This is the first book of Douglas Murray’s I have read. Checking on Amazon.com before I started it, I saw that Murray’s previous works include Neoconservatism: Why We Need It (2006) and Bosie (2000). The latter is a biography of Oscar Wilde’s boyfriend Lord Alfred Douglas; Murray is openly homosexual.
While of course I wish no ill to persons of either inclination, a homosexual neocon would not be my first choice of companion on an expedition up the Limpopo, so I opened Strange Death with low expectations.
I put it down at last in a much better mood. Murray’s written a useful and interesting book, that I hope will be widely read.
Murray’s subject is the catastrophe that has been visited on Europe—including Britain, and with some side commentary on British-settler nations—by mass Third World immigration, especially of Muslims, in the decades since WW2.
Where the facts of the situation are concerned, nothing here will be new to followers of VDARE.com. But it’s very handy to have all the stories from these various countries collected together in one place.
Interspersed with these narrative accounts is Murray’s commentary, which is in the voice of a thoughtful, well-educated Englishman who is appalled at the destruction that has been wreaked on the homelands of Western civilization, and by the cowardice and stupidity of Western Europe’s governments. (Eastern Europe is a different story; Murray has things to say about that.)
Murray has some limitations. I’ll mention them in due course. They don’t subtract much from his book, though, and I urge everyone interested in the topics we cover here to read Strange Death.
He is very good on the vindictiveness with which the political and opinion-forming classes have met the concerns of ordinary working- and middle-class Europeans.
Consider for example the case of Luton, a small English town thirty miles north of London. Murray tells the story in Chapter 14.
In 2009 the Royal Anglian Regiment, on their return from Afghanistan, was given a homecoming parade through the town of Luton. This is one of the towns in England in which “white British” are in a minority (45 percent) …
Really? Luton? I recall it from my student days 50 years ago as a sleepy, nondescript dormitory suburb with a car factory, wall to wall “white British.” Forty-five percent? An old northern mill town, I could understand, or an inner-city welfare slum; but Luton? Good Lord!
… and the town has an especially large Muslim community. Many locals turned out for the parade and were angered by the sight of extremists from the Islamist group al-Muhajiroun heckling and protesting the soldiers as they moved through the town centre … Enraged members of the public attempted to confront the protesters, but the British police protected the protesters and threatened the enraged locals with arrest.
In the weeks that followed, some of these locals tried to organize a protest opposing the Islamists, but they were prevented from getting to the same Town Hall to which al-Muhajiroun had previously walked.
It was those events that inspired the formation of the English Defence League (EDL), who in subsequent years tried to organize protest all around the U.K.
The subsequent history of the EDL is somewhat more colorful than Murray tells, but there is no doubt that, as he says, “At no stage did the police or local government, the national police or government, consider that the EDL had a point.”
The EDL and its leader, the pseudonymous Tommy Robinson, were relentlessly harassed by the British authorities, while Muslim gangs like the ones that kidnapped and gang-raped white girls in Rotherham and elsewhere were ignored for fear that prosecution of them would be thought “racist.”
It’s been the same all over Western Europe. In 1993 the Swedish tabloid newspaper Expressen published an opinion poll revealing that 63 percent of Swedes wanted immigrants to go back to their home countries. An accompanying op-ed by the paper’s editor-in-chief, Erik Månsson, called this “an opinion bomb about to go off.” The owners of the paper fired Mr. Månsson.
In 2006 a newspaper in Norway reproduced the not-very-offensive Mohammed cartoons whose publication in Denmark had caused a fuss a few months previously. The editor of that newspaper was threatened with prosecution by no less than the Norwegian Prime Minister.
At all points from the 1968 defenestration of Enoch Powell onwards, and still today, the attitude among the European governing and intellectual classes has been that everything will work out just fine so long as native Europeans stop complaining. If they won’t stop, they must be stopped, so that … everything will work out just fine.
Now, deep into the crisis, it is ever more clear that the thick-skulled grumbling proles were right and their masters were wrong. Lord Melbourne comes to mind:
What all the wise men promised has not happened, and what all the damned fools said would happen has come to pass.
Murray’s Chapter 10, “The Tyranny of Guilt,” is particularly good. It explores the psychological foundations of European ethnomasochism.
Guilt—over white colonialism, slavery, the Holocaust—has, says Murray, “become a moral intoxicant in Western Europe.”
People imbibe it because they like it: they get high on it. It lifts them up and exalts them. Rather than being people responsible for themselves and answerable to those they know, they become the self-appointed representatives of the living and dead, the bearers of a terrible history as well as the potential redeemers of mankind. From being a nobody one becomes a somebody.
Hence such phenomena as the continent-wide wailing and rending of garments in 2015 over the death of a Syrian toddler whose body was washed up on a Turkish beach. (The child’s family had lived safely in Turkey, where the father had had paid employment, but they thought they would be better off in Europe.)
Hence even weirder manifestations of bogus guilt. Did you know—I didn’t until reading Strange Death—that since 1998 Australia has celebrated National Sorry Day, when white people Down Under can apologize for a social policy practiced through the middle decades of the last century? The policy, promoted and implemented by humanitarian Progressives, removed mixed-race Aboriginal children from abusive families to raise them in boarding schools. This is now considered to have been a horrible crime.
An interesting question is why Europeans are so susceptible to this “moral intoxicant.” Plenty of other peoples—well-nigh all, I think—have historical crimes on their record, but don’t go around lamenting the fact.
Mongolians are not flagellating themselves over the Sack of Baghdad, nor are Manchus (yes, they’re still around—I know a couple) holding a Sorry Day for their very brutal conquest of Ming China. Come to think of it, China today is twice the size it was in the Ming Dynasty, but no-one in China seems inclined to apologize for grabbing all that land.
