Francis, a Briton living and working in France (after a long stay doing the same in Italy), has been a frequent contributor to the buggy site with his comments on European life and attitudes, not least toward the USA in the Bush era. Those comments are invariably valuable and stimulating --- doubly so because they draw on his own personal experiences and observations, made all the sharper by his long efforts as a writer, both of fiction and non-fiction. Once again, he has left prof bug and the visitor here in his debt. Note that his comments have been slightly edited to make them more understandable to American readers.
From Francis, A British Citizen Living in France:
I'm glad to see you back writing Prof Bug. I'm not going to criticize your evaluation of the US because I agree with it and in any case you live there and I don't. However I disagree somewhat with your summary of European trends.
First a nitpicking correction: you mispelled the name of the the right-wing Belgian party; it's called the Vlaams Blok.
Second and more important, as you yourself note, the far right has been gaining support all over the EU, not just in Belgium, and the major cause is easy to isolate: the ongoing failure everywhere to assimilate Muslim immigrants. Up to now, mainstream governing elites of either the left or right have bungled this pivotal challenge. Either they've sidestepped it entirely or --- in some countries --- mishandled it when they did try something, however obliquely. Belgium is a case in point. The VB received 1 million votes in the last general elections there out of a population of 10 million (not the electorate, the population), and its level of support continues to grow despite universal condemnation by everyone respectable in politics, the media, universities, or the churches. The fact that the Belgium Supreme Court has just banned the party shows both a worrying lack of judgment and an extremely worrying lack of freedom of expression.
Then there's Holland, just across the border to the north. The reaction of the Dutch to the murder of Theo Van Gogh last week is doubly revealing here: more and more Dutchmen are unhappy with the country's political status quo, and the electoral success of Pim Fortuyn, before he was murdered two years ago, further reinforces this point. His right-wing populist party continues to be represented in the Dutch parliament, even though it doesn't have any members in the center-right coalition government.
In short, there's a major problem here, and in Holland and Belgium and all over the EU, the reaction of governing elites has generally been denial or misdirection.
All this, I believe, helps explains their anti-Americanism. By blaming Mid-East conflicts on those meddling Yankee cowboys in control allegedly of the powerful USA, the governing elites and their media and intellectual acolytes show their ignorance even as they hope, in demagogic fashion, to convince their populations to look elsewhere for their own home-grown problems --- especially growing racial frictions between Muslim communities and native Europeans. In the short run, perhaps, this diversionary tactic might work; it even helped Gerhard Schroeder to be re-elected in Germany back in 2002, when he won almost entirely because of his anti-American rhetoric. In the long run, though, the tactic will backfire. It only delays the need everywhere to tackle resolutely the threats posed by rapidly growing Muslim communities that are themselves increasingly alienated and at loggerheads with European secular life. In my view, the efforts to squelch or stigmatize the right-wing populists --- even responsible ones like Pim Fortuyn or at least some of the Vlaams Blok leaders --- are motivated in part by the fears of the governing elites, whether on the left or right, that their blatant failures to deal effectively with the challenge of fundamentalist Islam and the growing numbers of Muslim immigrants in West Europe will be exposed for what they are: bankruptcy in government.
There's more too. A double-standard is applied, it seems, to right-wing populist rhetoric that is deemed hateful or racist, whereas firebrand statements made by Islamic extremists are usually not prosecuted at all. Their hatred, it's said, reflects the shortcomings of European life, and the alleged grievances behind it need to be addressed. Call it hypocrisy or tunnel vision or what you want. Along with the anti-American diversionary tactics, the use of double standards here will likely have only one consequence: it will create more and more voters for right-wing populist parties and movements.
THE BUGGY REPLY:
RIGHT-WING POPULISM IN THE EU
Many thanks for your valuable comments, all of which call for some replies . . . some in agreement with your analysis, others at odds with them.
Belgium and the Vlaams Blok
As you note, I managed to misspell Vlaams Blok
, the Belgian right-wing populist party. A good lesson here. It would only have taken a few seconds to check the spelling in Google, something I just did.
One article that it brought up revealed that the VB
--- which enjoys active support from Le Pen's National Front party in France (where it draws the support of about 20% of the electorate) --- is now attracting about 1/4 of the vote in the Dutch speaking areas of Belgium, the Flemish region that has about 6 million of the country's total 10.3 million people. That's in national
elections. In local
elections, the party does even better. In Antwerp, Belgium's largest port city and overwhelmingly Flemish, it has gathered about 33% of the vote in local elections. What does the party stand for? Essentially two things: strict limits on foreign immigration, with a racist message --- very similar to Le Pen's National Front's position in France really --- and independence for the Flemish, the Dutch-speaking people of Belgium's federal system.
