The British essayist is back with “The War on the West”. According to him, the culture war is a “deadly threat”
In his new book (The War on the West, French translation scheduled for August at the Artillery), the British essayist Douglas Murray analyzes the cultural offensive led against the West. More thirsty for revenge than justice, racialist ideologues are ready to do anything to destroy our identity.
We are at war. True, there is a war, in the literal sense of the word, with Russia, which the Western powers are waging by proxy in Ukraine. But there is also a war – often described as “cultural” – against the West: against its values, its heroes, its systems of knowledge, its museums, its churches, its institutions of government, its economy. And this is a war waged from within. This is the thesis of the new book by Douglas Murray which, in its French translation, is entitled Knock down the West. According to him, neither the scope nor the stakes of this conflict should be minimized. This is not a simple quarrel between intellectuals or academics, but an existential struggle for our very identity. The strategy of the aggressor is as simple as Russian military doctrine: the attackers surround a target – institution, statue, reputation, thinker, work of art… – and bombard it until it is reduced to dust, until no one can any longer regard it as a great achievement of the spirit, the embodiment of social progress or a source of pride. The attack is global, targeting the entire West, and no country is immune. In France, we often take ourselves for the village of Asterix, protected from these Anglo-Saxon follies by universalism or secularism, but these principles are only two other accomplishments of the West to be trampled on. If the assaults begin on the psychological and cultural ground, they are destined to take on a legal and political dimension and aim at the destruction of democratic liberalism as well as the capitalist system.
Whiteness, original sin
Douglas Murray’s previous book, The Great Unreason, released in English in 2019, was a forerunner to the events following the 2020 murder of George Floyd. It already provided a succinct catalog of the ideologies that would inspire the most extreme claims of statue busters and antifa rioters. His new book returns to these events, revealing their causes and the logic of their sequence. He offers us a model to follow, proposing arguments to oppose the enemies of the West, while advocating adopting a calm and patient tone to dismantle their perverse systems of thought. Indeed, we are too accustomed to being indignant or laughing at the latest example of wokist absurdity. In doing so, we fall for the trap, indulging in a passing emotion instead of seeing the overall strategy of the deconstructors.
Thus, Murray shows how, when the BLM protests erupted, ideologues were already waiting with a ready-made narrative to channel that anger. The “1619 Project”, initiated by The New York Times in August 2019, told an alternative history of the United States which located its origin, not in the declaration of independence of 1776, but in the arrival of the first black slaves in 1619. The journalist who carried the project, Nikole Hannah-Jones , whose work has been rewarded with a Pulitzer Prize, publicly repeated that the goal was indeed to replace the date of the founding of the United States, until the pressure of criticism from historians forced him to backpedal with the most bad grace. The newspaper discreetly erased references to this notion on its site. However, the idea was launched: the most powerful country in the Western world was only a slave nation.
Everything that characterized America was born in slavery. As part of the project, a sociologist, Matthew Desmond, published an essay claiming that capitalism and even accounting were the products of Southern plantations. When the murder of George Floyd explodes on the screens, it is perceived by many citizens as the latest episode in a saga of injustice, exploitation and violence. Consequently, all positive symbols of the American history. Iconoclasts begin with statues of Confederate leaders, before moving on to those of Unionists who ended slavery. They end up attacking any white man with any connection to American history, whether it’s Christopher Columbus or Washington, called a “genocidal”.
In Europe, the same attempt to erase history by unbolting the statues of philanthropists, thinkers and men of power deemed imperialist has had more moderate success, although the cancel culture continues to spread its tentacles more discreetly in universities and schools. media. Murray reveals telling exceptions. Karl Marx’s writings are peppered with anti-Semitic remarks and expressions of contempt for non-Europeans. It does not even condemn slavery explicitly. Yet in 2018, a huge statue of Marx was gifted to his hometown of Trier by the Chinese state. If it has not been the object of any violence, it is because Marxism continues to be a fundamental lever of the anti-Western campaign.
Since American and more generally Western history is allegedly born in the original sin of colonialism, the latter taints all white people and characterizes “whiteness” (whiteness). Critical race theory and its popularization, in bestsellers such as white fragility Where How to become anti-raciste, explain that only whites, being in a position of privilege, can be racist and that, moreover, they all are so by definition. The White is condemned to fall into a trap: if he explains that he is not racist, it is still proof that he is, because he is so racist that he does not even see it. Any objection based on law, tolerance or reason is irrelevant. These notions are inventions of whites. Of these, the enemies of the West can tell the worst horrors. For African-American activist writer Damon Young, whiteness is “a virus which, like other viruses, will only disappear when there are no more bodies to infect”. Whiteness is contagious: it can be caught by non-whites who internalize its attitudes.
