What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.


What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

The Weak Reeds That Pierce Our Hands, and the Illusion That Makes Them Weak

In an earlier post,, I discussed the controversy surrounding Dutch politician Geert Wilders' film, Fitna, perceiving the animadversions of Joseph Loconte as characteristic of an establishment more interested in perpetuating its hallucinations than in either understanding Islam or protecting the societies it rules.

Well, the film was released, and subsequently suppressed at the original hosting locations, as Lawrence Auster explains. Apparently, the aggrieved parties, hewing to the example established during the Dutch cartoon jihad, sought to prove the arguments of those they opposed. "Slay all those who say Islam is violent", and all of that. In other news, the sun rose this morning, and will rise again on the morrow.

Rod Dreher has viewed the film, as have I, and is ambivalent, at best.

I would call this film propaganda, certainly, but it doesn't operate on hate. It operates on fear, which is a different thing.

Whether you think that fear is legitimate will dictate how you respond to this film. I wonder if anybody who watches it (it's 15 minutes long) will have their minds changed one way or another. (Snip)
I remember sitting through Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" and thinking it to be crude propaganda, even though underneath all that bluster and unreason were some good and necessary points. But it struck me as deeply dishonest, almost unethical, the way he twisted facts and corrupted the truth in service of his ideological agenda. It was a corruption of the artist. Well, Geert Wilders is not an artist, but a politician. Still, there is something corrupt in the way he manipulates legitimate grievances for emotional effect. You would think watching this film that all Muslims are defined by the worst among them. Which isn't true.

Still, the good Muslims don't seem to be stopping the bad ones and their evil ideas from proliferating. And it is also true, at least it seems so to me, that the Dutch public, and the wider European public, has not and will not take the Islamisation of their liberal democracies seriously. It's easy for me to look on from afar and tut-tut Wilders for his crudeness: I am not living through the collapse of my country's culture in the face of the Islamic challenge.

Can one licitly fight a mortal threat to one's culture by telling a partial truth, a distorted truth, or even a lie?

Dreher's concerns are misplaced, in my estimation. Perhaps it would be fair to adjudge Wilders' work as propaganda, and perhaps it would be similarly accurate to assess it as targeted at the fears of the intended audience. In the first instance, however, it seems to me that the essence of propaganda properly so-called lies in its distorting, untruth-purveying character. One cannot, therefore, determine whether Fitna is propaganda unless one attends to the question it poses, namely, that of the nature of Islamic doctrine. Second, the playing-on of fears is not dispositive, not in the slightest, inasmuch as some fears are utterly reasonable; and if any national fears of Islamization are rational, those of the Dutch would qualify at the head of the class.

Third, the comparison to Michael Moore is genuinely offensive, at least to me. Understanding why requires that one attend to what Wilders attempted in the film, namely to suggest a correlation between the bellicose passages of the Koran and the actual conduct of Muslims waging jihad. This correspondence is asserted by the jihadists themselves, and only strengthened by the observation that the majority schools of Islamic jurisprudence substantiate the claims of the jihadists. The sanguinary interpretations are legally normative expressions of the religion. Notice that this is a question of doctrine. It does not imply that all Muslims, even a majority, are now engaged, or will be engaged in the future, in acts of violent jihad; instead of characterizing all Muslims in accordance with the worst of them, it simply defines some of the formal doctrines of the religion as uncivilized, and intimates that reforming them would entail more than hand-waving about the percentages of Muslims who do not follow the way of jihad.

Dreher's closing question, then, does not really follow. There is no lie. The Koran says certain things, and, prima facie, the jihadists are acting in accordance with them. Neither is there distortion or a tendentious slant on the truth, unless it is mandatory to suggest, in a guilty-Christian parody of the pious Muslim custom of uttering the phrase "peace be upon him" subsequent to every mention of the Prophet's name, that a majority of Muslims are peace-loving or whatever, every time Islamic doctrine is discussed. That there is no pressure to do this when discussing Christianity, Judaism, or any other major religion, speaks volumes. In the end, this is the illusion that weakens and debilitates us, namely, that we cannot let go of our fantasies of multicultural amity and openness long enough to see the world as it is. Wilders isn't engaged in propagandizing; he's practicing rhetoric, with modern media, appealing to the hearts and minds of his audience. It only appears otherwise because we are so squeamish about the subject matter, for fear of causing precisely what Wilders warns about. But unless we feel in our gut the horror of what Islamic doctrine will legitimate, regardless of what any individual Muslim, taken in isolation, may think of it, we will never be moved to action.

And that is the deepest illusion at work in this matter: we tacitly elide the distinction between Muslims and their formal doctrine, hinting that because a majority do not do something, that that something, therefore, might not be an element of their doctrine. We then forbid ourselves to think any further about the matter, lest we come to feel the existential peril in which some European countries now find themselves. All we leave ourselves is the dogmatic insistence that tolerance must not be traduced - and about this, we are willing to be quite intolerant. Or, in Dreher's case, discomfited by a visceral presentation of the matter, even as he acknowledges the grim realities.

Comments (9)

I have not seen the film and don't intend to as I as there is nothing new in it and some of the scenes are disturbing. Yet one has to respect Wilder's integrity, he has not sought to involve those who would rather remain on the sidelines like most Christians. He could have if he wanted, easily quoted the Pope's Regensberg address. If it were propanganda, Wilders has made sure that only he would serve a lighning-rod for the Mozzies anger. He has not deliberately endangered anyone or roped in the reluctant. For Dreher it does no good to carry on in this faltering manner, while turning his own indecisiveness into of all things a discussion of morality.

