D’Souza’s latest twist

Dinesh D’Souza has a new book, The Enemy At Home: the Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11. His thesis, according to Tom Piatak writing in the January 15 issue of The American Conservative, is as follows: America has been riven by the cultural left’s attack on the belief in an external moral order, a rejection of traditional morality that has metastasized beyond its origins in the elite culture into the ordinary levels of society. This widespread moral decadence, which our popular culture broadcasts to the world, is the reason Muslim radicals hate us and seek to destroy us. Traditional Islam—which is good, moral, and tolerant, and far superior to the historically intolerant and backward European culture—is our natural ally against both our own cultural left and the Muslim radicals. America can solve the terrorism problem by returning to traditional morality, which would drive a wedge between the radical Muslims and our natural allies the traditional Muslims. Bush’s democratization policy helps in this effort because democracy in Muslim countries empowers traditional Islam, including sharia, an outcome D’Souza favors.

D’Souza, an Indian-born Catholic neoconservative, seems to be articulating a neocon version of the Vatican II encyclical Nostra Aetate, which approves and embraces Muslims as fellow adorers of the one true God. On the basis of the fantastically delusory notion that Muslims believe in the same God and the same morality as traditional Christians and Jews, he urges an alliance between a re-traditionalized West and traditional Islam in which America uses democracy to help liberate sharia in Islamic countries, while—of course—also welcoming more and more sharia-believing Muslims into the West.

It is a truism that today’s left is insane. But can one point off-hand to any leftist thinker who is more dangerously deluded than this neocon?

D’Souza’s weird call for a restored American traditionalism in alliance with traditional Islam becomes even weirder when we remember that just five years go in his book, What’s So Great About America, discussed at VFR in May 2002 and expanded on here, D’Souza redefined America—and conservatism—in shockingly radical, secular terms. “America is a subversive idea,” he wrote. “Indeed, it represents a new way to be human,” and he argued that it was America’s mission to bring that “new way to be human” to the rest of the world, through our popular culture and our democracy. In a key passage, D’Souza expressed his solidarity with a young man in Starbucks with metal studs in his face, because this young man was simply trying to express his free self, unencumbered by traditional conventions.

Thus five years ago, D’Souza was championing radical cultural decadence and America’s spread of same to the world. Now he is saying that the very thing that he supported then is the cause of the radical Muslims’ hatred for us, and he urges that instead of embracing and spreading decadence we embrace traditionalism and spread … sharia.

Despite D’Souza’s amazingly unprincipled shift from one thesis to its radical opposite, surpassing even the usual neocon standard, three constants remains fixed in his world view: (1) the means through which he wants to spread either the decadence or the sharia is the neocon democracy project; (2) he believes in the essential oneness and similarity of all cultures and peoples; and (3) his prescriptions, whether described as “subversive” or “traditionalist,” would be radically destructive of our nation and culture.

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Tom S. writes:

What people like Dinesh D’Souza do not understand is that the “Radical” Muslims ARE the “Traditional” Muslims, at least if we define “Traditional” as “believing in those things which most Muslims have believed in throughout most of Islamic history.” Put in its starkest terms, D’Souza is calling on conservatives to make common cause with Islam against our own Left, with the price of their help being the surrender of our civilization. Seeing as how the Left also fervently desires the destruction of our civilization, and (as you have demonstrated) desires nothing more than to prostrate itself before a non-Western power, it is hard to see how this would constitute any sort of “victory” for conservatism. To call D’Sousa confused is being charitable in the extreme. He doesn’t seem to care what supplants the traditional Western order—radical individualism, radical Islam—as long as it is supplanted by something. He is certainly right in seeing that the Left seeks the destruction of our civilization, but to allow it to be destroyed by Islam as an alternative would seem to be a most inadequate solution.

A reader writes:

What an unbelievable lightweight the guy is. He became famous as a college kid and has never gotten beyond that point.

LA replies:

Dante should have a chapter in the Inferno on souls who have to spend eternity writing neocons books at AEI.

Reader replies:

I haven’t read him much but his books etc. all seem to be based on coming up with some sort of stupid angle and working it up into a book-length manuscript—the “end of racism,” because racism is [whatever he said it was], global democracy as the key to sharia as the the key to the salvation of the West, whatever. I guess that’s more or less what you’re suggesting.

LA replies:

Yes, something like that.

