In an earlier post,, I discussed the controversy surrounding Dutch politician Geert Wilders' film, Fitna, perceiving the animadversions of Joseph Loconte as characteristic of an establishment more interested in perpetuating its hallucinations than in either understanding Islam or protecting the societies it rules.
Well, the film was released, and subsequently suppressed at the original hosting locations, as Lawrence Auster explains. Apparently, the aggrieved parties, hewing to the example established during the Dutch cartoon jihad, sought to prove the arguments of those they opposed. "Slay all those who say Islam is violent", and all of that. In other news, the sun rose this morning, and will rise again on the morrow.
Rod Dreher has viewed the film, as have I, and is ambivalent, at best.
I would call this film propaganda, certainly, but it doesn't operate on hate. It operates on fear, which is a different thing.
Whether you think that fear is legitimate will dictate how you respond to this film. I wonder if anybody who watches it (it's 15 minutes long) will have their minds changed one way or another. (Snip)
I remember sitting through Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" and thinking it to be crude propaganda, even though underneath all that bluster and unreason were some good and necessary points. But it struck me as deeply dishonest, almost unethical, the way he twisted facts and corrupted the truth in service of his ideological agenda. It was a corruption of the artist. Well, Geert Wilders is not an artist, but a politician. Still, there is something corrupt in the way he manipulates legitimate grievances for emotional effect. You would think watching this film that all Muslims are defined by the worst among them. Which isn't true.
Still, the good Muslims don't seem to be stopping the bad ones and their evil ideas from proliferating. And it is also true, at least it seems so to me, that the Dutch public, and the wider European public, has not and will not take the Islamisation of their liberal democracies seriously. It's easy for me to look on from afar and tut-tut Wilders for his crudeness: I am not living through the collapse of my country's culture in the face of the Islamic challenge.
Can one licitly fight a mortal threat to one's culture by telling a partial truth, a distorted truth, or even a lie?
Dreher's concerns are misplaced, in my estimation. Perhaps it would be fair to adjudge Wilders' work as propaganda, and perhaps it would be similarly accurate to assess it as targeted at the fears of the intended audience. In the first instance, however, it seems to me that the essence of propaganda properly so-called lies in its distorting, untruth-purveying character. One cannot, therefore, determine whether Fitna is propaganda unless one attends to the question it poses, namely, that of the nature of Islamic doctrine. Second, the playing-on of fears is not dispositive, not in the slightest, inasmuch as some fears are utterly reasonable; and if any national fears of Islamization are rational, those of the Dutch would qualify at the head of the class.
Third, the comparison to Michael Moore is genuinely offensive, at least to me. Understanding why requires that one attend to what Wilders attempted in the film, namely to suggest a correlation between the bellicose passages of the Koran and the actual conduct of Muslims waging jihad. This correspondence is asserted by the jihadists themselves, and only strengthened by the observation that the majority schools of Islamic jurisprudence substantiate the claims of the jihadists. The sanguinary interpretations are legally normative expressions of the religion. Notice that this is a question of doctrine. It does not imply that all Muslims, even a majority, are now engaged, or will be engaged in the future, in acts of violent jihad; instead of characterizing all Muslims in accordance with the worst of them, it simply defines some of the formal doctrines of the religion as uncivilized, and intimates that reforming them would entail more than hand-waving about the percentages of Muslims who do not follow the way of jihad.
Dreher's closing question, then, does not really follow. There is no lie. The Koran says certain things, and, prima facie, the jihadists are acting in accordance with them. Neither is there distortion or a tendentious slant on the truth, unless it is mandatory to suggest, in a guilty-Christian parody of the pious Muslim custom of uttering the phrase "peace be upon him" subsequent to every mention of the Prophet's name, that a majority of Muslims are peace-loving or whatever, every time Islamic doctrine is discussed. That there is no pressure to do this when discussing Christianity, Judaism, or any other major religion, speaks volumes. In the end, this is the illusion that weakens and debilitates us, namely, that we cannot let go of our fantasies of multicultural amity and openness long enough to see the world as it is. Wilders isn't engaged in propagandizing; he's practicing rhetoric, with modern media, appealing to the hearts and minds of his audience. It only appears otherwise because we are so squeamish about the subject matter, for fear of causing precisely what Wilders warns about. But unless we feel in our gut the horror of what Islamic doctrine will legitimate, regardless of what any individual Muslim, taken in isolation, may think of it, we will never be moved to action.
And that is the deepest illusion at work in this matter: we tacitly elide the distinction between Muslims and their formal doctrine, hinting that because a majority do not do something, that that something, therefore, might not be an element of their doctrine. We then forbid ourselves to think any further about the matter, lest we come to feel the existential peril in which some European countries now find themselves. All we leave ourselves is the dogmatic insistence that tolerance must not be traduced - and about this, we are willing to be quite intolerant. Or, in Dreher's case, discomfited by a visceral presentation of the matter, even as he acknowledges the grim realities.