreciated qualities of liberal democracy is its ability to grow and develop its own opposition. In the Cold War this was not obvious as communism in the form of the Soviet Empire filled the role. Domestically, the inner party had the outer party as a fixed partner. Democrats controlled domestic policy, with some mild opposition from the Republicans. On the other hand, the Republicans controlled foreign policy with some mild dissent from the Democrats.

This partnership collapsed when the Soviet Union collapsed. A year after the voters overwhelmingly approved the appointment of former C.I.A. man George H. W. Bush as the successor to Ronald Reagan, the logic of having spooks run the country no longer made much sense. The system quickly pivoted to Saddam Hussein as a temporary fill in for the evil empire, but he was a poor replacement. In the next election the Cold War generation was replaced with the Woodstock generation.

The Clinton years were really just an interregnum. The system needed to learn how to create new enemies. We got the beginnings of the great Islamic enemy and an effort to recreate the holocaust in the Balkans. It was not until the son of the former C.I.A. man that we got the threat of international Islam as the new enemy. Fear of men on flying carpets carried the system into the Obama years. Toward the end of his second term, the search for a new enemy had started.

The crusade against the Mohammedans was the first full attempt to recreate that old magic and provide the regime with legitimacy and authority. It is why 9/11 became a solemn holiday celebrated by both sides of the regime. Even though the left-liberals opposed the right-liberals in the prosecution of the crusade, they completely accepted the origin of it and the centrality of it. Note that the last anniversary of 9/11 came and went without much ceremony. It no longer matters.

Actually, umm, no. Not just noHELL NO.

After thousands of dead and dozens of serious terrorist acts in the US alone since 9/11; tens of thousands of jihadist attacks around the world in what you might call the modern era, ongoing since the 1970s; and the ceaseless campaign of conquest and domination Muslims have waged since their twisted pseudo-religion’s inception in the 7th Century AD, the notion of any unwarranted “crusade” against Muzzrats contrived for purposes of subterfuge by the goobermint is laughably absurd. Nobody, but nobody, needs to make up a goddamned thing about the threat posed to Western Civ by jihadis; they’ve made that abundantly clear all by themselves, thanksveddymuch.

Not that the goobermint WOULDN’T do such a thing, mind. It’s just that in this particular case, they don’t have to. Steyn offers just one example that proves the point.

Kurt Westergaard and I were successive winners of the Danish Free Press Society’s Sappho Award. I was very flattered to find myself in his company, but couldn’t honestly say I deserved to be. Kurt was one of the bravest men of our time – not because he was inclined to bravery, but simply because, when it was required, he met the challenge and never backed down.

Sixteen years ago Flemming Rose of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten decided to conduct a thought experiment in public after an author casually revealed that he couldn’t find any Danish artist willing to illustrate his book about “the Prophet Mohammed” (as the BBC now routinely styles him). So Flemming called twelve cartoonists and invited them to depict the late Prophet. Kurt Westergaard’s cartoon was the memorable one, and the one you recall as the years roll by. It was a pithy visual jest: Mohammed’s turban as a bomb with a lit fuse. See picture at top right.

“I attempted to show that terrorists get their spiritual ammunition from parts of Islam, and with this spiritual ammunition, and with dynamite and other explosives, they kill people,” Kurt told my old newspaper The National Post a few years back. “I showed this in a cartoon and what happened? They want to kill me, so I think I was right.”

Like most of the men and women I have shared a stage with in Europe this century, he was an old Sixties radical sufficiently principled to think the same kind of jokes he’d applied to church, monarchy, parliament and every other societal institution should also be applied to Islam. He never wanted to be a “free speech hero”, but gamely bore the burthen once it had been dropped on him. He certainly never wanted to be world-famous, albeit more so in Mogadishu than Manhattan and Lahore than Los Angeles. It cost him a comfortable retirement, weakened his health, and an ever more craven culture denied him the consolations of monetary exploitation. When I expressed sympathy, he laughed and said he’d do the same cartoon all over again even knowing what he was in for.

The blood lust began with a trio of imams on the make shopping the twelve cartoons (plus three cruder fakes) round the Muslim world, and leaving it to the usual Islamonutters to take it from there: In nothing flat, over two hundred people were dead – which meant that CNN & Co were obliged to cover the story. They did so by modifying Westergaard’s cartoon, with Mohammed’s face pixilated, as if he’d entered the witness protection programme. If only. In reality, it was that dwindling band of people who believe in free speech – and, indeed, free speech itself – that found itself in the witness protection programme.

And so it went on. On the fifth anniversary of the cartoons, I was being interviewed in Copenhagen by Flemming Rose and his colleagues when we were alerted that a one-legged Chechen had accidentally self-detonated in his hotel room en route to blow them up. Whenever I tell this story, the phrase “one-legged Chechen” always gets a laugh, although it is in fact no laughing matter hopping across an hotel room with a homemade bomb. But these guys are always a laughingstock, aren’t they? Until, as at Charlie Hebdo, they finally pull it off.

To the end of his life, al-Qa’eda and its affiliates had a combined eight-figure bounty on Kurt Westergaard’s head. His death, a day after his eighty-sixth birthday, prompted a few Scandinavian chums to assure me that he’d had the last laugh – that now no jihadist would ever collect those multi-millions.

Maybe. But the excitable Mohammedans aren’t really the issue; the unexcitable west is. On the home front we are remorselessly trading core liberties for a supposed quiet life and congratulating ourselves for doing so. The most lauded cartoonist in America, Garry Trudeau, took it upon himself – in prepared remarks delivered on stage – to blame the dead of Charlie Hebdo for getting themselves murdered. Trudeau’s rationale is that in mocking Islam these cartoonists are “punching down” at a disadvantaged minority – as opposed to doing what Trudeau has been doing for half-a-century and having the guts to “punch up” by attacking the, er, GOP. Only in the crapped out monodailies of the dying American media could this talentless twerp become wealthy and important.

For my own part, I would have liked Kurt Westergaard to have outlived the far inferior draughtsman Trudeau. In my initial reaction to the Motoon crisis, I channeled Nelson Eddy:

The minute there were multimillion-dollar bounties on those cartoonists’ heads, The Times of London and Le Monde and The Washington Post and all the rest should have said ‘This Thursday we’re all publishing all the cartoons. If you want to put bounties on all our heads, you better have a great credit line at the Bank of Jihad. If you want to kill us, you’ll have to kill us all. You can kill ten who are stout-hearted men but you’ll have to kill ten thousand more. We’re standing shoulder to shoulder, and bolder and bolder.’

But they didn’t do that. And as the years passed, in the leading cities of the west, even the rote pro forma defenses of free speech grew fainter and faded away. Kurt Westergaard bore a decade-and-a-half of continuous murder threats – coupled with indifference and condescension from Trudeau and other pampered eminences of his own profession – with good humor, steely determination, and no doubts about the justice of his cause. We need more like him. Rest in peace.

Seconded, most heartily. As Steyn said, we need more like him—as many as we can possibly get. If you truly think we’ve all been misled into unjustly considering Mooselimbs a deadly, and deadly-serious, enemy, you got some more thinking to do, I’m afraid.

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