December 5, 2010
Multiculturalism Hits the WallBy J.R. Dunn
As year ten of the long war looms, the "multicultural" paradigm for defense against terrorism has slammed into a brick wall.
Recent developments reveal a policy in terminal disarray. The public revolt against the TSA, the ridiculous and humiliating Ghailani verdict, the still-simmering Financial District victory mosque controversy, and even the unmasking of the false Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour in Afghanistan have highlighted the absurdity of attempting to meld the "multicultural" worldview with any serious effort against jihadi terrorism. And yet, government officials directly responsible for the defense of the country, from Obama, Holder, and Napolitano on down, insist on maintaining the "multicultural" paradigm despite undeniable evidence of its failure.
Multiculturalism has effectively controlled American security policy as regards terrorism from the very beginning. Islam, we were assured by no less a figure than George W. Bush, was "a religion of peace." Critical resources were invested in curtailing any "backlash" against American Muslims by the evil-minded white Christian majority. Organizations of dubious provenance, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), and the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), were appointed official representatives of American Muslims.
What did these attempts to bend over backward under the prompting of an abstract academic intellectual construct accomplish? Absolutely nothing. Bush was excoriated both here and overseas by the very people he was working to protect. The great anti-Muslim backlash never happened (as Jonathan Tobin reminds us). The advocacy groups have all been revealed as fronts for Hamas. Few policies, official or unofficial, have such a pristine record of failure. Few have hung on more tenaciously.
Multiculturalism is the most recent, and perhaps the final, expression of the late 20th-century left-wing ascendancy. It is a completely synthetic doctrine, formulated without reference to any perceptible element of the quotidian world. Although derived in format and rhetoric from the civil rights movement, it has no relationship with the ideas or hopes expressed by King, Abernathy, Rustin, or any other legitimate civil rights leader. While the civil rights movement was founded in opposition to the odious practice of legal racial segregation, multiculturalism had no such concrete agenda. It was based almost completely on abstract academic theories derived in equal part from black racial extremism and Marxism, purporting to define the relationship between the dominant "white" race and all other races.
According to multicultural theory, the "white" race (never further defined) forms a privileged oppressor class, forever and completely at odds with members of other races. The relationship between races is presented only in terms of power, in which the oppressed races became in effect a proletariat awaiting liberation through revolutionary activity. Under these terms, every action taken by the white oppressors is illegitimate, while those taken by the "subaltern" races are justified, no matter what their evident nature and intent. As a global theory, multiculturalism possesses universal applicability under all circumstances. Every aspect of racial and ethnic relations must be seen through the multicultural lens.
It would be difficult to find a theory to beat multiculturalism for sheer vacuity. It ignores the fact that numerous groups among the "oppressor" race, such as the Irish and Jews, have been historical victims, while the "oppressed" races have often victimized in their turn when they have occupied the top slot. (Arab treatment of sub-Saharan Africans marks only one instance.) For these reasons among others, multiculturalism gained no greater a foothold with the American public than its political models, socialism and Marxism. Although the left attempted throughout the late '80s and '90s to force multiculturalism on the country through its activist PC component, the effort went nowhere. Americans as a whole rejected the doctrine as yet another bizarre fixation of the intellectual class.
There were two exceptions -- the academy, whence multiculturalism arose, and the government bureaucracy. On campus, multiculturalism remained one of the weird things that academics believe. In the bureaucracy, it became another expression of bureaucratic stupidity and intransigence, which did not prevent it from having an impact, limited but malignant, on the country as a whole.
That was the status quo in September 2001. After 9/11, the response of the country's intellectual leadership was straightforward: to react exactly as set forth by multicultural doctrine. The U.S., as a white European oppressor state, was obviously at fault. The Islamist jihadis, all members of an oppressed subaltern race, were victims, no matter what appearances might otherwise suggest. The belief system was up and running; all it needed was factoids to be plugged in.
