Fear and Loathing of Reality at ‘The Nation’

Bruce Bawer is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center and the author of “While Europe Slept” and “Surrender.” His book "The Victims' Revolution: The Rise of Identity Studies and the Closing of the Liberal Mind" is just out from Broadside / Harper Collins.


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Editor’s note: Don’t miss David Horowitz’s and Robert Spencer’s pamphlet, Islamophobia: Thoughtcrime of the Totalitarian Future, which documents how the very term “Islamophobia” is an invention of the Muslim Brotherhood designed to intimidate and discredit its critics.

The Nation has long been the flagship of the American left.  This, despite its small circulation and, even more to the point, despite its long and disgraceful record of supporting, apologizing for, and whitewashing totalitarian ideology on the apparent premise that even the most murderous tyranny is preferable to democratic capitalism.  As David Horowitz put it quite succinctly in 2006, we are speaking here of a “propaganda mill,” pure and simple, whose editors, it is no exaggeration to say, “cheered [Stalin's victims] to their graves during the Stalinist purges of the 1930s.”

Horowitz explained how The Nation addressed those purges: “In a 1946 article…Walter Duranty explained to The Nation’s progressive readers that ‘purge’ meant ‘to cleanse’ in Russian, and that a house cleaning was all Stalin intended. In Duranty’s memorable words, Stalin had launched ‘a general cleaning out of the cobwebs and mess which accumulate in any house when its occupants are so deeply preoccupied with something else that they have no time to keep it in order.’”  As Horowitz reminds us, “At the height of this house cleaning, Stalin was killing 20,000 Russian citizens a month. But according to The Nation (in 1946 as today) the main danger facing humanity was the incipient fascism of the West.”

All of which is highly useful by way of background when reading “Fear and  Loathing of Islam,” an article by one Moustafa Bayoumi which appears in The Nation‘s July 2-9 issue.  It has often been noted that the hard left, denied its beacon of progressive hope by the fall of Soviet Communism, has since found, in Islam, an admirable ally in the struggle against the West.  This is certainly the case with The Nation.  It did not dare celebrate 9/11, but it was very much at the forefront of the we-had-it-coming crowd; some readers may recall a notorious piece by Nation columnist Katha Pollitt, published in the September 20, 2011, issue, in which she explained why, after the terrorist attacks, she refused to allow her daughter, who at the time was a high-school student, to fly the American flag outside the window of their New York apartment, not far from the scene of the Twin Towers’ incineration.  For Old Glory, as Pollitt explained patiently to both her kid and her readers, “stands for jingoism and vengeance and war.”

Now, as I say, along comes this Bayoumi article, which presents itself as something of a major statement, not just by Bayoumi but presumably by The Nation itself, about attitudes toward Islam in the United States.  The premise is straightforward: American Muslims, with exceedingly few exceptions, are ordinary people who want to live ordinary lives – and who are being punished and demonized for it.  Ordinary is, indeed, the mot du jour here.  Bayoumi slams a New York Police Department report which notes that, in addition to mosques, young Muslim men in the U.S. are radicalized in “cafes, cab driver hangouts, flophouses, prisons, student associations, non-governmental organizations, hookah (water pipe) bars, butcher shops and book stores” – “in other words,” writes Bayoumi, “precisely the places where ordinary life happens.”  Asks Bayoumi: “What happens when ordinary life becomes grounds for suspicion without a hint of wrongdoing…?”  Using the TLC series All-American Muslim as his prime example, he complains that “When media portrayals of everyday American Muslim life are produced, the very ordinariness is attacked as a lie…..The only thing accepted as ‘normal’ for a Muslim is to act like an extremist.  Ordinary Muslim folk appearing to live ordinary Muslim lives?  That’s plain suspicious.”  Toward the end of his piece, Bayoumi states: “An ordinary life is more meaningful than it sounds.  It signifies being able to live your life as you define yourself, not as others define you, and being able to assume a life free of unwarranted government prying.  In fact, ordinariness is the foundation of an open society, because it endows citizens with a private life and demands that the government operate openly – not the other way around, which is how closed societies operate.”

The flaw in this argument, of course, is that Islam is not about leading a “private life.”  As has frequently been observed in the years since 9/11, the Koran does not instruct believers to render under Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s.  No, under Islam, what’s Caesar’s is God’s too, and you’d better render it pronto, or else.  Islam, in other words, is not simply a religion of private devotion; it is a comprehensive system that dictates every detail of the social order.  For Muslims living in secular democratic societies, consequently, the religion of their fathers is a stunted thing, constrained by the very liberties that the rest of us look upon as providing freedom from constraint.  Islam has a name for such societies: they are the “House of War,” because it is incumbent upon true believers to struggle against their non-Islamic polities; not until these societies are brought under Islamic control – brought, that is, into the House of Islam – can there be true peace.  Bayoumi speaks about “closed societies,” but it hardly needs pointing out that the great majority of the “closed societies” of our time are Islamic.

