I haven’t read Dinesh D’Souza’s new book, The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11. Nor have I read any of D’Souza’s old books. D’Souza resides in Deep Wingnuttia, a place I do not go. But if Alan Wolfe’s review of Enemy is halfway accurate, D’Souza’s fellow wingnuts might be having second thoughts about him.
D’Souza has told interviewers that his book is about the causes of 9/11. According to this interview, these causes can be traced back to President Jimmy Carter’s failure to prevent the Shah of Iran from being overthrown — a variation on the Right’s traditional “who lost China?” theme. The other cause is “values that are being globally pushed by the left.” These “values” are what persuaded Muslims that America is their enemy. Corporatism, economic globalism, U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, support for Israel — D’Souza denies that any of these things triggered bin Laden’s fatwas against America. No, it was the Left’s values — “gambling, adultery, fornication, prostitution, undermining the family.”
According to Alan Wolfe, D’Souza respects bin Laden as a righteous guy doing what had to be done:
At first Dinesh D’Souza considered him “a dark-eyed fanatic, a gun-toting extremist, a monster who laughs at the deaths of 3,000 innocent civilians.” But once he learned how Osama bin Laden was viewed in the Muslim world, D’Souza changed his mind. Now he finds bin Laden to be “a quiet, well-mannered, thoughtful, eloquent and deeply religious person.” Despite being considered a friend of the Palestinians, he “has not launched a single attack against Israel.” We denounce him as a terrorist, but he uses “a different compass to assess America than Americans use to assess him.” Bin Laden killed only 3,000 of us, with “every victim counted, every death mourned, every victim’s family generously compensated.” But look what we did in return: many thousands of Muslims dead in Afghanistan and Iraq, “and few Americans seem distressed over these numbers.”
There’s enough stuff in that paragraph alone to keep you gasping for a while. But let’s go on —
D’Souza’s cultural relativism hardly stops with bin Laden. He finds Ayatollah Khomeini still to be “highly regarded for his modest demeanor, frugal lifestyle and soft-spoken manner.” Islamic punishment tends to be harsh — flogging adulterers and that sort of thing — but this, D’Souza says “with only a hint of irony,” simply puts Muslims “in the Old Testament tradition.” Polygamy exists under Islamic law, but the sexual freedom produced by feminism in this country is, at least for men, “even better than polygamy.” And the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s statement that the West has a taboo against questioning the existence of the Holocaust, while “pooh-poohed by Western commentators,” was “undoubtedly accurate.”
D’Souza’s in mid-shark jump at this point. Wolfe continues (emphasis added),
Dreadful things happened to America on that day, but, truth be told, D’Souza is not all that upset by them. America is fighting two wars simultaneously, he argues, a war against terror abroad and a culture war at home. We should be using the former, less important, one to fight the latter, really crucial, one. The way to do so is to encourage a split between “radical” Muslims like bin Laden, who engage in jihad, and “traditional” Muslims who are conservative in their political views and deeply devout in their religious practices; understanding the radical Muslims, even being sympathetic to some of their complaints, is the best way to win the support of the traditionalists. We should stand with conservative Muslims in protest against the publication of the Danish cartoons that depicted the Prophet Muhammad rather than rallying to the liberal ideal of free speech. We should drop our alliance with decadent Europe and “should openly ally” with “governments that reflect Muslim interests, not … Israeli interests.” And, most important of all, conservative religious believers in America should join forces with conservative religious believers in the Islamic world to combat their common enemy: the cultural left.
The shark, it is jumped.
I can’t help but think of what Richard Hofstadter wrote of McCarthyist Cold War redbaiting in Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (Vintage/Random House, 1962), in particular pp. 41-42 (emphasis added):
The inquisitors were trying to give satisfaction against liberals, New Dealers, reformers, internationalists, intellectuals, and finally even against a Republican administration that failed to reverse liberal policies. What was involved, above all, was a set of political hostilities in which the New Deal was linked to the welfare state, the welfare state to socialism, and socialism to Communism. In this crusade Communism was not the target but the weapon, and it is for this reason that so many of the most ardent hunters of impotent domestic Communists were altogether indifferent to efforts to meet the power of International Communism where it really mattered â€” in the area of world politics.
Alan Wolfe also brings Joe McCarthy to mind when he writes,
“The Enemy at Home” is clearly designed to restore his reputation as the man who will say anything to call attention to his views; charging prominent senators and presidential candidates with treason can do that.
That was McCarthy’s pattern, also. He began by charging foreign policy experts in the State Department with treason, and by the end of his volatile career he had charged General George Marshall, President Dwight Eisenhower, and the United States Army with treason. He had no one left to charge but God.
But I give D’Souza credit — he seems to be dragging the social pathology that is Wingnutism into the light, if not all the way into the petri dish. Many of us have noticed for a long time that there are frightening parallels between extreme Christian fundamentalism and extreme Muslim fundamentalism. Many of us have noticed that righties’ full-throated cries in support of freedom of speech only apply to Danish cartoonists, not to critics of the Iraq War or Christian fundies or anyone else the Right identifies as fellow tribesmen. It has been well noted that righties are, at heart, authoritarians who are terrified of freedom (per Eric Fromm).
But while most righties lack the moral strength and courage to be honest with themselves about themselves — their literature promotes “freedom” and “liberty” as ideals even as they crusade to destroy freedom and liberty — D’Souza’s latest rantings might be seen as an attempt at honesty, transparency, even. Perhaps he has looked deep into himself — well, half an inch into himself, anyway — and realizes that freedom must be crushed if his vision of moral utopia will ever come to pass. At some level he may be dimly aware that achieving his moral vision requires surrendering to totalitarianism. And if that’s what it takes, he thinks, so be it.
Alan Wolfe concludes,
Like his hero Joe McCarthy, he [D’Souza] has no sense of shame. He is a childish thinker and writer tackling subjects about which he knows little to make arguments that reek of political extremism. His book is a national disgrace, a sorry example of a publishing culture more concerned with the sensational than the sensible. People on the left, especially those who have been subjects of D’Souza’s previous books, will shrug their shoulders at his latest screed.
And that would be too bad, because we may never find a clearer revelation of the dark heart of wingnutism. We liberals should take D’Souza’s book firmly in hand and commence bashing the Right with it.