Eric S. Raymond, who is so famous in certain circles (e.g., free/open source software) he is known simply as “ESR,” has a fascinating, and brilliant, post on a subject most people would have considered outside his expertise. But he gets is right, so right it puts the well-known “experts” to shame. It’s also pretty much just what I’ve been thinking, only I didn’t know how to say it.
In short, he’s found the conceptual link between Soviet Communism and Al-Qaeda-style Islamofascism — and it’s not just that they both oppose America:
The most important weapons of al-Qaeda and the rest of the Islamist terror network are the suicide bomber and the suicide thinker. The suicide bomber is typically a Muslim fanatic whose mission it is to spread terror; the suicide thinker is typically a Western academic or journalist or politician whose mission it is to destroy the Westâ€™s will to resist not just terrorism but any ideological challenge at all.
But al-Qaeda didnâ€™t create the ugly streak of nihilism and self-loathing that afflicts too many Western intellectuals. Nor, I believe, is it a natural development. …
Consider the following propositions:
- There is no truth, only competing agendas.
- All Western (and especially American) claims to moral superiority over Communism/Fascism/Islam are vitiated by the West’s history of racism and colonialism.
- There are no objective standards by which we may judge one culture to be better than another. Anyone who claims that there are such standards is an evil oppressor.
- The prosperity of the West is built on ruthless exploitation of the Third World; therefore Westerners actually deserve to be impoverished and miserable.
- Crime is the fault of society, not the individual criminal. Poor criminals are entitled to what they take. Submitting to criminal predation is more virtuous than resisting it.
- The poor are victims. Criminals are victims. And only victims are virtuous. Therefore only the poor and criminals are virtuous. (Rich people can borrow some virtue by identifying with poor people and criminals.)
- For a virtuous person, violence and war are never justified. It is always better to be a victim than to fight, or even to defend oneself. But “oppressed” people are allowed to use violence anyway; they are merely reflecting the evil of their oppressors.
- When confronted with terror, the only moral course for a Westerner is to apologize for past sins, understand the terrorist’s point of view, and make concessions.
These ideas travel under many labels: postmodernism, nihilism, multiculturalism, Third-World-ism, pacifism, “political correctness” to name just a few. It is time to recognize them for what they are, and call them by their right name: suicidalism.
Trace any of these back far enough (e.g. to the period between 1930 and 1950 when [the KGB's] Department V was at its most effective) and you’ll find a Stalinist at the bottom. Among the more notorious examples w[e]re: Paul de Man — racist and Nazi propagandist turned Stalinist, and fonder of postmodernism; Jean-Paul Sarte, who described the effects of Stalinism as “humane terror” and helped invent existentialism; and Paul Baran, who developed the thesis that capitalism depended on the immiseration of the Third World after Marx’s immiseration of the proletariat failed to materialize.
Al-Qaeda didn’t launch any of these memes into the noosphere, but it relies on them for political cover. They have another effect as well: when Islamists characterize the West as “decadent”, and aver that it is waiting to collapse in on itself at the touch of jihad, they are describing quite correctly and accurately the effects of Western suicidalism.
In other words, we are potential victims of terrorism and other extremist attacks not just because “they” want to kill “us,” but because some of “us” don’t think “we” deserve to live. Well, those folks no doubt think they deserve to live, but not the rest of the Westerners.
Read the whole thing. Really.