For me, the key sentence in Bayoumi’s piece is this one: “Every group has its loonies.”  That sentence is more than just a ridiculous joke; it’s an affront to the intelligence of everyone who damn well knows the difference between Islam and other “groups,” religious or otherwise, and an insult to the memory of everyone who has ever lost his or her life in a jihadist attack.  Yes, every group has its loonies.  But only Islam has the doctrine of jihad.  Virtually every religion has its points of tension with the idea of individual liberty, and there are, admittedly, other faiths besides Islam that have a ways to go before they manage to coexist perfectly with modernity.  But few of us are lying awake at night worrying about Hinduism or Shinto or Buddhism – let alone Unitarians or Quakers.  The difference, in a word, is jihad – an inextricable element of the Islamic faith.  The absurdity of Bayoumi’s mantra about “ordinariness” is that in Islam there is nothing more ordinary – nothing more normative, more fundamental, more essential a part of the religion than the concept of jihad.

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  • Schlomotion

    A second hit piece on The Nation in just two days. So did Mr. Bawer and Mr. Spencer agree to both use the word "flagship?"

    • Anon

      Why do you come to this site? You have no life.

      • tagalog

        Stiil, it IS the second hit piece on The Nation in two days. The Nation deserves it no doubt, but the timing is noteworthy.

    • SCREW SOCIALISM

      What's the matter Schlocklotion? Is it "counter-revolutionary" to oppose Socialism?

      Well get used to it.

    • Sage on the Stage

      So what? How many hit pieces has The Nation done on other publications? Great article, Mr. Bawer…the truth…and plenty of it.

    • nightspore

      Schlomotion seems to think it necessary to say something (anything!) in response to the arguments presented in a given FPM article. In this way, he can make it seem like the arguments have been countered – at least in his own mind. The problem is that throwing out non sequiturs like the one above just serves to undermine his own position, at least for any reader who isn't already of the same persuasion – and probably many of those who are. (I know I'd be embarrassed if I were on his side of the fence.)

    • Anonymous

      The low-paid loser schlockINmotion has a great deal of time on his hands to devote to feeling bested by Jews, and to attempting to appear as though he knows anything at all. His life's energy will, in the future, prove to have been utterly wasted, with nothing – literally nothing – to show for his travails. Cheeky screeds typed into his computer keyboard will all have wafted away, and no one will even know he was ever here.

    • fnord

      In mr. Bawers logic, he is personally responsible for the murders of his fanboy Anders Behring Breivik.

    • poppakap

      Once again slomo blathers on about meaningless dribble instead of refuting or addressing the serious issues in the article. Typical troll obfuscation.

      So what if the anti-Nation scribes both agreed to use the term "flagship?" Big friggin' deal. That's one Everest-sized moehill slomo. As if the left doesn't do the same thing endlessly in order to communicate marching orders and talking points. I'm reminded of the weekend a few years ago when every socialist talking head from BSNBC to DailyKooks were all "concerned" that W didn't have the "gravitas" of Slick Willie. The Borg were singing in unison that Sunday.

      It would be comical if it weren't so predictable oh slow one.

    • elitist

      The Nation DESCRIBES ITSELF as the "flagship of the left."

      so it's not a conspiracy after all……

  • http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/ JasonPappas

    Excellent summary by Bawer on the left's whitewash of Islam. Mr. Bawer, who once wrote for The Nation, knows the mindset well. And he knows they are closed-minded to his arguments. But there are those in the audience who are in the middle and we can reach them. Islam is inherently illiberal … so why do liberals cozy up to this creed? I'm looking forward to his book: "The Victims' Revolution: The Rise of Identity Studies and the Closing of the Liberal Mind."

    • Russ

      "Islam is inherently illiberal … so why do liberals cozy up to this creed?"

      Because "liberals" are inherently illiberal; they are egalitarians, they see true American liberalism as an enemy (just like Islamists do), and the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

      • steve

        It's mysterious, but not really. The champions of "Liberation" on the Left dislike, rather hate, the United States so thoroughly that although they are usually atheists they will side with theocratic psychopaths rather than show any support for the country protecting them.

        This should be all you have to know about the political Left in this country. Finally, they should know that if the jihadist's succeed, as in earlier revolutions the first to go will be those on the Left professing liberation. Ask Trotsky!

