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The Return of Fear

This is a guest blog post by Don, who lives and works in England:

I am an expat American who has been a staunch advocate of free-market capitalism for many years, and still mostly believe that. In recent years I have come to believe that the pressures of globalisation have opened certain fissures in the free-market model and have come to better appreciate certain aspects of the welfare state.

I have come to see definate advantages to certain aspects of the welfare state over the past few years as I've come to know the National Health Service (NHS) better and have observed the problems that Americans have with the health care insurance system in the US while being thankful that I don't have to deal with it personally. British historian Tony Judt wrote an essay masquerading as a book review in the New York Review of Books which contains some interesting analysis. It is a review of Robert Reich's recent book: "Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life" (Amazon.com, Amazon.de).

Judt first takes Reich to task for penning a trenchant critique of the current state of the world but wimping out in the end by refusing to identify the villains of the story, but his most interesting point comes late in the book review when Judt writes about the return of fear to the citizenry of Western countries:

Thanks in large measure to the state-provided public services and safety nets incorporated into their postwar systems of governance, the citizens of the advanced countries lost the gnawing sense of insecurity and fear that had dominated and polarized political life from 1914 through the early Fifties and which was largely responsible for the appeal of both fascism and communism in those years.

But we have good reason to believe that this may be about to change. Fear is reemerging as an active ingredient of political life in Western democracies. Fear of terrorism, of course; but also, and perhaps more insidiously, fear of the uncontrollable speed of change, fear of the loss of employment, fear of losing ground to others in an increasingly unequal distribution of resources, fear of losing control of the circumstances and routines of one's daily life. And, perhaps above all, fear that it is not just we who can no longer shape our lives but that those in authority have lost control as well, to forces beyond their reach.

I agree. In the case of the US I might add the fear of being overwhelmed by illegal immigrants and the fear of losing one's property due to catastrophic health problems. I think this deserves some discussion.

Related post in the Atlantic Review: Using the United States to Scare Germans

"Guantanamo in Germany"

The two well-known sociologists Richard Sennett and Saskia Sassen claim that their colleagues are being persecuted for the crime of sociology and in the name of the war on terror. Their op-ed in The Guardian has the headline: "Guantánamo in Germany." Yeah, right...
They also claim that the "state of emergency prevails" in Germany, France and the US: "The laws meant for real threats are invoked to counter shapeless fear."

Alleged "Guantanamisation" of Germany (UPDATE)

"The New York Times has a front-page article today about how the fear of terrorism in Germany is leading to a slow but inexorable erosion of civil liberties," writes David Vickrey in Dialog International.
David also translates an editorial in Sueddeutsche Zeitung, which accuses Germany's Interior Minister Schaeuble of hysteria and of talking "as if it were vital to prepare the way for the Guantanamisation of Germany's judicial system."
Personal sarcastic comment: Great that the Sueddeutsche Zeitung is not hysterical...
Besides, I agree to some extent with the professor of law quoted in the NYT: "If something happened, the same people who are criticizing him [Schaeuble] for going too far would criticize him for not going far enough." A serious debate about the usefulness of certain counter-terrorism measures and their impact on civil liberties is good.

UPDATE:
German president joins in debate over terrorism policy
Koehler urged Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble to show restraint in presenting ideas which he said could unnecessary unsettle the population. It was the duty of the minister 'to wrack his brains' over the best way to protect citizens, the president said in an interview on Germany's second television channel ZDF. But the staccato 'manner in which the suggestions came about' was not ideal.
Schaeuble called for legal powers to intern terrorist 'combatants' before they struck and said that Germany might have to introduce a US-style criminal offence of conspiracy to commit a crime. The minister, who outlined his thoughts in the news magazine Der Spiegel last week, also proposed a ban on the use of the internet and mobile phones by people the state deemed to be dangerous. Schaeuble also called for clarification under what conditions the constitution permits the state to target and kill terrorists. President Koehler said he had his doubts whether 'the killing of a suspected terrorist without a court ruling could be treated so lightly.' The minister's remarks, particularly those about targetted assassinations, provoked outrage in Germany, with opposition Greens party leader Claudia Roth calling on him to resign.