The great Bantu expansion out of the West African homeland into the East and South of the continent was surely not without a casualty or two. (A UCSD web page on the Bantu Expansion says the expansion was helped by Bantu mastery of iron-working: “Iron made good weapons, facilitating expansion by well-armed Bantus into lands occupied only by foraging peoples.”) IS THIS A QUOTE The Pygmies and Hottentots await a formal apology.
Closer to the present, today’s Turks are not encouraged to feel guilty about the massacres of Armenians during WW1. Far from it: As Murray notes, public mention of those atrocities violates Article 301 of Turkey’s penal code—“insulting the Turkish nation.” You can be prosecuted for it, and journalists have been.
The Japanese are not quite that stern about mention of their own delinquencies in the years 1931-45, but the Rape of Nanking (for example) is not considered a suitable topic for polite conversation.
Why is it only Europeans who find it so intoxicating to wallow in race guilt? Is it some genetic peculiarity, like the issues American Indians have with liquor? One would like to know whether the behavioral geneticists have anything to say about this.
Murray, however, is a literary intellectual with no science, so he does not pursue this line of inquiry.
He does take a position on the very interesting question of how much human agency has been involved in the mass-immigration catastrophe.
There is a spectrum of views on this. At one end of the spectrum, “none at all” is a possible answer. Some vast natural process just happened while politicians flapped their arms impotently and intellectuals thought up post facto justifications—economic, fiscal, social, moral—for great changes that nobody predicted or wanted.
(Murray disposes of the fiscal justification—i.e. that to continue funding Social Security without mass immigration, retirement ages would have to be raised—with a neat surgical strike: “Perhaps some people will see working longer in a society they know as being preferable to dying in one in which they feel a stranger.”)
At the other end of the spectrum is a total-agency answer: The whole horrible mess has been planned from the start by evil people desiring the destruction of Western Civ., or at least its reshaping to the advantage of the planners.
Jews are often fingered as the culprits here, determined never again to be the one noticeable minority in an otherwise-homogeneous society. (Or, less charitably, taking revenge on the hated goy.) For the American case, Kevin MacDonald gives over a whole chapter—his longest—in The Culture of Critique to “Jewish Involvement in Shaping U.S. Immigration Policy.” [PDF]
The unignorably high proportion of Jews among Open-Borders fanatics lends support to this theory. This is the case not only in the U.S.A.: Murray notes that Barbara Roche (right) Britain’s Minister for Asylum and Immigration from 1999 to 2001, is “a descendant of East End Jews.” Ms. Roche argued that restraints on immigration were racist.
On the whole, though, Murray’s narrative is over towards the “no agency” end of the spectrum. He confirmed this in his recent interview with Stefan Molyneux.
Molyneux: One of the things I got from the beginning is how much this is not a plan; that immigration and migrants into Europe and so on … That everyone is kind of playing catch-up on decisions that were made, maybe with the best of intentions or with the least of information decades ago and everyone’s just trying to manage something that has swelled beyond all original intention, and that there really isn’t much of a plan going on in Europe at the moment.
Murray: That’s right. I’ve written a number of books in my life. I’ve written a lot about history, and writing a history of the present, as it were—which this book seems to be—I try to apply the same principles I would anywhere else.
Quite often people tell you, you know, about conspiracies in the past, conspiracies in the present, plans in the past, plans in the present. My general feeling with things is that most of history is cock-up, and it’s the same with the present.
There’s no great master plan. Nobody, no brilliant group of people sit around a table and sort out everything. They … Brilliant people get surprised by events, react badly to them, and make things worse. It’s a far more plausible story.
Well … it wasn’t all cock-up. The activities of agents like Ms. Roche were surely consequential.
On the whole, though, I think the cock-up theory of history explains most of what’s happened. Napoleon was right (or would have been if he had said it: looking it up, I see that he probably didn’t) that we should never ascribe to malice what can be explained by stupidity.
And reading Murray’s accounts of the vexed situation of Europe’s Jews in a rapidly Islamicizing continent, you’d have to say that if the Jewish-conspiracy theory is correct, we are looking at a historically unprecedented conjunction of malice and stupidity.
For a literary intellectual—indeed, Associate Editor of a very respectable literary magazine—Murray has some quirks of style.
I am not personally dogmatic on the issue of beginning a sentence with “but.” As I’ve noted elsewhere: “Chaucer, Shakespeare and God (insofar as He permitted His Thoughts to be set in English by the translators of the King James Bible) all started sentences with ‘but’.” But if you do this too often, as Murray does, it annoys the reader. But perhaps I’m being too critical here.
The closing paragraph of Strange Death bears extracting in full. I think Murray is giving us a warning, and I think he’s right to do so. It’s hard to be certain on either score, though, as two of its sentences (the fourth and the last) don’t make sense.
Day by day the continent of Europe is not only changing but is losing any possibility of a soft landing in response to such change. An entire political class have failed to appreciate that many of us who live in Europe love the Europe that was ours. We do not want our politicians, through weakness, self-hatred, malice, tiredness, or abandonment to change our home into an utterly different place. And while Europeans may be almost endlessly compassionate, we may not be boundlessly so. The public may want many contradictory things, but they will not forgive politicians if—whether by accident or design—they change our continent completely. If they do so change it then many of us will regret this quietly. Others will regret it less quietly. Prisoners of the past and of the present, for Europeans there seem finally to be no decent answers to the future. Which is how the fatal blow will finally land.
John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him. ) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He’s had two books published by VDARE.com: FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and From the Dissident Right II: Essays 2013. His writings are archived at JohnDerbyshire.com.