I have long thought that we are experiencing what might be called the Middle Easternization of the West but never fully understood it until a friend asked me a question.
What is needed is a foolproof tactic, one to which there is no institutionalized opposition so that even your enemies must bow their heads in shame and knees in homage when called names.
So how has the Middle Eastern approach revolutionized Western discourse? What slogans are potent enough to shut people up instantly?
Racism! Homophobia! Islamophobia! And to a lesser extent, perhaps, Sexism! The minute you are accused of racism you are finished. There’s no effective response. And fear of being accused shuts most people up. Criticize the policies of President Obama? Racism!
Call for enforcement of immigration laws? Racism!
Explore the boundaries between religious Islam and political Islamism? Islamophobia!
Suggest that thousands of years of history has defined marriage exclusively as between a woman and a man? Homophobia!
There are no pro-racism, pro-Islam-hating, pro-sexist, or pro-homosexual-baiting lobbies. Indeed, all of these things are at an all-time low in the West, rare to a degree unthinkable a decade ago. Yet the pretense must be that such dangerous enemies are lurking everywhere, just as Communist regimes constantly uncovered conspiracies that justified their existence and repression.
Thus, freedom of speech, rational discussion, and opposition are trumped by “higher values.” The most basic and long-held principles are quickly jettisoned in fear. Newspapers accept censorship, intellectuals embrace telling lies, and women’s rights groups cheer the suppression of women’s rights in Muslim societies. Those who have spent years fantasizing how they would have been heroic resistance fighters against dictatorship fold, trembling, in the face of a single letter of complaint.
Remember, victims of this tactic don’t have to be actually guilty but merely accused to be considered guilty. Consequently, and most likely of all, they would already have been intimidated into silence.
And then you are finished as completely as any Arab or Muslim accused of being a running dog of the Zionists and imperialists. In many cases, those in public life so branded might as well get a shopping cart and hang out on street corners collecting bottles to return for the deposit.
The critical point is this: For every bit of “hate speech” or action, there are hundreds, even thousands of false, politically motivated accusations. Like the secret police in a dictatorship, the forces must seek out new crimes and conspiracies. But unlike an earlier phase of genuine efforts to promote tolerance, the strategy becomes a political one for crushing dissent and consolidating support for the prevailing ideology and rulers.
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The idea that the West would transform the Middle East in its image has become a bad joke. It is the West that is becoming transformed into another version of the Middle East. And if you want evidence, three of the Arab world’s main taboos — support for Israel, praise for America, and any critical discussion of Islam –have also become among the things forbidden in large sectors of Western society.