The Perfect Enemy (rerun)

(I originally posted this in 2009 and reran it in 2013.  The plague of atrocities carried out by those who justify them under the banner of Islam has continued and expanded, as has the tendency of many American and Europeans to downplay the significance of Islamic radicalism and terrorism.  Indeed, the effective  justification of terror attacks by attacking the victims–be those victims French cartoonists or Israeli Jews–is disturbingly common. And I am sensing an almost frantic desire, on the part of many commentators and even ordinary people, to deny that Islamic terrorism is any more of a threat than, say, Presbyterian terrorism or Baptist terrorism.)

Suppose you wanted to create a perfect enemy. An enemy so vile that its evil would be recognized by almost everyone. An enemy that would inspire people to come together in order to ensure its defeat.

To be more specific: suppose you were a screenwriter with the assignment of creating a suitable villain-organization for a major motion picture. The marketing plan for this movie suggests that it will be marketed primarily to a certain demographic and that, hence, your villain-organization should be particularly appalling to members of that demographic. The demographic in question consists of people who are affluent, highly educated (college with at least some postgraduate education), not particularly religious, and who consider themselves politically liberal or “progressive.” The plot of the movie demands that the audience must see the necessity for Americans–of many beliefs, occupations, and social backgrounds–to come together in order to defeat the enemy.

Oh, and one other thing. The year in which you are given this assignment is 1999.

You will clearly want your enemy to share many of the characteristics of the Nazis–disrespect for human life, wanton cruelty, a love of apocalyptic violence. But to make the enemy particuarly awful from the standpoint of your target demographic, you will want to emphasize certain aspects of its belief system.

Members of your demographic usually have strong beliefs about women’s rights. So, your enemy must have a particularly disrespectful belief set, and a violent behavior pattern, towards women. Similarly, your demographic is generally favorable toward gay rights…so the enemy must advocate and practice the suppression, torture, and killing of gays. Your demographic is generally nonreligious and often hostile toward religion…so, make sure the enemy includes a large element of religious fanaticism. Members of your demographic talk a lot about “the children”–so make sure your enemy uses children in particularly cruel ways.

Had you created such an enemy for your screenplay in 1999, you would have surely felt justified in assuming that it would achieve its intended reaction with your target demographic.

It didn’t work out that way, though.


The enemy I’ve described is, of course, the one that we currently face in the form of radical Islamic terrorists and their associated rogue states such as Iran. In real life, not in the movies.

But the members of the demographic I specified have been strangely reluctant to engage in wholehearted condemnation of this enemy (observe, for example, the endless excuse-making, for and even glamorization of, Palestinian terrorism), and even more reluctant to join with their fellow Americans for its defeat. Indeed, it seems that many journalists, entertainers, writers, and college professors have such strong feelings of fear and/or contempt for the majority of their fellow Americans that these greatly overshadow any concerns about terrorist fanatics and terrorist states with nuclear weapons.

In Poul Anderson’s 1972 SF story A Chapter of Revelation, God stops the movement of the sun across the sky. (Technically, He does this by slowing earth’s rotation period to a value identical with Earth’s year.) The reason for the miracle is to demonstrate His existence to the world, thereby encouraging people to prevent the nuclear war which is about to occur.

Anderson describes the intital reaction to the miracle: The pilgramages by torch to the Ganges, by canclelight to the Western Wall and the Mosque of Omar, by furnacelike sunlight to Our Lady of Guadalupe, were not frantic in any true sense of that word. They were awesome: men, women, children by the millions flowing together and becoming a natural force.

A theology student, in conversation with a scientist, offers the view that “…today we’re so far gone into spiritual savagery that nothing except the most primitive, public sort of demonstration could touch us”…to which the scientist replies “As if we’d flunked quantum mechanics and been sent back to roll balls down inclined planes?”

