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On Sunday, the story that was front and center on the main page of the website of Le Monde – France’s purported newspaper of record – was a nearly perfect example of how to go about attacking critics of Islam. Headlined “Why Islamophobia is Gaining Ground,” the article, written by Frédéric Joignot, begins by noting that Marine Le Pen, the daughter and successor of the fascist anti-Semite Jean-Marie Le Pen, “came first or second in 116 constituencies out of 577, exceeding 25% in 59 of them.” Her chief cause: the struggle against Muslim immigration. As is usual in such articles, Joignot professes to be puzzled by this extraordinary level of support for a politician running on the issue of Islam. How could this be? How could so many Frenchmen have voted for a candidate whose #1 issue is Muslim immigration? What on earth were they thinking of?
For some of us, the answer is obvious: voters in France, like voters across Europe, are sincerely concerned about Muslim immigration, and neither Sarkozy nor Hollande addressed the issue to their satisfaction. But for Joignot and many other members of the fourth estate, the whole point is to pretend that the answer for these voters’ curious preoccupations lies elsewhere. In such articles, it is verboten to actually examine the issue of Islam objectively; one needs to strike a tone which communicates the notion that any professed concern about Muslim immigration into Europe is, on its face, ridiculous, ugly, and racist.
Hence Joignot tells us that the success in France of what he calls “the extreme right” – a right that rejects, or pretends to reject, “xenophobia, racism, and anti-Semitism” even as it makes Muslim immigration its principal issue – is part of a continent-wide phenomenon that includes the inroads made by “the Danish People’s Party, the Dutch Freedom Party, the Austrian FPÖ and BZÖ, the True Finns, the Norwegian Progress Party, the Flemish Vlaams Belang, Law and Justice in Poland, Ataka in Bulgaria, the Northern League in Italy, the Sweden Democrats, [and] the Central Democratic Union (UDC) in Switzerland.” This list is a preposterous mishmash, implying an equation between classical liberal parties and genuinely fascist ones. That’s another must in these articles, by the way: throw all parties to the right of (say) Le Monde in the same basket, and label them all as extremists.
Next step: quote an “expert” or two. Joignot drags in Jean-Yves Camus, a “specialist in the far right,” who instructs us that we are witnessing the emergence of a “radicalized new right.” Also quoted is “Austrian political scientist” Anton Pelinka, who tells us that all the parties listed above “demagogically…denounce Muslim immigration to rally the losers of globalization.” In other words, according to Pelinka, the voters who are drawn to these European parties by their positions on Muslim immigration aren’t really motivated, deep down, by the issue of Islam. No: these are people who are frustrated because, thanks to globalization, they’re going through rough economic times – and they’re blaming their suffering not on the capitalists who are genuinely responsible for globalization, and thus for their financial woes, but on Muslims, who are, needless to say, innocent bystanders who are being unfairly victimized.
Breathtaking condescension toward voters is an important element of these kinds of articles. You’ve got to send the message – without ever providing the slightest bit of evidence, of course – that voters who are concerned about Islam are ignorant bigots who are being exploited by cynical politicians. The possibility that either these politicians or these voters have legitimate concerns about Islam, based on their own experiences and observations, can never be so much as hinted at.
The “most radical” of all the European politicians on the “extreme right,” says Joignot, is Geert Wilders, “who considers Islam not a religion but a ‘fascist ideology,’ homophobic and profoundly sexist.” (Yep, that sounds like a far-right radical all right: concerned about fascism and sexism and homophobia.) Needless to say, Islam is fascistic and homophobic and profoundly sexist; but Joignot mentions Wilders’s bluntness about this uncomfortable fact as if the absurdity of such a position were self-evident. This is another standard element of these articles: cite a purely factual statement about some unconscionable, terrible, beastly aspect of Islam, and then act as if its very beastliness is evidence that the statement cannot possibly be true – and that it is therefore not Islam but the critic of Islam that must, in fact, be extreme.
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