The former message has caused legal troubles for Vlaams Blok
. Just this week, as you note, it was found to be racist by the Belgium Supreme Court --- a ruling that will end any state financing that the other parties represented in the national parliament continue to enjoy. That said, the party hasn't been banned as you implied. It will just have to find financial support elsewhere. And you're no doubt right: it will likely continue to enjoy more and more support. That's also true of its equivalents elsewhere in the EU --- whether more moderate or more extreme --- as long as mainstream politicians of either the left or the right fail to tackle the major social and economic problems that all the West European populations have to confront: among them declining native populations, a rapidly growing numbers of retirees who live on state-pensions, and very slow or stagnant economic growth . . . not to forget growing unemployment of a structural short, especially high among young adults, and surges of violent crime all over the EU. In the minds of more and more West Europeans, many of these problems are entangled with the rapid increase in size of the Muslim communities, themselves increasingly fundamentalist in nature and in conflict more and more with European secular life.
Holland, probably the most advanced post-modernist country in the EU in matters of sexual and other freedoms --- a small country of 15 million who rightly took pride in their long-standing traditions of tolerance and respect for civil liberties --- is a particularly useful weather-vane of shifting sentiments. Not only have the Dutch awakened in the last two years to find that they're caught up in a horrific vortex of growing ethnic and racial violence, what with the killing of Pim Fortuyn two years ago and the recent jihad-inspired racist murder of Van Gogh, the film-maker, last week, but even more the multicultural illusions and dogmas, pc-style that were inviolate before 2002, have now been shattered . . . probably for good, with a big revulsion among the Dutch native population towards their Arab Muslim minority (Muslims accounting for about 9% of the 16 million number of people in that country).
We'll return to the Dutch case later on in this article. In the meantime, you'll find the reportage in the New York Times
November 14th, 2004, issue especially revealing here. Doubly so, come to that, because the American reporter, Bruce Bawer, had lived in Holland in the late 1990s, and was struck by the complacency and reluctance of his Dutch friends, acquaintances, and others he interviewed even to discuss the question of Dutch-Arab Muslim relations. All this has now abruptly changed. Click here
for the Times article.
Back To Right-Wing Populism in the EU, Extremist or Moderate
As the last line of argument left hanging fire before the sidebar comments indicated, I agree in large part with your analysis of why these right-wing movements have been snowballing in their growing support around the EU; and for that matter, several earlier buggy articles have set out the reasons why and the evidence for their big electoral breakthroughs of the last few years. (Start with these two links, though there are plenty more: 1)
) Whether in Belgium, Holland, Norway, Denmark, France, Austria, or Italy --- for that matter, in the eastern sectors of Germany --- those breakthroughs clearly reflect the failure of left-center and right-center Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum governments to respond effectively to the problems listed a moment ago.
Some of these populist right-wing movements --- in Denmark, Holland, and Norway --- have proved relatively moderate when they've shared power.
That's even true, surprisingly, of Joerge Haider's Freedom Party in Austria, though Haider had to resign the leadership back in 2000 when the Freedom Party got about a third of the Austrian vote and joined with moderate Conservative to govern the country. (Since then, Haider has returned more to the center-stage of the party's leadership, and its fortunes have fluctuated up and down.) Italy's right-wing coalition, led by Silvio Berlusconi, has to be considered moderate too despite some obvious extremist and racist elements in its ranks and the national parliament. In other EU countries, as in France or Belgium --- the eastern sectors of Germany too --- these populist right-wing surges are outrightly racist and extremist. As with Haider in Austria, they also voice a strong anti-Semitism --- Jews the historical scapegoat all over most of West Europe save, traditionally, in Scandinavia, Holland, and Britain whenever European life turns sour and Europeans feel overwhelmed by their home-grown problems and shortcomings.
A Brief Methodological Remark or Two
Come to think of it, Francis, one brief buggy dissent from your analysis, provocative and astute as it happens to be, is worth noting here.
Namely? Well, as a general thing, we all need to be wary of accounting for complex political or social phenomena by means of single-cause explanations . . . something that you, not trained as a social scientist (however mentally agile you clearly are), seem to have done here when you traced the bursting growth of far-right populist movement in the EU to essentially one issue: the surge in Muslim numbers, fundamentalism, and crime, generating a backlash among native Europeans --- particularly because of the failure of mainstream politicos of the left or right to confront this issue frankly and effectively. Agreed: the bungling and evasions of governing elites may be the major cause of right-wing populist breakthroughs, still on the rise almost everywhere in the EU save in Britain and Ireland; but it's not the only cause of this populist surge, far from it.
There are other causes as we'll see in a moment or two, which we'll flesh out in Parts Two and Three of the argument. First though . . .
. . . A Necessary Buggy Interlude To Conclude Part One
Why necessary? Mainly to clarify the buggy prof's own views on hate-speech laws in the EU (and US), the chief topic raised initially in Francis' commentary, and then dealt-with in bugged-out fashion in the last few paragraphs. Two or three personal comments will suffice, hopefully, to let visitors know where Prof Bug stands on this critical issue. Grasp them, and you'll be better able to make sense of what's going on in European politics and ethnic and racial relations these days.
Start with why . . .
(i.) Anglo-American Legal Traditions Don't Apply to the EU Continentals
As a convinced libertarian in matters of free speech, I share the long Anglo-American tradition of not trying to restrict any verbal or written expressions that do not have a direct and clear causal link to violent behavior against those being stigmatized verbally: African-Americans, Jews, Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans or what have you. (I add that I happen to be a member myself of one of these minorities; even so, I thoroughly supported the position of the American Civil Liberties Union back in the 1970s when a small neo-Nazi contingent wanted to march through a suburb of Chicago, the home as it happened of several hundred Holocaust survivors. In the end, the provocative march was held under American law, and no violence ensued.)
