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After Paris

Brendan O’Neill of Spiked writes of Paris one week after. About the lack of passion:

It’s the feeling you’d expect to see following a natural disaster, when tragedy is inflicted on people by forces beyond our control, rather than after a conscious, bloody, moralistic attack, on the citizens of Paris and the values of France. The flower-laying, the books of condolence, the exhortations not to give ISIS our hate because that is what it wants… this has all been good and decent and moving. But where’s the fire? The anger? …

Yes, it would have been disastrous if there had been an anti-Muslim uprising after Paris. So thankfully, overturning the dire fears of media elitists, there was no pogrom. But fire doesn’t only have to take the form of cravenly torching a mosque. There can be moral fire. Political fire. A fiery commitment to defending the values that were attacked: in this case the value of a free and open society.

He’s right. Passion to defend freedom is missing (both in Europe and in the U.S.). But I can think of half a dozen reasons why.

Maybe it’s because passions have been manipulated so often into some powermonger’s disastrous war. Sensible people are tired and wary of that. Maybe it’s because so many have been so brainwashed into thinking that no set of values, no one civilization or aspect of civilization, is superior to any other. Therefore millions are missing the very concept of a moral high ground. Maybe it’s because people have forgotten that there’s a difference between defending Western values and submitting blindly to Western governments that have increasingly abandoned those values in their limitless pursuit of an endless “war on terror.” Maybe it’s because, in places like France, one of those values (free speech) is being suppressed and criminalized in an attempt to placate the very thugs who wrought their havoc in Paris.

Maybe it’s because whoever “wins” in the big global terrorism battle, all people see for themselves is helplessness and loss of freedom.

I owe Pat a hat tip for finding the Spiked piece. But I’ve been collecting similar writings all week. A lot of them are good in themselves, but the writers seem lost. They’re disturbed but appear to have no idea where anyone should go from here. The undercurrents are ominous, though. The things they don’t say worse than the things they do. They hint and await politicians to say other words aloud.

Peggy Noonan writes about changing perils and foolishly unchanging leadership. She has a point. But I can’t help but notice she’s writing in the “War Street Journal.”

Niall Ferguson warns that Paris feels like a scene in the fall of Rome. True. Yet his piece, too, has a drumbeat of war about it.

Charles Moore offers a British viewpoint vs the ghastly excuse-making of John Kerry. Again, so much right, but again, the war drums beating in the background.

And another war is the last thing we need. Want things to get even worse? Oh yeah, have another war. Or escalate one of the many existing ones.

But I stand by what I wrote the other day. The attack on Paris was an attack on Western values and Western civilization — which are already staggering from rot within.

There are a hell of a lot better ways to defend both human life and humane values than the murderous, terrorist-inspiring inhumanity of yet another Middle East war.

When I talk about values and civilization, I’m talking about just that. I’m not talking about Western governments; they were helpful as far as they mostly stayed out of the way and provided a few basic organizational services. But they’ve been as uncivilized as any (and have piled up even more bodies thanks to technology and superior force). I’m talking about values that found one of their greatest expressions in our own Bill of Rights (an anti-government document appended to a government one). I’m talking about civilization in the sense of the amazing feats of prosperity, civility, and intellectual achievement fostered by individual freedom.

That’s what the barbarians of Paris are attacking. To them, all that’s made us great is just decadence. (How ironic that some of the foulest savages on the planet consider themselves to be on a moral crusade while calling all of us “crusaders,” consider themselves superior to the rest of us while committing mass slaughter and individual acts of utmost brutality.)


But what can anybody do — except what we hereabouts always do; try to go on living free no matter what barbarities terrorists and governments (but I repeat myself) engage in?

Donald Trump wants to bring back waterboarding. Several R’s are vying to outdo each other with proposals for more surveillance, more databases. Oh yeah, that’ll help a lot. Neocons want not only more war but more militarization domestically. (And the people advocating these things have about as much concept of Western values as the terrorists do.)

The uber-government “security establishment” wails and rails about the horrors enabled by encryption when in fact the ISIS agents were working in the open. When in fact “authorities” had a multitude of the usual chances to halt the usual suspects — and as usual ignored warnings or failed to follow up on what they knew.

And the same old script plays over and over again.

ISIS itself seems to be the only player departing from the familiar. (That link is a must-read, BTW.)

I find I have a lot more to say — about how ISIS does indeed represent Islam (though of course we must issue the obligatory caveat — not all of Islam) despite all the #terrorismhasnoreligion prattle — about how Islam and Arab culture* are fundamentally incompatible with everything that made the free, vibrant, successful West so exceptional in history. But this is thick stuff to delve into and will only raise pointless arguments.

The main point now is that we should be angry and passionate and more ready than ever to preserve individual rights. But other than cherishing those rights in our own lives, and being ready to preserve them … the questions of how? and what next? loom.


