America Alone, Christianity and Islam, Christopher Caldwell, Christopher Hitchens, Counter-Jihad, Defend the modern world, Demographics of Europe, English Defence League, Eurabia, Mark Steyn, Oriana Fallaci, Pamela Geller, Paul Berman, Sam Harris, United States, Zionism
The Counter-Jihad movement (and its underlying intellectual tendency) originated in different places, depending on who you ask.
For some, ‘Counter-Jihad’ sentiment is merely the delayed reaction to 9/11 by the Western moral majority, with the delay usually attributed to political correctness and a lack of organization in the years following the attack.
For others, it was the work of the ‘New Atheists’ which first prepared the ground for popular ‘Islamophobia’, and by this they usually intend the work of Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.
For me though, the real turning point, and the one which has enabled the loud, confident voice now afforded to us, was the publication in 2006, of a polemic entitled ‘America Alone: The End of the World as We Know it’, by Canadian author Mark Steyn.
Outside of actual events (like 9/11, 7/7 etc..), this slim volume ranks as one of the most commonly cited reasons for independent conversions to the anti-Islamist cause both in Britain and America. Time and time again, I read or hear people say something like the following –
“I was absolutely convinced by the whole Left-wing argument. I opposed the war in Iraq. I thought the West was evil and trying to steal the oil and that terrorists were just reasonably angry people fighting back…. But then I read this book called ‘America Alone’, and I switched sides overnight.”
That’s quite something. Great polemical books are known to make you question your beliefs, but it usually take a few of them to spin you exactly around.
There are, of course, a great many other talented authors within this tendency. I’ve mentioned elsewhere the work of Oriana Fallaci, Fjordman, and Paul Berman. Steyn’s book however, unlike the work of these authors, does something more than convince you of a certain position; it makes you pity those who aren’t convinced, embarrassed that you were ever aligned differently, and desperate to go out and persuade others …
The explanation for the book’s quasi-religious power is simple: Mr Steyn is a very funny man indeed.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I like the other authors mentioned immensely, but they all – to varying degrees – neglect the resource of humour as a means of potentiating their arguments, and this is a shame. One can read their books (the content of which addresses precisely the same topic as Steyn’s) and be nothing but depressed, shocked and occasionally stirred to action. By contrast, one can guiltlessly relish reading about pretty much any subject – terrorism, mass-murder, Fascism, American decline etc… so long as it is Mr Steyn describing it.
I am currently reading the follow-up to ‘America Alone’, which is called ‘After America: Get Ready for Armageddon’. In this volume, the author turns away from Europe to consider the prognosis of the American economy should it continue with the Socialist experiment initiated by President Obama. As with the previous book, there is much ‘laughter in the dark’ to be had here, as well as some substantial arguments worth pondering further. Also as in ‘America Alone’, Mr Steyn slips regularly in and out of the comedic voice in order to perfectly frame each argument. The resulting narrative hits the target perfectly.
It might sound like an insult, but Steyn is not just an involving writer, but a very skilled propagandist; his writing is instructive for anyone wanting to learn the art of persuasion, whether for an ideological or personal cause. Consider this nicely phrased and gently stirring excerpt:
“Micro-regulation is micro-tyranny, a slithering, serpentine network of insinuating Ceaucescu and Kim Jong-Il mini-me’s. It’s time for the mass rejection of their diktats. A political order that subjects you to the caprices of faceless bureaucrats or crusading “judges” merits no respect. To counter the Bureau of Compliance, we need an Alliance of Non-Compliance to help once free people roll back the regulatory state.”
That’s so much better than the dry, mechanical, graduate language of the modern press, don’t you think?
On his website, Mr Steyn is not advertised as a strictly comic voice, but more as an independent journalist, similar in kind to those popular on the American radio circuit. I suppose this is accurate enough; the author can be drab and serious when it serves his argument to be so.
But it’s the ability to make people laugh when they should rightfully be crying that has won Steyn global acclaim.
His work provides valuable evidence of the power of comedy to carry a political message to greater distances than sobriety and exactness alone.