All this has been the reaffirmed position of the US Supreme Court several times now, starting with Justice Brandeis's views in a famous case a century ago: the right of free speech is unconditional except when it causes clear and direct physical harm, as when, he said, someone stands up and yells "Fire" in a crowded theater when there is no such fire.
Note though. This tradition makes sense within the context of Anglo-American political history and constitutional traditions. On the Continent of Europe, that history and those traditions are far different. In particular, given Nazi and Fascist control of all of Europe except for much of the Soviet Union in WWII and of course the opportunistic neutrals --- essentially pro-German, like Sweden and Switzerland --- vicious Jew-hating racism was so rampant and rife that all the governments in the occupied countries actively and energetically cooperated with the Nazis in the Holocaust exterminations. The exceptions here were Denmark, as well as two Nazi allies, Bulgaria and Finland, plus neutral if fascist-leaning Francoist Spain.
Needless to add, this mass-murdering racist violence in European life on the Continent in WWII was nothing new, rather 1000 years old.
In particular, it's been estimated in some historical studies, based on studies of public death-records, that half the Jews living in Europe after 1000 were killed by their neighbors . . . this before the Nazi Holocaust itself. In virtually every country of Europe, moreover --- Britain no exception --- Jews were also forced into exile en masse, these expulsions ceasing in West Europe only in the 17th century. A very ugly, violent history here. At no point in West Europe were Jews ever more than a tiny minority in the countries there; in Germany when Hitler came to power, Jews amounted to less than 1% of the 60 million German people. (Only in Poland was there a sizeable Jewish minority anywhere in Europe at the time, roughly 9-10% of the total population.) And so after WWII --- with democracy secured in West Europe for the first time in its history under American tutelage --- it's understandable that Belgium, France, Italy, Germany, and almost all the other democratic countries in the EU on the Continent have adopted statutes that outlaw outright race-baiting.
Unfortunately, given the ambiguities that surround the meaning of hateful racist speech, the application of those statutes --- as you rightly note --- has led to blatant double standards. The average Frenchman, Belgian, Dutchman, Austrian, Dane, and so on are perfectly aware of this. It's a major reason why so many have swung toward right-wing populist movements that note this hypocrisy, however hateful the rhetoric in some of the movements such as those in France, Belgium, and Austria.
(ii.) PC-Hypocrisies and Witch-Hunting Efforts on US Campuses
The same thing, by the way, has happened in those US universities that have adopted their own hate-speech codes, pc-style (UC Santa Barbara' faculty too sane to follow suit). Blatant hypocrisy has surrounded the efforts of politically correct professors and administrators to implement those codes. Not only have privileged minorities felt free to stigmatize other groups or even break into campus newspaper offices and destroy thousands of copies of an issue they didn't like, always with impunity until recently; but, invariably, whenever the legality of these codes has been challenged in the US courts, they have been found to be unconstitutional. Fortunately. The US needs such hate speech codes about as much as the Europeans need the Black Plague again. Fortunately too, as far as I know, no state in the Union --- never mind the federal government --- has ever implemented such hate-speech legislation.
What we do need and generally have these days is a swift and vigorous legal system that immediately retaliates and punishes violence and physical intimidation of minorities (or others). More recently, another legal tactic has been very useful in dealing with vicious race-mongers on the right: bankrupting them. As happened recently in northern Idaho aftersome neo-Nazis who lived on a country estate beat up a young man and his mother when they drove by at night, civil suits can be resorted to that, with punitive awards to the plaintiffs in jury trials, can shut the venomous racists down. That was the outcome in the Idaho legal case. As a result, the most prominent (if tiny) neo-Nazi group in the entire USA had to sell off its lavish country estate to pay the damages that the court awarded the mother and her son, and the penniless Nazi troopers, discouraged, were left to fend for themselves. Not long afterward, their tin-pot Fuerher --- a psychic case to the end --- died in poverty.
The moral here, Francis?
Well, I would urge you as a Briton to keep in mind the far different legal, political, and racist experiences of the EU Continentals, among whom you now live. The more violent the clashes between Muslim extremists and European natives become --- an increasingly likely trend, alas --- the more West Europeans on the Continent will need to have legal means to shut down the hate-mongers in the Muslim communities and simultaneously curtail the actions of the more vicious hate-mongers among Europeans.
(iii-a.) The Recent French Effort To Ban Islamic Symbolism in Their Schools
The same line of reasoning just unfolded applies, it seems, to the recent French ban on Islamic (or other religious) clothing or symbols in schools.