All the same, the response of the left was muted in the immediate wake of the attacks. Only a handful of left-wingers spoke up in their accustomed manner, to scuttle back into the shade and damp when public agreement was not forthcoming. The most notorious of these comments was Michael Moore's posting characterizing the jihadis as "minutemen ... and they will win." A near match came from a nameless, forgotten California pol who asked, "America -- what have you done?"
An angry and disdainful public response momentarily shut down such sentiments. But these comments did speak for tens of thousands of silent true believers. The atrocity was explicable in familiar multicultural terms -- it was "whitey" (America) that was actually to blame for the attack, while the jihadis, far from being murderous thugs, were in truth romantic rebels, so many adorable Ches gazing off into the radiant multicultural future. The left kept its counsel and waited.
They did not have to wait long. Public contempt did not last, due in large part to failure on the part of the administration to confront the left. The Bush White House found it extremely difficult to actually put a name to the enemy, going through epic contortions rather than admitting any connection to Islam. At the same time, leftist figures engaging in what amounted to sedition were not arrested, prosecuted, or even rebuked, but instead allowed to continue undermining American unity undisturbed. No government figure, from Bush on down, ever publicly attacked such people. It should have been done. But such confrontation was not the style of George W. Bush, and asking for it would have been asking him to be a totally different president.
Leftist boldness increased as the environment of public opinion deteriorated. Both trends were fed by irresponsible news stories attacking such initiatives as the Patriot Act, exposing anti-terror programs such as international wiretapping, and retailing lurid fantasies such as the "Koran-in-the-toilet" story reported by Michael Isikoff. All of these embodied the multicultural narrative to one extent or another.
The watershed came with the Abu Ghraib scandal, in which an out-of-control National Guard unit amused itself by hazing jihadi prisoners while stupidly preserving the violations on camera. Amid the massive publicity surrounding Abu Ghraib, the entire system of dealing with jihadi captives became fair game. Guantánamo Bay, possibly the least rigorous prison camp ever erected (at least until the Dutch or Swedes have need of one), was transformed into a place of Gothic horror, with Lovecraftian tortures an everyday occurrence. The practice of waterboarding had its hour onstage as a form of "torture." Since torture requires at least the threat of disfigurement or death, waterboarding was clearly no such thing.
The multicultural paradigm was put into full play, the imagery of imperialists tormenting poor third-world victims calling up memories of every historical violation from antebellum plantation whippings to the torture sequences of the classic leftist agitprop film, The Battle of Algiers. Such tableaux were virtually part of the public subconscious, their meaning inherent. They spoke for themselves, requiring nothing the way of explication or commentary. (Such imagery can be found in the Abu Ghraib photos as well, where the mindless guards had the brilliant inspiration of dressing one prisoner in what looked to be a clown's version of a KKK outfit.)
Against this visual evidence, rational arguments -- that only three jihadis were ever waterboarded, that each was a leading figure, that evidence existed in each case that innocents might be in danger (a circumstance believed by attorney Alan Dershowitz among others to fully justify torture) -- had no chance. The campaign against terrorism, begun as the noblest of efforts (and remaining so in most minds), was degraded to the popular image of the Vietnam War -- a brutal imperialist rampage against innocuous brown people carried out for much the same reason as the Athenians' excuse for destroying the city of Melos: "The strong do what they will; the weak endure what they must."
The 2008 presidential election offered the country a way out: Barack Obama, that magical, superhuman melding of black and white America, would square the multicultural circle. The plantation at Guantánamo would be closed immediately. Torture would be forever banned. With his vague (and ever vaguer) connection to Islam, Obama would launch a new era of comity with the worldwide Umma. Jihadi victims would be endowed with full American civil rights, Mirandized, allowed as many lawyers as they could possibly use, and given civilian trials, the same as any citizen. America's image would be restored, its reputation cleansed, its soul returned to it.
And so it came to pass with the defeat of the old white guy and the crazy frontier woman with all them guns. American policy became consciously multiculturalized. This has remained the case for the past two years. The result has been unmitigated disaster.
