So the man who reckoned Obama would make a great president because of his "perfectly creased pant" thinks that Charlie Hebdo belonged at the "kiddie table". One of the problems with public discourse in America is that David Brooks is considered what the French call an homme sérieux.
~I have complained in recent days about the horrible, self-flattering, evasiveness of all those pen-is-mightier-than-the-sword cartoons. So (via The Prussian) credit where it's due to the Berliner Kurier for the front page at right, with the headline "NO! You cannot murder our freedom" and underneath, for once, a cartoon that lives up to it: the Prophet gleefully bathing in blood.
Unlike the Hamburger Morgenpost, they have not (yet) been firebombed.
~Speaking of des hommes sérieux, one other casualty of a bloody week in Paris appears to be the latest novel by Michel Houellebecq. M Houellebecq was, in fact, pictured on the cover of last week's Charlie Hebdo - the issue that hit newsstands just before its editorial staff were murdered. His novel, Soumission (Submission) was published that very day:
The French novelist Michel Houellebecq, whose latest book featured on the cover of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on the day of the massacre at its offices, has stopped its promotion as the victims were being mourned.
Houellebecq, a friend of economist Bernard Maris, who was among the 12 people shot dead on Wednesday, was "deeply affected" and had decided to leave Paris for an unspecified rural retreat, his agent said on Thursday.
Houellebecq's topical new novel Soumission (Submission), which imagines France being ruled by a radical Muslim president after France and Europe "submit" to Islam, came out on Wednesday.
His publisher's offices were evacuated shortly after the shootings at Charlie Hebdo and placed under police protection amid fears that France's enfant terrible may be on a terrorist hitlist. Houellebecq has in the past described Islam as the "stupidest" religion.
The new novel is about the French presidential election in 2022, at the end of M Hollande's disastrous second term. The two names on the ballot of the final run-off are Marine LePen and a Muslim candidate. The socialist establishment throws its weight behind the Muslim guy, and he is duly elected.
I saw someone on Twitter - was it Mehdi Hasan? - fretting that this sounded like a mere literary gloss on a Mark Steyn polemic. He doesn't know the half of it. From page 119 of my 2006 book America Alone:
Picture a French election circa 2020: the Islamic Republican Coalition wins the most seats in the National Assembly. The Chiraquiste crowd give a fatalistic shrug and M de Villepin starts including crowd-pleasing suras from the Koran at his poetry recitals. But would Jean-Marie Le Pen or (by then) his daughter take it so well?
M Houellebecq is one of my favorite novelists and I'm sure he's done a grand job with what Mr Hasan (if he it was) regards as such unpromisingly Steynian material. I just hope the bookstores are willing to stock it. If they're not, then no doubt Mr Brooks will assure us it doesn't matter, because, unlike authors who write books about "BoBos" (bourgeois bohemians) sipping lattes in Burlington, Vermont, M Houellebecq's tomes belong in the kiddie section.
~On the subject of America Alone, eight-and-a-half years ago it was dismissed as "alarmist" by The Economist (definitely part of Mr Brooks' grown-up table). Well, as alarms go, everyone decided to roll over and go back to sleep for another decade. After reading it, Christopher Hitchens asked Tony Blair about its demographic thesis and whether, when he spoke to Continental prime ministers, this was part of "the European conversation". Mr Blair replied that it was part of the "subterranean conversation" - in other words, the political class acknowledged it sotto voce but hadn't figured out a way to talk about it in public. They still haven't.
I wish the subject were a bit less subterranean. But, speaking for myself, I find a lot of America Alone stands up quite well in light of recent events:
The old joke about British Palestine was that it was the twice promised land: hence today a western democracy and a disaffected Muslim population exist in (for the most part) two solitudes on the same piece of real estate. But doesn't that sum up Europe, too? The jihadists understand that the Continent is up for grabs in a way that America isn't. And as their numbers grow it seems likely that wily Islamic leaders in the Middle East will embrace the cause of the rights of European Muslims in the same way that they claim solidarity with the Palestinians. When France began contemplating its headscarf ban in schools, it dispatched government ministers to seek the advice of Egyptian imams, implicitly accepting the view of Islamic scholars that the Fifth Republic is now an outlying province of the dar al-Islam...
