This article is reprinted from City Journal.
Showdown with Evil: Our Struggle Against Tyranny and Terror, by Jamie Glazov (Mantua Books, 255 pp., $18)
Its unbridled license and frequent triviality notwithstanding, the Internet has performed an invaluable political service by breaking the monopoly that the left-leaning mainstream media once held over public information and analysis. In the past, a New York Times or CBS Evening News could impose a narrative that served its political interests; today, myriad websites and blogs respond instantly to every shoddy argument and distortion of fact. David Horowitz’s Web magazine, FrontPage, has been indefatigable in challenging liberal media’s attempt to control the political conversation. The breadth of that ongoing effort is well represented in Showdown with Evil, FrontPage editor Jamie Glazov’s compilation of 30 interviews that the site conducted with some of America’s most astute commentators.
Glazov’s book focuses primarily on two themes: the need to understand the existential threat of radical Islam, and the lessons that we can learn from our earlier conflict with Communist tyranny. A 2009 interview with Robert Spencer emphasizes what a bad job the press is doing of identifying the religious motivations of jihadists. The media, Spencer observes, “are completely sold out to the idea that Muslims, as non-white, non-Christian, non-Westerners, cannot possibly be anything but victims.” Hence the “avalanche of ‘backlash’ stories,” despite the absence of any sustained, widespread attacks on Muslims in America. Conversely, “in the lenses through which [the media] view the world, only white Judeo-Christian Westerners can do anything wrong.” This January, Spencer’s charge received some confirmation when the media—which had refused to identify Nidal Malik Hasan, who killed 13 people at Fort Hood in November 2009, as a jihadist, despite abundant evidence—instantly blamed the shooting of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords on “right-wing extremists” and the “climate of hate” that they had supposedly created, despite the absence of evidence.
As terrorism authority Steve Emerson argues in his interview, advocacy organizations like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) have exploited the notion that Muslims in America are victims of a “backlash” and “profiling.” Emerson discusses a letter sent in July 2009 by seven far-left House Democrats to Attorney General Eric Holder on behalf of nine Islamic interest groups, including CAIR, that had complained about how the Department of Justice investigated terrorism cases. Some of these groups had demonstrable links to terrorist organizations and frequently acted as public apologists for jihadist attacks and anti-Semitic libels. Nevertheless, one of the congressmen who signed the letter, Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, had sent a video message to the 2008 CAIR annual banquet, praising the group for promoting “the powerful message of Islam, a message of peace and reconciliation.” Incidents like these illustrate what Emerson describes as the legitimizing of radical Islam in the eyes of the government, popular culture, and media, all under the guise of defending civil liberties. The House letter also stands as a vivid example of what Horowitz, in his interview, calls the “unholy alliance” between the hard Left and radical Islam, both of which see liberal democracy as the most formidable obstacle to achieving their political utopias.
The interview with Harvey Klehr and John Haynes, historians whose work in the Soviet archives revealed the extent of Communist Cold War spying in America, provides another example of the inability of many on the left to accept indisputable historical fact. Klehr and Haynes discuss the hysterical response to the evidence that they uncovered proving that left-wing journalist icon I. F. Stone worked briefly for the KGB. Haynes attributes this massive denial to the Left’s view of history as “infinitely malleable.” Thus, “when historical evidence on some issue does become so heavy that even the intellectual equivalent of shouting, screaming, and throwing sand in the air is no longer sufficient to obscure the facts, the hard Left just drops the issue and pretends that it doesn’t exist.”
Readers are bound to disagree with some of the arguments that they find here. Former Soviet dissident and Israeli politician Natan Sharansky’s book, The Case for Democracy, is a forceful and eloquent defense of the transformative power of political freedom, one that influenced George W. Bush’s foreign policy in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet the points that Sharansky makes in his interview about the experiences of Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union in casting off totalitarianism and embracing democracy are misleading when applied to the Muslim Middle East. Germany and Japan did so after a devastating war left their countries in ruin. They started over from nothing, reminded of their political folly by the rubble surrounding them. Soviet Communism was an atheistic, materialist ideology imposed by force on a deeply religious people. Such an ideology could never put down cultural roots deep enough to survive its manifest failures. But Islamic jihadists root their motivations in traditional Islam and the scriptures of the Koran. In this theological context, political freedom in this life, no matter how desirable, will not trump obedience to God, particularly when the freedom projected by the West is often the unrestricted license of appetite and desire. Thus it is debatable that, as Sharansky asserts, “the vast majority of Muslims and Arabs, like everyone else will choose a free society over a fear society.” Not if they think that doing so will jeopardize their souls.
This is just a brief sample of the illuminating interviews that Glazov has gathered. Particularly fascinating is his conversation with atheist apologist Christopher Hitchens, one of the best debates between a believer and a nonbeliever I’ve encountered. It shows that issues of profound importance can be discussed with civility and respect. For anyone interested in joining a conversation with first-rate minds that place fidelity to truth and sound argument over ideology, Showdown with Evil is a must-read.
Bruce Thornton is the author of The Wages of Appeasement: Ancient Athens, Munich, and Obama’s America, recently published by Encounter Books.
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