Once again, in the Anglo-American constitutional tradition, this ban makes no sense; it's even an affront to it. All over Catholic Europe, by contrast, the conflicts between clerical and anti-clerical forces dominated political life throughout all of the 19th and much of 20th centuries --- far worse and bloodier at times than ideological conflicts between left and right over class-based matters. The French public school system itself was created in the 1870s by the new Third Republic to create democratic citizens, at a time when the official position of the Catholic Church under Pope Piux IX's Syllabus of Errors, promulgated in the 1860s, categorically condemned liberalism, democracy, the separation of church-and-state, and workers' rights to organize trade unions and the like. The papal bull looked like an ex-cathedra doctrine demanding that Catholic countries run themselves along the lines of an imaginary hierarchical Medieval World.
Not surprisingly, all the threats to the new French democracy in the next 30 years came from Catholic-inspired militarists there, staging one coup attempt after another; and even after church and state were finally separated early in the 1900s, the conflicts between clerical and anti-clerical forces continue to flare in French life right down until the 1960s. (One French specialist even claimed on the basis of his studies that not one practising Catholic ever held an important ministerial post in the 65 year history of the Third Republic until its collapse in the aftermath of the German victory in May and June 1940.) For that matter, even Liberal French Catholic thinkers were further condemned by the Vatican after WWI, at a time when it supported the racist, quasi-fascist Action Francaise (a militant Catholic group of intellectuals that would feel very much at home in Le Pen's National Front --- which was eventually condemned by the Pope in 1926); and many of these liberals --- like Jacques Maritain, a famous philosopher who ended up at Princeton --- fled the country to more hospitable free-thinking places. Maritain later returned. He eventually became the French ambassador to the Vatican after 1945, then went back to Princeton.
So much for France. In Spain, during the mass-murdering civil war in the late 1930s, the hatred between the forces of the left and right was in large part fueled by their sentiments for and against clerical Catholicism of the traditional sort. Mass atrocities in the name of Catholicism or opposed to it were committed by both sides, again and again. In Portugal next door, the reactionary dictatorship of Professor Salazar --- which lasted decades --- was also justified in the name of true Catholicism. More generally, many observers at the time rightly referred to clerical fascism --- rampant in all the Catholic countries in Europe, and the Orthodox ones outside Communist Russia --- except for tiny Ireland and tiny Belgium.
(iii-b.) What can we conclude?
Essentially this: there's a far different political, ideological, and racist history in a democratic country like France --- or Spain or Italy or Portugal or Belgium --- than in the US or the UK when it comes to banning religious symbolism of any sort in its school system. (In Ireland and Poland, two countries subjugated by imperial foreign rule for centuries, anti-clericalism was very limited, and for a good reason. Specifically, Catholicism was part and parcel of the nationalist struggle for independence, whether aimed at Protestant Britain or at Orthodox Russia and later Soviet Communist domination.) Interestingly, about 51% of young French Muslim female students who were polled agreed with last year's statute. They were worried, rightly, that the marked shift toward Islamic head-covering would be a pretext for Islamist radicals to use threats and physical violence against those among them that want to integrate into French secular life.
Given what we know about Mulsim fundamentalist fervor, their fears seemed fully justified, no? For that matter, the equivalent of Clerical Fascism is found in almost every Islamist political movement, from Hamas and Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic Jihad to the Taliban and Al Qaeda, with the same hateful, murderous impulses towards non-believers (or moderate Muslims), plus the use of terrorism on a vast scale.
And now, with these bugged-out views hopefully clarified, push your mental buttons and fast-forward to the main line of argument once more.
A DEEPER ANALYSIS OF RIGHT-WING POPULISM IN THE EU:
These problems that loom increasingly large in EU life, one of them discussed by Francis --- and by the buggy prof's initial reply, only with a warning not to reduce the right-wing populist surge to just one cause --- need to be brought into sharper focus and refined analytically. Stripped to the bone, three sets of problems either side-stepped or bungled by the governing elites in the EU --- whether on the left-of-center or its right --- stand out. Each has to be probed in depth, and each general point in the analysis needs to be documented with solid empirical evidence.
The Islamist Challenge To European Secular Life and How
Mainstream Politicos and Media Types Have Repeatedly Bungled It
At the top of the list, as you rightly note, Francis --- and as the buggy prof articles have repeatedly underscored --- loom all the ominous challenges posed by the rapid growth of Islamic minorities increasingly fundamentalist in sentiment and alienated, and full of angry young men who do poorly in schools, have high levels of unemployment, and have become increasingly entangled in violent crime and support for radical Islamist terrorism. For that matter, they're also increasingly entangled in Jew-hating racism, similar to the mass paranoia and wild conspiratorial sentiments about Jews that now pervade the Middle East. See this buggy series, starting with this article
. Needless to add, the right-wing extremist movements of a backlash sort like the National Front in France or Vlaams Blok in Belgium or Haider's Freedom Party are also filled with Jew-hating types . . . Jews the perennial scapegoat for a 1000 years now whenever European life goes sour, from the time of the Crusades and Black Plague on.
Demographics and the Challenge
All these related challenges, to repeat, are made all the graver and more ominous by the plunge in the last few decades in the West European birthrate.
