A way of getting through to pro-immigration liberals and conservatives on the Islam question

Imagine that you’ve been having a conversation with a friend or associate about Islam. Your friend has expressed fairly standard, moderate-liberal views on the subject: “Yes, terrorism is a terrible threat, yes, the way some Muslims treat girls and women is worrying, yes, we have to do something about honor killings, yes, there are some things about Islam that are disturbing, yes, we have to do a better job of assimilating Muslim immigrants and encouraging the moderates, who are the only hope. But America is the land of immigration, America has been made by diversity, we’re all immigrants….”

At this point I would suggest that you say to him something like the following:

Let me ask you this. Let’s say it’s 1965, and the Congress is considering the Immigration Reform Act which will open immigration on an equal basis from every country on earth, without any discrimination, so that people from Muslim countries will be able to immigrate here as easily as people from England or Germany or Italy. At present, in 1965, there are virtually no Mideastern Muslims in the U.S. Would you vote for the bill that was actually passed, that is, the bill which has led to millions of Mideastern Muslims living in this country, the bill which has led to the Fort Hood mass murderer living in this country and the Times Square bomber living in this country and the Fort Dix bombers living in this country and hundreds of other terrorists and would-be terrorists living in this country, the bill which allowed the 9/11 hijackers into this country, the bill which allowed pro-jihad communities to grow and develop throughout America, the bill which has made it necessary for us to have anti-terror security lines in every airport and every major public building in the country? Or would you vote against permitting Muslim immigrants to enter the U.S.?

In other words, if there were no Mideastern Muslims in the U.S., and you had a choice between an immigration bill which would create a large and growing Muslim population in America, leading to an America in which we all have to be scanned or groped in order to get on an airplane, and a bill which would not allow Muslims into America, which would you choose?

Now I’m not suggesting that your interlocutor will suddenly cry, “Yes, I see the light! I would not allow Muslims into America!” I think his initial response will be that he would allow Muslims into America. But I also think that by making him take a stand, by putting him in a position in which he is forced to consider the actual consequences of the decision to initiate mass Muslim immigration, you might get him to think logically and critically about the issue for the first time. You might get him to wonder if it really was and is a good idea to allow Muslims into the West.

- end of initial entry -

A reader writes:

Nope. Totally wrong. What actually happens (I speak from experience on this) is that they insist that the principle is correct, that we should indeed let people in from anywhere without discrimination, it’s just a few bad apples among generally good people, and you can find bad people anywhere. In other words, your premise—that they would think about it logically—never happens.

You keep assuming that the way you think about a question is the way everyone else will think about it. That’s not true.

LA replies:

According to the reader, not a single pro-Islam, pro-immigration person has ever changed or ever will change his position. So it’s useless even to think about how to change people’s thinking.

I would consider myself a realist, in that I have a fairly realistic grasp of the power of liberalism—the dominant belief system of the modern West—over people’s minds. The reader strikes me not as a realist, but as a person who subscribes to total despair.

Doug H. writes:

Oh, if only liberals would think logically. :-)

Philip M. writes from England:

I think I get where you’re going with this. It’s not so much about getting people to change their minds, rather its about forcing them to “own” what they claim to believe, and accepting the consequences that flow from this. It’s about forcing them to take responsibility of the issue, which they will not do.

This is part of a trend I have noticed amongst liberals: they do not really believe what they claim to believe; they hate being put on the spot in this way.

For example: I have a young friend, who is very much a typical young person in terms of his attitudes and opinions. He is musical, and very into punk. He often likes to talk about the importance of being a rebel. So one day I asked him: “But what is it about you that is so rebellious?” After a great deal of thought, came the answer “I used to not like being told what to do by teachers in school.” Well, duh. Who does?!

After thinking about this, it dawned on me, that firstly, he still has a natural sense of what is right and wrong imprinted on his conscience. Therefore, even if (for example) homosexuality and promiscuity are officially sanctioned, there will always be a part of him that sees these things as inherently rebellious—although when challenged, he knows this would sound ridiculous. He has also failed to absorb any of the cultural and political changes of the last forty years. In his head, it is still 1967, the cultural revolution is still reaching its heady, exciting climax. The number of minorities are still very small, the police are still racist and bigoted and actually protect them from criminals, families still consist of a married man and a woman and 2.4 kids.

Liberals have never come to terms with their victory. They never expected to win so completely, and had no real plans to do so. They cannot bear to see the world as it really is, cannot face the fact that what was supposed to be a rebellious shove has caused their aging enemy to collapse and have a stroke. They are living off the comforting notion that all is as it was, that they have not won, that the forces of the old fashioned establishment are still safely in place to rail against, that the old morals are still safely there to fall back on when they, or preferably another generation in the future, decides to grow up. This is not just a perpetual adolescence, but a perpetual adolescence in a perpetual, pristine 1967. All of popular culture, its music and festivals, is all about trying to keep the newness and sense of momentum without that motion ever really taking us anywhere nasty, like 2011. They are living a lie.

