Much of what I've been involved in the last few months has been inaccessible to my old readers, foreigners who came here when I was a kind of Norwegian correspondent for the American blogosphere. Like in an expanding universe my network distance to the Americans has increased and a local galaxy has begun to form. That's what all those feeds in the right bar on the front page are, for those who can't read the language: Norwegian political/cultural/media blogs. With numbers came discovery, and media hype, and newspaper blogs, (one if which I write in), in many ways an echo of what happened in the US three years ago.
I posted a Norwegian version of Fighting European Islamism in the political group blog of Dagbladet, a national newspaper. They had a front page link to the post up for a week, generating about 450 comments. Dagbladet is a left-leaning tabloid, and I've made fun of them often enough. So what kind of response would you expect from its readers to a post about Islamic terrorism?
I've done a quick survey, looking at what people posted in the first two days of the debate. The view most commonly expressed was not far from mine: Islamist terrorists are evil fanatics and a real threat, but a friendly Islam is possible and should be encouraged. No "but we have to look at why they hate us", just plain revulsion and recognition that we have a problem. On second place, the idea that Islam itself is evil, and Europe's Muslim population a danger to us. Some of these views were racist, most were not. Third, that Bush and Blair were behind the attacks, not al-Qaeda, (referring to conspiracy websites), and fourth that the West is the real problem, and Bush and Blair the real criminals.
The opposite, then, of what you'd guess based on the stereotype of the leftist European. Dagbladet is more tabloid than leftist, and no online debate is representative, but still. I had no idea. What surprised me most was how popular the idea that Islam Is Evil has become. Not a watered down version of it, but the lazily generalizing, scripture-misquoting kind best described as Islamophobia.
I don't know how this happened. Or where all those anti-American terror apologists went, the ones I targetted so often in this blog's early days. Did they ever exist outside closed circles in media and academia? Were all those bestselling Michael Moore books as quickly forgotten as they were read? Have people been secretly passing around Oriana Fallaci instead?
I have another answer. All that self hating liberalism that conservatives seem to worry about is a very thin skin. Europeans live geographically closer to the Arabians, and some have preceeded the United States by a tiny bit in the same direction we are in danger of heading. Humanity hasn't much changed in the last few thousand years - and we are in danger of coming to understand the ancient logic of ethnic cleansing. I know, nobody in Europe is suggesting it - but if you don't believe the battle can be won by being more civilised than they than how? I'm on the side of civilization, but it does pay to understand that it is an achievment and not a state of nature. To eliminate it, do we need to understand how close in some ways we are to the historic peoples who practiced it?
Wednesday, August 24, 2005