Three False Narratives

In his 1970 bestseller Future Shock, Alvin Toffler wrote about the stress and disorientation caused by “too much change in too short a period of time.” According to Toffler, more and more Americans were experiencing a sense of dislocation as a result of increased mobility, frequent career moves, and sudden lifestyle changes. Forty-five years later, the pace of change hasn’t let up. If anything, it seems to be accelerating. It’s difficult to keep up with the news, let alone the rapid turnover of technological and social changes.

In a future-shocked society, the future arrives ahead of schedule—long before we are ready for it. Major changes that once took generations to evolve now materialize in a matter of years or months. Instead of being afforded decades to adjust to gradual changes, we are confronted with radical transformations on an almost monthly basis.

One way to mitigate the stress of future shock is to pretend to oneself that nothing has really changed. Thus, a common response to novel situations is to try to understand them from within old and comfortable frameworks. We take new facts and new developments and try to force them into old narratives even though the old paradigms aren’t adequate to contain them. Explanations that were useful in analyzing events that happened half a century or more ago are hauled out to explain new situations that bear only a surface similarity to the old ones.

The invention of the automobile marked the beginning of a radically new form of transportation. Yet for a long time afterward, most people could only grasp the new transport by reference to the old one. Cars were called “horseless carriages” and engine capacity was measured in “horsepower” (come to think of it, it still is). In many respects, we are still in the horseless carriage stage of trying to understand recent developments. Here are three important new realities and the outworn narratives that are used to explain them.

 

Old narrative: Blacks are victims of white racism.

New reality: Blacks are victims of dysfunctional family and social systems created by perverse paternalistic incentives.

In other words, Jim Crow died a long time ago and no one is trying to bring him back to life. Blacks are largely victims of black and white liberalism. Failure to understand the real reasons for the plight of black communities will eventually result in similar high levels of illegitimacy, crime, and poverty among whites and Hispanics. The old narrative is largely irrelevant for purposes of coping with the new reality.

Old narrative: Diversity is our strength and immigration enriches a nation.

New reality: Too much diversity can destroy a society.

Building a viable common culture out of many different and sometimes conflicting strands is a rare achievement. Without common values and traditions to bind them together, multicultural societies tend to break apart into warring factions. Witness the balkanization of the Balkans and the bloody partition of India and Pakistan. Likewise with immigration. Sometimes, and under certain conditions, immigration can enrich a culture, and sometimes it can wreck a culture—as seems to be happening in Europe and Britain right now. For example, thanks to the influx of assimilation-averse Muslim immigrants, Sweden, which once had one of the lowest crime rates on the planet, now has the second highest incidence of rape in the world. England is also experiencing growing incidents of rape. A particularly egregious case involved the small city of Rotherham where 1400 young girls were raped and prostituted. The rapes—mostly perpetrated by Pakistani gangs—went on for fifteen years because police, city authorities, and child protection agencies turned a blind eye to a phenomenon that didn’t fit into the established narrative about culturally enriching Third-Worlders.

It’s estimated that by 2050, Muslims will make up a majority of the youth population in England. “Youth”—that would be the portion of the population most likely to demonstrate, intimidate, and riot to get what they want. 2050 is probably an optimistic projection. Muslims already make up 45 percent of the under-twenties in some major urban centers in France. It was just such exuberant youth who staged riots in over 270 French towns and cities for three weeks in the fall of 2005. Ironically, the Muslim immigrants to Europe are no fans of diversity. They want others to do things their way. So, by a strange paradox, more diversity in Europe will eventually translate into much less diversity. Diversity will mean that you get to choose from five different hijab designs, four different halal menus, and your choice of coffee, tea, or soft drinks at the local wine shop. It’s unlikely that the aging indigenous population of Europe and the UK will be able to offer much resistance to what’s coming. It’s not just their arthritis that hobbles them, but also arthritic narratives that are long past their prime

Old narrative: Islam is a religion of peace, and extremists are a tiny minority.

New reality: ISIS, Boko Haram, the Taliban, al-Qaeda, al-Nusra, al-Shabbab, Hezbollah, Hamas, suicide bombers, lone wolves, beheading of children, sex slavery, forced conversions, celebration of baby-killing, attacks on school children, hundreds of thousands of Christians fleeing their homes, anti-Semitic mobs in Europe.

That’s one heck of a tiny minority. If all these “tiny” minorities and lone wolves joined forces, they would easily outnumber most NATO armies. Moreover, those who are actively engaged in terror seem to have sizeable support from the folks back home. For example, a recent poll of French citizens revealed that one in six had a positive opinion of ISIS. Considering that the Muslim population of France is about 11 percent, and assuming that the bulk of the sympathetic 16 percent were Muslims, that would mean that a majority of French Muslims are sympathetic to ISIS. Meanwhile, a poll of young Turks in the Netherlands found that 80 percent of them see nothing wrong with jihad against unbelievers. Man Haron Monis, the self-styled sheik who took seventeen people hostage in a Sydney café, was supposedly a lone wolf, yet he had 14,000 “likes” on his Facebook page. Moreover, when authorities tried to secure an ISIS flag at Monis’ request, they discovered that although Sydney had an abundant supply, none of the owners wanted to part with such a cherished possession.

One problem with hanging on to these narratives long after they’ve passed their sell-by date is that it involves all those who repeat the narratives in a pretense. And that’s not good for one’s character. As psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple once observed:

When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself.

