Areo has already published a review of Douglas Murray’s The Strange Death of Europe. However, since the book and its relevant themes are still being discussed, we thought a critical and in-depth perspective might help widen the debate.
If the title of Douglas Murray’s latest book The Strange Death of Europe doesn’t fill you with optimism, don’t worry: it isn’t supposed to. You might know Murray as the news show regular who appears in the wake of every race or faith-based newsworthy incident or outrage. He’s the well-spoken conservative who has had enough of this sort of thing and this book is a polemic railing against one of his favorite subjects: the immigration policies of successive European governments.
The Strange Death of Europe appears against a backdrop of rising tension in Europe. Mass casualty terrorist attacks; rising popularity for far-right street movements; Brexit; increasing anti-fascist violence; the complete polarization of political opinion, all form an ominous flotilla on the horizon, and all are covered by Murray’s eloquent and concise prose. Meanwhile the sinister Vladimir Putin in the East, and Donald Trump’s clownish Twitter account to the West, pour oil on these waters, not to calm them, but to ready them for a lit match. It’s difficult to see any positive outcome in the years ahead, and Murray’s prognosis for Europe does little to cheer us.
Appropriately, Murray lays his keel in the post-war period, and his account of the need for migration to deal with the chronic labor shortages of the day. Following this much-needed influx though, Murray tells of government after government beating against the wind of public opinion, and continuing the large-scale importation of workers from around the world, usually sourced from each country’s former colonies. His arguments against the accepted wisdom of necessary immigration are solid, if somewhat one-dimensional, but on one point he holds water. We are constantly told that immigration is vital to overcome an aging workforce, but ignored is the, once popular and logical, argument that reducing our population is both desirable and beneficial.
Murray also pours scorn on the stated need for younger workers:
“Surprising though it appears to be to Europe’s policy makers, importing large numbers of young immigrants does not solve the ‘greying’ issue, because immigrants become ‘grey’ as well, and when they do so they will expect – and deserve – the same rights as everyone else. The logical conclusion is that the short-term solution becomes an even greater long-term headache, because there will be a constant need to import larger and larger numbers of immigrants, as in a pyramid scheme, in order to keep more and more people in the style to which they have become accustomed.”
Murray goes on to mention that new arrivals in Europe (and while he is at pains in the early chapters not to be so explicit, he means Muslims) don’t like their new countrymen much more than Europeans like them. This deluge of immigrants was a strange kind of transplant, in which both the host and the organ have explicitly stated rejection ahead of time. Poll after poll throughout the continent has shown that the public at large were against further immigration, whilst poll after poll of the immigrants shows that they find certain key tenets of European culture to be antithetical to their worldview.
The author delivers these points fairly dispassionately until he allows his politics to cross him up with his following argument regarding the preference to leave poorly paid jobs to immigrants. He is correct when he says that a better educated European population deems some work beneath them, but quite wrong when attributing this to
“A consequence of welfare provisions that in some situations have made it better to avoid work than to take low-paid work.”
Oh dear, Douglas: your neo-conservatism is showing. The answer to this is to ensure that even mundane, boring or unskilled work is adequately remunerated. Minimum wage, or even Universal Basic Income could solve these problems, but these have been ideas which Murray has dismissed.
The problem for Europeans, as far as Murray can see is that we have become weak, self-satisfied, and yet riddled with guilt, unable to recover from the horrors of the 20thCentury, and unable to forgive ourselves for our colonial past. Furthermore, we have forgotten the things which make us good. The philosophy of Voltaire, the science of Einstein (who, it is conveniently forgotten was chased out of Europe by jack-booted thugs), Shakespeare et al crop up in almost every chapter, as though Murray himself were scared of forgetting them. On the point of our ennui, I can agree. For while Francis Fukuyama was stupidly declaring The End of History Samuel Huntington was preparing for his The Clash of Civilizations. And not without evidence at his disposal either.
We might have hoped that the nightmare of Auschwitz had begun to fade, and that the shadow of Hitler had been escaped. Europe was, by the 1990s able to accept the lessons of its tumultuous past and move on to be all the better for having learned them. People were dancing on the Berlin Wall, the band played Ode to Joy and history was over. Well, not quite. There have been several warning signs which went unheeded. The Rushdie affair of 1989 should have warned us that absolutism of thought was alive and well in our societies (and the response of those non-muslim Europeans who sided with the Ayatollah should have shown us that moral cowardice had not yet been thrown overboard). The sight of British citizens burning books might also have alerted us to the fact that all was not well. As time went on, and Rushdie receded from the public imagination, the general feeling in British government was that this guy wasn’t really one of us, and was proving a little too much trouble than he was worth. Our sacred European values are far too often only sacred when still tolerable. So much for Voltaire.
