Eternal Vigilance Is the Price of Liberty


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I am about to say something that will strike you as blindingly obvious.  Here it is:

You can’t believe everything the news media tell you.

Now, you know that, and I know it. Still, knowing it is one thing and living it is another.  “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” said a famous abolitionist.  Eternal vigilance is also the price of truth.  Which is to say that you can’t ever afford to let down your guard when you’re reading or watching or listening to the news.  You may think you’re taking it all in with a proper degree of cynicism, but are you?  Or are you capable of being suckered into believing a lie if it’s repeated often enough?

There’s a reason why such questions are on my mind these days.  I live in Norway, and on July 22, a lunatic murdered several dozen people here, most of them young people attending a Labor Party youth camp.  He turned out to have written a “manifesto” criticizing the Norwegian left for its role in advancing multiculturalism and the Islamization of Norway.  In it he cited with approval scores of writers and thinkers, ranging from classical philosophers of liberty such as John Stuart Mill and Thomas Jefferson to contemporary critics of Islam such as Robert Spencer, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and various people in Norway.  Norwegian leftists lost no time in exploiting this situation, accusing their ideological adversaries of being “right-wing extremists” and “Muslim-haters” who had gone too far in their rhetoric and, in doing so, inspired a man to commit mass murder.  The purpose of all this was plainly to convince the Norwegian public that these “haters” were enemies of the people who had to be shunned, silenced if possible, lest they inspire further mayhem.

More than four months later, incredibly, this campaign of hate has not let up.  Nearly every day brings yet another op-ed in a major national newspaper which has little or nothing to say about the actual issues – nothing, that is, about Islam or immigration policy or multiculturalism – but which is rife with name-calling, demonization, and wholesale misrepresentation of those who have had serious things to say about these issues.  This campaign is breathtaking in its relentlessness, its repetitiveness, its breathtaking dishonesty, and its almost total lack of anything in the way of real intellectual or argumentative content.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it.  It’s a terrifying demonstration of the degree to which a supposedly free country’s national media can give itself over to sheer, vicious disinformation.

It’s particularly difficult for me to ignore this campaign of hate because, as it happens, I’m one of its chief targets.  People who believe what they read in the Norwegian press are now under the impression that (among other things) I am a right-wing extremist and a hater of Muslims, that I have called for Muslims to be deported en masse from Europe, and that the July 22 murderer quoted me extensively in his manifesto and named me as one of his heroes.  (On the contrary, he made clear in online postings that he didn’t care for my politics; my name appears in his manifesto only in articles he read online and cut-and-pasted into his text.)  Since July 22 I’ve seen myself mentioned in major Norwegian newspapers dozens of times, but – so far as I’ve noticed – not once has anyone represented my work and my ideas honestly, and not once has anyone quoted a substantial statement or argument by me and sought to refute it.  Nope, it’s all just been pure character assassination.

And I’ve gotten used to it, sort of.  I’m confident that people who know and respect my work will not have their minds changed by any of this.  At the same time, I’m very well aware that there are people out there who have never read a word by me but who now have opinions about me based on all this insidious propaganda.  How many times does a Norwegian newspaper reader who’s unfamiliar with my work have to read that I’m a dangerous, racist extremist before he or she accepts it as gospel?  The same goes for all the other principled critics of Islam who’ve been smeared in this repulsive campaign: how many Norwegians are now quite certain that men and women who have criticized Islam in the name of individual liberty, sexual equality, and human rights are nothing but disgusting bigots?

Which leads to a far broader question: Has any of us ever entirely escaped this trap?  Isn’t there somebody whom the media once taught you to revile but whom you’ve since learned to respect, if not revere?  Or vice-versa?  I’m embarrassed, for example, to admit how long it took before I realized that Woodrow Wilson wasn’t the magisterial figure I’d been assured he was – first by school history textbooks and then by years of glowing references in the left-wing media.  I could name dozens of other examples.  The media shape our image of the world and of the major players in it, and only sometimes, in some cases, do some of us do a bit of poking around and learn enough to realize we’ve been misinformed.