It’s this new, strange genre of book, the neocon think tank book. I can’t describe it at the moment. But it’s unreal. And a guy like DD gets himself this lifetime sinecure, he doesn’t even participate in political debate any longer, he’s disappeared from the scene, he just stays holed up at AEI producing one of these artificially conceived books every few years. He thought he was hitting one out of the park with The End of Racism, that blew up in his face for a variety of reasons, and since then he’s never recovered the position in the conservative movement that he used to have.

Maybe it’s a neocon version of The Great Gatsby. Instead of a German American from the Midwest with an Anglicized name who comes East and makes it big as a romantic gangster, he’s an Indian immigrant who comes to America and makes it big as a neoconservative star. Instead of being shot and killed by a jealous husband, he publishes an over-ambitious, meretricious book about race which damages his reputation and so he goes into semi-obscurity writing odd neocon tracts at AEI.

LA writes:

It occurs to me that D’Souza may have gotten the idea for this book in 2005 when the new Iraqi constitution was written that included sharia as its authority for all laws. Whoops! Give Muslims democracy, and they choose Islam, not liberalism! So D’Souza thought, why not make a virtue of necessity? Since we must spread democracy (it is the only raison d’ętre we neocons have left), and since spreading democracy to Muslims must result in the spread of sharia, let’s embrace sharia as a good thing.

As I’ve pointed out many times, this result is analogous to neocons championing mass non-Western immigration on the basis that all the immigrants can assimilate to our society, but then, when it turns out that they don’t assimilate and instead start demanding their own cultural recognition, the neocons turn around and start championing diversity. Instead of giving up the immigration, which they now realize leads to multiculturalism and destroys national unity, the neocons give up national unity and embrace multiculturalism. In the same way, instead of giving up Muslim democratization, which they now realize leads to Muslim sharia not to Muslim liberalism, the neocons give up the belief in Muslim liberalism and embrace sharia.

The neocons know what their priorities are.

Jonathan L. writes:

Best wishes on the New Year! I have been waiting for your comments on D’Souza’s execrable latest book, which for all its particular faults is merely symptomatic of a larger neurosis within contemporary Western political discourse. Because of the legacy of the Holocaust, almost all Westerners have internalized the norm that it is evil to hold enmity toward an entire organic identity group (i.e. one composed of not just potentially violent adult males but also of women, children, the elderly, etc.) and that doing so makes one a potential accomplice to genocide.

In order to obey this stricture (i.e. retain one’s own self-image as a decent human being) and still resist the jihad, it is necessary to adopt some sort of false coping mechanism. We’re all familiar with the one where jihadist aggression is blamed on “extremist”, or “Islamist” or “Wahabbi” Muslims, who are purported to be not only a tiny minority among their kind but also “inauthentically” Islamic.

The other common coping mechanism is to blame Western societies for provoking Muslim hostility by doing the sorts of things the speaker was against in the first place. For leftists this means Western societies retaining their capitalist economies and not ceding more and more of their sovereignty to Third World-dominated international organizations. For libertarians it means blaming unrest among Europe’s “ummagrants” on sclerotic, high-unemployment Western European labor markets. And for a certain strain of conservative it means asserting that Muslim hostility is really a reaction to the West’s toxic and immoral popular culture, which should be reformed in any case but by so doing will also protect us from further jihadist attack.

Now while each form of the second coping mechanism is by definition ideologically convenient to its backers, as you rightly pointed out D’Souza has been more of a champion of our debased popular culture than a critic of it. We should therefore not bother analyzing his latest twist in terms of any inherent logic, but merely as a neurotic twitching. Now that “democratic transformation” has proven such a catastrophe in Iraq, it is time for a new strategy, but one which must also have the virtue of shielding most Muslims from any responsibility for the jihadist attacks against us (and D’Souza from any charges that he “hates all Muslims” and is therefore evil and indecent). This is quite similar to Ralph Peter’s recent outburst. Tormented by his own enmity towards all Muslims and Arabs (an enmity expressed quite openly in his columns), he had to expurgate his guilt by renouncing unnamed genocidal “Muslim-haters”—i.e. his own midnight broodings.

LA replies:

Happy New Year to you.

What you’re talking about is what I call the Non-Islam Theories of Islamic Extremism, of which there seems to be no end. To blame Islam for Islamic extremism would make us, as you put it, potential Nazis. Or, to put it another way, the worse a non-Western or minority group behaves, the more we must blame ourselves. There is no escape from this madness, short of giving up the liberal world view.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 02, 2007 11:00 AM | Send

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