Multiculturalism's first failure involved the Gitmo facility, which Obama promised to close as a symbolic gesture within weeks of taking office. Symbolic it was to remain. For obscure reasons, officials across the country were unwilling to allow murderous, malevolent religious fanatics to be transferred to prisons in their localities. The schedule slipped and then evaporated without comment from the administration. Two years into Obama's term, Gitmo remains the prime resort destination for jihadis worldwide. Multiculturalism had encountered practical politics. Multiculturalism lost.
A similar uproar greeted the matter of civilian trials. Eric Holder, the most incapable attorney general in living memory, attempted to schedule a trial for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the linchpin figure of the World Trade Center conspiracy. He insisted on not only a civilian trial, but a trial held in lower Manhattan, within earshot of the WTC site itself, an act of pure ritualism on the same logical level as holding a drunk driver's hearing next to the stop sign he ran. But Holder's dreams were laid low by the response from Mayor Bloomberg and the New York congressional delegation, aghast at the thought of spending perhaps hundreds of millions to turn lower Manhattan into an armed camp and a target for jihadi terrorists from across the world. Over a year later, prize captive KSM remains untried.
But it was the Transportation Security Agency's response that most insulted the intelligence and endangered the public. TSA procedure was tailored to meet multicultural norms from the beginning. No effort was spared to avoid any sign of profiling. This law-enforcement technique had come into disrepute during the '90s, when it was revealed that a standard practice of the New Jersey State Police was to stop expensive cars on state highways containing young black men. Profiling became another one of the infinite sins of white America, even though it was a demonstrable fact that many of those Beamers and Porsches contained large amounts of illegal drugs being transported to New York City and points north. To avoid the taint of profiling, the TSA adapted what amounted to a policy of absolute mathematical randomness, in which airline passengers were halted and searched according to no rational pattern. This led to searches of small children, elderly women, the visibly ill and crippled, nuns, and numerous other menaces to national security. The result was open public contempt and the reduction of the TSA to sheer ineffectuality -- of recent major airline attacks, not a single one was countered by the TSA. All were curtailed by airline passengers.
But certainly the nadir of the multicultural security paradigm came with the case of Major Nidal Hasan. A severely disturbed religious fanatic whose every recorded utterance and action revealed white-hot hatred for his own country and adoration for the Islamist cause, Hasan went unconfronted by Army authorities throughout his military career. Quite the contrary -- the story provides clear evidence of an institutional culture in which no criticism or questioning of any Muslim under any circumstances could be risked. The cost of this self-imposed blindness was thirteen dead and nearly three times that many wounded after Hasan went berserk at Fort Hood.
All the same, multiculturalism remained the grail of the Obama administration. The country was to continue following the Messiah President down the diversity highway no matter how many cliffs it went over. The lion was going to lie down with the lamb, no matter how many lambs served as dinner beforehand. While Gitmo and KSM might be postponed out of political necessity, multiculturalism continued ruling all other aspects of official terrorism policy. (One example can be found in the Army's official report on the Fort Hood massacre, which in its entire length failed to mention Islam and attributed Hasan's lethal outburst to personality factors.)
So we come to 2010, nearly a decade into the long war, and the year that conceivably will be looked back upon as multiculturalism's Little Big Horn (if that is not found offensive to our Native American readers). The year has seen one demented comic skit follow another, each turning on aspects of the multicultural response to jihadi terrorism, many of them skidding straight to the edge of chaos and perhaps beyond, leaving the multicultural paradigm barely hanging on.
The first of these, last spring, involved the Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris, who in a fit of whimsy attempted to defuse the uproar over cartoons depicting the Prophet with a suggestion for an "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day." This was accompanied by a cartoon which in fact did not depict Mohammed. Perhaps overlooking this, the bluff, no-nonsense Anwar al-Awlaki issued a fatwa condemning Ms. Norris to Hell at the hands of any available Muslim. In response, the FBI told her that they'd like to help her out, but... Her own editor Brent Jones kissed her off with a note that should become a byword in sheer pusillanimity. No one else responded at all. Even Obama, known to give lengthy orations every time a cat scratches a flea, remained silent. Ms. Norris slipped into limbo to almost no notice from the mass of left-wingers eager to "speak truth to power" as long as the power in question does not worship Allah.