Nowhere in the EU is that rate sufficiently high among the native European to keep the native populations from dwindling over time. Spain has the lowest birthrate of all --- an average of 1.13 children per adult woman, where an average of 2.1 is needed for the population anywhere to reproduce its numbers in the next generation. Germany's rate isn't much better; by the latter decades of this century, there just won't be more than a tiny minority of native Germans around unless the birthrates drastically alter upward. Holland may find itself stuck with a Muslim majority within three decades, and France a majority among youth under 18 in just three decades too. You hardly have to be a demographer to grasp what all this means as the Muslim communities --- increasingly young, alienated, and fundamentalist, sources of growing crime and violence --- begin to loom more and more important in European life.
Note The Irony Here: Multicultural Delusions Blown To Smithereens In The EU.
To grasp the irony, start with the semi-hysterical reactions in the EU media to George Bush's recent re-election and the big influence of the religious right in getting out the Republican vote.
The media talkies, garrulous intellectuals who are mentally challenged, and EU politicos may be worried or even alarmed at the growing influence of the religious right in US politics --- about 20% of the electorate (itself roughly 4/5 Republican) --- but I'm not, the buggy prof a moderate Democrat who ended up voting for the chronic flipflopper, John Kerry. Its influence is generally moderate and a reaction to 40 years of tumultuous change in American life; except for a few loonies, it isn't violent, doesn't preach violence, doesn't contest democratic liberties, doesn't preach hatred. Its members do feel that there are excesses in American life, sexual and otherwise, that need to be offset and worry that they now live with moral decay around them. The major issues that motivate their political activity --- banning gay marriage (as in France), limiting or abolishing abortion rights (a matter, George Bush said in the debates with Kerry that should be left to the individual states), and reversing anything-goes in films, on TV, and in rap music --- are all matters that they have dealt with either through democratic elections or, as they now hope for the future in a second Bush administration, by means of a different kind of Supreme Court with two or three Bush nominees looming ahead. You can agree or (as I do) disagree with the religious right's positions, but there's no extremism here. Or maybe the left-wing in the Democratic Party thinks you can use the federal or state courts for decades to push a certain agenda, including the recent decision by a Massachusetts judge who decreed that gay marriage be legalized there, without inciting a similar effort from the right to use the courts for their own ends.
In the meantime --- the flagrant irony in West Europe
--- the real challenge not just to European secular life in general but the whole nature of West European civil liberties for women and free expression are jeopardized not by who has voted for George Bush in the USA, but back in Europe itself: in the relentless growth of angry, alienated Muslim communities and --- in certain areas --- their increasing support for radical Islamist terrorism, not to forget vicious Jew-hating racism.
Right now, there's no solution to this cultural and religious conflict in sight anywhere in the EU. Worse, the more EU intellectuals and media types push a post-modernist agenda of changes, the more backlashes within the Muslim communities can easily be predicted to soar. And that isn't all. The more the Muslim communities assault European secular life and post-modernist values, the more that will fed populist backlashes on the EU political right. It's a vicious circle, however looked at. And on all the evidence, it will very likely grow more vicious and virulent as time goes on.
The Second Set of Problems:
The Boom in EU Crime and Violence
Another major set of worrying challenges bungled badly by West European elites --- political, intellectual, and in the media --- has been the bursting upsurge of violent crime all over the EU, to the point that it has made major cities in Britain and on the Continent far scarier than in the US . . . something I wouldn't have foreseen 25 years ago, or even believed possible. In the UN surveys of crime victims, carried out by a university team in Holland every four years, the US ranks toward the bottom third or fourth of industrial countries in violent crime ---- around 15th of 22 surveyed. (For the buggy take on this, go to this article
Australia is at the top when it comes to the incidence of such crime, Britain fourth, France and Germany near the middle. By contrast, the US ranks at the top of industrial countries when it comes to confidence in our police and a belief that we are secure in going out into public spaces at night. West Europeans are increasingly worried on these scores; many are scared; many don't even feel secure in their homes. They have a right to be. And all they get, generally, is reassuring rhetorical pap and legal efforts to clamp down on any attempt by citizens to defend themselves and their property.
In Britain, for instance, it was once perfectly legal for anyone to carry a pistol. That was before WWI, and in those days, there was hardly a homicide in the country. Since then, British governments and the courts have not only limited drastically this right, the courts have increasingly singled out for hard punishment any Briton who uses a gun for self-protection against a robber or burglar . . . even inside his home. Has the gun-ban worked? According to an excellent study by a Boston University professor, just the opposite. Before 1914, homicide was extremely rare in the country. Since the bans on guns began, the murder rate has steadily climbed, and it is now several times higher. Meanwhile, the once admirable and unique British tradition of unarmed police has largely been trashed, British bobbies likely to find themselves the target in 2004 of gang-banging guns in the dangerous areas of all British cities --- guns, including automatic weapons, fairly easy to come by in illegal ways. (For the buggy take on this, click here
Another Source of Hard Evidence: Interpol
Here, as hard evidence, are Interpol statistics for crime rates in 2001. (Note that Interpol's stats are available only to authorized police authorities, and hence the buggy prof has obtained these stats for that year at this Web site
, run by a British-based libertarian group. The brief comments are taken verbatim from the same source.)