Within a year the Rushdie Affair was overshadowed by European triumphalism. Berliners, not Mr. Gorbachev, “Tore down that wall” and finally, we proclaimed, the era of freedom and liberal tolerance was upon us. So drunk were we on Fukuyama that the likes of Huntingdon were decried as scaremongers. We scarcely noticed that age-old prejudice and grudge could still tear apart a sophisticated and modern European country like Yugoslavia. The image of a Europe freed from its past is illusory.
These warning signs, and many others, were ignored either willfully or through incompetence. Had you asked anyone on September 10th 2001 if they believed that fascist street thugs or organized rape gangs would soon be roaming European streets; or that the far-right would be able to remodel itself and capture the attention of German, French, Austrian or Italian youth; or that blasphemy laws would be voluntarily adhered to by European newspapers; or indeed that Britain would leave the EU, you might have found yourself being forced to visit a psychiatrist. But here we are. All of our illusions turned to dust in New York City. Danish cartoons, Iraq, Charlie Hebdo, Paris have all come as hammer blows to our sense of civilization. At present we are like a veteran prize-fighter, pummeled for ten rounds in his last big payday, pleading through his gum shield for the referee to end it all. It’s a pretty sad state of affairs; no wonder we now live in a gloomy, pessimistic continent. Francis Fukuyama, where are you now?
Murray is convinced it needn’t have been this way, and his polemic is at its most engaging when discussing the leagues of difference between European public opinion, and political response, and when he notes the complicity of the media in covering up this chasm. For decades Murray notes, polls have shown that Europeans, particularly western Europeans, whilst happy with some immigration, are opposed to mass immigration across the board. Statistics, all of which check out, are cited from across the continent, decade after decade. Successive Western-European governments have ignored this data, and instead embarked upon a strategy of simply telling Europeans that they are just wrong to think the things they think. So goes the sacred system of democracy.
This willful ignorance of the electorate’s wishes has done much to discredit the establishment, and played its own role in the disastrous lack of faith European publics have in their elected representatives. This lack of faith even extends to the operations of government and security. Witness the British Police’s response to the various gangs of Pakistani Muslims grooming non-Muslim girls and children for sexual slavery, and how could one have faith that your government is fulfilling its end of the social contract?
Furthermore, media outlets have entered into a Faustian pact to subvert reality and pretend that the problem of integration and the lived experience of native Europeans were simply imagined. This process, which has been ostensible policy for decades, has come into sharp focus with the growing sense of an European Muslim identity, and has reached fever pitch since the migrant crisis of 2015. It is ongoing today. At the time of writing, outlets such as Huffington Post, The Independent, even Teen Vogue and NME are reporting gleefully on the creation of female only music festivals in Sweden. The suggestion is that these are necessary because of a “rape culture” among Swedish men. Missing from this is of course the point that the vast majority of men who committed en masse sexual assault at last summer’s festivals, like those who did the same at Cologne train station on New Year’s Eve, were reported to have been migrants. This poses several problems.
Firstly, everyone at both of those incidents, and by extension everyone else, knows what really happened. And therefore, everyone knows that the press is obscuring the truth. In the case of both, the Police tried to cover the incidents up for fear of stoking racial tension. So now everyone knows that both the Police and the Press do not want to get to the bottom of these incidents, and mistrust grows. Secondly, if you were a Swedish man, and you were told you can’t go to music festivals anymore because the migrant men you have welcomed into your country and done much to help, can’t keep their hands to themselves, where would you direct your anger? None of the established political parties will talk about this except for the far-right, and thus you might find yourself inclined to swallow your vomit and vote for them. This pattern is repeated with all of the issues surrounding migration, from benefit applications and payments, to crime, to terrorism, and is why the far-right are growing across the continent. Only forthright, open and honest discussion will prevent further extreme lurches rightward. All of this is tackled coolly by Murray’s tight and concise prose, including the reason why this cover up occurred in the first instance:
“Even to mention the fact in 2015 that most of the recent arrivals seemed to be young men was to court opprobrium. To question whether all these individuals might have brought modern views about women with them was unmentionable because it seemed to speak to some base, racist smear. The fear of falling into a racist cliché or suffering accusations of racism prevented the authorities and the European public from admitting to a problem that had spread across the continent.”