        • Oleg

          Trotsky never professed or advocated liberation, at least not while he had some authority in the Soviet government, he fully subscribed to the theories of revolution by terror every bit as much as Lenin and Stalin did, the only difference of opinion was the degree to which it should be used. The only reason he was driven into exile, and subsequently murdered by members of the American Communist party, was because he was a competitor against Stalin's monopoly on power, but in every other aspect it was really a matter of style rather then substance. It would be like comparing serial killers and saying that one was less evil then another because of body count.
          The other point you made is entirely true, those that dream of installing a totalitarian system, like the extreme left in Hollywood and in academia, believe that somehow they will be at the top of the pecking order when the "good guys" take over. Point in fact, they and the other radicals will be the first to have their property and wealth confiscated, be hauled off, and shot in the basement of the perverbial "Lubyanka" of the new regime. The muslim brotherhood factions would likely do the same, except on full public display in a soccer stadium.

  • StephenD

    Mr. Bawer, I have one point I disagree with. You said "No, not every Muslim, American or otherwise, is a potential suicide bomber."

    You are wrong. Just as you and I are one breath away from being a murderer but for conscious restraints we are not. In like manner, every Muslim IS a potential suicide bomber, more so if his/her beliefs conform to the very idea and negate that conscious restraint even further.

  • popseal

    Nation published "BLACKWATER", the hit piece against that security contracting company that I worked for. The book made the rounds at the sequestered site I was assigned and was considered rather amusing. To us on the inside of the company, at that Central Asian location, it was a telling exposure of just how untruthful the Katrina Vanden Huevel ilk can be. Now retired after 17 months on stations, I can only be grateful to the company for a chance to serve again in the cause of freedom. May the fleas of 1000 camels infest the crotches of the leftist cowards and parasites walking among us.

    • Schlomotion

      Blackwater? You mean that criminal organization that has to change its name every six months?

      • poppakap

        That slomo calls an American security company a criminal organization is all we need to know about his jihadist, anti-American worldview. Stalin couldn't have described slomo better than "useful idiot."

  • Maxie

    Criminal organization? No, you're confusing it with The Nation.

  • Ghostwriter

    Unfortunately,the people at "The Nation" aren't the only one out there who are blind. We have Schlomotion,one of our resident Jew haters,who peddles his rancid anti-semitism around like an old-time snake oil salesman.

    • Schlomotion

      Good for bursitis…
      Cuts and semitis…

      • gray man

        However, it apparently has no effect on mental retardation.

      • poppakap

        …and he fancies himself a writer. Seriously.

        I've read better prose on headstones and on the walls of my daughter's kindergarten class.

        Anyone care to guess the proportion of failed socialist writers that have clinical depression and/or anti-social ideations?

    • BS77

      Hey Ghost….Schlocko is an idiot, an arrogant Bill Maher type, with a smirk and a stupid mind….best to never respond to this fool.

  • el zopilote

    “What happens when ordinary life becomes grounds for suspicion without a hint of wrongdoing…?”
    Maybe Mr Bayoumi can clarify this comment. How about the ordinary Muslims in this country who
    cheered when the planes brought down the WTC?

  • clarespark

    The Nation was always weird. See http://clarespark.com/2009/09/19/populism-progres…. I spent half a year analyzing its coverage of the wild year 1919, and wrote about their top down "populism" here. It was shocking. They advised their readers to move sharply to the Left to co-opt the Socialist Party and the IWW (and feisty women too), which they feared as revolutionary parties. And there was more than a dollop of antisemitism in there too. Very Plato, very organic conservative, very gentlemanly..

  • clarespark

    On The Nation during the critical year of 1919, see http://clarespark.com/2009/09/19/populism-progres…. The title: Populism, Progressivism, and corporatist liberalism in The Nation, 1919." It is quite a revelation of the progressive mentality.

  • ArmedInfidel

    "The end justifies the means."

    The end is the destruction of the West, Capitalism, and Freedom.

    The means is….well, anything and everything, no matter how bad, how wrong, or how evil it may be. In this case it's lies and propaganda designed to convince people that our Islamic enemies are not really our enemies. Remember the Scorpion and the Frog? — "It is my nature" said the scorpion.

    It is their nature. No amount of propaganda will change that.

  • dysgenic

    It's the Jewish jihad on both Arabs and white gentiles that we should be worried about. Palestine is occupied and America is occupied by our common enemy. We whites need to stop fighting Arabs on behalf of Israel and form an alliance against Jewish domination.

    • BS77

      Better take something to cure your stupidity….but it may not be available.

