Once upon a time I used CNN’s web site as my internet start page. As Inspector Clouseau would say, not any more. Ever since 2006, when CNN joyfully enlisted itself in Al Qaeda’s effort to throw the mid-term elections by releasing a propaganda film showing American troops being shot by terrorists, by broadcasting and re-broadcasting the short film, I have used the web site of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung as my start page. It’s a convenient way to keep my language skills from completely atrophying, and it can provide some extremely interesting cross-fixes on issues that concern not only Germany and Europe, but the entire world. Without going into the subject too deeply, each society has its baggage, baggage which prevents certain topics from being discussed as honestly as in places which don’t have that specific baggage to carry. Just by way of example, here in the U.S. it’s the legacy of chattel slavery; in Germany it’s the legacy of the Holocaust; in Britain it’s the legacy of the Empire; in Russia it’s the omerta which still hangs over a world full of collaborators in the most murderous ideology every to have plagued the Western world.
All of which is a very roundabout way of saying I’ve been, not exactly monitoring, but paying some degree of attention to a group that has coalesced in Germany in recent months and which calls itself Patriotische Europäer Gegen Islamisierung des Abendlandes, or PEGIDA. Translated that works out in round numbers to Patriotic Europeans Against Islamization of the Occident. I say “coalesced” because it’s not really terribly plain what sort of organizational structure, if any, they have. In this respect they bear a more than passing resemblance to the Tea Party movement here. It does not appear to be an astroturf movement, like MoveOn.org, or the Pew Foundation, or a front group for operations who dare not present themselves in daylight, as was the case for the communist/anarchist/terrorist backers of the “Occupy” groups. It appears to be a more or less genuinely grassroots outfit, for the time being. That’s neither speaking good or ill of it, only that the demonstrators are — at least at the moment — by and large unguided. Again, that could bode well or ill, depending on how things develop. They’re not being used, which is good, but then they’re ripe for being used, which is bad.
The center of gravity of PEGIDA seems to be in Dresden, although demonstrations have occurred elsewhere, most prominently in Cologne, where the cathedral doyens took it upon themselves to cut the lights off at the cathedral so that it couldn’t be used as a photo-backdrop. Whatever. Every Monday in Dresden they turn out by the thousand to march for, or against, whatever it is they think they’re doing it for. Their first such march of 2015 drew something like 18,000 participants. It’s been claimed that Dresden being the focal point is curious because there are so many fewer Muslims there than elsewhere in Germany. I’m not sure that’s all that inexplicable; it’s why, after all, you find firefighting equipment and conduct fire drills in buildings that aren’t already burning.
But what’s this all about? The PEGIDA movement is universally described as “right-wing” and “anti-immigrant”: Publications from the predictable to those which ought to know better join in. A few samplings:
The Guardian tells us, “German anti-immigrant groups have been quick to respond to the murderous attacks in Paris saying they are proof of the significant threat posed by Islamists[.] Pegida, or Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the Western World, a right-wing populist group which has been gaining support in weekly demonstrations since October, said in a statement that the attacks confirmed their views.”
From National Review, we have: “it does seem that the rise of Pegida is yet another example of the truth of Mark Steyn’s maxim that I will quote yet again: ‘If the political culture forbids respectable politicians from raising certain topics, then the electorate will turn to unrespectable ones.'” In the author’s defense, he does observe that at least some of the participants in this movement have . . . ummmmmm . . . other affiliations which are partially or wholly objectionable. On the other hand, he ought to know better than to tar with a single brush a movement which is (again, thus far) so unstructured. Just because the Democrat Party here enjoys and in fact solicits support from numerous groups whose objectives and methods are abhorrent to the interests of the United States, do we paste single labels on it and its candidates? How about the NAACP? Of course not.