"Here are Interpol 2001 crime statistics (rate per 100,000):
4161 - US
7736 - Germany
6941 - France
9927 - England and Wales
Thus the US has a substantially lower crime rate than the major European countries! [The US] murder rate is high largely due to the multicultural nature of our society. Inner city blacks, members of a distinct subculture, have a vastly higher criminal and victim homicide rate than our society as an average:
Homicide Offender Rate/100,000 by Race in US (2000):
3.4 - White
25.8 - Black
3.2 - Other
It is often hypothesized that blacks are overrepresented in murder statistics due to racism on the part of police and the justice system. If this were true, one would expect that the race of victims would have significantly different distribution than the race of the perpetrators, but this is not the case:
Homicide Victim Rate/100,000 by Race in US (2000):
3.3 - White
20.5 - Black
2.7 - Other
Thus if you remove homicides committed by blacks (total: 21862, Blacks:9316), and assume a proportionality between number of offenders and number of offenses, you can extrapolate a US homicide offender rate of only 2.6/100,000, lower than Germany (3.27) and France (3.91)."
Well, these days, you are now 6 times more likely to be mugged in the streets of London than in New York's! Similarly, your car is two to three times more likely to be broken into or stolen there than in New York. Or take France. At night, traveling in the metro in Paris is a hazardous undertaking to your person or property; the same is true of the subways in German, Spanish, and Italian cities. In Rotterdam (Holland), it seems even more perilous for people to walk the streets anywhere. In Sweden, governmental ministers are attacked or killed as they go about their private business in stores or on the streets. In German cities, neo-Nazi and skinhead thugs regularly engage in bloody dust-ups with left-wing toughies, at any rate when the Hitler-admirers aren't busy looking around for scared Muslims or Jews to attack. Last year, it got so bad that the small Jewish population --- only a few decades after the Holocaust --- was urged not to wear any religious symbols whatever when they left their homes and went about their daily affairs. And in Madrid, commuters can be slaughtered by the hundreds in Islamist-inspired terrorism.
Then there's Scandinavia, where tiny democratic countries that once prided themselves in their civility and self-discipline have begun to awaken from their multicultural moonshines and other self-delusions.
In Copenhagen, a mainstream Danish newspaper carries an ad paid for by Islamist crazies that offered a reward for anyone killing the leaders of the country's miniscule Jewish population. Rapes in Scandinavian cities everywhere are now a commonplace matter. And though the authorities there try to disguise the major cause here --- the perpetrators are overwhelmingly Muslim youth, full of rage --- none of the native populations in Norway, Sweden, or Denmark is fooled by the evasive subterfuge
Gangbang rapes are also a common daily event in crime-infested French suburban developments, full of giant ugly apartment complexes and raging Muslim youth. As in Scandinavia, the authorities try to conceal the ethnic nature of the perps, and as also is the case there, nobody is fooled. Instead, the main beneficiary of this stonewalling tactic is the National Front, not just in bursting numbers of active supporters, but in the impact the extremist movement has had on French attitudes . . . Le Pen and his followers just about the only ones speaking frankly here. (As Mark Steyn's article just linked to notes, there's even a popular term for this gang-raping: tournant
. . . ' "tournante" -- or "take your turn." Last year, 11 Muslim men were arrested for enjoying a grand old tournante with a 14-year old girl in a cellar.' Recently, a 3 year old girl was taken behind one of these eye-sore complexes and then raped and tortured. The age of the perpetrators here? It was 4 or 5 years, the incident discussed on French TV last month.
Then there's Italy.
Even the talk of making labor markets more flexible led to the murder of the legal professor who was asked by the current government in Rome to look into legal changes. Meanwhile, in the tonier suburbs of the Italy's northern cities, thousands of families have had to arm themselves to protect their families and property from vicious, well-organized gangs of Albanians and others who --- possibly inspired by the terrorist gangbangers in the Australian desert defeated by heroic Mel Gibson in The Road Warrior
films --- run wild through their streets at night in hordes of SUVs, guns blasting away as they break into homes and pillage at will. The Italian police, apparently, are helpless to provide any protection themselves, maybe --- who knows? --- being on strike themselves or reporting sick for the 12th time this year. It was in Bologne, home apparently to the rapidly aging former terrorist members of the country's Red Brigade --- who specialized in knee-capping numerous Italian businessmen and officials back in the 1980s --- where the bombs were made that, earlier this year, targeted the top heads of the European Union's chief administrators: the President of the EU Commission, the head of the European Central Bank, and the director of its security division.
Will Things Improve?
Well, the French government began to take more serious policing actions starting in late 2002, but violent crime continues to surge --- a trend that the state-controlled TV tried to fudge in typical French manner.. Originally, earlier this year, it reported that crime had fallen off 8% thanks to the tougher policing, not least in inner cities (TV talk-heads never refer to the Muslim communities, a no-no). Hurrah! Hurrah! Only weeks later did it come out that violent
crime had soared 13%.
Such is the nature of the EU media, not just in France --- however much French news programs seem to still be dictated on sensitive issues by government arm-twisting with the directors of these TV and radio networks. For that matter, when a French sociologist published in 2002 a comparative study of crime --- violent or otherwise --- the study showed that its incidence was far higher in France than in the US. How did the French media react? Aside from Le Figaro
on the right, there was a clamor of disbelief along with a scramble in Le Monde, Liberation
, Le Nouvel Observateur
and other bien-pensant publications that spew pc-pieties the way a squid, alarmed, spews murky ink to put things in proper orthodox perspective. Click here
for the buggy take on the matter.
