Paul Berman: Another “expert” who thinks “Islamism” is the problem, not Islam
An interview with Paul Berman, a liberal I thought “got it” about Islam way back in 2003 — until I learned from bitter experience he was just one more idiot who can’t see that the problem is Islam itself, not “Islamism”.
Question: And in fact you’re arguing that Islamism and Baathism grew out of the First World War in the same way that communism and fascism did?
Berman: It becomes ever more obvious that the First World War was the great trauma of modern civilization. Something huge cracked in the First World War and has never been repaired. Out of the First World War came a series of rebellions against liberal civilization. These rebellions were accusations that liberal civilization was not just hypocritical or flawed, but was in fact the single great source of evil or suffering in the world. Then the accusation was followed by the proposal to build a civilization of a completely new kind, which would not be liberal, which would have the quality of a granite rock — eternal and perfect.
These new ideas were in a sense utopian, but they were also very bloody. Behind all the movements that made these proposals was a pathological fascination with mass death. Mass death was itself the principal fact of the First World War, in which 9 or 10 million people were killed on an industrial basis. And each of the new movements proceeded to reproduce that event in the name of their utopian opposition to the complexities and uncertainties of liberal civilization. The names of these movements varied and the traits that they displayed varied — one was called Bolshevism, and another was called fascism, another was called Nazism.
Question: So you’re saying these movements are similar to Islamism and Baathism, but on a very deep level. You’re drawing specific parallels — what are they?
Berman: At some very deep level all these movements were the same — they all shared certain qualities of mythology, all shared a fascination with mass death and all drew on the same kinds of manias. My argument is that Islamism and a certain kind of pan-Arabism in the Arab and Muslim worlds are really further branches of the same impulse.
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So our problem with Islam began with World War One. Wow. Thanks, “expert”.
Also, see Angela Thorne’s acerbically devilish review of Paul Berman’s more recent book The Flight of the Intellectuals (2010).
(Unfortunately, I found that Angela herself seems to suffer from approximately the same problem as Berman. Can’t we find anyone in the Counter Jihad who is simply against Islam and all Muslims? Must everyone parse this down to something comfortable and palatable to PC MC?)
Note: For previous installments of “the H-Files” just search this site for same.