After the 2020 presidential elections, The Washington Post Talk about “multiracial whiteness” to describe non-whites who voted for Trump. In a speech at Yale, a psychiatrist of color talks about her desire to empty a gun into the skull of the first white person. An Indian professor at Cambridge shares on Twitter her desire to break the kneecaps of all white people. Such remarks about any other group would be denounced as racist. So what if you’re white? Humble himself, collaborate in erasing his own history and donate money to an organization of anti-Western activists.
West, presumed guilty
Reading the book, it becomes apparent that the West is subject to three sources of pressure whose effects are cumulative. First, there are the most obvious external enemies: the authoritarian regimes of Russia and China. The latter, in international forums, evokes the sins of the West to divert attention from its own misdeeds. Then there are the formerly colonized countries that demand reparations from Western nations for imperialism or slavery, while selling themselves out to authoritarian countries economically or militarily. Finally, there is the internal pressure of criticism from citizens of Western countries who claim, against all evidence, that the problem of racism there is more serious than ever in history. And who ignore that racism exists in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Murray underlines this inconsistency in a chapter devoted to China.
Our anti-Western activists like to talk about the opium wars and drug exploitation of Chinese people. But they prefer to ignore the fact that the latter have taken terrible revenge today by manufacturing synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, responsible for the epidemic which is devastating the American population. In 2020, 93,000 Americans died from it. Mao, who is responsible for the death of some 70 million of his fellow citizens, is less hated by our militants than Churchill.
Xi Jinping has introduced a re-education system for ethno-religious minorities. Nearly a million Uighurs are held in camps where some are tortured, women raped and sterilized. Yet he is less hated than Trump. Murray recounts how, on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 2021, the new US Ambassador speaks at the UN. She recounts at length the racism she faced growing up and calls slavery a ” original sin “ of America, before mentioning the persecution of the Rohingyas in Myanmar and the Uyghurs in China. The Chinese ambassador retorts that an American has no legitimacy to criticize other countries on human rights, a tactic that the Chinese use regularly. Only Western companies have made their self-criticism. But the willingness to push this self-criticism ever further undermines the West’s willingness to criticize the worst abuses elsewhere in the world.
Requests for repairs materialize this double pressure coming from outside and inside. At the Durban World Conference Against Racism in 2001, where dictator Fidel Castro received a standing ovation and anti-Semitic proclamations chanted, the Atlantic slave trade was condemned and reparations demanded. The only debate for many delegates is whether it is individuals or states that should benefit from compensation. Authoritarian leaders in developing countries prefer states. In 2021, British Labor pledges to compensate all communities around the world who have suffered from colonialism. According to Murray, the money paid by the British state after the abolition of slavery, to compensate for that of the companies holding slaves and to finance the naval operation to track down the slave ships, was almost the equivalent of the wealth that slavery had brought to the nation. Such costly moral action has rarely been seen in history. It doesn’t matter: the West is still guilty.
A dish served cold
The issue of compensating individuals for slavery was launched in America in a 2014 article by journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates. The subject is being debated by the Democratic candidates for the presidential primary in 2019. It would be a great transfer of wealth between ethnic groups, the terms of which defy logic. Should a DNA database be established to decide who gets money and who pays it? And why compensate the descendants of the victims of the Atlantic slave trade rather than the Arab or Ottoman slave trade? Not to mention the victims of slavery which continues to plague the world.
If the West alone is considered guilty, it is because, Murray explains, its enemies are motivated by resentment as defined by Nietzsche. The requests for justice – and reparations – are in fact requests for revenge. Certainly, it was necessary to correct the too triumphalist vision that the West had of itself until the Second World War. This work has been undertaken for a long time by historians, and we have arrived at a more nuanced judgment on the good and the bad that colonization and the development of capitalism have done. But this correction is no longer enough: the world as the West has built it must disappear and with it the Judeo-Christian civilization, as well as the heritage of the Enlightenment. Justice, rational and impartial, is blind; but revenge, emotional, is blindness.
Douglas Murray, The War on the West. How to Prevail in the Age of Unreason, Harper&Collins, 2022; in French, Knock down the West. Culture war is a deadly threat (L’Artilleur, to be published in August).
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Douglas Murray. The West, the ideal culprit – Tribune Juive