Let's Just Call It 'The Muslim Question'

Last week Islamic terrorism in Paris hit the ruling class where it lives, in the media.

It's tempting to think of the Islamist threat and its terrorist outrages as special and unique and unprecedented. But suppose we just call it “The Muslim Question.” Then it has a curious familiarity; it seems like an echo of something we've heard before.

I'll tell you what that something was. It was the “Social Question” of the 19th century. All the right people then agonized over the cruel exploitation of the working class by the callous bourgeoisie, just as all the right people today agonize over the danger of old white men and their Islamophobia.

The right people all agreed back then that the Social Question required a political response. The smart Jewish kid Karl Marx and his trustafarian friend Friedrich Engels came up with a revolutionary response. Their plan was to enlist the working class in a civil war against its capitalist exploiters. Then there was the Fabian/Progressive response, what I call “little darling” politics, which experienced the working class as special snowflakes in need of maternal care and feeding. And in need of treats.

In the United States the Social Question was experienced more as an immigration crisis. First it was the Irish, tumbling out of the “coffin ships” more dead than alive, followed by the southern Italians taking ship from Genoa, and the Jews escaping the 1905 pogroms. After these three groups had assimilated to the American Way of Life, a new migration got started, with African Americans from the rural South, Hispanics came from Latin America, and Asians from all over.

In our time the revolutionary response and the “little darling” response to the Social Question have merged into what I call the “activism” culture. Our educated ruling class teaches that there are three kinds of people: the oppressors, the oppressed and the champions of the oppressed. The only ethical choice is to march and peacefully protest on behalf of the oppressed and fight the oppressors.

Life is pretty black and white to these champions of the oppressed. Any group newly immigrating to the Western city is automatically awarded victim status and anyone that questions the “little darling” politics of the activists is an “-ist” -- racist, sexist – or a “-phobe” -- homophobe, Islamophobe.

Up to now, all this activism has been great fun for the ruling class and highly remunerative for its bribed apologists because the post-WWII group of immigrants played their victim parts to perfection. They allowed the liberal ruling class to speak for them, and marched and protested more or less as directed. They never really posed an existential threat to the ordinary assimilated middle class, not enough that ordinary people might break with the ruling class and turn to “extreme nationalists” for leadership.

But now we are face to face with the Muslim Question, the question of the millions of Muslims that have immigrated to the West in the past generation and that have remained peculiarly separate from the Western culture, partly by reason of the cultural strength of Islam and partly from the multiculturalist ruling class that encourages their “little darlings” in self-segregation.

The conservative analysis on the Social Question and the Muslim Question is that the working class then and the Muslims now are not so much exploited and marginalized as not yet socialized to the culture and economy of the city. Conservatives want to help the immigrants teach themselves the ways of the city and its exchange economy. We think that to truckle to their tribal, agricultural-era prejudices is to fly them into a box canyon.

We conservatives interpret the past century as an existential fight against two bloody movements of reaction. There was Communism – 100 million deaths -- that longed for a return to the community of a primitive communism; then there was Fascism – 20 million deaths -- that longed for the comfort food of tribe and land, blood and soil. It took a world war and a cold war to turn back these murderous atavisms.

Now the post-industrial West is digesting a new immigration. And it's also facing a new atavism, one that wants to revert to the tribalism of the desert.

The question about the Muslim Question is whether the Muslims will get with the program, as did most previous waves of immigrants to the city, or whether they will require what Charles Dickens' Murdstones called “firmness,” as was needed for Communism and Fascism.

My guess is that our modern liberal ruling class had better decide for firmness before the people decide for them. Perhaps their Sunday march in Paris was a start.

You might wonder about this march of the oppressors, led by the champions of the oppressed against the Muslim oppressed. I couldn't possibly comment.

Christopher Chantrill @chrischantrill runs the go-to site on US government finances, usgovernmentspending.com. Also see his American  Manifesto and get his Road to the Middle Class.