The other day I wrote here about a Norwegian TV documentary – to use the term very loosely – in which Robert Spencer, the consummate Islam critic and expert, was expertly demonized. The program showed him in Stockholm last summer, addressing an outdoor audience from a platform. While he stood there in suit and tie, his demeanor entirely calm and reasonable, and delivered his talk – or tried to – a violent mob a few feet away spewed out its venom: “Fucking racists! No racists in our streets!”
Meanwhile a small army of riot police struggled to hold them back. It was not easy.
To look at those faces twisted with hatred – those human beings transformed into ferocious beasts, filled with savage indignation and, by all indications, prepared to tear their fellowman limb from limb – was to stare into the very heart of contemporary Europe's darkness. It's one thing to read about the history of Europe from the storming of the Bastille to the present day; it's another thing to see the most cataclysmic, psychopathic turning points of the last couple of centuries vividly mirrored, as it were, before one's eyes.
How different were those faces in Stockholm, after all, from the faces one might have seen in the streets of Paris during the Reign of Terror? This mob rage didn't come from nowhere: it's the product of history. Those rioters in Stockholm were the descendants of Robespierre and the enragés, the heirs to their unquenchable bloodthirstiness; and the rage in their eyes was testimony to the enduring destructive power of pure fanatical ideology, which, time and again since 1789, has turned Europe into a madhouse.
Looking into the eyes of those protesters, one could scarcely doubt that if they could push their way past those cops and get their hands on Spencer, they'd do as much harm to him as they could. And yet, remarkably, while Frode Nielsen, the “journalist” who made this “documentary,” didn't try to hide these people's violence from us, he didn't breathe so much as a word in condemnation of it. On the contrary: if silence betokens approval, he approved. Indeed, even as we watched those rioters raging rabidly at Spencer, Nielsen took pains to spell out for us who the real extremist was – Spencer, naturally.
Needless to say, if Nielsen had paused for just two or three minutes to provide an honest overview of Spencer's work, the whole premise of his documentary would've come crashing down; it would've become clear to every viewer that Spencer is the very opposite of what Nielsen, and those rioters, would have us believe. Yet that wasn't what Nielsen wanted; he wanted his viewers to see Spencer as a force for evil. And he apparently wanted them to understand, too, that those barbaric demonstrators were the Good Guys – decent, delicate souls who'd been driven to extreme conduct by a vile American provocateur. If they were capable of violence, it was violence in the name of virtue.
Spencer's Stockholm visit took place last summer. Last Saturday, another one of the men who are routinely characterized by the likes of Nielsen as a contemporary force for evil, Geert Wilders, gave a talk in another Swedish city, Malmö. On Sunday, a website posted an account by the Danish politician and jurist Aia Fog of what happened when she and three other women arrived at the sports complex where Wilders was scheduled to speak. They came in a taxi, Fog wrote, but because of police barricades were obliged to walk 200 yards to the entrance. The cops were out in force; and, as it happened, the protesters were shouting the exact same slogan that greeted Spencer in Stockholm: “No racists in our streets!”
One difference between that demo and this one, however, was that this time around the police weren't holding the protesters back. The cops were over here, the demonstrators over there – which meant that Fog and her friends had to make their way through the mob in order to get into the venue. As they were doing so, some of the protesters apparently recognized one of Fog's companions, the high-profile journalist Katrine Winkel Holm – who is a columnist for Jyllands-Posten, a founder of the Danish Free Press Society, and a director of Danish state TV and radio. “Racist!” they shouted. “Go home, we have border controls for you!” And they screamed at Fog: “Fat fascist pig!”
“Katrine starts to argue with them,” recalled Fog,
but it's completely futile, and soon I pull her arm and tell her to drop it, so we can get through the crowd and go in. And then it happens very quickly: Katrine and I are suddenly isolated from Kit and Trine, and I'm surrounded by AFA.
AFA is Antifascistisk Aktion – one of those European groups that call themselves anti-fascists but that, in everything they do and say, are textbook totalitarians. Fog wasn't sure that these guys were members of AFA, but they sure looked the part:
Danish men in their twenties, with black hoodies and small ugly tattoos....extremely threatening – not just in their attitude (which is furious, hateful - and just waiting to be permitted to strike), but also physically: I'm completely surrounded by 4-5 of them who not only block my way, but who push me hard with their shoulders, knocking me off balance. Then I feel a blow to the back of my head, and then another – this time not so hard, which in the end turns out to be an egg hurled at my neck.
Though the Swedish police were nearby, they were too far away to see any of this, and so didn't come to anybody's aid. In any case, the four women made it safely into the venue – and when, moments later, concerned about the safety of other attendees, they stepped outside to see whether the police had managed to create a secure “corridor” through which people could pass through the mob unmolested, the cops told them to go back inside, “because we were 'provoking' [the protesters] by our presence.” Ah, that word – provoked. (Indeed, after Wilders's speech was over, a Swedish journalist asked Fog if she had “provoked” anybody before the egg was thrown at her.)
So much fury! So many men bullying women in the name of human sensitivity! It's all supposed to be about “Islamophobia,” of course – about defending innocent, put-upon Muslims from their racist oppressors. But scratch these self-styled friends of Islam and what you'll find is the heirs to Europe's most poisonous, dehumanizing dreams – men and women who are the sworn enemies of that messy, imperfect thing, human freedom, and who'll never shake off their dangerous, blind faith in the utopian promise of authoritarian ideology. So it stands, alas, in much of Europe in the year 2012. To know anything about the history of the last few generations on this beleaguered continent is to realize that none of this insanity is new – and that every bit of it is, shall we say, profoundly inauspicious.
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