Very soon, people begin to use the miracle to justify whatever belief systems they already hold. A Russian scientist (remember, this was written in 1972) suggests that “The requirement of minimum hypothesis practically forces us to assume that what happened resulted from the application of a technology centuries beyond ours. I find it easy to believe that an advanced civilization, capable of interstellar travel, sent a team to save mankind from the carnage threatened by an imperialism which that society outgrew long ago.” The Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party suggests that it was all about the intersection of Marxism and ESP: “The mind of man may have tremendous abilities, once liberated from the blinkers of the past. More than a third of the contemporary human race is guided by Marxism; more than half this number has for more than a generation been under the tutelage of wholly correct principles. Thus, the massed concentration of the peace-loving peoples may well have triggered cosmic energies to produce those events which have halted the imperialists in their bloody track and thrown them wallowing back into the basest superstitions.”

In the U.S., extreme right-wing evangelists use the miracle to prove that their vision is the correct one. Radical Black Power advocates do the same: “‘What He really stopped was this rich man’s war that was getting started when the bombs of white Amerika’…he formed the K with his fingers, a gesture that had become his trademark–’struck our Chinese brothers. The rich man’s war on the poor, the white man’s war on the black, the brown, the yellow, the red.’” Moralists assert that the miracle was a warning about moral degeneration: “Satan’s agents continue to gnaw like rats at the heart of faith, morality, and society. These atheists, evolutionists, free-love swine, boozers, tobacco smokers, dope fiends still try to hide from us the plain truth of God’s word as revealed in the Holy Bible.” The Joint Chiefs of Staff propose a preemptive attack on China–”I keep thinking of Jehovah the Thunderer,” says their spokesman, “–the Crusades–Don John at Lepanto, saving Christendom with sword and cannon..”

Basically, just about everyone responds to the miracle by reinforcing whatever belief systems they already had, and the world slides into further chaos, with riots, coups d’etat, and cross-border military attacks. The story is a beautiful description of confirmation bias on a very large scale.

The attacks on 9/11 were a “primitive, public” demonstration like the stopping of sun in Anderson’s story, albeit a demonstration which was intentionally brutal rather than benign. But even with an enemy that seems custom-designed to be appalling to “progressives,” and with the most primitive and public demonstration imaginable, confirmation bias has, for many proved far stronger than evidence.

8 thoughts on “The Perfect Enemy (rerun)”

  1. Perhaps we’re about to see this run through in real time, then.

    Still, it’s absolutely appalling, how many of the brutalities that conservatives are accused of, are actually being carried out – and worse – by the stern Islamists of ISIS/ISIL … without a peep from the usual intellectual/media elite. Their silence in this respect is most curious.

  2. Muslims are seen by the left, which means the elites and the cognoscenti, as “colored.” Israel is committing “racism” by defending itself from terrorists who are willing to blow themselves up to kill Jews. The “colored” population of the world is not responsible for its own actions, in the opinion of the left. They are children and therefore incompetent in matters of judgement. Parents, meaning the elites and the leftist philosophers, will see to it that these children never face the consequences of their own actions. It is as though they are all being awarded trophies for participating in life.

    Of course, this means that the children must recognize that they must obey the parents/leftists. The political left is the equivalent of the “helicopter parent” who makes certain that nothing bad every happens to the child/ colored population no matter what their actions. There is no punishment unless they reject the parent/leftist philosophy. Hence the fate of conservative blacks or other heretics.

  3. Relevant article in the Washington Examiner:

    “The U.S. is losing the war against radical Islamists, and Americans want to know if there is anybody capable of doing anything about it. They are pleading for a commander in chief who can shine in the following three areas.” (identify and define Islamist terror threat, analyze past successes & failures, develop strategy and consensus for future action)

    …but I’m not sure it’s true that “Americans are pleading” for leadership against Islamist terror. Some are, but I’m afraid there are also a whole lot who think the threat is overstated.

  4. This post is arguing from two premises, among others, which are in error, and which lead to the expressions of confusion as to what’s going on between the obvious barbarism of the Islamic fascists and the silence of the progressive elites about it.

    The first error is that the progressive elite operates from a set of principles which are applied equally to the various situations unfolding in world affairs. This is simply false.

    Progressives adopt positions which advance the collectivist narrative, and with which they can criticize and weaken free market structures and the limited states which enable them. That is the only “principle” which matters—can the situation be crafted into a weapon against western culture.

