The Identity Man

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Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Andrew Klavan, the author of such classic suspense novels as True Crime, filmed by Clint Eastwood, Don’t Say a Word, filmed starring Michael Douglas, and Empire of Lies. He’s been nominated for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award five times and has won it twice.  He is a contributing editor to City Journal and his essays and commentary have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post and elsewhere.  He also writes and appears in the bi-weekly satire video Klavan on the Culture for PJTV. His new adult thriller is The Identity Man.

FP: Andrew Klavan, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

Congratulations on the release of your new thriller.

Tell us what it is about and what inspired you to write it.

Klavan: Thanks Jamie.

The Identity Man is about a fugitive murder suspect who is given a chance to start his life over:  a new face, a new name, new records.  It’s a thriller about a guy trying to find redemption in a corrupt and dangerous world.  The idea first came to life for me during a visit I took to New Orleans, about a year after Katrina.  I was given a tour, talked to some of the people.  And of course, I quickly realized that the media narrative–that this disaster was somehow about race–black and white–was utter nonsense.  And I started to think about this idea we’ve been sold these last forty years–the idea that our identity is inevitably wrapped up with our race and with racial politics–and that sort of intersected with other questions in my own life:  how free are you to define who you are?  How trapped are you in the circumstances of your birth?  It’s the great American question, in some ways:  can you ever be who you feel you were made to be?  So I just decided to take a guy with a completely blank slate and set him down in the most corrupt city in America, and ask myself:  what happens now?  I think it turned out to be a very cool story.

FP: Why do you think the Left derives so much strength from engendering the idea that our identity is inevitably wrapped up with our race and with racial politics?

Klavan: The Left establishes what I’ll call Grievance Power Bases and it does this by continually conflating ideas and behaviors with group identities.  It’s a form of racism that trumpets itself as the answer to racism.  So a guy knocks a girl up and dumps her and the Left says, “Well, that’s because you’re black and oppressed and anyone who holds you personally responsible is a racist.”  And the guy says, “Hey, that’s better than paying child support!  And yeah, now I think of it, I am oppressed.”  And of course it ends up encouraging the worst and most self-destructive behavior possible in the group involved, whether that’s blacks or Muslims or gays or whatever.

Now, please don’t get me wrong:  the reason this technique has gained such traction is because of a true history of institutionalized anti-black racism in America.  But now that that institutionalized racism is gone, the Left keeps the game going by targeting individuals and off-hand remarks.  Which will go on forever because there will always be racist individuals and always be words that you can twist to sound racist and so on.  The real answer to racism is for the law to treat each person according to the content of his character – his ideas and behaviors – rather than the color of his skin.  After that, you stand on your own.

FP: This narrative that the Left nurtures is very much related to why we are so handicapped in our ability to protect our civilization from radical Islam, right?

Klavan: Absolutely.  While the human history of religious oppression should always make us a bit extra careful when criticizing someone’s faith, a religion is in the end a system of ideas, not a race or identity, and wholly open to criticism.  Of course Muslims can be good and decent people and of course Islam can be practiced in a non-harmful way, but when you look at the current state of Islam, the institutionalized oppression and violence world-wide, the denigration of that half of the human race who are female, the frankly stated goal of destroying free institutions and replacing them with the travesty of sharia law – damn straight it can be criticized.  I personally believe the shrill accusation of Islamophobia is an attempt to obscure the fact that multi-culturalism, and the pernicious underlying creed of relativism, came crashing down with the towers on 9/11.

FP: Tell us what is so beautiful about America and its values that gives humans a great chance to be who they feel they were made to be. The chances of a person reaching this kind of self awareness and fulfillment is not as great, to say the least, in North Korea, Saudi Arabia or Castro’s Cuba. While the Left will foam at the mouth at your answer, shed some light on why this is the case and why American civilization might just be worth defending.