    • Drakken

      Hey dummy, the Israelis are our friends, they are western civilization personified like we are, so get it through your shortbus special mind of those facts. If Israel goes we go next and I for one will side with the west, over the savages of the middle and far east any day and twice on Sunday.

      • dysgenic

        Hey DUMMY, Jews HATE western civilization and work continually to destroy it. That's a major part of what the "Left" (i.e., the Jews' left hand) is about. You're buying propaganda meant for the ignorant.

  • Western Spirit

    oooooh i'm afraid of the big bad jews who frequent this site. i lived with a big bad jew for years and he never raised a hand to me or hurt me in any way even though he was strong, in excellent shape and capable of great damage.

    so will you please explain to me dysgenic why we whites should be afraid of jews? jews who are also white. i think they are, on average, good people who came to my rescue when someone was trying to destroy me. until that time i hadn't known any jews but when i needed them they came out of the woodwork and became my champions. i think it was because they knew how persecution feels.

    • dysgenic

      A concise one-page listing of Jewish infamies against white America may be found at http://www.rense.com/general81/how.htm under the title “How Jewish Supremacism Is Destroying America.” It only scratches the surface. Much of it overlaps with a possible listing of leftist infamies. David Horowitz rarely discusses the historical predominance of Jews in the left, naturally enough, although he was a Jewish red-diaper baby himself (which he does discuss).

      • Ghostwriter

        And what have you been doing dysgenic? Reading "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" before you wrote that disgusting post? I had a quick look at your thing. I hated that as well. You've proven yourself to be another vile anti-semite who has no decency and has all the love and compassion of a cactus. In fact,why don't you hug a cactus and leave the rest of us alone?

  • http://www.lornasalzman.com Lorna Salzman

    The Nation refuses to accept a paid ad of my quiz "Are you an Islamophobe?" and publishes rot. I got pretty annoyed, and then said to myself: why should I expect anything different from The Nation? They have made their islamist apologias quite clear just as they do in all their authoritarian articles. This is hardly the only topic where The Nation is clueless. I stopped subscribing to it thirty years ago because it had no interest whatsoever in environmental issues, which are of major concern to me. (In fact neither does the right wing, but for different reasons, and that is where I part company from them). The Nation is free to print its gobbledygook and its uninformed readers are welcome to it. We can't look to the left to be honest or balanced. Ideology has always trumped the truth for the left in America. Let's comfort ourselves with knowing that The Nation and its readership is
    in the tiny minority and that its influence on public opinion and policy is essentially nil. They are not about to open
    their minds to the truth and there's nothing we can do about it. But at least we can tell them what we think; they did publish my comment on the Blumenthal article and it was not the only critical comment on their site. So not all their readers agree with them. That's a bit of comfort, as is the fact that there are some honest left wing writers who speak out: Nick Cohen in the UK, Bernard-Henri Levy and Pascal Bruckner in France, Paul Berman here (and the late Christopher Hitchens), for starters. Our big battle is not with the fellow travelers of totalitarianism but with the ordinary mass media who practice self censorship on Islamist oppression and violence. Free speech is what we need to uphold and press for, and we should understand that the more they rant and try to discredit us, the greater the impact we are having. For The Nation to publish a slew of pro Islamist articles attacking nonexistent "Islamophobia" means that we must be doing something right. The truth is coming out, everywhere, and they are
    scrambling to confront it. But people know what is going on. Their eyes and ears don't lie.

  • elitist

    I disagree with the blanket condemnation of The Nation.

    Incidentally, they have had at times excellent coverage of environmental issues – despite what one commentor here asserts.

    their Islamophobia issue, however, an instance of insanity.

    I have been blocked permanently from commenting on the online edition of The Nation for my comments concerning Islam.

    Nonetheless, it is encouraging that they have received a deluge of angry mail from readers and subscribers who disagree with their kowtowing to the Muslim brotherhood.

    Just as many conservatives disagree with some of the more insane positions of mainstream conservatives (the most grotesque being the worship of bloated, corrupt, inefficient, environmentally destructive corporations that should simply be dissolved altogether and replaced by smaller enterprises), there are many progressives who disagree with much of the orthodoxy.

    Many progressives, for example, are jumping ship because of the palpable insanity of the left's open borders policies, but they have nowhere else to go, since the Republican Party is just as pro-open borders as anarchists or communists!!!

    Just as many conservative publications are fronts for bloated corporations who subvert good governance by bribing corrupt politicians, some progressive publications – and quite a few conservative ones as well, not to mention universities etc. – are now accepting funding from Saudi Arabia, the Muslim brotherhood and its front organizations etc..

    My question is:

    has The Nation too accepted jihadi money?

    It would go a long way toward explaining their same decision to run with the fraudulent Islamophobia issue.