Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Book Review


"United in Hate" aims to answer one of the most perplexing questions in contemporary politics: why does the Left so often support and take the side of Islamic jihadists whose values are anathema to those that the same Leftists purport to uphold? Why do Leftists consistently pour scorn on their own societies while heaping praise upon totalitarian dictators and terrorists?

Jamie Glazov's new book is the most complete examination yet of the Left's informal alliance with radical Islam. It begins by providing a psycho-social explanation as to why the Leftist (who the author refers to as "the believer", in deference to Eric Hoffer's famous book The True Believer) ideology so often results in hatred for one's own society and support for dictators and murderers. Glazov provides the following formulation:

The believer's totalitarian journey begins with an acute sense of alienation from his own society - an alienation to which he is, himself, completely blind. In denial about the character flaws that prevent him from bonding with his own people, the believer has convinced himself that there is something profoundly wrong with his society - and that it can be fixed without any negative trade-offs. He fantasizes about building a perfect society where he will, finally, fit in. As Eric Hoffer noted in his classic The True Believer, 'people with a sense of fulfillment think it is a good world and would like to preserve it as it is, while the frustrated favor radical change.'...

In rejecting his own society, the believer spurns the values of democracy and individual freedom, which are anathema to him, since he has miserably failed to cope with both the challenges they pose and the possibilities they offer. Tortured by his personal alienation, which is accompanied by feelings of self-loathing, the believer craves a fairy-tale world where no individuality exists, and where human estrangement is thus impossible. The believer fantasizes about how his own individuality and self will be submerged within the collective whole...

As history has tragically recorded, this 'holy cause' follows a road that leads not to an earthly paradise, but rather to an earthly hell in all of its manifestations. The political faith rejects the basic reality of the human condition - that human beings are flawed and driven by self-interest - and rests on the erroneous assumption that humanity is malleable and can be shaped into a more perfect form...[O]ne hundred million human beings [have been] sacrified on the alter where a new man would ostensibly be created.

At first I was not totally convinced by Glazov's hypothesis, as it seemed too much like pretentious double-speak and/or mere speculation. However, in the next section, Glazov illustrates his formula by documenting how the Left, for exactly the reasons he describes in Chapter 2, above, revered and supported the communist tyrannies of Stalin, Mao, Castro and others. This whole section puts the above "theory" into observable and demonstrable practice and serves as a perfect background to the modern liberal love affair with Islamic jihad.

The next section examines the ideology of the jihadists themselves, and explores the psychological ramifications of Islam's violent, intolerant and misogynistic doctrines on those who take them seriously, and how these constructs mirror those of the Left.

Finally, Glazov documents Leftist support for radical Islam in the wake of the 9/11 atrocities, quoting abundantly from self-loathing left-wing bigots such as Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore. As Glazov writes: "[T]he new generation of believers found their own idols in the terror war. The romance with Islamism is just a logical continuation of the long leftist tradition of worshipping America’s foes."

Amidst a raft of documentation and examples, the author explains the liberals' tortured logic:

An added ingredient in this equation is the Left’s sacred cow of multiculturalism. The believer cannot accept the truth about Islamism or much of Islam, because he would then have to concede that not all cultures are equal, and that some cultures (e.g., America’s, with its striving for equality) are superior to others (e.g., Islam’s structure of gender apartheid). For the believer to retain his sense of purpose and to avoid the collapse of his identity and community, such thoughts must be suppressed at all cost. Because he seeks to nurture his self-identification as a victim and to lose himself inside a totalitarian collective whole, he must deny the truth about the object of his worship, as believers of previous generations denied the truth about Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, and other totalitarian societies.

Because of these factors, the believer clings to a rigid Marxist view of the terror war, no matter how much empirical evidence proves that Islamist violence has absolutely nothing to do with economic inequality, class oppression, or Western exploitation. This is why, when Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi justify their terror with references to the Koran, and when Zacarias Moussaoui casually explains in court that he was simply following the Koran’s directive that Muslims must make Islam the world’s superpower, the believer always turns a deaf ear.

This is a long tradition of the Left: progressives have always assumed that they understand the world much better than the people for whom they purport to speak. In terms of the terror war, there exists an obvious and profound racism in the believer’s disposition, since the implication is that Muslims and Arabs are not bright enough to understand their own circumstances, and therefore their explanations of their own actions cannot be taken seriously.

Thus while bin Laden, Zarqawi, and Moussaoui may insist that the holy jihad is motivated by the desire to spread sharia throughout the world, to erase individual freedom, and to kill, convert, or subjugate infidels, the Western leftist is constrained to rationalize that they are saying such things only because they have been hurt by capitalism and Western imperialism. As David Horowitz points out, the leftist holds the Marxist perspective that religion is nothing more than a thought structure rooted in suffering under capitalism. Once the oppression stops, the believer assumes, the Islamist conceptions of Allah and jihad (which the believer privately considers ridiculous but would never dare say so in public) will simply disappear. Believers, therefore, inevitably deny the Islamic dimension that the terrorists themselves insist is their impetus for terror.

Dealing in specifics, Glazov also covers the leftists' defense of Islamic gender apartheid and their hatred of Israel. Regarding the latter, he makes an unconvincing case that Leftist hatred for Israel is based primarily on antisemitism, an increasingly common right-wing position that I have always opposed because of its striking similarity to the equally imaginary phenomenon of "Islamophobia". Ultimately, some of the other explanations the author presents are far more accurate and persuasive than the "Jew-hate" line.

Overall, United in Hate does the best job of any currently published work of explaining why the Left frequently romances with tyrants and terrorists. It is recommended reading for all those who value Western freedoms and wish to defend them against the totalitarian ideology of jihad.

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