Few European leaders have a clue as to what to do about this, but, as France's headscarf law and Britain's Incitement to Racial Hatred bill underline, mediation between what Tony Blair called (in the wake of the Tube bombing) "our way of life" and Muslim values has already become a central dynamic of European political culture – a remarkable achievement for a minority few Europeans were more than vaguely conscious of pre-9/11. Meanwhile, across the borders pour not primarily suicide bombers or suitcase nukes, though they will come in the end, but ideology - fierce, glamorous and implacable...
Battles are very straightforward: Side A wins, Side B loses. But Europe is way beyond anything so clarifying. Today, a fearless Muslim advance has penetrated far deeper into Europe than Abd al-Rahman. They're in Brussels, where Belgian police officers are advised not to be seen drinking coffee in public during Ramadan, and in Malmo, where Swedish ambulance drivers will not go without police escort. It's way too late to re-run the Battle of Poitiers. When Martine Aubry, the Mayor of Lille, daughter of former Prime Minister and EU bigwig Jacques Delors and likely Presidential candidate in the post-Chirac era, held a meeting with an imam in Roubaix, he demanded that it take place on the edge of the neighborhood in recognition that his turf was Muslim territory which she was bound not to enter. Mme Aubry conceded the point, as more and more politicians will in the years ahead.
That was an early example of those "no-go zones" you hear so much about these days. A couple more:
The peoples of Europe may not be willing to go as far down the appeasement path as their rulers, but Europe is a top-down construct so the rulers will get quite a long way down before the masses start to drag them back. One observes, for example, that brave figures who draw attention to these trends – men and women such as Theo van Gogh, Bat Ye'or and Oriana Fallaci – are either murdered, forced to live under armed guard, driven into exile overseas or sued under specious hate-crimes laws.
Like Theo van Gogh, the Charlie Hebdo guys are now dead, so everyone can claim to support their right to free speech now that they're no longer around to exercise it. What, by contrast, counts as "mainstream" opinion in Europe?
Meanwhile, the complaceniks hold down prestigious chairs at European universities and think-tanks and assure us there's no problem. Timothy Garton Ash is an Oxford professor who directs its European Studies Center, the sort of chap National Public Radio call in when they need an "expert" on the EU. Very reasonable fellow, so reasonable that in 2003 he was attacking yours truly in every leading European newspaper for promoting "anti-Europeanism in the United States". Yet, after scoffing at my Euro-predictions for many years, he seems to have accepted them. The only difference between us is that he thinks it's a good thing:
'The populations of Europe are aging fast, so more immigrants will be needed to support the pensioners, and these will largely be Muslim immigrants. For this increasingly Muslim Europe to define itself against Islam would be ridiculous and suicidal… Let's imagine, for a moment, Europe in 2025 at its possible best. A political, economic, and security community of some forty free countries and 650 million people, embracing all the lands in which the two world wars began, and producing, still, a large part of the wealth of the world. A further 650 million people, born in the most explosive parts of the early twenty-first-century globe, but now living in a great arc of partnership with this European Union, from Marrakesh, via Cairo, Jerusalem, Baghdad, and Tbilisi, all the way to Vladivostok. That would not be nothing.'
No, indeed. It would certainly be something, but quite what he declines to say. And that's what Garton Ash sees as the Continent's "possible best" – a giant Euro-Muslim "arc of partnership". Faced with a choice between correcting course or drifting irrevocably into Eurabia, Garton Ash has chosen consciously to embrace the latter. He will not be the last.
The British press has never seemed as out of touch as it is today. All our broadsheet papers are packed with pleas to the people of France, and other European populations, not to turn into Muslim-killing nutjobs in response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre. The Guardian frets over "Islamophobes seizing this atrocity to advance their hatred." The Financial Times is in a spin about "Islamophobic extremists" using the massacre to "[challenge] the tolerance on which Europe has built its peace." One British hack says we should all "fear the coming Islamophobic backlash." And what actually happened in France as these dead-tree pieces about a possible Islamophobic backlash made their appearance? Jews were assaulted. And killed. "Don't attack Muslims," lectures the press as Jews are attacked.
A lot more of this will be peddled in the service of that giant Euro-Muslim "arc of partnership". "Arc of partnership", by the way, is a fancy term for a crescent.