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Menace in Europe: Why the Continent's Crisis Is America's, Too
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 27 June 2013
Over the last few years a cottage industry of provocative right-wing books has sprung up that address Europe's current problems with Islam. The argument made by these books, roughly, goes like this:

(1) Europe has a serious demographic issue to contend with: the indigenous population isn't reproducing fast enough to replace itself. This problem is exacerbated by expensive welfare provisions.
(2) In order to counter the birth deficit, the continent has become dependent on immigrants, a large number of whom are Muslims who have been brought up in strikingly different cultures with antithetical values (for instance, the belief that homosexuals deserve to be "punished", and that women should not be allowed any independence).
(3) European societies fail to integrate these immigrants, resulting in serious cultural friction, as reactionary Muslims lash out against an apathetic and nihilistic host community.
(4) Over time, the rapidly growing Muslim group will become more prominent and have a stronger effect on their respective countries, and Europe in general.

That, in short, is what has come to be known as the Eurabia thesis, as put forward by Niall Ferguson, Christopher Caldwell, Daniel Pipes, Mark Steyn, Walter Laqueur, Bernard Lewis and Bruce Bawer, and occassionally entertained by Theodore Dalrymple. This book doesn't put forward precisely the same argument, but it does grapple with many of the same issues, though in a very tangential manner. Lest you think that this book is just out to lambaste Muslims though, it should be pointed out that most of the book is less about Europe's "Muslim problem" than about European culture. Berlinski's polemic regularly focuses more on examples of neo-paganism and neo-nazism, rather than Islamism. The book is very unfocused and uneven, but if one were to try to find a single message to the book it would be this: America, don't be like Europe.

"Menace in Europe" feels more like a collection of essays, rather than a coherent whole. For instance, Berlinski devotes an entire chapter to analysing the chart-topping German heavy metal group, Rammstein. The author points out the disturbing (though possibly unconscious) Nazi-esque qualities of the band, and makes some suggestive points about their unprecedented popularity in Germany. Interesting though this might be, it hardly demands an entire chapter. In another chapter Berlinski draws our attention to Jose Bove - an environmentalist protestor with a significant fanbase that includes Naomi Klein. Having introduced us to the charismatic green crusader, Berlinksi sets about charting a philosophical geneology of this archetype. It turns out that Bove represents the most recent example of an ancient trend, with many, many antecedents in previous centuries. Once again, this is interesting and does help to give a feel for how some Europeans think, and why. Still, an entire chapter..?

Like all the other books in this genre, we find a strong right-wing slant that is likely to cause controversy among readers. For example, people from the left will take issue when Berlinksi (all too typically) conflates criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. Berlinski really does seem to struggle to understand how liberals think on this issue, so allow me to provide some illucidation: liberals focus on the failings of their own country, or society, rather than point the finger at others. Because Israel is perceived as a Western outpost, planted and supported by Europe and America, liberals tend to think of Israel as "one of ours" rather than "one of theirs" - as such, they feel responsible for it and entitled to criticise it in a way that they cannot bring themselves to do with other foreign states (that, to the liberal mind, smacks of racism and nationalist hubris). As a result of this, liberals will tend to focus on the sins of Israel rather than on, say, Saudi Arabia. What might at first seem like an irrational and bigoted focus on the Jewish state is in fact more often than not just another example of the usual liberal disinclination to judge others. No doubt Berlinski is right to question the motives of some of the more vitriolic critics of Israel, but to assume that this is a sign of out and out anti-Semitism in the majority of cases is a bit much. There are quite a few other things in the book that are likely to irritate readers who aren't avowed conservatives (though not nearly as many as in the works of, say, Bruce bawer or Mark Steyn). Of course, this shouldn't necessarily be taken as an argument against the book per se, but it should be taken as a "heads up" for any non-conservatives who intend to read it.

All in all, the book contains many interesting details and observations, but despite the author's considerable wit and erudition, "Menace in Europe" is just too uneven and unfocused to really stand on its own. My advice would be to read Christopher Caldwell's "Reflection on the Revolution in Europe" (itself, a hardly perfect work, but one that is much more tightly focused and balanced in its analysis), and if you found that book interesting then you might want to follow it up with Berlinski's one as a supplement.
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 17 June 2006
The author appears to be a young American secular Jewish woman who has spent a lot of time in different European countries. She writes in a popular style far removed from any academic pretence of objectivity and has aimed at the American market. Her approach is that of a journalistic travel book which may leave one wondering how representative her contacts and friends are, for from them she gives us her generalizations on the state of Europe. For example her studies at Oxford lead her to write about British Muslims who are high achievers, not your average poor immigrants from the Indian sub-continent.. Her other source on the English Muslim situation is from contemporary novels. This is not exactly first hand research into the lives of ordinary Muslims.