I saw the film. If Islam teaches what the film purports, then Wilder has done a service. If it doesn't then Wilder is a bigot.

I urge all Western scholars to obtain the Al-Hadith which is the collection of the oral teachings and example of the Prophet of Islam. It is the most holy, authentic and reliable book after the Koran. It is available in English/Arabic as a 9 volume set ISBN: 9960717313. The title is the incomprehensible "Sahih al-Bukhari: The Translation of the Meanings, translated by Muhammad Muhsin Khan."

Volume 4 contains the Book of Jihad and the Book of Al-Jizya and the Stoppage of War. If you read the teachings of Islam for yourself you will find that Wilder has presented a rather muted and restrained warning to the West.

The sword waving clerics urging war upon the West aren't lone, crazed extremists. They are quoting, word for word, the sayings of the Prophet of Islam from the Hadith and preaching in the manner directed by the Prophet.

Read the Al-Hadith. See for yourself.

Dreher annoys the heck out of me. His perverse desire to be Mr. Moderation is getting stronger and stronger, worse and worse. This nonsense about "half-truths" and "playing on fear" about Islam is one manifestation. Another was that _disgusting_ "I am the worst of sinners" nonsense he wrote recently about the Obama speech.

I can't really find it in my heart to have any time for Dreher. He never impressed me. Now he's _dis_-impressing me. People who are impressed by him are, IMO, looking to be so, because they want a guru of a new kind of conservatism.

Lydia: "Dreher annoys the heck out of me."

For me Mr. Dreher is enjoyable for light reading, but I never could take him very seriously. This was especially the case after Dreher offered up "he must be true to his art" as a lame excuse for Frank Schaeffer's trashing his parents' lives and ministry.

As for the book that made Dreher famous, when I read it I found in places the same ideas being repeated over and over again, just rephrased differently. The book should have been edited to half its length and probably would have been better for it and had a greater impact.

Inspite of all this, I think Dreher may still have the potential to be a very good writer and an interesting conservative thinker. But lately, because of the Affaire d'Wright, I too am beginning to wonder if he's jumped the shark.

The film is an act of cinematic courage and virtue. It says clearly what needs to be said. What needs to be said is this:

Western nations face a deadly enemy. That enemy operates like a cancer. Either you stop it or it stops you.

Pick one.

"Yet one has to respect Wilder's integrity, he has not sought to involve those who would rather remain on the sidelines like most Christians."

Ivan, I give credit to Wilders, he's willing to risk his life and produce a pop culture video that may awaken some, but ulimately appears to be pretty thin gruel. There is one Christian who is directly in the firing line, Benedict XVI, and he's confonting Islam where and how it counts.

B16 is aware of the many different spiritual and intellectual currents coarsing through Islam and has established a dialogue that exploits it's internal contradictions and challenges it's tragic and untenable separation of Reason from Faith. He also knows the West is suffocating from a similiar and suicidal divorce of Faith from Reason. By simultaneously challenging 2 ailing systems, the static dead-end of Islam and the arid rationality and crass materialism of late modernity, the Pope is setting the stage for something that neither the oil-drunk mullahs, nor our power-crazed secular elites could ever achieve; a just victory for humanity.

When Benedict arrives here in the middle of the month, watch as both sets of heathen rage against a man who Stalin reminded us, commands no divisions.

Kevin of course you right, after the fiasco in Iraq its clear that only the Gospels can turn the Muslims from their destructive ways. Wilders is however an unintentional monkey to the Pope, a lot of people including seething Musalmans, socialists, capitalists, human-rights busybodies and those who run the UN and EU have been shown for the ridiculous fools they are by his antics.

And that is the deepest illusion at work in this matter: we tacitly elide the distinction between Muslims and their formal doctrine, hinting that because a majority do not do something, that that something, therefore, might not be an element of their doctrine. We then forbid ourselves to think any further about the matter, lest we come to feel the existential peril in which some European countries now find themselves.

Part of the problem is that we fear the implications of this particular essentialism, to be sure. Another part of it, perhaps even a deeper part, is that if we give up our own generalized antiessentialism - if we acknowledge that even non-material things like Islam and liberalism and whatnot are what they are, and that though we have some choice about our alliegences to them we do not create them de novo in an act of our will - then we cease to be free and equal supermen. And we can't have that.

So Islam simply must be whatever the perceived majority of Muslims assert it to be. The implications of a religion being other than just whatever its adherents assert it to be are too horrifying to consider, because among other things an implication is that we are not God, and religion is not an arbitrary personal preference but rather a feature of reality every bit as real as a rock.

Given that Al Qaeda and it's affiliates pull strongest from the pool of Westernized middle to upper middle class professionals, we should consider the very real prospect that this Jihad and it's ideological firmament is a product of modernity and not an, alien alternative to it. That too may help explain much of the denial you are witnessing here is the West.

Post a comment

Bold Italic Underline Quote

Note: In order to limit duplicate comments, please submit a comment only once. A comment may take a few minutes to appear beneath the article.

Although this site does not actively hold comments for moderation, some comments are automatically held by the blog system. For best results, limit the number of links (including links in your signature line to your own website) to under 3 per comment as all comments with a large number of links will be automatically held. If your comment is held for any reason, please be patient and an author or administrator will approve it. Do not resubmit the same comment as subsequent submissions of the same comment will be held as well.