    This is the reason the progressive forces have been a fifth column in western culture throughout the last century, and have done everything they could to oppose and undermine any assertive action by the U.S and its allies.

    The second error is that the elites oppose what ISIS et al are doing. They don’t.

    The progressive collectivist oligarchs would do the same, and worse, if they had the chance, and their entire power seeking campaign is to acquire just that level of unrestricted control over everything and everyone.

    If you do not comprehend that collectivist ideology is every bit as thoroughly a death cult as Islamic fascism, perhaps their willing complicity in the latter’s bottomless depravity will clarify the nature of that partnership for you, and enable you to grasp the deadly nature of the internal and external opponents we face.

  5. “collectivist ideology is every bit as thoroughly a death cult as Islamic fascism”

    I disagree. I have three leftist children, sufficient punishment for all my failings as a parent. One is reasonable and I can talk to her. Still she was much more concerned about a Texas school Board deciding to teach creation alongside evolution in science courses. This was world shattering news to her. I asked her if it was more important than teaching children to read or to do simple math calculations and she acknowledged it wasn’t.

    She is the reasonable one.

    The other two are both lawyers and are certain that they know far more about everything than I could ever know. At one point a few years ago, I told my leftist older son that I didn’t really care about gay marriage but was concerned that activists would attack churches’ tax status if they declined to perform the ceremony. He dismissed my concern in the most insulting possible way, assuming I was ignorant and had no idea about what I was saying. My other son says his brother chooses his arguments so that they always are in opposition to anything I say and he may be correct.

    Anyway, these people are unconcerned about any “blowback” since Bush is gone and the virtuous Obama is president. No one would want to harm us and I am sure they notice that trouble seems to happen in Texas where it is richly deserved.

    The political left is not a death cult any more than the Childrens’ Crusade was a death cult. They just didn’t know what they were getting into.

  6. Considerably oversimplified, I think, VR….the “progressives” are a wide range of people with a wide range of motivations. There are plenty of Obama and Hillary supporters..including wealthy and influential ones…who would not advocate ISIS-level atrocities, and do not understand that their political beliefs do in fact act to enable such atrocities.

  7. MK makes the analysis into a personal evaluation of his children, and, then, of course, rejects it as extreme.

    DF states that there are many types of progressives, as if the more idealistic would be able to somehow humanize collectivist ideology into something less repressive and murderous than it has been everywhere it has attained unchecked political power.

    Progressives, or statist, or collectivists, or any of the other pseudonyms that have been used in the past century, have repeatedly taken over nations in all parts of the world for more than the last century, and in every case, regardless of the historical culture of the society in question, have rapidly descended into suffocating repression, and deadly assaults on anyone who expressed any form of contrary opinion, even if that opinion was only a variation of the official line.

    To put it bluntly, you cannot see the partnership, indeed, symbiosis, between the Islamic fascists and their western apologists even when you do manage to notice that none of the vehement criticisms that are continuously made against western society are ever directed with similar energy against Islamic groups and nations.

    We are standing on the tracks watching that light get closer and closer, and reassuring ourselves it’s just a handcar trundling along, not the express.

    I have never met a progressive who would accept any kinship with, or responsibility for, any bad result of collectivist ideology. It all just happens mysteriously, unexpectedly, every single time, and no one ever saw it coming, or was responsible, except that, somehow, it was the fault of the U.S.

  8. The contemporary European and American Left are too enervated and discouraged by the collapse of communism to do anything by themselves. They worship the Jihadis as the Nietzschean Supermen whom they profoundly wish they were. Deep down underneath they know that they have given up manliness and become effeminate nancy boys, and that they will never be able to beat the lower orders in the coming civil war.

    They hoped that blacks could be their proxy army, but those communities are so far gone that they can only direct violence against themselves. The Leftist fantasy is that the Jihadis will be their proxy army to destroy the lower class whites, and that the Jihadis will be so grateful for the plunder and booty that they will return to the ghettos quietly. Fat chance of that.

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