The third and most important problem is the lack of faith which Western publics now have in their establishments. All it would take now is for some demagogue to come along and shout “Fake News!” every time he receives negative press, whilst portraying himself as a non-establishment figure. Imagine if something like that happened? It would be terrible, no?
Only honest discussion will prevent further extreme lurches rightward (or leftward — the current far-left isn’t exactly attractive to the electorate either). The only people who should be shut down are those who attempt to shut things down, and those who say something outright barbarous.
At present, it seems to be the barbarous who are gaining the upper hand; they simply step into the vacuum created by the left’s unwillingness to broach this subject. It is in his rather too enthusiastic support for these voices that Murray leaves the reader cold. Many far-right parties in Western Europe, quick to spot an opportunity, have rebranded themselves in order to gain wider support. Murray is not a naïve man, and so his naiveté as to the motivations of these parties is either hopelessly optimistic or calculated as a “better the devil you know” strategy. For whilst one could make an argument that a figure like the former EDL leader Tommy Robinson is simply a concerned citizen, however flimsy it may be, the same certainly cannot be said for others. Does Murray really believe that the EDL leadership is as upset as we are when their rallies end in violence, or that they abhor such violence? The Identitare Europa group, who have charted boats to patrol the Mediterranean in search of illegal immigrants are a case in point. Whilst they are outwardly staffed by attractive, young and educated Europeans who claim to be benign defenders of liberal values, we know that several of their prominent members have longstanding links and personal relationships with the previous generation of European fascists and racists. And does anyone believe that Marine Le Pen’s views differ that substantially from her father’s? The daughter expelling the father might seem like a scene from King Lear, but on this occasion, it is Murray, and not Gloucester, who has plucked his eyes.
Le Pen’s actions toward her father were born of expediency, not morality, and so it goes for the spot-changing of the Swedish Democrats, and the revisionist, and revanchist, Alterativ Fur Deutschland (A recent interview by a former AfD big-wig revealed that the party is supported at all levels by hate-filled extremists). As formerly grotesque racists break open their chrysalises, and flutter acceptably in the wider public’s gaze, they keep up their wink-wink-nudge-nudge racism, and naturally attract all those who would have no qualms in voting for their more monstrous incarnation. Murray, of course, knows this, and so falls for the same trap as many on the left: getting into bed with abhorrent individuals on the presumption that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
So in the absence of a viable left, or even centrist alternative, Europeans are allowing the very worst among us to gain a foothold on power, whilst looking the other way when we see them bare their teeth. I am reminded of the Turkish proverb which Christopher Hitchens declared to be a favorite in his memoir: “When the axe came to the woods, the trees said ‘At least the handle is one of us.”’ As it ever was, right expansion occurs in times of left implosion.
In response to the coalescence of extreme ideas around ostentatiously non-extreme new politicians, Murray might mumble something about European values or identity (an identity he wasn’t so keen to support in Britain’s EU referendum). But it is scarcely enough to just whimper about Voltaire or Rousseau or Bertrand Russell et al. 90% of the European public couldn’t even tell you who those people were or what they stood for.
The European identity is one of not having an identity, so diverse as we are. It is an identity of questions, of debate, of acknowledgment of misdeed, acceptance of differences. This is a continent which encompasses dozens of ethnic groups, languages, cuisines, cultures. Perhaps we ought to hold the friendship enjoyed between our nations, which would have seemed impossible a century ago, as our greatest achievement, rather than squabbling among ourselves.
But these discussions must take place, however lugubrious, and one can applaud Murray for at least attempting to have them. We must acknowledge that yes, there is a problem with social attitudes of people coming from far afield; some of their opinions cannot function within modern Europe, and must clearly be shown as being unacceptable; extremely religious conservatism is something we have done away with and are well rid of, and the responsibility to adapt lies not with Europeans, but with immigrant communities. We must listen to the public about their concerns and accept that yes, some cultural ideas are superior (whatever that means) to others. To not do so facilitates the rise of a politics which could drag Europe back to our darkest hours.
Despite the opprobrium which I will receive from my comrades on the left, I’m not afraid to write this: I love being European. Being White-European has nothing to do with that though, I can’t imagine anything we could have achieved which might not have been done by the Arabs or the Chinese given the same conditions. But I am proud of the life our peoples have built for ourselves; proud of the fact that through so many tumults we have managed to come together and respect or at least tolerate one another.