Lesson: a primary driver of multiculturalism is cowardice.
The summer was in large part given over to a public debate concerning the New York "victory mosque," a Muslim "community center" proposed as a replacement for a building so close to the WTC site that it had been heavily damaged during the attack. Spearheading the effort was an imam named Feisal Abdul Rauf, one of those lucky individuals chosen by the government as a representative of Islam. Rauf was employed by the State Department to plead the American case to Muslims overseas.
The mosque controversy was one of the encounters that sets the public at large in direct opposition to the elite. Americans as a whole were repelled by the proposal, while academic, media, and government figures (among them Bloomberg and Obama) feigned incomprehension. Though perhaps this was not a pose -- in the multicultural scheme of things, it was the public opposition that was incomprehensible. Rauf was a member of a subaltern group, and his opponents were the oppressor class, so...well, we know how that goes.
The effort fell apart when it was revealed that Rauf was a slumlord with numerous barely habitable properties in New Jersey, that his partners were even less savory, and that his "foundation" was effectively broke. At last report, Union City had seized one of his slum properties at the same time that Rauf was seeking a multimillion-dollar loan from the federal government.
Lesson: multiculturalism cannot distinguish between hustlers and legitimate figures.
As the year waned, the administration's civilian trial program also tottered to a shabby end. Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was a precious character, a longtime jihadi who played a key role in the 1998 bombing of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Those attacks resulted in 224 deaths and over 3,000 injuries. The case was considered so open and shut that it received scarcely any attention, up to the point where Ghailani was acquitted of 224 charges of murder and 60 other serious charges. He was convicted only of the relatively trivial charge of conspiracy to destroy government property.
There were two reasons for this ludicrous verdict: Judge Lewis Kaplan's decision to bar most government evidence on the grounds that it was the fruit of "torture" (that is, waterboarding), and a single recalcitrant juror of a type not unknown in New York City. Though Kaplan promised a full sentence of twenty years, he added that Ghailani could be held as an enemy combatant in any case. The verdict gutted the government's justification for civilian trials and acted as a strong indication that no further such circuses would occur.
Lesson: multiculturalism and the law don't mix.
Multicultural terror policy spiraled into sheer dementia with the introduction of the TSA's new airport antiterror strategy. The previous Christmas holiday was marked with an attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to bring down an airliner over Detroit by means of a bomb sewn into his underwear. Nearly a year later, the TSA, no doubt after deep consultation, millions spent on studies, and lengthy discussions among Obama, Napolitano, Holder, and a cast of thousands, came up with a countertactic: a choice among passengers of either submitting to a nude scan (with a high probability that the images would be saved) or an obscene groping by TSA agents.
This insane policy was scheduled weeks after a series of package bombs revealed that al-Qaeda had once again shifted its tactics. It was, furthermore, to be introduced in the runup to the holidays, the busiest season for commercial flying. Whether these decisions were made by TSA head John Pistole, Janet Napolitano, JoJo the Dogfaced Boy, or some combination of the three is impossible to ascertain.
The program met with total resistance from the public, marked by confrontations with officials, open arguments, and refusals to cooperate. TSA agents were particularly brutal in their "groping." As it turned out, this nastiness was official policy, intended to drive passengers to choose the scanner. A San Diego man, John Tyner, achieved the status of mythic hero by refusing both search methods and an order to remain until he was "cleared" (a previously unknown aspect of security procedure).
Public resistance became focused on "Opt-out Day," the day before Thanksgiving, traditionally the busiest flying day of the year, when thousands of fliers would refuse both alternatives, bringing airports to a standstill and forcing the TSA to back down. As it happened, Opt-out Day passed with no disturbances. While the legacy media crowed of a TSA victory (as is almost always the case these days -- media lined up with government against the people), numerous tweets from airports reported that the scanners had been shut down and roped off. The TSA had backed down, if only surreptitiously.
