The Triumph of Nice

In the summer of 2012, Michele Bachmann and four other House members sent a letter to the Inspector-Generals of key government agencies asking them to open an investigation into possible Muslim Brotherhood infiltration of the U.S. government.

The letter to the Department of State specifically raised concerns over Huma Abedin, then-Deputy Chief of Staff and top personal aide to the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.  The letter stated that Abedin “has three family members—her late father, her mother, and her brother—connected to Muslim Brotherhood operatives and/or organizations,” and noted that the Department of State had “taken actions recently that have been enormously favorable to the Muslim Brotherhood and its interests.”

For their pains, the five Republican House members were severely castigated, not only by Democrats but also by fellow Republicans.  For instance, Senator John McCain, who had “every confidence in Huma’s loyalty to our country,” characterized Bachmann’s assertions as “ugly and unfortunate attacks” on “an American of genuine patriotism and love of country.” As with McCain’s response, most of the criticism of Bachmann et al was addressed not to the merits of the charges but to their insensitive nature.  The charges were variously described as “vicious,” “extreme,” “outrageous,” “sinister,” and “offensive.”  Republican campaign strategist Ed Rollins expressed concern that the Republican Party would become the party of “intolerance and hate” if Bachmann had her way, and he admonished her to seek forgiveness:

Shame on you, Michele!  You should stand on the floor of the House and apologize to Huma Abedin and to Secretary Clinton and the millions of hardworking, loyal Muslim Americans for your wild and unsubstantiated charges.  As a devoted Christian you need to ask forgiveness for this grievous lack of judgment and reckless behavior.

Such exercises in shaming were formerly confined for the most part to communist Chinese re-education camps, but of late they seem to have become standard operating procedure in our own society whenever anyone steps over the sensitivity line.  And who can tell where those fault lines lie?  They are constantly being re-drawn.  Moreover, as in the case of Mozilla CEO’s Brendan Eich, they can be applied retroactively.  Eich was recently forced to step down from his position following the revelation that he had contributed $1,000 to the campaign in support of Proposition 8 six years ago.  An apology was demanded from Mozilla by gay activists and was soon forthcoming.  Here are some excerpts from Mozilla executive chairwoman Mitchell Baker’s statement:

We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right…. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people…. We’re sorry.  We must do better…. We will emerge from this with a renewed understanding and humility….

“A renewed understanding” of what?  That one must never hurt the feelings of those who believe that same sex-marriage is good for our society, but that it’s all right to trample over the lives of those who disagree?

If questions about the nature of marriage are to be decided on the basis of feelings, why not questions of national security?  It’s telling that the immediate response to the possibility of Brotherhood penetration of the State Department was on the order of “Shame on you!”  For his part, House Speaker John Boehner said the accusations against Abedin were “pretty dangerous.”  But if the accusations were true, wouldn’t that also be pretty dangerous?  After all, there is such an organization as the Muslim Brotherhood and it is dedicated to the overthrow of governments like ours.  According to a strategic memorandum prepared for the Muslim Brotherhood in North America, the aim of the Ikwahn (the Brotherhood) is a “civilizational jihad” for “destroying the Western Civilization from within” (A. McCarthy, The Grand Jihad, p. 58). In 2010, Mohammed Badie, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, declared:

Arab and Muslim regimes are betraying their people by failing to confront the Muslims’ real enemies, not only Israel but also the United States.  Waging jihad against both of these infidels is a commandment of Allah that cannot be disregarded.

That sounds dangerous to me—maybe even more dangerous than “how painful and injurious it is when a person’s character, reputation, and patriotism are attacked.”  As it turns out, Huma Abedin’s family connections to the Muslim Brotherhood have been firmly established and, as former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy points out, Huma herself worked for many years as assistant editor for the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, a publication “that promotes Islamic-supremacist ideology.”  Moreover, Abedin was a member of the executive board of the Muslim Student Association at George Washington University.  The Muslim Student Association was the first Brotherhood organization in the U.S. and, while not every MSA student becomes a Brotherhood member, the MSAs in America do have a reputation for producing more than their share of radicals.  Take Anwar al-Awlaki, the terrorist who mentored two of the 9/11 hijackers and who later conducted al-Qaeda operations out of Yemen.  He was president of the MSA chapter at Colorado State University and later became the spiritual guide for the MSA at George Washington University (after Abedin had graduated).

It may be that Abedin is completely innocent of any wrongdoing, but her own and her family’s connections to the Muslim Brotherhood should raise serious concerns.  As McCarthy points out, the State Department’s own guidelines about foreign family connections would disqualify her for a security clearance for such a sensitive position.  But Americans today seem attuned to other sensitivities—ones that trump concerns over sensitive government positions falling into enemy hands.  Were government secrets betrayed?  Nowadays, that question seem almost archaic and certainly far less pressing than more urgent questions such as, “Were someone’s feelings hurt?”  “Was any group offended?”

Bachmann and her colleagues were concerned that the State Department had “taken actions that have been enormously favorable to the Muslim Brotherhood and its interests,” and they went on to list five specific instances.  McCarthy lists at least half a dozen more that occurred during Hillary Clinton’s watch at State.  It might be sheer coincidence that the State Department’s embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood coincided with Huma Abedin’s tenure as Clinton’s top aide.  But suppose for the sake of argument that the worst-case scenario were true.  Suppose Abedin were actually an agent working for the Muslim Brotherhood?  Such things are not unheard of.  It’s an established fact that Soviet agents infiltrated the U.S. government before, during, and after the Second World War, and that one of them—Alger Hiss—held a sensitive position at the State Department.  Why is it implausible that Muslim Brotherhood operatives could infiltrate Washington and influence government policy?  Of course, to even ask the question is to court derision and ridicule and demands for abject apologies. As Ed Rollins made clear, anyone who raises such concerns “need[s] to ask forgiveness.”

But again, suppose it were true? Suppose the evidence were overwhelming? Would any amount of evidence be sufficient to override the argument from feelings? Or has our commitment to being nice and inoffensive rendered us incapable of meaningful action in our own defense? Back in 1966, sociologist Philip Rieff wrote a book titled The Triumph of the Therapeutic. That verdict may have been a little premature at the time, but it seems safe to say that the therapeutic mode of judging now reigns supreme. We have become a society that values feelings over truth, and that is a very dangerous state of affairs.

In fact, Bachmann and the four House members did provide sufficient evidence to justify an inquiry into Muslim Brotherhood influence. In response to a request from Representative Keith Ellison, they supplied 16 pages of evidence. Nevertheless, they were reprimanded and their petition was brushed aside. Once upon a time parents admonished children that “it’s not nice to point.” That, essentially, was the argument used to silence the five Representatives—in effect, “It’s not nice to point. You are being hurtful. You are hurting the feelings of the whole Muslim community.”

The strategic memorandum for the North American Muslim Brotherhood explains that Western civilization can be destroyed “from within” by “sabotaging its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers….” In other words, the document expresses a confidence that we will assist in our own downfall. Lenin is supposed to have said that “The capitalists will sell us the rope by which we will hang them.” The Muslim Brotherhood have a similar belief. They believe (and there is little to gainsay their belief) that we are so in thrall to the tyranny of nice that, if they play their cards right, their civilization jihad campaign will meet with little resistance. They seem to understand us very well.

(Photo credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

William Kilpatrick


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,

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