* More precisely, the submission-at-swordpoint violence of Islam and the Arab culture that spawned the bitter religion and the Middle Eastern and North African cultures that fostered and continue to foster it today.


  1. Bill St. Clair
    Bill St. Clair November 23, 2015 6:45 am

    I’ll reiterate what Claire revealed to me earlier. The CULTURE of some Islamic states is wrong. Islam itself, the practice of bowing five times a day towards Mecca, intoning Persian wazifas, and wishing peace to everyone you meet (As-salamu alaykum) is a glorious spiritual practice. Don’t mix them up.

    I agree that the terrorists are attacking western values. And our governments, in supposed response to those terrorists, are ALSO attacking western values. We must remain unafraid, unterrorized, and prepared to defend our values, with lethal force if necessary. A distributed threat can only be countered by a distributed response.

    The islamist attacks are also due to blowback, a problem that the war response exacerbates. This doesn’t justify those attacks, but I can fully understand. I don’t care what rhetoric or fancy uniform the guy who kills my kid spouts. He will die.

    The real problem is that western values are incompatible with government. That’s what makes people think it makes any kind of sense to go to war against those who are “like” the ones who harmed their loved ones. We’ll do better to convince people to always resist imposed authority, Larken Rose’s “Most Dangerous Superstition”.

  2. Claire
    Claire November 23, 2015 7:24 am

    Well said, Bill. Well said, well said, well said.

  3. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty November 23, 2015 7:43 am

    Yes indeed, Bill… we must always resist imposed “authority.” And we must do whatever we can to help others recognize how much of that imposed authority they have accepted as legitimate and even necessary to their survival.

    I’m not really sure what is meant here by “Western values,” but I do know that involuntary government is ultimately incompatible with individual liberty, regardless of the rhetoric.

  4. Shel
    Shel November 23, 2015 9:30 am

    I can’t help but wonder how complicit Fearless Leader is in all this. Such concern stems from his promise to Medvedev over an open mike that he could give the Russians a better deal after the election, to a refusal to use the term “Radical Islam,” to an unprecedented response by analysts to his senior advisors’ refusal to acknowledge their dire assessments of the situation among other things.

    Is this just part of a long term plan, and Syria happens to be the country du jour? Clark certainly talked about things before they happened. Russia is now in the way in Syria, and that certainly puts a damper on things.

    Even if the West doesn’t do anything effective there still are gains to be made in controlling citizens of the West.

    It’s fascinating to me that in the article cited above about ISIS’ departing from the familiar that their biggest worries are financial. That mean’s Trump’s advice (as a smart businessman) is to bomb the oil fields.

    And should an old video be rediscovered, we might be faced with more embassy attacks.

  5. Claire
    Claire November 23, 2015 9:43 am

    I’m not really sure what is meant here by “Western values,”

    How about individual liberty, ML?

    Including (among many other things):
    Property rights
    Freedom of speech
    The freedom to choose one’s own religion (or choose none)
    Freedom of association, assembly, and protest
    Right to self-defense
    The understanding that even minorities have rights that can’t legitimately be infringed
    And the freedom to pursue one’s own peaceable interests unmolested

    And yeah, yeah, I know one of our purists is bound to point out that some of these great virtues have been trampled on or disregarded in many ways. But as long as they we honor them and strive toward them we’re a vast cut above the Middle Eastern cultures we’re now taught to accept uncritically.

  6. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty November 23, 2015 10:19 am

    None of those values has ever been a real part of the involuntary government of America – or any other country. I don’t think that they are unique to the “west” either, but I don’t see that it matters.

    They are and have been the values of a great many individuals over the eons, and I don’t think that’s ever going to change much. Culture is what communities do with their individual values. Everyone thinks theirs are superior, which is inevitable. I don’t see any benefit in comparison, myself. If some in any culture are aggressors, the peaceful individuals just need to defend themselves. (And stop enabling them in so many ways, of course.)

    The major difference I see in this Muslim question is their obvious disrespect for life, even their own. We can only speculate on what that will mean for the future, of course, but I think it is telling that there have not been many (any?) serious “terrorist” attacks here. Maybe their dedication to die isn’t as absolute as we thought? Or as they’d like us to think…

  7. Claire
    Claire November 23, 2015 11:34 am

    “None of those values has ever been a real part of the involuntary government of America – or any other country. I don’t think that they are unique to the “west” either, but I don’t see that it matters.”

    I was pretty clear that I wasn’t talking about governments. On the contrary.

    That said, though, the U.S. did begin with some very anti-government founding principles that hobbled aggressive government for a while, ensured that government would initially be limited (and in some areas limited for the long term), and enabled very specific values of freedom to flourish.

    Not perfectly, no. In some cases (notably, slavery and the eradication of natives, not to mention the Japanese internment) catastrophically horrible. But enough to build on an existing culture and let thrive a new culture unique in all the world.