EurActiv.com shares with us: “Pegida defames Islam in general. At Pegida demonstrations, speakers not only took aim at radical Muslims but at Islam as a whole. Muslim burial rites were criticised, for example.” The same article also mentions one of the problems with trying to get a grip on who and what PEGIDA is actually about: “Up until recently, Pegida’s organisers had turned down requests to hold talks with political parties, claiming it desired to remain nonpartisan. Interview requests from German media are also usually rejected by the alliance.” Gee whiz; level accusations, however thickly padded with code-words (and sometimes not even that veiled), of being a quasi-Nazi resurgence movement, and the people you’re accusing get reluctant to talk with you. Who could have seen that coming? And I’ll note that you cannot “defame” an idea; you can disparage it, hold it up to ridicule, even savagely attack it. But “defamation” is something that is peculiar to people and their reputations (even “trade disparagement” is, at bottom, tied to people’s business reputations).
Newsweek (yeah, it’s still out there, not that anyone cares) labels it an “anti-immigrant movement.” In a subtle elision of their news section with their reviews of current fiction, they bring us this quotation from the present German Interior Minister: “German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the attack in Paris had nothing to do with Islam. ‘Islamic extremists and Islamic terror are something entirely different from Islam,’ he said. ‘It is immensely important to underscore that difference on a day like today.'” No. Seriously. He really said that. Gunmen shoot up a newspaper office, shouting that Allah is great! and The Prophet is avenged, and that has “nothing” to do with Islam.
The Beeb goes for the click-bait headline: Anti-Islam Pegida March in City of Dresden, but then goes on to flirt with heresy to its resolutely leftish agenda: “What has startled politicians, though, is that many in the crowds at Dresden are not extremists or neo-Nazis. As conservative politician Wolfgang Bosbach puts it, these are concerned mothers and pensioners.”
Slate tells us, “Xenophobia is Going Mainstream in Germany“. Here we’ve got a good example of the calling-them-Nazis-but-not-using-the-word. “So far, PEGIDA has been smarter. They are taking the same ideas that traditionally were only voiced by scary guys with shaved heads and armbands—the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments—and packaging them in a way that normal middle-class Germans can embrace.” And what are the “same ideas” shared by “scary guys with shaved heads and armbands”? Why, those are neo-Nazi outfits. And sacre bleu! we’ve got folks who explicitly deny being xenophobic and who’ll quote MLK at you “packaging” Nazi ideas so as to dupe regular folks. But hist! What’s this: “PEGIDA’s opponents so far have been trying to dismiss it as part and parcel of a movement that includes people who wave swastikas and try to burn down mosques. “They are clearly Nazis,” one observer in Dresden commented to the New York Times. But to a lot of Germans, that’s not so clear. PEGIDA has appeal beyond the traditional far-right fringe, and it would be a mistake for German leaders and the media to simply dismiss it.” Maybe something that 34% of your population thinks has a point isn’t all that far out after all (or maybe it is; recall that Hitler polled over 40% in his last election).
For an article that eschews the customary why-bother-looking labels (although the author can’t resist the frisson-of-fear “shadowy”), we have at BuzzFeed someone who actually seems to have taken a look at at least a few of the actual people involved.
“In an interview at a hotel bar in Dresden’s historic center, [Kathrin] Oertel, the PEGIDA organizer, said that she and a dozen friends felt they had had enough after the Kurdish rebel group PKK and their German supporters held a rally in central Dresden in early October. ‘We don’t want them to carry out their quarrels on our streets,’ she said. ‘This isn’t any of our business.’ * * * Oertel, 36, a business consultant and mother of three, said that the ‘Islamification’ of her home state of Saxony, where less than 3% of the population are foreigners, may not seem like a problem. ‘The Muslims are making it a problem,’ said Oertel, who has long blonde hair and was dressed all in black. She said it started in her children’s school, where Muslim girls wear headscarves and don’t take part in swimming lessons. ‘I don’t have anything against Christians or Buddhists or Jews,’ Oertel, an atheist, said. ‘They don’t bother me and don’t demand I observe certain rules so as not to offend them.’”