NYT's Correspondent Mark Landler's Shrill Coverage of Germany

The New York Times' Germany correspondent Mark Landler often exaggerates and is sometimes just wrong. The latest example is his July 11 article "Debate on Terror Threat Stirs Germany," which starts with
While the British public reacted to the latest terrorist strike there with stoicism and a practiced determination to get on with their lives, Germany has erupted in a rancorous dispute over how to deal with a terrorist threat that has yet to materialize here.
I take issue with these claims:
First of all, is Landler saying that Germans are not "getting on with their lives"? He certainly gives that impression with the comparison with Britain. Hey, this fear mongering did not happen in Germany: "Americans have apparently heeded the U.S. government's advice to prepare for terror attacks, emptying hardware store shelves of duct tape," reported CNN in February 2003.
Second, the German debate about the government's counter-terrorism plans has not "erupted" after the failed terrorist strikes in Britain, but has been going on since September 11, 2001. Every Interior Secretary has been accused of overreacting and violating civil liberties. There is a healthy debate going on about the right measures. What's wrong with that? Such debates took place in Britain as well in the past.
Third, a terrorist threat has "materialized" in Germany many years ago; definitely since the deployment of the Bundeswehr to Afghanistan in early 2002. In the past, many American observers, like Instapundit and Anne Applebaum claimed that Europe is denial about terrorism.

Last year Pursuit of Serenity has criticized the exaggerated article by Mark Landler "Bomb Plot Shocks Germans Into Antiterrorism Debate."

Landler has also exaggerated today's impact of unexploded World War II bombs in his article "60 Years Later, Buried Bombs Still Frighten Germans, and Kill Some." Marian Wirth, the author of Pursuit of Serenity, has criticized this article in his blog post The Germans, the War - and Bombs and added:
It's not for the first time, that I got the impression that Mr. Landler is exaggerating things and is actually drawing a picture of Germany which strucks me as... inaccurate.
Why is the New York Times coverage of Germany so shrill and portraits Germans as being "shocked" and "frightened"? Are they trying to compete with the New York Post?

Related posts in the Atlantic Review:
Still Deadly: World War II Bombs, Modern Cluster Bombs, Landmines and Small Arms
How Good or Bad is the US Media Coverage of Germany?

Vigilant, But Not Afraid

After three failed terror attacks in London and Glasgow, the Brits continue with the big public events this weekend, like the Gay Pride Parade, Wimbledon and the concert for Diana. The German paper Tagesspiegel praises the "stiff upper lip." The Nosemonkey in London has the right attitude and writes "Terrorists these days are rubbish."
Would Germans and Americans be as cool and continue with business as usual?

Werenot AfraidShortly after the London attacks of 7/7/2005, the We're not Afraid campaign started. Remember the funny pictures demonstrating fearlessness in solidarity with Britain and in defiance of the global terror movements? A good reminder from the "We're not Afraid" About us page:
We refuse to respond to aggression and hatred in kind. Instead, we who are not afraid will continue to live our lives the best way we know how. We will work, we will play, we will laugh, we will live. We will not waste one moment, norAlan Johnston banner sacrifice one bit of our freedom, because of fear. We are not afraid.
Related posts in the Atlantic Review:
Responding to "Al-Qaeda's Revival"
The State of Emergency Infrastructure
Increased Terror Threat: Germans in Pakistani Terror Camps

International Conference about the Collapse of Europe


California's Pepperdine University is hosting a conference about the Eurabia nonsense. Some of the topics of discussions have a few questionmarks, but it is clear in which direction they are going. Some samples:
1. What has been the role of Islam and the EU bureaucracy in fostering collapse?
2. Eurabia: Is Muslim domination of Europe inevitable?
3. Is Europe doomed to continued economic stagnation?
4. Civil Rights or Global Jihad? Are Muslims exploiting the democratic process to erode and destroy European democracy?
5. Collapse of Confidence; How much have Europeans Given Up on Their Own Civilization?
6. The end of the European Enlightenment and the growth of a closed thought society.
7. Europe’s post-Christian society and its mirror in the United States.
8. What steps can be taken in the United States to address the problems of Europe?
Dear readers, would you describe this conference setup as Anti-Europeanism and Islamophobia?
I am surprised that they don't have a panel about Rapture Readiness.