LA replies:

All very good.

In response to your opening point, no, my purpose is not just to get them to take responsibility for their position. That’s a step along the way. My purpose is to get them (some of them) to change their position.

Peter G. writes:

Simple metaphorical rhetoric may help penetrate pro-immigration liberal delusions; What kind of relationship do you want with cancer? What are the good cancers? What side-benefits come from having cancer?

The lethality of exposure to Islam must be made in the starkest possible terms. Until the intellectual impediments keeping Liberals from accessing reality are forcibly removed nothing will change. It requires a new form of moral courage, acting with a mental recognition that exposing the truth will irreparably shatter the fabric of contemporary culture, but the fractures it opens will allow truth to pass through.

LA replies:

I get your general point, but the cancer metaphor, apart from being in bad taste, has been grossly overused and is ineffective. Think of the number of contemporary social problems that have been described as a “cancer”: has that resulted in society fixing any of those problems?

Peter G. replies:
Perhaps that level of intensity is likely to be reserved for a future time. Yes often it’s applied to conceptual problems like poverty, crime, etc. Larry, I know it’s terribly unpleasant, but to alert your civilization such metaphors will have to be applied to real people, since the problem is and will continue to be Muslims, what their beliefs compel them to do and how it imperils us. All historical civilizations exposed to Islam experienced progressive metastatic extermination, so I think there is some merit to an epidemiological metaphor.

Islamic ideology requires people, Muslims, to give it power and presence in the real world. Can the two be separated and neutralized with purely intellectual instruments? How much time is anyone going to be allocated to demonstrate the nature of the threat? Such language does arouse some uncomfortable feelings, but isn’t that what’s missing in liberals? Should any American feel comfortable with a threat that now resides in their own neighbourhoods?

Now I’m really being boorishly interrogative …

Well, an alternate to engage liberals intellectually that’s less acerbic for now; let’s say we discuss Columbus. Why were Europeans so desperate to avoid travel through the Middle East they sailed into the unknown? Why didn’t our ancestors want to trade with Muslims. What happened to European economies and culture after they reduced trade with the Arab world?

LA replies:

“All historical civilizations exposed to Islam experienced progressive metastatic extermination… ”

I agree that that’s both true and a telling metaphor.

“What happened to European economies and culture after they reduced trade with the Arab world?”

I wasn’t aware that avoiding the Islamic world was a motive for looking for a western ocean route to China. I thought it was mainly to avoid the time and rigors of the vast overland journey. But it would make sense that avoiding dealing with Muslims could have been a factor.

James R. writes:

I think that for a liberal or right-liberal to reach the conclusion you want them to by making those points, they’d have to reject liberal premises first, or along the way of doing so. They won’t reject the consequences of the ‘65 immigration model without also rejecting the premises and attitudes they support it with (which may or may not be all of those behind its passage).

This can happen with some, but I’m not sure this route is the most effective. Having been a (non-radical) liberal, I know it can happen. Once I started questioning some liberal premises I eventually rejected many.

This suggested approach may work with some; different arguments work with different people. But I don’t think that, as constructed, it will be very effective, primarily because it contains within it several premises that first must be accepted by the person you aim to persuade, which they are not yet convinced of (or they would not be liberals), including the premise that there is something about Islam as a whole, or non-western immigrants as a whole, that is distinct, and that there is on the other hand something distinct about our civilization, something distinct that is worth preserving (that is, not their knee-jerk “yes, there is something distinct! Colonialism, racism, and xenophobia, as embodied in your effort to exclude these oppressed peoples!”)

In my experience going about it the way you recommend is to get involved in the tar-baby of counter examples, the usual tropes that are thrown in your face (“how is Nidal Hasan different from Tim McVeigh?”—and most liberals no nothing about McVeigh, as evidenced by the very question, and the fact that they’ll often assert he was Christian and conservative).

Pointing out that a particular argument is unlikely to be widely effective, less effective than other possible arguments that could be more persuasive, is not in and of itself a council of despair by the way. Only an assertion that nothing will work and thus “we’re doomed” (Derb’s mindset, which then makes one wonder why he bothers) would be a council of despair.

No one argument is likely to persuade, but a variety of argument that undercut liberal premises and show the flaws and true consequences of liberal practice. To that end, yes, arguments about the effects of unlimited unassimilated “multicultural” immigration are important. But the nose of liberals need to be rubbed in the effects of this on things they care about, which will highlight the paradoxes and contradictions of liberalism and how it is destroying the very things it claims to hold most dear.

LA replies:

I’m not sure I agree. A person, a moderate liberal, could say to himself that Muslim immigration is a unique case and ought to be stopped, without his rejecting immigration generally. I’ve seen mainstream Christian conservatives have something like that reaction. I’m thinking of the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. Once in a luncheon discussion group I made the case against Muslim immigration, and he allowed for how Muslim immigration might be a problem, while Hispanic immigration (all those wonderful Catholics, hah) was not.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 24, 2011 06:10 PM | Send

Email entry

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):