Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Sunday, November 22nd, 2015.


ISIS and the Teabaggers

Obama Administration

Andrew O’Hehir may be the only good reason to read Salon any more, but he’s a really good reason. The latest article begins,

Amid all the terror and panic and xenophobic hysteria of the Paris aftermath — which seems to have set the dial on the political Way-Back Machine to about 2002, at least for now — Republicans actually have a point. Maybe it’s half a point, because when Donald Trump or Ted Cruz (or Marine Le Pen) raise the contested question of whether Islam is compatible with democracy, they don’t really understand the basic terms of the question, let alone where it leads. …

,,,It gives me absolutely no pleasure to insist that on this question, as on others, the Islamist militants of ISIS and the anti-Islamic Western right have reached the same conclusion. To put it more bluntly, every major Republican presidential candidate (excepting one or two of Jeb Bush’s multiple personalities) largely subscribes to the political and philosophical worldview of ISIS, except when it comes to final eschatological questions about who ends up in Paradise.

Indeed, in both cases the idea that Islam and democracy are incompatible is more like an essential premise than a conclusion, and the kinship goes much deeper than that. Both sides begin with the same diagnosis, which is that Western civilization faces a fundamental, existential crisis, and arrive at closely allied prescriptions aimed at producing closely related outcomes. In one case, Western democracy is seen as a corrupt and decadent sham that will simply be destroyed (and perhaps, in some fantasy future, subjugated to Islamic rule). In the other, Western democracy is corrupt and decadent and so on, and it must be destroyed in order to save it.

Lots of people analyzing the GOP meltdown over terrorism have pointed out that ISIS wants us to be afraid; it wants us to be mean to the Syrian refugees and order up more drones and generally give the Middle East more reasons to hate us. That is why they do what they do. Terrorism is public relations.

This point about the ideological marriage of ISIS and the Republicans has been made in various ways by various commentators since the Paris attacks — I made it myself in the immediate aftermath, even if I “buried the lede” — but I don’t think it can be restated often enough. Strategists of the Islamic State want Western regimes to persecute and marginalize Muslim citizens, crack down on immigration and squander their financial and political capital on a military response that is unlikely to produce a clear-cut victory and highly likely to harden anti-Western attitudes in the Islamic world. A similar approach worked brilliantly for Osama bin Laden in 2001 — better than he expected, I would guess — and ISIS possesses a far more sophisticated understanding of Western politics and culture than Osama and the old-school al-Qaida leadership ever did.

Today’s Right also is opposed to democracy, except perhaps as it existed in the late 18th century — as government of, by and for white property-owning males. How conscious the Republicans are of their own motivations I do not know. By now the Right loves its buzzwords — freedom! — but doesn’t love or even understand what the words stand for.

As strange as this may sound, I do not doubt the faith that lies behind the right-wing distaste for democracy, or at least no more than I doubt the conflicted zealotry that lies behind militant Islam. Both sides correctly observe that the various strains of post-Jeffersonian democracy in the Western world have been plagued with problems from the beginning, and now face a dire crisis. Both the Western right and fundamentalist Islam yearn to pull their societies back toward a purer distillation of faith and a collective sense of purpose, and what could serve that purpose better than an apocalyptic “clash of civilizations”? They see the salvation of their respective societies in the rejection of the flabby ideal of democracy, explicitly or otherwise, and its replacement with a more virile, more godly and more effective system.

Yeah, pretty much.

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