Those who manage in spite of it all to retain their probity will lose respect for those who keep telling the lies. Recently, after the Taliban in Pakistan murdered 135 schoolchildren, NATO officials issued a statement condemning the attack and asserting that it showed a “lack of respect for the Islamic faith.” Really? The word “Taliban” means “students.” The group was originally formed out of madrassa students—people who presumably know something about Islam. Moreover, groups like the Taliban and al-Qaeda came into existence precisely because they felt that Islam was not getting enough respect.

“Lack of respect for the Islamic faith,” “this has nothing to do with Islam,” “[beheadings] represent no faith, least of all Islam.” After a while, the average bloke who hasn’t taken an oath to uphold whatever politically correct narrative is currently in vogue begins to have his doubts. He begins to think: “This [insert latest atrocity] probably does have something to do with Islam.” The more the boys in the establishment cry “sheep” whenever Islam’s wolf-like nature is in danger of revealing itself, the more credibility they lose.

Besides the massive self-deception and hypocrisy involved, there’s a more serious consequence of trying to pour new phenomena into the old wineskins of familiar narratives. The invariable result is that the negative effects of the new phenomenon will be compounded. If you misdiagnose heart disease as heartburn and treat the symptoms with Prilosec, the heart problem won’t go away, and it will probably get worse. If you double down on the white racism narrative when all the facts say otherwise, racial tensions will only increase. If you insist that America is still a racist country—as Obama, Holder, Sharpton, and Mayor de Blasio continue to do—the criminally inclined among blacks will conclude that reprisals are justified. Last week, protesters in New York City were chanting a call for “Dead cops—now!” Saturday, two city policemen were killed execution style by a gunman who claimed on Instagram that he was going to take revenge for the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. Perhaps not coincidentally, the killer’s name was Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley, and his Facebook page contains a screenshot of Koran 8:60, which includes the phrase “Strike terror into the hearts of the enemies of Allah.”

Just as the narrative can be used to embolden criminals, it can also be used to cow police into laxer law enforcement. One subset of the white racism narrative—a narrative that once upon a time did fit the facts—is that blacks are disproportionately and unfairly targeted by police. Yet a study from Washington State University–Spokane suggests the opposite. The study found that police were “less likely to erroneously shoot unarmed black suspects than they were unarmed whites—25 times less likely.” Police also “hesitated significantly longer before shooting armed suspects who were black compared to armed suspects who were white or Hispanic.”

In short, the majority of police are bending over backwards to be racially sensitive. It’s a good bet that they already err on the side of being too lenient when dealing with black suspects. By ignoring the facts and going with the narrative of unfair targeting, we only ensure that police will feel more hamstrung than they already do in enforcing the law. Police who are constantly worried that their law enforcement activities may result in smear attacks, career loss, or a jail sentence are going to be tempted to look the other way when a crime is being committed. Or, as Pat Lynch, the head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said in response to criticism from New York City’s Mayor de Blasio, “If we won’t get support when we do our jobs … then we’re going to do it the way they want it…. We will use extreme discretion in every encounter.” “Extreme discretion?” Sounds like more time in the donut shop and less time on the beat. And what about potential recruits? Once again, discretion is likely to be the better part of valor, and it’s reasonable to expect that many will think twice before choosing such a hazardous and thankless career. That means that law-abiding citizens, both black and white, will be less protected. The thin blue line that shields ordinary people from barbarism will grow thinner still.

Something similar will happen if we persist in maintaining the false narrative about Islam. Those who are charged with protecting us from Islamic violence—the police, the military, Homeland Security, the FBI, and the CIA—will be more beholden to the narrative than to the truth. Many of them already are. So are large numbers of people in the media, the academy, and government. The narrative determines what they will notice and what they will discount. If the narrative says that violence has nothing to do with Islam, then they will look for its causes somewhere else: in poverty, historical grievances, lack of education, mental illness—anything but religious dictates. Meanwhile, in the absence of any accurate analysis, militant Islam will continue to grow. There is a thin line of truth-tellers whose testimony affords some protection to Muslims and non-Muslims alike from Islam’s violent tendencies, but that thin line is stretched to the breaking point and the truth-tellers are under more or less constant attack from the upholders of the official narrative.

The West’s incredibly confused response to events in the Muslim world is rooted in an equally confused narrative. The preservation of the fiction that Islam is a religion of peace has made it possible for the violent strain of Islam to become almost the dominant strain. Likewise, Europe’s naïve immigration policies, which are based on the same multicultural fantasy, seem geared to ensure that the problems of Syria and Iraq will soon be the problems of Sweden and Ireland. There’s a revered English hymn (based on a poem by William Blake) that promises:

I will not cease from mortal fight;
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green and pleasant land.

The way things are going, it looks like the multicultural elite won’t cease their struggle till they have built Islamabad in the scepter’d isle.

Santayana said that those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. It might be added that those who insist on misapplying past lessons will make a hash of the present.

William Kilpatrick

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William Kilpatrick taught for many years at Boston College. He is the author of several books about cultural and religious issues, including Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right From Wrong; and Christianity, Islam and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Jihad. His articles have appeared in numerous publications, including Catholic World Report, National Catholic Register, Aleteia, Saint Austin Review, Investor’s Business Daily, and First Things. His work is supported in part by the Shillman Foundation. For more on his work and writings, visit his website, turningpointproject.com

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