“If things go south for you at Fox News, there’s always room for you here,” joked Heritage Foundation president Kevin Roberts on April 22, after Tucker Carlson’s keynote speech at Heritage’s 50th anniversary bash.
Two days later, Carlson was out at Fox News. It’s not entirely a surprise. He was by far the most important voice on any of the corporate news media – broadcast or cable – and by far the most forthright: a rare exception to the rule in a time when the lockstep media labeled Trump a Russian tool and Hunter’s laptop a Russian plant. To the dismay of his bosses, Carlson challenged the official line on both the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election and the nature of the events of January 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol. Singlehandedly, he made Fox News seem like an honest broker.
Well, farewell to that.
There was a time when certain truths could actually be articulated on what we used to call mainstream media. That time seems increasingly distant. And quaint. The sense of overwhelming temporal distance from those somewhat freer days was brought home to me last week, not long before Carlson’s firing, when a video of the late Christopher Hitchens popped up on my YouTube feed. When I clicked on it and watched, I was transported, like Proust, to what felt like a long-lost time – a time after 9/11, to be sure, but a time far removed, at least in terms of what could be safely said on the legacy media, from the present moment.
The video consisted of a brief clip of Hitchens speaking his mind on Islam. He didn’t mince words. He didn’t pull punches. On the contrary, he addressed the subject with a clarity and directness and ardor that today (unless you’re a reader of websites like this one) seems utterly shocking. Here, in part, is what he said:
It’s very clear to me that the most toxic form that religion takes is the Islamic form. The horrible idea of wanting to end up with sharia – with a religion-governed state, a state of religious law – and that the best means of getting there is jihad, holy war, and that Muslims have a special right to feel aggrieved enough to demand this, I think is absolute obscene wickedness and I think their religion is nonsense….We’re in a very serious struggle with a very depraved religion.
I don’t know when, exactly, Hitchens’s comments were recorded. In the years following 9/11, he traveled far and wide to talk about this topic, and the video archive is substantial. In 2007 he published a book about Islam, and about religion generally, entitled God Is Not Great. It became a bestseller. Sadly, three years later, while he was on tour promoting his memoir, Hitch-22, he was diagnosed with cancer, and in December 2011, he died, age 62, having continued, almost to the very last, to speak the truth about Islam.
Hitchens merited criticism on many fronts. But in the years after 9/11, he was an invaluable mainstream critic of that increasingly untouchable religion. While other critics of Islam were too obscure to matter, or punched too wildly, or could be dismissed by the establishment as conservatives and therefore undeserving of serious attention, Hitchens was a lifelong man of the left (he persisted to the end in calling himself a Trotskyist), and, with his regular perch at Vanity Fair, was too sizable a figure on the cultural and political scene to be ignored. His assertions about Islam weren’t just solidly grounded in fact – they were set forth skillfully, with precision, and with an almost unexampled passion.
When he died, something important in Western society died, too. The West lost a sensible, high-profile voice on Islam. And people on both sides of the Atlantic who dared to speak about Islam in the way Hitchens had done were more easily disregarded, muzzled, canceled. The kind of fact-based criticism of Islam that had once been allowed in the corporate media was now increasingly relegated to independent online platforms (routinely labeled “far right”). Under Obama, who from the beginning of his presidency specialized in telling pretty lies about the religion of peace, criticizing Islam came to be increasingly characterized as an outright act of racism and xenophobia.
Unreason reigned. While our military was fighting true Islamic believers in Iraq and Afghanistan, other true Islamic believers were permitted to flood into America and Western Europe; across the West, more and more Muslims who could barely disguise their hatred of liberty became elected officials, tenured professors, and media commentators. And for those who dared to notice, there was one sign after another of “soft jihad.”
Here’s one of the latest: on April 13, the Minneapolis city council recently voted unanimously to revise municipal noise ordinances so as to allow mosques to broadcast the Muslim call to prayer over loudspeakers five times a day. “In the summer,” reported CBS News, “that means the call could go out as early as 3:30 a.m., and as late as 11 p.m.”
Jaylani Hussein, the executive director of the Minnesota branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations, defended this move in the following manner: “We built America on this basic principle of freedom of religion, and so today actually, it’s a victory for our Constitution.” Of course, one is no longer allowed these days to point out, in a corporate outlet like CBS News, that Islam rejects the freedom of religion as well as the U.S. Constitution. Nor is it acceptable to mention CAIR’s links to terrorism. It’s news like that that causes one to sorely miss Hitchens’s voice.
How accommodating has the West been to Islam? Here’s one Muslim girl’s opinion, as reported the other day by the alternative Swedish news website Samnytt. Esraa, a young Arabic-speaking TikTok influencer, “uses her platform, with over 60,000 followers, to showcase and market life in Sweden to Arabic-speaking Muslims. Her followers can follow along as she cheerfully talks about how life in Sweden is just like in the Arab countries and that it is fine to continue living exactly as you did in your home country without having to adapt.” That, she underscores, includes not having to learn Swedish.