    Sure a few individuals throughout time have always rejected the tribal norms and gone their own way — often at terrible personal cost. But only in the West (and more in certain parts than others) has there been an entire culture built around enabling the individual to flourish.

  8. Laird
    Laird November 23, 2015 11:49 am

    I’m sorry, but I don’t agree with Bill. Bowing five times a day toward Mecca is not a “glorious spiritual practice”; it is abject submission not fit for thinking human beings. In fact that’s precisely what Islam is: its very name means “submission”. I submit voluntarily to no person and no ideology, and I don’t respect, let alone glorify, anyone who does.

    I also don’t buy the “blowback” argument. Yes, there may be individuals who are driven by it, but Islam has been at war with the west for 1,000 years and “blowback” has had nothing to do with most of that. Read ISIS’s own literature: it never talks about “blowback”. Islam is fundamentally incompatible with western values. Blaming particular acts on “blowback” merely serves to excuse their barbarism.

    Brendan O’Neill puts his finger on the problem in that linked article which began this thread: We no longer believe that our hard-won western values are superior to those of other cultures. We have been betrayed by our leaders, the progressives and especially the cultural elite into thinking that all cultures are equally meritorious. They are not. I hold no brief for any religion, but some are clearly superior to others. Islam is a debased ideology, founded on the teachings of a psychopath and fit only for barbarians. It is morally inferior to every other religion of consequence on the planet. Until we are prepared to state that openly, and to believe it, our culture has no chance of surviving. And, indeed, it does not deserve to survive.

  9. Laird
    Laird November 23, 2015 11:55 am

    Western civilization is founded on property rights, the rule of law, and a general respect for individual liberty (freedom of speech and religion, etc.). If MamaLiberty doesn’t think that is “unique to the west” her knowledge of history is sorely lacking. I don’t know another society in the history of the world which embraced those values as we have.

  10. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty November 23, 2015 1:54 pm

    My point exactly, Laird… no “society” has embraced the value of individual liberty, and may never do so. It is entirely an individual thing. I’ve known people from all over the world, and so few are self owners. But there are some, here and there, almost everywhere. I’ve met some of them… and not all were from the west.

    No “society” has actually operated on the premise of individual liberty, America included. All societies function on the premise of some legitimate “authority” of a central control, to one extent or another, without any mechanism for individuals to opt out. The involuntary government that is the inevitable result assumes owner ship of the people and their property along with the land mass they control.

    I studied history for most of 50 years, both world history and religious history. I don’t believe much of it is accurate… remember that the victors write the history.

    No, as far as I can see, individual liberty, self ownership and self responsibility is rare as hen’s teeth, but we can never know how many people truly live with those ideals. It isn’t in the history books very often.

    I’m not interested in being the judge of someone else’s life or culture. If they want to kill and subjugate each other, I don’t really care much. I don’t feel superior. I just want to be left alone to live my life as I wish too.

    We are far, far more apt to be attacked and killed by the minions of the involuntary government right here in the US – in every city, town and wide spot in the road… than any other people on earth. I don’t worry about the jihadi crazies 1/100th as much as I do the local city council. They have a much greater opportunity to destroy my life… and everyone around me seems to think they have some “authority” to do so – just maybe not “too much.” The power to tax is the power to destroy. I don’t see how that fits very well with those western values at all.

    And you simply cannot separate the “culture” of America from the government, really, because most people seem to think that they are the same and their choices and actions would tend to prove it. How many times were the Clintons and Obummer “elected” again?

    I simply reject all their claims to authority.

  11. Bill St. Clair
    Bill St. Clair November 24, 2015 4:42 am

    Laird, you’ve made a common mistake of confusing your mental concept of a spiritual practice with its reality. Surrender to natural law is not optional, whether you call that law science or God or Allah. You learn to accomplish your goals within that framework. A spiritual practice is a conscious choice to learn about the natural laws that govern your self, unlearning everything you’ve been programmed to believe to reveal reality. I no longer do Islamic five times prayer, but I meditate every day. It helps.

  12. Laird
    Laird November 24, 2015 7:59 am

    Bill, words written down by (or ascribed to) a deranged barbarian warlord are not equivalent to “natural law”. In fact, that is the antithesis of natural law. And voluntarily subordinating one’s capacity for rational thought to what some self-appointed religious “leader” tells you is the “will of Allah” isn’t a “spiritual practice”, it’s simply the abnegation of your humanity. Meditation is a fine practice, whether it leads to self-reflection or merely to relaxation and stress relief. But meditation forms no part of Islam because introspection does not serve the “will of Allah”. Just do what you’re told.