The most irrational aspect of the strategy lay in the fact that it was, once again, designed to avoid profiling at any cost. Both the groping and scanning were effectively occurring at random, presenting no insurmountable barrier to a potential terrorist operation. Such a system can easily be overcome by sending in a large number of terrorists at once. If one or two are caught, no matter -- the others can do the job.
Adding to the TSA's incoherence is the fact that the world's most successful airport security system is that of Israel, which is based on conscious behavioral profiling. Well-trained agents search for certain behavioral cues and then confront possible terrorists in a manner designed to force them to reveal their intentions. Critics insist that the Israeli system is not exportable, because Israel possesses only a single international airport -- about as sensible an objection as claiming that you can't use traffic lights in towns with more than one intersection. More to the point is the fact that the Israelis stop more Arabs than any other group. (It's no coincidence that the Washington Post published an article over Thanksgiving weekend condemning the Israeli procedure as racist.)
Lesson: to sow multiculturalism is to reap the whirlwind.
Thanksgiving also saw a successful antiterror operation in which the FBI intercepted an attempt by a malcontent youth, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, to set off an enormous car bomb amid Portland, Oregon's annual Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, attended by up to 25,000 people. The operation appears to have been textbook, executed on a far higher level than similar recent incidents (the Times Square bomb being one example). But even here, the specter of multiculturalism raises its head. Mohamud was a Somalian refugee, the product of a government refusal to curtail immigration from the most lawless and anti-American regions of the Muslim world. Almost all jihadi terror attacks have been carried out by immigrants. The solution to this problem explains itself.
But multiculturalism played an even deeper and more disturbing role in the Portland incident. Portland is one of the most radical large cities in the United States. In 2005, the city opted out of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, in which the FBI works cooperatively with local police forces, as kind of a protest against the inhuman policies of the Bush-Cheney tyranny. The current mayor, Sam Adams, a peculiar figure with no connection to either the patriot or the beer, played a significant role in this decision as assistant to the previous mayor. It was for this reason that he (along with the rest of city government) was not informed of the emergency until it was over. A strange state of affairs: the population of a city saved, despite themselves, by agents of a government they despise.
We know how we got here. How do we get out? One thing is clear -- it's not a question of reform. Multiculturalism cannot be reformed because ideologies cannot be reformed. They are total dogmas in which each element plays a critical part in bolstering every other element. Eliminating one leads to the collapse of all. Government, academy, and media will not allow this -- multiculturalism as it exists is far too useful as a weapon and a mechanism for social control. So reform is out of the question. What cannot be reformed must be removed.
The problem is that there exists no particular impulse for reform or removal. Multiculturalism infests all levels of government, and no one involved sees anything wrong with the status quo. (For example, Andrew McCarthy points out that military commissions, considered by many an ideal alternative to civilian trials of terrorists, have recently fumbled two verdicts -- one being that of Omar Khadr, who murdered an American medic who was treating him after capture in Afghanistan. Khadr got only eight years. Osama bodyguard Salim Hassan, on the other hand, lucked out completely. He got five and a half years, including time served, resulting in his immediate release. The rot goes deep.) It is likely that we will simply stumble on as if lost in a haze until we suffer yet another large-scale atrocity.
The battle against terror is a race between rationality and luck. We have been very lucky so far -- lucky over Detroit, lucky in Times Square, lucky in Dallas, and lucky in Portland. But luck, as Fort Hood clearly reveals, won't last forever. When it fails, rationality -- intelligence, common sense, and trained intuition -- must be ready to take over. Multiculturalism is the enemy of all those factors. It is a set of blinders creating a state of tunnel vision. There are things that multiculturalism forbids us to look at. Soon enough, the attacks will begin coming from those directions, from out of those blind spots. The record clearly shows that we will not be ready to meet them.
J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker.