Christopher Caldwell speaks on Islam in Europe

Paul Nachman writes:

John Miller of National Review does a ten minute audio interview with Christopher Caldwell, he of the sensational new book [Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West]. It’s an eye-opening damp squib—if you listen, you’ll realize that Caldwell is fundamentally clueless, at least judging by what he says here.

LA replies:

I have Caldwell’s book, have not gotten far into it yet.

You write that the interview is “an eye-opening damp squib.”

Do you mean (I just looked up squib in a dictionary) that it’s a firework consisting of a tube filled with powder that’s supposed to burn with a fizzing noise but that doesn’t burn because it’s damp and thus it opens your eyes?

Paul Nachman replies:

Yes, precisely! Maybe I should hire you as my muse.

LA replies:

I’ve listened to the interview now. Wow, is Caldwell unimpressive. He sounds like … a damp squib.

He seems to have zero sense of the civilizational disaster we’re facing.

Speaking of the growth of Islam in Europe, he says [my quotes are reasonably close paraphrases, taken from my notes of the interview], “It’s a mixed bag, but if you face up to it squarely you get better results.” What? It sounds as though he’s saying, it’s just a problem like any other problem, it has some worse aspects, some better aspects, but it’s nothing to be particularly alarmed about.

Over and over, he shows that he is not at all a defender of the West.

Thus he tells Miller that he likes the word, “Reflections,” from Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, because it allowed him to ponder what’s happening in Europe without having to state a conclusion. But of course Burke in his Reflections did state a definite conclusion. He argued in the strongest terms from beginning to end that the French Revolution was a threat to our civilization and that its spread had to be stopped.

Caldwell says: “The problem is that the Europeans haven’t made their peace with being changed by immigration.”

That’s the problem? Not the fact that they are being taken over by Islam, but that they haven’t made their peace with it?

Caldwell then repeats his radically non-liberal point (for which I’ve lauded him) that if different people come to populate Europe, Europe itself becomes different. Miller asks him: “Does a different Europe have to be a worse Europe?

Caldwell replies:

“No. This is a question of values. It’s going to be a more American Europe.”

So, by the Muslims turning Europe into a “different” Europe, he doesn’t mean that they are Islamizing it and destroying its identity, culture, and way of life. He simply means that it will be more diverse, more like America. Which doesn’t sound like a total disaster. However, elsewhere in the interview he undercuts this point by saying that Europe cannot assimilate its Muslims as, according to him, America has assimilated its immigrants. So what happens to his idea that Europe will become more like America?

“It’s easy to run a dynamic economy when you’re not bound by old traditions.”

So that’s the positive side of Islamization he sees, that filling up the continent of Europe with the most backward, stagnant, non-innovative people on earth will make the European economy more dynamic??

“But the majority of Euros don’t like the way this is developing.”

So the negative side of Islamization is that Europeans don’t like it.

Caldwell also says that “in terms of culture, the impact of immigration in Europe is much greater than in United States. Hispanics are Catholic, family oriented, hardworking, conservative in their values.”

Like all neocons, he keeps deluding himself with the myth of conservative Hispanics. He’s not aware of the 50 percent illegitimacy rate among these family-oriented Mexican immigrants.

Then he says to Miller:

“The choice is between a different Europe and an empty Europe. I think you have that exactly right.”

Thus he’s agreeing with Miller’s point that Europe has no choice but to Islamize. But according to Mark Steyn’s review of Caldwell’s book, which I discussed here, Caldwell rejects the conventional wisdom that Muslims are helping Europe’s economy.

Here’s Caldwell’s last point:

“The Europeans think they’re at the beginning of an American type experiment with immigration, but they don’t have the ability to assimilate immigrants that we have. So they are acquiring something like our race problem. It will be deep problem at the core of their societies, it will take a long time to deal with.”

So now we understand Caldwell’s point (which as I said earlier he seemed to be contradicting) that Europe as a result of Islam is becoming more like America. He doesn’t mean it in the sense that Europe is acquiring a vast diverse population that assimilates (which is Caldwell’s neocon myth of America). He means it in the sense that Europe is acquiring a large, diverse population that will not assimilate and that will be antagonistic to the majority culture, like blacks in America.

Thus the worst he says about Islamization is that the Europeans are taking on something like our black problem. Well, at least that sounds like a terrible thing for Europe to do to itself. But he expresses zero sense that it’s a fatally wounding thing for Europe to do to itself.

Further, his comparison is way off. Blacks in America are essentially an incompetent, powerless people, and they mainly get the power they have through white guilt. Muslims in Europe are part of a billion strong global community dynamically spreading the world-conquering religion of Islam. Muslims may not be economically competent, but they are competent as Muslims, as people carrying out and spreading the Islamic law.

As I have pointed out so many times, neocons don’t look at reality. They look at reality through the filters of certain familiar and comfortable models they have in their heads. For example, they looked at the policy of democratizing Iraq through the model of the past experieence of democratizing Germany and Japan. They don’t see Iraq as it is. In the same way, Caldwell ends up looking at the Islamization of Europe through the filter of America’ race problem.

What folly. America’s race problem is indeed a permanent wound in our country. But it’s nothing like having tens of millions of sharia believers in your country.

Bottom line: Caldwell is not in the slightest sense calling on Westerners to awaken to a civilizational disaster and to reverse it.

So why has Caldwell’s book seemed like a big deal? In addition to his original points about Europe becoming more like America (which is the kind of distracting irrelevancy that turns on contempory intellectual types), it seems to come down to the fact that he mentions the “I” word (immigration), which others haven’t done when speaking about Islamization. And that’s big news. But once he mentions the “I” word, he then proceeds on the same meaningless track of accmmodation to Islam as as been trodden by all the other mainstream conservative Islam critics.

As I said, I had just acquired his book and started to read it. The interview is a huge disappointment.

Also, I have to say, Caldwell’s speaking voice, with that chirping sound that so many youngish men have today,—they chirp instead of speak—adds to the impression of a person without an ounce of real conservatism or civilizational patriotism, or even adult gravitas. He comes across like your typical contemporary, empty, slightly right of center nonentity.

- end of initial entry -

Jason R. writes:

Seems like there’s a pattern developing here: such-a-useless-debater/

A reader writes:

Your comment about Caldwell’s chirping voice was interesting. I wanted to hear what he sounded like, so I listened to the first part of the interview. He does not have the rich, baritone voice of a Will Lyman or a Stephen Bogaert, but was not as bad as I expected. Now if you want to hear a really aggravating voice, listen to neoconservative windbag Jeffrey Kuhner of the Washington Times. He is a regular guest on Michael Savage and a frequent fill-in (he hosted all three hours of the Friday show). I’ve heard many irritating voices in my life, but no one even comes close to this guy. When you pair the grating voice with his trite neocon platitudes, you have the makings of cruel and unusual punishment. I think they need to play this guy 24/7 at Gitmo and they’ll extract a lot more information.

LA replies:

I agree, Caldwell is far from the worst.

Also, the problem is not limited to the youngish male “chirpers” (think Tucker Carlson, the king of the chirpers). American speech, or rather voice, has gone downhill across the board. So many people in media are simply unpleasant to listen to.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 08, 2009 12:49 PM | Send

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