Mainstream Parties' Thumb-Twiddling, and PC Pieties in the EU Media.
How have these two sets of blatant problems that are making life increasingly hazardous for West Europeans --- growing violence and crime and the shifts of rapidly growing Muslim communities toward fundamentalism, extremist rejections of European secular life, and vicious anti-Semitic racism --- been been dealt with in governmental circles throughout the EU, whether of the center-left or center-right?
That's easy to say. Francis is right: by repetitive recourse to ostrich-like behavior.
Everywhere, even in Britain, mainstream politicos have either evaded, finessed, or tried to overwhelm the problems and people's legitimate worries with puff-fluff rhetoric of a vacuous multi-cultural sort . . . plus a clamp of secrecy on official crime statistics. Not that the politicos are the only culprits here. Another swarm of culprits --- in some ways worse, given the importance of the media in politics these days --- has been the EU media's reporters and talkingheads, who poll-parrot virtually everywhere, save in London, a ragbag of pc-dogmas on every subject under the sun . . . particularly on orthodox pieties like dreamland multicultural harmony and the peaceful, morally righteous nature of European life in an era of welfare-state largesse, social-sharing, and goodwill-among-all-men. These hoked-up dogmas, regarded as sacrosanct for decades in the EU media, are the pivots of a world-view that can't tolerate much reality. And compounding the nonsense, mainstream EU politicos --- on both the national and regional levels --- have done little or nothing to offset the pc-agitprop, with one exception: Margaret Thatcher in Britain during the 1980s, hatred by the British left and intellectual classes every bit as much as vitrol as they hated Ronald Reagan at the time and George W. Bush these days.
A political and intellectual vacuum all over the EU except in Britain, that's what . . . a void into which the new right-wing populist parties have quickly moved. Needless to say, their rapid growth and surging electoral support were utterly unforeseen by European professional politicos and intellectuals suffering from self-inflicted brain damage, plus of course European media reporters, editors, and hacks whose minds, it seems, are jammed-pack with a mishmash of shibboleths and orthodoxies vocalized over and again, withou stop . . . like some bad 33 RPM record whose needle got stuck and no one's around to stop the squawk. Casino Capitalism, Globalizing Forces, American Hegemony, George Bush the Idiot squawk, squawk, screech
. The EU's Moral Force in the World, Crime Caused by Poverty, Terrorism Likewise Caused (Reinforced by American Neo-neo-imperialism) screech, scrape, scratch
. The State To-The-Rescue, Multicultural Goodwill Among All Europeans, Yasser Arafat the Statesman, Ariel Sharon the Fascist, Jewish Neo-Conservatives bleep, bellow, shriek . . . >
An exaggeration about the EU media (save for a few outlets in London)? If you think so, wait a few moments. Toward the end of this article, you'll find lots of hard evidence from European sources about the pull and magnitude of these nasty, brain-addled boilerplate clichés and catchwords that substitute for clear thought in most European media reportage and discourse. In the meantime, shift your own focus to our next logical task . . .
. . . How The Third Set of EU Challenges Has Been Bungled by EU Governing Elites: A Gathering Economic Crisis
(iii.) Another cluster of related problems in the EU essentially handled in similar evasive form by governments there --- or discussed only in terms of a fatuous left-wing litany, quasi-Marxist, all over the EU media save in Britain --- derives from the blatant failure of mainstream parties to overcome the sense of growing powerlessness and worries among average Europeans about their countries' economic future.
They have reason to be worried. Essentially, economic growth has fizzled to a halt in Germany the last decade, a record of semi-stagnant economic life that comes close to matching Japan's sclerosis. Italy, Spain, and France have done only slightly better; and to the extent they have, it's been largely because, from 1995 until 2002, they and the Germans enjoyed a declining exchange rate in dollar terms --- first, when their currencies were tied to the German Mark, then with the new Euro after it was introduced in 1999.
The export-led stimulus has begun to fizzle out.
In particular, since the start of 2002, the Euro has climbed to over $1.25, up from a blatantly undervalued rate of $0.85, and it's likely to stay fairly high for years to come; to the extent it does, export-led growth is something that can no longer be counted on the large countries in the EU as a major means of economic growth. The upshot? For the first time, really, governments in all the big Continental countries have been forced to confront the huge structural problems that afflict their economies and cause slow or stagnant GDP growth and declining productivity. The smaller countries are largely in trouble too. Belgium's economy is notoriously sluggish; and so, more surprisingly, is Holland's, despite some impressive reforms in welfare payments during the 1990s. Portugal's and Greece's problems loom even larger, with Austrian economic growth essentially stagnant for four years too. Then there's Spain, a country of 40 million --- the fifth largest in West Europe. In the Aznar conservative era, it economy was being reformed and started performing much better; unemployment, close to 20% in the early 1990s, came down by the end of the 1990s to near the EU average (itself about 50-60% higher than the US's anyway). Alas, improvements free-market reforms materialized in that era will probably be undercut by the new left-wing dogmatists in charge of the government in Madrid.