    Mama, I won’t argue with you about whether some society anywhere has ever truly embraced “individual liberty” as you conceive it, but you cannot deny that western society (notably in the US) is founded on the core concepts of property rights and the rule of law. Those concepts are notably lacking in almost every other society elsewhere in the world and throughout history, and without them it is almost impossible to achieve anything approaching individual liberty. They form the environment in which those predisposed to liberty can find it. A human society which does not embrace those values cannot hope to approach any semblance of “freedom”, and is thus inferior by my definition.

    You say, “I just want to be left alone to live my life as I wish too.” So do we all. But good luck with that when you’re facing an ideology whose central tenet is to deny you that freedom. If you don’t want to “judge” that culture, if you aren’t willing to assert that your claim to individual autonomy is superior in moral terms to those who would subjugate you (whether for religious or political reasons), then you will lose whatever freedom you have. And you will deserve to lose it.

  13. Laird
    Laird November 24, 2015 8:04 am

    Addendum to my last comment: I have adopted what is reputed to be the motto of the Addams Family: “Sic gorgiamus allos subiectatos nunc.” (We gladly feast upon those who seek to subjugate us.) I plan to have it inscribed on a plaque on my front gate.

  14. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty November 24, 2015 8:33 am

    No, Laird, I have no problem at all asserting my claim to individual autonomy. That’s why I carry a gun, though it is far more complex than that, of course.

    I certainly _can_ deny that western society or culture was founded on the principles of individual liberty, just as you can believe anything you wish. If those values had been the actual foundation, we (and much of the world) would not be living in the police state we now enjoy. That seems incredibly obvious to me.

    Now, “western values” have long been talked about, written about and many have done their best to live by them, but they are not the dominant feature of life today anywhere in the world. Conversely, while giving lip service to freedom, people all over the world demonstrate daily that they are the property, subjects, slaves to the “leaders” they believe have that authority over them. Somehow, the two just don’t mesh well.

    And I have far, far less to fear from Muslims or any other culture than I do of those who dominate the “culture” in the US today. That also seems seriously obvious… whether the western culture is “superior” or not.

  15. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau November 24, 2015 9:26 am

    [Read ISIS’s own literature: it never talks about “blowback”.]

    Their statement about this event specifically called out French policies. Blowback is exactly what this is about. Without imperialism, without western occupation of Middle Eastern countries, and the installation of puppet governments, many Muslims would still probably hate Christianity (and vice versa) but that hatred would not rise to the level of these terror attacks. People do not sacrifice themselves because their opponents have lots of nice shoes to shop for.

    [I was pretty clear that I wasn’t talking about governments. On the contrary.]

    Here are some more western values:
    Marxism and communism.
    Degradation and dependence via welfare.
    The control of populations via media (e.g. Edward Bernays)

    Yes, those things are definitely about governments. That is the problem when using a catch-all term like “Western values”. You can’t really separate the good from the bad, the ruling class actions from what the peons think and do. In fact that is why the ruling class loves that term. It’s like politicians going on about “America”, as they do everything they can to degrade it.

    We’d be better off if we eliminate this talk about values, stop using self-serving ruling class jargon to express what is going on here. ISIS are fighting us because of imperialism, not because “they hate our freedom”.

    [We no longer believe that our hard-won western values are superior to those of other cultures.]

    That is only plausible if one conflates government action with western values. If you remove imperialism and other ruling class action from “western values”, then that is simply false. No, people do not believe true justice is no better than the Islamic version. They may well believe that the corrupt criminal “Justice System” we now have to deal with (along with such things like the War on Drugs and civil asset forfeiture) is little better than sharia law – and they are right to think that. 2.3 million Americans in jail? That’s from western values?

    Laird, you need to read this book if you now think that only westerners have valued liberty:

    [I don’t worry about the jihadi crazies 1/100th as much as I do the local city council.]

    Yes. Think about the people who have the MOTIVE, the MEANS, and the HISTORY of subjugating you. Every time you write a check for taxes, or slow down when you see a cop, you are being imposed on. It ain’t jihadis.

  16. Shel
    Shel November 25, 2015 11:24 am

    A friend who lives in the area told me about this meeting (he did not happen to go) a few days ago.

    He is unsympathetic to their cause, as am I. He does not agree with the conclusion that the “timing of the meeting was poor;’ he’s quite convinced it was intentional. My recollection is that part of Islamic belief holds that any spot from which you can see a mosque lies under the control of Allah, so placing a mosque at a prominent intersection would be quite a coup.

    My concerns are practical; I fear we may well be watching the early stages of a clash of incompatible civilizations in this country that could last for generations, with only one side having the determination to prevail.

  17. Claire
    Claire November 25, 2015 12:22 pm

    Shel — I share at least some of your practical concerns, as you know. But this (from the article) is just bigoted BS and is shameful: “Nobody wants your evil cult,” and “Every one of you are terrorists. I don’t care what you say. I don’t care what you think.”

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