Something To Die For
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
Did you see that video of the two Fox journalists announcing they’d converted to Islam? The larger problem, it seems to me, is that much of the rest of the western media have also converted to Islam and there seems to be no way to get them to convert back to journalism. Consider, for example, the bizarre behavior of Reuters, the once globally respected news agency now reduced to putting out laughably inept terrorist propaganda. A few days ago, it made a big hoo-ha about the Israelis intentionally firing a missile at its press vehicle and wounding its cameraman Fadel Shana. Mr Shana was posed in an artful sprawl in a blood spattered shirt. But it had ridden up and underneath his undershirt was spotlessly white, like a summer-stock Julius Caesar revealing the boxers under his toga. What’s stunning is not that almost all western media organizations reporting from the Middle East are reliant on local staff overwhelmingly sympathetic to one side in the conflict — that’s been known for some time — but the amateurish level of fakery that head office is willing to go along with.
Down at the other end of the news business, meanwhile, one finds items like this snippet from The Sydney Morning Herald:
“A 16-year-old girl was tailed by a car full of men before being dragged inside and assaulted in Sydney’s west last night, police say … “The three men involved in the attack were described to police as having dark “mullet-style‚ hair cuts.”
Three men with “mullet-style” hair, huh? Not much to go on there. Bit of a head scratcher. But, as it turned out, the indefatigable Sydney Morning Herald typist had faithfully copied out every salient detail of the police report except one. Here’s the statement the coppers themselves issued:
“Police are seeking three men described as being of Middle Eastern/Mediterranean appearance, with dark ‘mullet-style’ hair cuts.”
That additional detail narrows it down a bit, wouldn’t you say? The only reason I know that is because the Aussie Internet maestro Tim Blair grew curious about the epidemic of incidents committed by men of no known appearance and decided to look into it. One can understand the agonies the politically correct multicultural journalist must go through, distressed at the thought that an infelicitous phrasing might perpetuate unfortunate stereotypes of young Muslim males. But, even so, it‚s quite a leap to omit the most pertinent fact and leave the impression the Sydney constabulary are combing the city for mullets. The Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby wrote the other day about how American children’s books are “sacrificing truth on the altar of political correctness.” But there seems to be quite a lot of that in the grown-up comics, too. And, as I’ve said before, it’s never a good idea to put reality up for grabs. There may come a time when you need it.
It’s striking how, for all this alleged multiculti sensitivity, we’re mostly entirely insensitive to other cultures: we find it all but impossible to imagine how differently they view the world. Go back to that video in which Fox’s Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig announced their conversion to Islam. The moment the men were released the western media and their colleagues wrote off the scene as a stunt, a cunning ruse, of no more consequence than yelling “Behind you! He’s got a gun!” and then kicking your distracted kidnapper in the teeth. Indeed, a few websites seemed to see the Islamic conversion routine as a useful get-out-of-jail-free card.
Don’t bet on it. In my forthcoming book, I devote a few pages to a thriller I read as a boy — an old potboiler by Sherlock Holmes‚ creator, Arthur Conan Doyle. In 1895 Sir Arthur had taken his sick wife to Egypt for her health, and, not wishing to waste the local color, produced a slim novel called The Tragedy Of The Korosko, about a party of Anglo-American-French tourists taken hostage by the Mahdists, the jihadi of the day. Much of the story finds the characters in the same predicament as Centanni and Wiig: the kidnappers are offering them a choice between Islam or death. Conan Doyle’s Britons and Americans and Europeans were men and women of the modern world even then:
“None of them, except perhaps Miss Adams and Mrs. Belmont, had any deep religious convictions. All of them were children of this world, and some of them disagreed with everything which that symbol upon the earth represented.”
“That symbol” is the cross. Yet in the end, even as men with no religious convictions, they cannot bring themselves to submit to Islam, for they understand it to be not just a denial of Christ but in some sense a denial of themselves, too. So they stall and delay and bog down the imam in a lot of technical questions until eventually he wises up and they’re condemned to death.
One hundred and ten years later, for the Fox journalists and the western media who reported their release, what’s the big deal? Wear robes, change your name to Khaled, go on camera and drop Allah’s name hither and yon: if that’s your ticket out, seize it. Everyone’ll know it’s just a sham.
But that’s not how the al-Jazeera audience sees it. If you’re a Muslim, the video is anything but meaningless. Not even the dumbest jihadist believes these infidels are suddenly true believers. Rather, it confirms the central truth Osama and the mullahs have been peddling — that the west is weak, that there’s nothing – no core, no bedrock, nothing it’s not willing to trade. In his new book The Conservative Soul, attempting to reconcile his sexual temperament and his alleged political one, Time magazine’s gay Tory Andrew Sullivan enthuses, “By letting go, we become. By giving up, we gain. And we learn how to live – now, which is the only time that matters.” That’s almost a literal re-statement of Faust’s bargain with the devil:
“When to the moment I shall say
‘Linger awhile! so fair thou art‚’
Then mayst thou fetter me straightway
Then to the abyss will I depart!”
In other words, if Faust become so enthralled by “the moment” that he wants to live in it forever, the devil will have him for all eternity. In the Muslim world, they watch the Centanni/Wiig video and see men so in love with the present, the now, that they will do or say anything to live in the moment. And they draw their own conclusions — that these men are easier to force into the car than that 16-year old girl in Sydney was.
It doesn’t matter how “understandable” Centanni and Wiig’s actions are to us, what the target audience understands is quite different: that there is nothing we’re willing to die for. And, to the Islamist mind, a society with nothing to die for is already dead.
© 2006 Mark Steyn