In one of Esraa’s videos, she shows a large mosque in Malmö (built with money from Qatar) and brags that unlike the church beside it, “where people have stopped going,” it’s “always filled with people.” In another video, over footage of a Swedish street full of Arab businesses, she tells her viewers that it’s impossible “to feel like you’re in Sweden when you’re here on this street.”When infidels say such things, they’re vilified as liars, hysterics, and Islamophobes. For Esraa, these are selling points.
Meanwhile, in Norway, where I live, our taxpayer-financed TV network, NRK, has done an absolutely terrific job of showing us just how far we’ve come from the days when Christopher Hitchens could go on network TV, or step onto a stage at an Ivy League university, and describe Islam as “nonsense” and “toxic” and “depraved” without being pelted with garbage or run out of town on a rail. On April 22, for the fourth year in a row, NRK aired a ninety-minute show called Festen etter fasten, or The Feast (or Party) after the Fast. In the same cheery way that NRK covers the Christmas season and the annual nationwide celebrations on May 17, Norway’s Constitution Day, the program – hosted by Bahare Viken (a young woman, not in hijab) and Cengiz Al (a bearded young man) – covered Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and hence the end of fasting.
The show opened with a dance number by ten young men, two of them blond. Were the blonds Muslims? If not, what was going on here? And why weren’t there any dancing Muslim women? (Oh, sorry, we know why.) Muslim children talked about how Eid means receiving gifts, playing outside, and eating candy. (There’s no mention of the psychological and dietetic impact of Ramadan, which is comparable to that of the COVID-19 lockdown.) Adults also went on about food. Throughout the show, indeed, the focus was on eating. NRK really seemed to be trying – even in 2023, even after decades of constant worldwide terrorism – to sell us on the notion that the differences between the Western and Muslim worlds come down largely to cuisine. Hence we got not one but two cooking segments, plus a bit in which several in-studio guests were blindfolded, fed different bite-size items, and asked to guess what they were eating. Inevitably, the blindfolds brought to mind an ISIS beheading.
Yes, now and then some people on the show referred to their “beliefs” – which, for obvious reasons, were never actually spelled out. There was an interview with three men who’ve “conquered the whole world” – no, not jihadists, but an all-male Norwegian Muslim dance group called Quickstyle. And there was a montage of groups all over Norway merrily shouting “Eid mubarak!” into the camera: stuffed animals from a NRK children’s show; non-Muslim school kids; a military unit; white-coated employees at a psychiatric rehab center.
The show also took us to Fløyahallen, a sports arena and temporary mosque in Tromsø where the thousand or so worshipers included a newborn baby in hijab. At a soccer field, we met a soccer team whose Muslim players hadn’t eaten for twelve hours; one of them explained how he’d “taught” his infidel teammates to “respect” Islam and its rules. Norway’s first Muslim army chaplain said a few words. We saw clips of Eid celebrations in Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Afghanistan, and Qatar: all those places that Norway is well on its way to resembling.
And in a segment filmed on the streets of Oslo, a Muslim cab driver quizzed infidel passengers about Islam. The questions were all innocuous, needless to say – nothing about sharia law, forced marriage, honor killing, the command to hate infidels, or a husband’s right to beat his wife, control her movements, and divorce her at will. Hey, how about asking Muslims how much they know about Norway?
The whole awful taxpayer-funded thing, in short, was insanely irresponsible. In the last twenty-odd years I’ve seen my share of shameless whitewashes of Islam, but this one took the ever-loving baklava. It was nothing but wall-to-wall lies – an hour and a half of big smiles for the camera covering up the chilling reality of what Christopher Hitchens quite rightly called “absolute obscene wickedness.” It was an insult to viewers’ intelligence – and an insult, especially, to everyone who was ever raped by a gang of Muslim youths or killed in an Islamic terrorist attack.
But The Feast after the Fast apparently warmed the cockles of at least one Norwegian politician’s heart. On Monday, Oslo City Councilman Morten Edvardsen stated that it’s important to draw attention to the holidays celebrated by minority faiths and thereby “learn more about our neighbors,” “break down prejudices,” and enjoy “music, food, and performing arts.” Once again, there’s that fatuous reduction of religion to stuff like music and food, and that equally fatuous illusion that learning more about Islam would “break down prejudices” rather than reinforce them.
In 2023, to be sure, this nonsense is epidemic. As Robert Spencer noted here on Thursday, the Biden White House issued an Eid statement (in which Ramadan was referred to as a “holy month” three times in the first four sentences). Justin Trudeau recorded a video. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte spoke at an Eid banquet. Oxford’s Magdalen College marked the holiday on April 23 with a “festive Muslim dinner” in line with “Muslim customs.” The event replaced another traditional repast at Magdalen, which has now, out of respect for Muslims, been relegated to the junk heap: the annual dinner commemorating St. George’s Day (the day of observance, of course, for England’s patron saint).
Enough. I’ll end with one last Eid story. Last Saturday, a group of Muslim men in Sweden’s second largest city, Gothenburg, came up with their own special way of commemorating the big day: they went to a shopping center, encircled a couple of Christians who were handing out religious literature, and made threatening noises until the proselytizers fled the scene. As Hanif Bali, one of Sweden’s more outspoken political figures, put it: “This is domination culture to the nth power: People take over and seize the public space. Europeans who think this is a marginal phenomenon have to think again. This is a warning of what is to come.” And it’s coming, alas, pretty damned fast.