All of the above are other people’s take on it. Does PEGIDA have anything to say for itself? Turns out, it does, or rather might, assuming this document is legitimate: A position paper of what PEGIDA is for, and what it is against: Among the things they say (editorial aside: they fall prey to the annoying habit of ending every sentence with an exclamation!):
1. They claim to be for the acceptance of war refugees and the religiously persecuted.
2. They claim to be for the right and duty of integration into German society (contrast, for example, the official Nazi position that a Jew could never be a German).
3. They claim to be for a reduction in the case load of social workers attending to asylum seekers’ needs. They claim it is presently 200:1, which they point out — correctly, I suggest — is the equivalent of no help at all.
4. In asylum applications, they claim to be for a process similar to Holland’s or Switzerland’s, and an increase in resources to “massively” sink the processing and decision time.
5. They claim to be for “resistance” to a misogynist, violence-focused political ideology (Islamization is plainly meant) but deny being against resident “integrated” Muslims.
6. They claim to be for an immigration policy after the models of Canada, South Africa, Switzerland, and Australia. I’ll mark this one with a “huh?” since I know bugger all about how those places do it.
7. They claim to be for “sexual self-determination.” Whatever; I’ll observe that this position alone makes it incompatible with Islam.
8. They claim to be for the preservation and protection of “our Judeo-Christian” “geprägte” culture. That last word is significant. “Prägen” is a verb which means “stamp,” as in to stamp a coin, or to stamp something with characteristics by influence. It doesn’t imply identity. This is important, because only a liar or a fool would deny that in fact Western civilization is profoundly stamped by Judeo-Christian ideas, and only a liar could deny that Islam wants nothing at all to do with large swathes of that.
9. They claim to be for the introduction of plebiscites along the Swiss model.
10. They claim to be against permitting “parallel societies” to arise, with specific reference to their structuring along the lines of sharia. This is scarcely a newly-discovered issue in Germany. The FAZ itself has repeatedly in recent times run articles and even series of articles on the subject. I wrote at some length about one such here.
11. They claim to be against radicalism, whether political or religious, and against preachers of hate, of whatever religion.
So that’s what they say about themselves. They might be lying. They might be using anodyne phrasing to mask something a very great deal more sinister. Remember the Nazis came out with a 25-point agenda in 1920, not a single point of which mentioned or even came close to implying the slaughter of every Jew in every corner of Europe they could lay hands on. Said nothing about invading Eastern Europe and starving to death every Slav whom they didn’t work to death. On the other hand, before concluding that whoever put this PEGIDA position paper together really means something different, I’m going to need a great deal more convincing than self-serving statements from mainstream politicians whose fear is transparently one of lost votes and money. Angela Merkel may huff and puff that these folks are just self-evidently radical right-wingers who shove their little Nazi party pins inside their shirt pockets on the way to the rally, but how much of that is trying to drive a wedge between on the one hand a movement that 34% of her population expresses some degree of sympathy with, and on the other AfD, a nascent fourth party which has put down roots to the right of the CDU/CSU tired-out, anything-to-remain-power coalition? A couple of years ago The Economist ran a pretty lengthy article on Merkel, and observed that her principal trait was a willingness to embrace the opposition’s position, to under-sell it, so to speak. That’s just a very polite way of pointing out that you’ll do or say anything just to stay in office. Nowadays, when the lamestream media no longer controls the discussion, eventually voters will figure you out. It’s why RINOs in America are so contemptuous of the Tea Party: These people actually stand for something and are willing to act on their convictions.
Of course, the inability to show that PEGIDA actually means something different from what its says doesn’t stop the professional hand-wringing class from claiming exactly that. Case in point: An article in today’s FAZ, “What the Demonstrators of PEGIDA Actually Want“. Well. Jolly good thing we’ve got this author to explain it all to us; we might have been fool enough to read PEGIDA’s position paper. And what do they “actually want”?