There are though some observations one rarely hears. Richard Dawkins is the promulgator of "the condescending strain of atheism ...His remarkably unattractive world view manges not only to be spiritually empty but also intellectually embarrassing". However her analysis of religion in Britain is perfunctory and I really do doubt that Islam is the fastest growing religion by conversion among native Britons. However this is the only book I have read that tells us the British approach to multiculturalism is so monumentally flawed as to waste public money translating publications into "community languages" where the people in these communities who have not learned English are illiterate in their own mother tongues .

The authors contrast with France where ethnic communities are not officially recognized and assimilation into all things French is encouraged is most enlightening. After reading this book one has a much better understanding of the French secularist imposition of uniformity in the public square.

With the present inability of most European countries to have self sustaining reproduction rates the demographic decline of Europe is foreseen as is the probable devastating economic consequences. There are timely warnings here. but one also has to wade through some awful reproduction of the lyrics of a revolting German pop group as she warns us about resurgent nationalism.

Once again here is a book often good on the diagnosis of Europe's problems but giving no prescriptions for a cure. I am left wondering why the author divides her time between Paris and Istanbul, not living in the US which is the envy of the world and where cultural diversity is, she reckons, so much better, even the restaurants.
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31 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on 2 September 2006
I bought this book along with a few others which I thought might challenge my world-view. This I have to say it signally failed to do.

It's basically a series of essays, reasonably well-written, each one expounding why a particular European country is awful.

The problem is that the analysis is so facile, and comes from a deeply flawed perspective. This book really depends on you holding a world-view similar to the author - "the only response to terrorism is not force - it's overwhelming force". "Al-Qaeda don't want us in Iraq, so we should be there".

Her analysis of Britain is laughable - it consists primarily of reviews of works of fiction by British immigrants, and interviewing two Asians. This might bear some wieght if she had penetrated deep into an Al-Qaida cell to gain insight into the radical mind at work, but in fact she interviews two middle-class Asians of no particular religious or political belief.

Who happen to be friends of hers. From Oxbridge. Not exactly a representative sample of British immigrants. You almost feel that she's putting in place a "Look, I'm not anti-Islam, some of my best friends are Asian..." defence.

Again the perspective is odd. After describing the life of one of her Asian chums, a businessman who lives a succession of empty love affairs in his opulent bachelor pad and is clearly desperately lonely and unhappy, she comments "You are, by any measure, the most succesful man I know...". The jaw drops.

The attack on Holland is based around the fact that some Dutch cooperated with the Nazis in the final solution 60 years ago. Yes, they did. And so too did people in every other nation conquered by the Nazis. Reality check: in every nation there are mean, fearful, cowardly people who will cooperate with authoritarianism because it is in their nature. If we in Britain had been conquered there would have been those who cooperated, if the US had been conquered, there would have been those who cooperated.

Spain is dismissed with insulting brevity as cowards who retreated because they were bombed. No mention is given to the fact that the Spanish people have endured the terrorist assaults of ETA for decades without flinching. No mention is given of the fact that the Spanish government attempted to brutally mislead the Spanish people in the aftermath of the bombings, or that the Spanish vote was largely a reaction to this.

Germany is portrayed as being full of neo-fascists because a very popular German Metal band uses imagery and lyrics that can - and has been - interpreted as being pro-Nazi (Strongly denied by the band in question). Presumably this lady thinks that America is similalry pro-Nazi. Or maybe she has never heard of Pink Floyd or seen The Wall.

As I said, I read this book in the hope that I would be challenged in my beliefs. I wasn't; there isn't enough substance here to challenge anything. A mish-mash of prejudiced opinions, selective analysis, and interviews of no particular insight, presented as individual essays with no unifying thread, does nothing to further my knowledge of our times.

The writing is engaging and occasionally amusing, but this doesn't rescue the fundamental flaws.
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21 of 31 people found the following review helpful
This frequently witty but deadly serious account of Europe today is a type of travelogue in which the author writes from different countries, commenting upon the continental malaise from various perspectives. The compelling narrative blends personal experience and interviews with impressive historical knowledge, psychological insight and political analysis. She reports the opinions of a wide spectrum of individuals, both indigenous Europeans and Muslim immigrants, while interpreting the ominous signs visible everywhere.

With reference to the French philosopher Chantal Delsol, Berlinski explains the root of Europe's political and spiritual crisis as the collapse of faith that has led Post-Christian Europe into destructive nihilism. The delusions of postmodernism, relativism and multiculturalism are paving the continent's path towards collapse. The mindset expresses itself in the self-loathing of European elites, the strange passivity of the people and Europe's willingness to bargain with depravity which she calls a "self-extinguishing tolerance." I highly recommend Explaining Postmodernism by Stephen Hicks to understand the mental dynamic at work.