The list of speakers is extremely one-sided and includes many prominent supporters of the Eurabia myth. Wasn't California supposed to be liberal? What happened to academic standards of listening to both sides? The Polish consulate in New York got into trouble, when an NGO organised a discussion with Tony Judt about the Israel lobby in one of the consulate's rooms. The event was cancelled, but this conference probably will not get canceled because it is about Muslims and Europe rather than about Jews and Israel.

More criticism in Gideon Rachman's Financial Times Blog:
If you happen to be passing though Malibu next month, why not pop into an intriguing-sounding conference at Pepperdine University on "The Collapse of Europe". One of the early sessions is entitled - "Eurabia: Is Muslim domination of Europe inevitable?" My answer to this is "No" it's not inevitable. In fact, given that the Muslim population of Europe is just 4% at the moment, I would say it's highly unlikely. But don't trying telling that to an audience of American conservatives. The idea that Europe is about to be submerged by the Muslim hordes seems to be almost received wisdom over there. It is certainly a notion that has launched a great many books.
Related posts in the Atlantic Review: Financial Times: "US Prophets of Europe's Doom are Half Wrong"

Financial Times: "US Prophets of Europe's Doom are Half Wrong"

"Europeans of a nervous disposition should probably avoid going into bookshops on their next visit to the US. If they venture inside, they will come across an array of titles with a blood-curdlingly bleak view of their continent’s future." writes Gideon Rachman:
In Bruce Bawer’s While Europe Slept (Amazon.com, Amazon.de) -- now into its eighth printing -- the American reader is told that by ignoring the threat from radical Islam: "Europe is steadily committing suicide and perhaps all we can do is look on in horror." Tony Blankley, author of The West's Last Chance (Amazon.com, Amazon.de), warns that: "The threat of the radical Islamists taking over Europe is every bit as great to the United States as was the threat of the Nazis taking over Europe in the 1940s." In The Cube and the Cathedral (Amazon.com, Amazon.de), George Weigel, a Catholic conservative, claims that "western Europe is committing a form of demographic suicide". In this he echoes Pat Buchanan, who argued in his best-selling The Death of the West (Amazon.com, Amazon.de) that Europe's population is set to fall to 30 per cent of its current level by 2100, meaning that "the cradle of western civilisation will have become its grave".
Rachman opines:
I suspect that few Europeans would recognise themselves in this distorting mirror held up from the other side of the Atlantic. And yet -- tempting as it was to toss all these books into the bin and go out for a drink in the midst of my doomed civilisation (one might as well enjoy what little time is left) -- it is impossible completely to dismiss the American prophets of European doom. Strip away the hysteria and the hype and they make two serious points.
He describes these points as rising Muslim populations and low fertility rates, but also points out:
Similarly, the American vision of a Muslim takeover of Europe -- creating a new continent called "Eurabia" -- relies on projecting demographic trends to their limit and beyond. Weigel fantasises about a day when "the muezzin summons the faithful to prayer from the central loggia of St Peter's in Rome". Given that just 1.7 per cent of the Italian population is currently Muslim, that seems a long way off. Of the 456m people of the EU, just 15m to 16m are Muslim.
"The American vision"? Surely, most Americans do not share these opinions...? The Financial Times provides his entire review article.
Endnote: Davids Medienkritik approvingly quotes more Islamophobia, but also thankfully presents Dr. Gedmin's great column "If I were Muslim, I'd be offended by the Pope's speech".
Related: Too Much Cookies (German Blog) analyses the Mozart opera controversy. English summary in Dialog International.

Challenged Books and the "Banned Books Week"

Remember George Orwell's, "1984"? "Animal Farm"? Huxley's "Brave New World"? William Golding's "Lord of the Flies"? All of them were required readings in many an English class all over Germany. Have you always considered Mark Twain, Truman Capote, Sylvia Plath and John Steinbeck some of the greatest American writers? Did you always feel you should finally read those classics of American Literature: "Huckleberry Finn", "Gone With the Wind", "Little Farm on the Prairie"? Well, maybe you better hadn't. Because in some people's opinion, these are bad books, dangerous books, books that should disappear from school library shelves and required reading lists.
Read why some American citizens are trying to censor books -- and how American authors, libraries and Booksellers counter the attack celebrating an annual "banned books week" every September. Atlantic Review editor Sonja Bonin wrote about it in Der Spiegel (in German).

UPDATE: The American Library Association explains:
A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. The positive message of Banned Books Week: Free People Read Freely is that due to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens, most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection.