The story has invited more ridicule than sympathy: an Australian couple has been arrested in Iran after only traveling there in the first place to “try to break the stigma around travelling to countries which get a bad wrap [sic] in the media.” Jolie King and Mark Firkin should have known better, but they are by no means the first naïve Westerners to mock that ridiculed the idea that “the world is a big, scary place” and then place themselves in harm’s way. Those were the words of Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan, an American couple that was murdered by Islamic State (ISIS) jihadis last year while biking through Tajikistan.
As naïve as all four of these people certainly are or were, the responsibility for their plight lies not just with the Islamic Republic of Iran or ISIS, but also with the Leftist world in which they moved and lived. The Left’s leaders constructed a fantasy world, because Leftist ideas are dead on the drawing board without it.
In this fantasy world, Islam is peace. Borders and nation-states are unwelcome relics of a bygone age, because people are good everywhere — with the exception of Donald Trump and the “far-right.”
Austin and Geoghegan made this clear as they embarked on their journey. Austin, an employee of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Geoghegan, who worked at Georgetown University, decided two years ago to leave their jobs and go on a bike ride around the world. They kept a blog about their journey, on which Austin wrote:
You watch the news and you read the papers and you’re led to believe that the world is a big, scary place. People, the narrative goes, are not to be trusted. People are bad. People are evil. People are axe murderers and monsters and worse.
I don’t buy it. Evil is a make-believe concept we’ve invented to deal with the complexities of fellow humans holding values and beliefs and perspectives different than our own — it’s easier to dismiss an opinion as abhorrent than strive to understand it. Badness exists, sure, but even that’s quite rare. By and large, humans are kind. Self-interested sometimes, myopic sometimes, but kind. Generous and wonderful and kind. No greater revelation has come from our journey than this.
Yes, Austin and Geoghegan were unwise to carry this Pollyannish philosophy into Muslim Central Asia, just as King and Firkin were to take it to Iran, but they didn’t originate it. Where did Austin get the idea that “evil is a make-believe concept”? Most likely in today’s universities, which are saturated with moral relativism, contemptuous of absolutes, and dogmatically convinced that there is no dispute between people that can’t be settled by mutually respectful “dialogue.”
This perspective dominates contemporary culture, and is taken for granted even at the highest level. When Barack Obama and John Kerry entered into negotiations with the Islamic Republic of Iran during Obama’s disastrous post-American presidency, they were working upon the assumption that it was wrong to think that people “are not to be trusted” and that “people are evil.”
Obama and Kerry were essentially embracing the idea that “evil is a make-believe concept.” That the mullahs were perhaps “self-interested sometimes, myopic sometimes,” but ultimately good-hearted. The Leftist intelligentsia was and still is unanimous in applauding that initiative.
Likewise, it is a matter of dogmatic certainty for the Left that Islam is a religion of peace, and that only racist, bigoted “Islamophobes” think otherwise. Why should King and Firkin have had any reason to be concerned about traveling through the Islamic Republic of Iran? All it had was a “bad wrap.”
Those who don’t believe that “evil is a make-believe concept” are subject to furious and concerted demonization. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) — and the establishment media that treats the SPLC as if it were a reliable source — sees only one group of genuinely evil people in the world. Those who recognize that there are evil forces in the world that are set against the United States, and who want to protect Americans against Islamic jihadists, criminal migrants, and more, are the only evil ones. King and Firkin no doubt had nothing but contempt for such “intolerance” and “hate” manifested by foes of jihad terror and unrestricted illegal immigration.
The Left forces people to believe these fantasies, lest they be charged with “hatred” and “bigotry.” The people who filled King’s and Firkin’s heads with this nonsense bullied them towards their deaths.
The problem with these fantasies is that reality keeps breaking through. Jolie King and Mark Firkin have discovered too late that some people are evil. Will the West rid itself of the Leftist fantasies that led to their imprisonment before many more end up in similar predicaments?
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is The History of Jihad From Muhammad to ISIS. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.