14 January 2007

Cultural appeasement

A meme that has been making the rounds in the wackier far reaches of the right ever since September 11 is that cultural liberalism was to blame for the attack -- that is, that our society's tolerance of abortion, homosexuality, paganism, atheism, secularism, women's lib, or whatever (all, you'll notice, familiar bugaboos of the Christian Right) provoked the attack by arousing the revulsion of the Islamists. Jerry Falwell first articulated this argument (if that is the correct term for it) immediately after the attack, and Dinesh D'Souza recently wrote a book enlarging on the theme. The implication, of course, is that if the US were less tolerant of those things, our society would appear less evil in the eyes of the Islamists, and we would therefore be safer.

I call this concept "cultural appeasement". It is really a proposal to make concessions to the enemy in hopes that he will be satisfied and not commit further aggression. The concessions would have to do with the nature of our culture rather than with the borders of Czechoslovakia, but the principle is the same.

Eric Scheie has a very good rebuttal of the entire concept here.

It has occurred to me that there is one imaginable "cultural appeasement" concession which would probably actually work to prevent any more attacks. If all Americans were to convert to Islam and abandon all other religions, including Christianity, then we would no longer be "infidels" and the jihadists would indeed have no further reason to attack us. Of course, the rightists would never propose such a measure. It is only those features of American culture which they themselves dislike that they will propose to throw to the wolves.

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