The high European suicide rate reflects its cultural, spiritual and ideological emptiness. Anti-Americanism, coupled with antisemitism & antimodernism, is just another pseudo-religious substitute serving as the glue holding the sorry mess together in the absence of anything meaningful. She has noticed its messianic & orgiastic aspects, as did Christopher Hitchens and Julie Burchill. The idea of the European Union has undermined national identity but lacks emotional appeal and is thus no match for the expansionist force of Jihad that has led to riots, the Danish cartoon uproar and the murders of artists and politicians.

Berlinski reveals the hidden room in the house of Europe: Bleak lawless ghettos where decidedly non-Western practices like female circumcision are tolerated because of Multiculturalism; Radical preachers inciting their followers against the society that gave them refuge; Alienation amongst even 3d generation immigrants whose grandparents arrived in the 1950s; Violence and the murder of Theo van Gogh and Pim Fortuyn in Holland. This confirms the observations of Bruce Bawer in While Europe Slept.

In chapter three where Berlinski discusses the popular novel White Teeth by Zadie Smith, she remarks upon the petty, ignorant and uncritical anti-Americanism of people like Harold Pinter and Margaret Drabble. The projection of the rage and self-hatred of the elites on Israel and the United States will not solve the continent's problems.

An exception is the city of Marseille where she finds hope. The local approach directly contradicts the French ideal of republicanism but it works. Ethnicity and religion are recognized and community leaders hold regular meetings where community leaders get to know & respect one another. The city has shown strong resistance to antisemitism and the vandalism rampant in the rest of France.

Her verdict on the Spanish election that followed the Madrid bombings confirms Chantal Delsol's diagnosis: for Europeans no cause is worth a fight. In Italy she thinks of Oriana Fallaci's The Rage and the Pride, expresses regret about the ugly housing projects & shopping malls of cement on the outskirts of the cities and reflects on a young woman's lack of interest in having a family. A fascinating fact emerges: the birthrate in the former Axis powers, including their ally Spain, is dropping faster than anywhere else. People who have lost a vision of eternity and immortality would of course avoid breeding.

She provides a side-splittingly funny analysis of the antiglobalist José Bové & his ideological predecessors, identifying him as a perennial European personality predisposed to vandalism & violence, amongst which earlier incarnations were Tanchelm of Antwerp, Joachim of Flora, Hans Böheim and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. They were all false messiahs whose millennial utopianism included the demonization of Jews. In this regard, I found William Nicholls's Christian Antisemitism of great value for understanding the bigger picture.

The chapter on the German band Rammstein is my favorite by far. She shows how their act is a particularly grotesque example of what Delsol terms "black market nationalism" - a result of the repression of profound instincts. This brilliant analysis, simultaneously hilarious and horrifying, encompasses translations of their lyrics, their use of Leni Riefenstahl footage in promotional clips, the imagery on their album covers, the videos of their songs Mein Teil & Links and the nature of their live performances.

Her account of the first interview with the band made me laugh: Her penetrating questions & their clumsy responses that reveal at best unclear thinking but more likely stupidity. Prototypically German, they have the bombast of Wagner and employ the now familiar eerie hypnotism of the German language, martial music, crass vulgarity & images of extreme violence in their shows.

There is also a follow-up interview. It becomes quite clear that the band's phony pacifism masks a resentment of American power. Gnawing guilt leads to peevish disgruntlement, she observes in describing the opinions of band members. Intelligent they are not and they've certainly not learnt from history. On one page she prints quotes and asks the reader to guess whether they are by Goebbels or Rammstein, proving that the only difference is that Goebbels was more articulate.

The Rammstein phenomenon shows up the farce of Europe - their music is emphatically German. It is also preoccupied with the smell of burning flesh, blood, fear, sadism, doomsday & destruction. The manner of their delivery in concert reveals much but they do not realize they are the living embodiment of the vocabulary, dramaturgy, occultism, ferocity & nihilism of the Third Reich. When confronted, they react with hurt surprise.

Christianity may be senescent in Europe - for now - but nationalism lives. Berlinski's brilliant read concludes with bibliographic notes and an index. Other informative books that deal with the crisis in Europe and the forces behind it include The Unlearned Lessons of the Twentieth Century by Chantal Delsol, Sinisterism by Bruce Walker, The Last Days of Europe by Walter Laqueur, The Dragons Of Expectation by Robert Conquest, Decline and Fall by Bruce Thornton and Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
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