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  • Robert Pinkerton

    I recall a line from an author named Norman Garbo, which has stayed with me decades after I have forgotten the name of the book in which he wrote it: "Eternal paranoia is the price of survival." At the time I wrote it in a notebook, I commented on inflation having driven prices up.

  • Northanhymbre Heathen

    The BBC is a case in point. During the London riots back in August it took them ages to stop calling the feral participants in this display of self-entitled, viciously inadequate youth culture "protesters"! http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/8690

    Since then, we have the debacle of the London School of Economics and the Guardian newspaper releasing some load of bunkum of a study about how it was, of course, the police and govt who were to blame for other people's bad behaviour during these events. I quote from the LSE website:

    "This is a pathbreaking study of the August riots in England. It reveals the anger and frustration felt by those who were involved in the disorder, in part a product of the unfair and discourteous treatment they feel they suffer at the hands of the police, but also reflecting the disillusionment many feel at the social and economic changes which leave them increasingly disconnected from mainstream society."

    The only thing "pathbreaking" about this study IMO is the sheer breadth of its stupidity and gullibility – as if anyone with even half an ounce of common sense would believe a single word that came out of any of these pampered, street-wise and slick little thugs' mouths! The LSE has lost what little credibility it had over here anyway because of the presence and dealings there of Saif Al Islam Gaddafi, and the Guardian is basically just for left-liberals with candyfloss for brains who want to sound intelligent and morally superior. Of course these types will be quoting this study at dinner parties to support their singularly naive and unhelpful beliefs about "social justice" and "social exclusion" etc, whilst the rest of us remain singularly unimpressed and sceptical.

    It always amazes me though how otherwise intelligent people are willing to believe such nonsense in the press, how they seem to assume "but they're journalists – surely they must know what they're talking about!!" I long ago left behind any idea that journalists were unbiased, basically around the time of 9/11, when we saw such a barrage of disgusting anti-US propaganda spew forth over here in the UK media and press that I would just end up turning off the TV (anyone remember that episode of "Question Time"?) and vowed never to read certain newspapers or take them seriously ever again.

  • http://www.contextflexed.com Flipside

    Nice try, Bawer, trying to camouflage Breivik’s neoconservative message by making it look like he cited way more people than Robert Spencer.

    • Steeloak

      Reminds me of the way the media relentlessly harped about how hate filled leftists like Al Gore inspired Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber), or how they constantly repeated how Breivik copied a large portion of Kaczynski's manifesto into his own.

      Oh wait – they didn't!

      • http://www.contextflexed.com Flipside

        Of course that’s true. But you must have thought you were talking to a leftist.

        • Steeloak

          You have an innovative description of yourself that defines a leftist as something you are not?

          • http://www.contextflexed.com Flipside

            Everyone who writes for this site is a Shachtmanite communist an Zionist xenophobe. I am a Constitutionalist, a patriot, a libertarian, and a capitalist.

          • Steeloak

            "I am a Constitutionalist, a patriot, a libertarian, and a capitalist."

            As am I, but you don't sound anything like me. But then I am not infected with Ron Paul's lunacy when it comes to War and Foreign Affairs.

          • UCSPanther

            This pathetic troll also praised George Soros as well a while back. Kind of hard to reconcile the values extolled by Ron Paul and George Soros' puppet-mastery.

          • Northanhymbre Heathen

            "But then I am not infected with Ron Paul's lunacy when it comes to War and Foreign Affairs."

            I'm another libertarian who thinks that Ron Paul is basically a dangerous fruitcake. I reckon he should just stick to cookery writing because his political savvy on defense and foreign affairs is apparently minus zero. How some libertarians can be basically sane about everything else but be a sandwich short of a picnic on military matters is beyond me!

          • UCSPanther

            Funny. I thought Communist regimes were also hostile towards their Jewish subjects as a rule.