We could do well to remember the manifold achievements of Europeans. Peace and prosperity may gird our continent, but those things have only been achieved through the development of our ideas, against a backdrop of violent resistance to progress. Freedom of expression, political autonomy, self-determination for every individual, the rights of minorities, particularly sexual minorities, all are firsts in human civilization. We allow for political dissent, and for the creation and implementation of new ideas. The self-loathing far-left would do well to remember that Europe is the place where Marxism was created, amongst many other things.
Strangely, I’m especially proud of our shame. The fact that we have come to an understanding of the wrongs of our past, and shown a willingness to atone for those errors. Europe is unique in human history in this regard. Compare our feelings about our colonial past to that of our nearest neighbors in Turkey. The Ottomans lorded over an empire more abiding than the British, French or Spanish, and managed in its death-rattle to commit one last genocide as epitaph; something which Murray is at pains to stress in this book. Our uniqueness in that respect alone deserves preservation. In fact, it behooves upon us to preserve our ideas, and acknowledge the importance of Western civilization, and Europe in particular.
But conversely, the point upon which I wholeheartedly congratulate Murray lies at the center of his argument: we must remember that too much shame, as well as too much pride, will come before a fall. For the West, with all its deformations and problems, still provides a better hope for humanity that many of its adversaries or friends.
Like much of the right Murray insists that his opinions on immigration, like my European pride, are unconnected to race, but are in fact rooted in a desire to simply protect European culture. In his case I’m inclined to agree: Murray is certainly not a racist. But would the noises coming from the far-right that he buttresses be any different if Europe’s legion of non-whites were to wake up tomorrow and completely integrate into European culture, adopt our languages perfectly, live completely as Europeans? One is inclined to think not. If it is the ideas of Europe which are sacred, then what does the race of the carrier of those ideas matter? And here is where Murray hits a brick wall. He is completely unable to tell us why Europeans being white is desirable. Or indeed what difference it would make if in a hundred years our skin tone had darkened a shade or two. And therein lies the rub: for him to suggest that being white is somehow more desirable, and that we must preserve our culture within the confines of Nordic genes, and thus avoid racial mixing to some degree or other, begins to sound like the “not one drop” rules of the antebellum southern United States. It’s easy to see why thugs shouting the 14 words are so keen to embrace this kind of opinion. Murray is smart enough to know this, and to know to whom this line of thinking appeals, but in the interests of broader appeal and appearance, he omits this part of the argument.
Similarly, Murray himself would never espouse violence as a means to the end of a recrudescent white European consciousness. He is far too polite. But this talk can only be the first breaths of wind in a hurricane. And here is where the far-right explicitly, and Murray implicitly, must know that they are whipping up a storm of violence. In France, talk among the youth wings of Front National is of voluntary repatriation. Essentially, they can’t think of anything, or won’t publicly suggest anything, better than bribing non-whites, and specifically Muslims, to leave. But who would take the bribe? How much money would be enough to persuade someone to go back to Iraq or Algeria? How much to persuade five million people? And what happens when they say no? What happens to mixed race Europeans? Are we to draw up purity tests? Didn’t someone try that before?
All that is left is the specter of forced repatriation, which will by necessity involve violence. European nation states forcing civilians on to trains, inevitably at gun point, to be repatriated elsewhere? What does that remind us of? This is no less ridiculous, but infinitely more terrifying than the vision of French policemen forcing burkini clad women to strip off at gun point. That ridiculous and counter-productive incident should be a warning to us.
This violence is the unspoken foundation of everything that the rebranded far-right, the new-right and the white identity politic bloc say. Considering that Murray portrays a continent in such imminent danger, his book is almost completely free of suggestions as to what to do about it, likely because a mind as sharp as his knows what the solution would entail. So like Pontius Pilate, he and the rest of the “polite right” wash their hands, while watching the erection of woodwork on the hill.
Despite admiring his work, intellect and eloquence, I can’t help but notice that Murray deliberately avoids the sharp edge of the European dilemma: In solving this problem, which I maintain is merely one of integration, but the White-right clearly sees as one of miscegenation, and thereby claiming primacy for all that we love, we must necessarily become all that we detest. Even calling for a “Solution” to a problem regarding differences which while cultural, also lay inconveniently upon racial lines, summons up spirits which should disgust us. Where must we go for alternatives? These are waters so laden with icebergs that it seems impossible to find a captain who could navigate them. I don’t know the right course, but then neither does Douglas Murray.