“Obviously” they “fear foreigners whom they scarcely know.” Funny, I’ve not heard that PEGIDA is campaigning against immigration from China, or South America, or even Eastern Europe; as near as I can tell they’re against further infiltration by specifically Islamic foreigners, and against further expansion of the power of Islamic residents over the coduct of society in Germany. The common element is not place of origin, but rather a specific, aggressive, violent religion (kind of like they say in their position paper, you know). “Islamization” means they’re afraid that the “culture could so alter itself, that one would feel as if he lived in an Islamic state.” And then, in what American readers of, e.g., the NYT, will readily recognize as opinion-masquerading-as-reportage, we have the “many think” sleight-of-hand. “Many think,” this author tells us, that the PEGIDA demonstrators fear “many other things,” and not just Islamization. Like “losing their job” (the hoary stand-by of the left: you don’t have principles; you’re just in it for the money), or “that one day their pension will be too low” (ditto), or that their money will evaporate and their savings won’t be enough (gee, wonder why in Germany of all places the fear of inflation finds resonance; otherwise: ditto (the link, by the way, is to a picture of a five-billion Mark — RM5,000,000,000 — . . . postage stamp)). The people in the former DDR have already experienced how, with the collapse of their worker’s and peasant’s paradise, their “conditions of life” can be “completely altered”; “perhaps” they’re just “scared of further change.”
Scared of further change: The ultimate weasel accusation. Sort of like Britain was “scared of further change” when it guaranteed Poland’s borders against . . . well . . . against the Germans. Or like the abolitionists after 1850 were “scared of further change,” like the “change” that the new fugitive slave law was actually going to be enforced, and the slave power was actually entering an aggressively expansionist phase. Or that the American colonists in the early 1770s were “scared of further change” that the king and Parliament were going to reduce them to vassalage after 150-odd years of letting them by and large run themselves.
But what “further change” might the PEGIDA folks be “scared of”? Well, like getting your ass shot up by someone shouting Allahu akhbar! because he didn’t like a joke you told. Or entire suburbs of your national capital being places where it’s just not safe for your own police and firefighters to go, because they’re attacked by Islamic thugs. Or gangs of Pakistani men gang-raping over 1,400 little girls over the course of 18 or so years. Or soldiers of your own country being slaughtered in broad daylight because . . . well, because Allah is great (or at least real swell). Or “honor killings” where teenage girls have their throats slit because daddy doesn’t approve of their boyfriend. Or entire segments of the population checking out of the law, establishing their own religious courts to mete out sharia justice. Or competing groups of religiously-motivated thugs fighting it out on the streets of your own cities. Or having to wonder, every time you get on a train, whether someone’s going to blow it sky-high for the greater glory of a 7th Century pederast. And so forth.
That fat-headed German Interior Minister deserves to be on the next train that gets blown up. What happened in Paris this past week has everything, every-damned-thing in the world, to do with Islam as such. As that el-Sisi boy in Egypt said in exactly so many words (words which the Western press is studiously ignoring):
“Is it possible that 1.6 billion people [Muslims] should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants—that is 7 billion—so that they themselves may live? Impossible! . . . All this that I am telling you, you cannot feel it if you remain trapped within this mindset. You need to step outside of yourselves to be able to observe it and reflect on it from a more enlightened perspective. I say and repeat again that we are in need of a religious revolution. You, imams, are responsible before Allah. The entire world, I say it again, the entire world is waiting for your next move… because this umma is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost—and it is being lost by our own hands.”
I’m certainly not going to put myself out there as carrying the water for PEGIDA or anyone else. They may turn out to be dupes or worse. But to point out that Islamization of the Western world is an aggressively pursued policy that has absolutely nothing — nothing at all — good to offer us, and that open-door immigration from those areas of the world whose societies are not merely not-“geprägt” by Judeo-Christian values, but actively and violently opposed to them, is nothing that can end well? Until someone can show me that the imams to whom el-Sisi was speaking actually get out there and demonstrate, by book, chapter, and verse, that all these criminals in Islamized Europe in fact have it wrong . . . well, until then I think PEGIDA’s got the better argument.