Klavan: It has to do very much with what we’re talking about:  grouping people according to ideas and behaviors – the content of their characters – rather than the color of their skin.  America is an exceptional nation because it’s founded on a set of ideas and, in theory and pretty much in practice, all you have to do to become an American is live here and ascribe to those ideas.  It’s the political realization of the Christian doctrine that there is no Greek or Jew, male or female, only one race in God.  But it’s more than that – it’s more than that the country is based on a set of ideas – it’s that the ideas themselves are good and true.

In math, they have what are called axioms, propositions that can’t be proved, that must be accepted – a plus b equals b plus a, for instance.  Without accepting those axioms on faith, the entire edifice of math collapses.  You might say they are truths that are held to be self-evident.  Well, the truths we hold to be self-evident – equality before the law, that our freedoms are given us by our creator not by government, that among them are the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – these are truths indeed, the human axioms.

Anyone who wants to seize the power to force us to conform to their idea of goodness, justice and equality will hate those axioms and attack them – usually by attacking the individuals who set them down or who defend them.  These attackers – these leftists – they think they are attacking the foundation of the western edifice, which they despise, but in fact they are attacking the human project itself.

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  • Stale Urbye

    At least this interview gave me desire to read Mr. Klavan's books. SU, Norway

  • PhillipGaley

    I think rather, that, Islam is not a religion at all. Rather, in looking at it's roots, it's founder, it's present-day effect greatly contributing to the suffering mass of children and women, who—if they only knew—would be known as unwilling subjects, and in listening to the Islamic man-on-the-street in remark upon the tenor of interactions of Islamic-controlled nations against the rest of mankind, in noticing the profoundly insuperable difficulties upon the individual—thence to the nation—inhering in the deleterious genetic effects of 1st cousin marriages, as in prayer by constraint, in arbitrary executions and mayhem, in enforced duties of women in subservience to Islam, Islam appears as an algorithm operating under mere trappings of religion but in actual service to a necessarily simplistic psychological and criminal paradigm of vast scale and scope which, by focusing on rearranging man-woman relations into that of an administrative model in subset, proposing to replicate itself, but in global domination through subjugation of the thought patterns of individuals—not for any greater kaleidoscope of realization through creative imagination, not for peace and comity between peoples, not to replace suffering for any appearance of well-being, rather—into a wrenching construct of the administrative rank-and-order model which class-structure by constraint, is.
    Any and all who fail to identify Islam by the simplest logic of taxonomy: by form, by function, and by origin, cannot but be seen as uninspired workmen, but in assentation, actualizing as social or political caltrops, set to prolong this present day of suffering and isolation, and for so many—the world round, . . .

  • RobCary

    Mr. Klavan is a gifted satirist. If you haven't seen some of his work go to PJTV and watch some of his video. He is hilarious and straight to the point.

  • pagegl

    If, after changing Islamic references to Jewish in that sentence, you produced a factual statement then perhaps you might be on to something. But, whereas the original sentence is based on fact, your modified version is not. Merely stating fact does not make someone a racist. Besides, Islam is a religious/social contruct not an ethnic group. I bet you aren't too crazy about Christians; using your logic you would be a racist.

  • Phil

    the difference is that Judaism, Torah & Israel are doing none of those things.

  • Mo_

    What idiocy.

    Judaism and Islam teach two entirely different things. Neither are Jews committing terrorist acts all over the world, on a regular basis, in accordance with their religious teachings.

    FAIL, all around.

  • hijinx60

    Conrad: In your attempt to appear intellectual, you failed. Had you based your theory on facts you might have made a valid point, but to substitute the word Jew, Black, Indian, White, European, or any of a thousand other identities, distorts the truth and proves nothing. No insult is intended for any of this for we have all fallen prey to the politically correct climate that premeates our society. We are afraid of being called racist for the slightest slip and in doing so, we have lost much.

  • hijinx60

    Mr Glazov, I filed to add that this was a very solid and interesting interview. One of the best that I have read .

    • Jamie

      Thank you Hijinx60. I really appreciate it.

  • sbnative

    As always Klavan is thought-provoking and bravely outspoken! It isn't about race, it's about CONTENT of character. As for Islam… we in America still have a chance to question the almighty myths of multiculturalism… Unlike Europe which is in more dire straights each day. Question, people. Question, and learn.