Essentially, that leaves only Britain (60 million) and Ireland (4 million) --- with more or less free-market orientations --- and tiny Sweden and even more tiny Denmark (9 million and 4 million) as countries with a solid economic future . . . at any rate for the time being.
The Causes of EU Economic Stagnation
The major causes of the EU's economic troubles aren't hard to pin down, and you scarcely need to be a professional economist to understand them, All you have to do is look at the superior performance of free-market countries once they deregulated, reduced taxes and welfare payments, and opened up to globalizing forces: Britain and Ireland in the EU, Australia and New Zealand in the Pacific --- or for that matter, China in limited ways since the reform era began in 1979 --- or the US. On the EU Continent, by contrast, massively bureaucratized government --- intrusive and regulation-mad all over the Continent on both the national and EU regional levels --- has combined with high taxation, controlled labor markets, excessively high minimum wages, and welfare transfers to create these structural problems . . . a small mountain all over the Continent of market inefficiencies. In the process, as the previous buggy article noted, whatever entrepreneurial spirit and risk-taking propensities once marked West European life have seemingly fizzled out. And though the EU peoples are still eager for more and more benefits, hope for guarantees of lifetime employment in the same job at the same location, and expect rising wages and a cushy retirement, they muster massive resistance, it seems, whenever any politician in power talks about the need for retrenchment and personal initiative.
To an outside observer, these blithe attitudes in West Europe about taking responsibility for your own personal future --- individually and collectively by means of the ballot box --- look like so much cloud-chasing delusions on a massive psychic level. What the Continentals need is someone like Margaret Thatcher in Britain, who turned the British economy around in the 1980s with her challenge to welfare-state and other pc-dogmas, or the pro-business policies introduced by various Irish government in the same decade that transformed the poorest country in West Europe into its richest in just 20 years. But then, Britain has a long tradition in its industrial past of free-market ideology, and Ireland's governing elites have been able to draw on it, with variations adapted to their country's economy. By contrast, there are scarcely any such free-market traditions on the Continent of West Europe. What you have are various degrees of statist left-wing or statist right-wing ideological heritages, with the former still reflecting Marxist dogmas, even if diluted, about capitalism, and the latter mirroring still paternalist fears of letting average people run their own lives. In France, it's even worse. Since Louis XIV, through Napoleon and 14 drastic changes of political systems since 1789 (during which two-century period the US has lived with the same Constitution it adopted that year), the French right has feared genuine decentralization, free markets, and the loss of elite control . . . these days guaranteed by about 3000 elite civil servants and their political counterparts (almost all of them at the top being former ENA-trained civil servants themselves), the huge and highly intrusive centralized French state essentially in their hands. (The development of regional parliaments, roughly 20 years ago, may be a happy omen of future decentralization; but for the time being, those parliaments are weak and have little or no fiscal independence of Paris.)
Are There Any Exceptions on the Continent to Effective Reforms?
Well, yes. Tthe Dutch carried out some good reforms in the early 1990s, showing that it's possible to cut back what was then the most generous welfare-state system in the EU; since then, the reform movement has petered out, and Holland's GDP has stagnated since 2000, scarcely bigger now four years later than it was then. Fortunately, as with Ireland, so tiny Sweden and Denmark have been able to take advantage of their small homogeneous populations, generally well educated, and move more swiftly into a knowledge-based economy. Sweden has done so from the left, Denmark from the right. In both too, their job-creation has been praiseworthy. Elsewhere on the Continent, market-oriented reforms have been either rhetorical or no sooner implemented than, as in France, bad electoral results have led to an immediate retreat. Even in Germany, the very modest reform agenda of Gerhard Schroeder's left-of-center coalition government has forced the Chancellor to quit his leadership of the Social Democratic Party, so great has been the uproar of discontent and protest in SPD circles.
Sooner or later --- later in most EU countries --- reforms will be forced through. There's no alternative. But in Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, and Belgium --- Greece too come to think of it --- you have to expect major social strife and even violence, home-grown from native Europeans, before a more competitive economy emerges in these laggard, poorly performing countries. As for Holland, it's likely that if violence and extremism can be contained over the role of the Muslim minorities --- really, Morrocan and not those originally from Indonesia (quickly assimilated after 1950) --- reforms will be more like those in Denmark and Sweden: peaceful and accepted, however reluctantly. Austria remains a question-mark. Violence can't be excluded, but it may not be as likely as in the countries just mentioned.
How have the EU media types and governing elites responded to these economic challenges? With the usual simpleminded sloganeering and ideology. Essentially, instead of facing up to them and the dislocations and strife that changes will likely incur, it's been much easier for left-wing politicos, media types galore, and tremulous conservative party heads to blame the forces of globalization, callous American behavior of the casino-capitalist sort, and crafty and unscrupulous Asian exporters for their troubles.
All of which brings us to next point raised in Francis's commentary --- anti-Americanism as a turnip-ghost form of demagogy.
The argument here continues in the 2nd of this two-article mini-series.