          • http://www.contextflexed.com Flipside

            I am pragmatic about Ron Paul. No President, and certainly no candidate at present has both an amazing domestic and an amazing foreign policy. The US is collapsing mostly from it’s domestic economic policy but also because it is in three wars and propping up the EU. Ron Paul is the only candidate who will change that.

    • UCSPanther

      It must be hard for you to see that Brevik was declared insane, a sensible verdict considering that he was claiming to be a "knight templar", a group that was destroyed by Phillip the Fair of France and no longer exists, and hollering that he was a hero for killing misguided albeit innocent people.

      Don't worry though. The EU elite would agree with your bizarre assertion, and they dislike letting a crisis like Brevik go to waste.

      • http://www.contextflexed.com Flipside

        You mean like when a Muslim professor farts and FPM posts five articles about it?

        • abdul7591

          I don't recall FPM publishing any articles about Muslims farting, only about Muslims engaged in slaughtering people and wanting to dominate the world by imposing Sharia law on it. FPM seems quite capable of discerning the difference between Muslim murderers and Muslim farters. Curious that FPM's "sophisticated" critics don't have that ability.

      • scum

        Tortured into oblivion, they were. And unfairly, I might add, by 'The Fair.'

  • Tanstaafl

    Is it true that when Muslims break wind, it sounds like “Allahu Akbar” backwards?

    • scum

      I believe that was one of the 'farts' alluded to by Flipside above. Muslims committing 'farticide,' I suppose it's called.

  • Scourge of Islam

    The greatest threat to world peace is islam. if Muslims would renounce sharia & koranic imperialism (ie; conquer the world for Allah, exterminate world jewry and enslave the "infidels") then we could live in a semblance of peace. Otherwise, Islam will have to be destroyed. Islam is a misogymistic, imperialistic theology that condones slavery, torture, & women abuse. Islam is anathema to both western concepts of human rights & the UN's human rights declarations. If I were President, after 9/11, I would have nuked all of your devil (allah) worshippers, with that stupid black rock y'all worship being the first target.

  • Northanhymbre Heathen

    "If I were President, after 9/11, I would have nuked all of your devil (allah) worshippers, with that stupid black rock y'all worship being the first target."

    Woah NO! Don't blame Allah and his black rock – Allah is a name of a very ancient Arabic lunar deity (as I suspect you're aware), and his black rock predates Islam (as does praying 5 times a day toward Mecca, Haj, throwing stones to ward off evil etc etc) No – if only the Arabs could be encouraged to liberate themselves from the words of the false prophet Mohammed and his hateful doctrines, then they could continue to worship Allah with all the trappings of his traditional pre-Islamic rites (well, ok, the animal sacrifices could probably be left behind these days) and everyone would be free and happy, women would be a lot better off, and all the rest of us infidels could stop worrying about being kidnapped and beheaded or blown up. Don't dismiss the magic and profundity of Paganism just because we adherents of it have a bit of a different view of divinity than you do! We don't proselytise or expect everyone to convert to our religions, we're pluralistic, we respect women (by and large), and we're happy to live alongside Jews and Christians (so long as Christians don't go all medieval on us and come and burn down our temples and destroy our idols again! Just kidding..sort of ;-)) Look at the rest of the world – is it Hindus or sub-Saharan Animists who are threatening western civilization? Do we Pagan idolators seek to conquer the whole world and make everyone into dhimmis? NO – the Arabs could do a lot worse than convert back to an updated version of their old religion, and it would allow them some hope, dignity and pride in their ancient culture in my opinion. There were some great Pagan Arabs – Porphyry the Syrian is one example (at least I think he was an Arab), and he was a great philosopher. There are probably many more I know nothing about. Lots of people in Iran are converting back to traditional Persian religion (Zoroastrianism) too because they're sick of Islam (they do this at risk to their lives, as do those who convert to Christianity in that country – both groups deserve our support I think!)

    So no, DON'T destroy the black rock at Mecca – it might have a beneficial use in the future should the REAL faith of Allah ever be revived!

    Allahu Akbar! (and I mean here the real Allah, the ancient moon god, not the Islamic pretend one!)