Monday 22 February 2021

The French Connection.

Anti-Philosopher President?  Emmanuel Macron and his party’s reaction to the terrorist atrocities committed on French soil targets the very same philosophical movements excited and emboldened by New Zealand’s own terrifying tragedy.

IT IS NOT the sort of thought experiment New Zealanders are encouraged to conduct in these culturally sensitive times. Even so, let’s imagine that the 2019 massacre which seared itself across New Zealand’s collective memory had not been of peaceful Muslim worshippers by a white nationalist extremist. Let’s imagine, rather, that as practically the whole of this country’s national security apparatus was anticipating, the massacre had been of Christian worshippers by an Islamic jihadist extremist.

Overnight, the ideological climate in this country would have become exceedingly hostile to the forces of progressivism. A bitter mood of “we told you so” would have settled over the nation: a mood as far removed from Jacinda Ardern’s inspired “they are us” formulation as it is possible to imagine.

Responding to the angry clamour of public opinion, the security services would have cracked down hard on the Muslim community, activating the multitude of surveillance and control measures already thoroughly tested (and strongly recommended) by their Five Eyes partners. Attacks on Muslims and their places of worship would have skyrocketed. Tragically, most New Zealanders would have struggled to summon-up much in the way of sympathy.

Certainly, the Green Party leadership would have had to think twice about exploiting the emotional turmoil arising from the massacre to launch an all-out assault of white supremacy and colonisation. The actual behaviour of Marama Davidson and Golriz Ghahraman in 2019 did the Greens few enough favours. Had an identical strategy been attempted in the circumstances of a jihadist attack, the consequences would have been politically suicidal.

The personal impact on Jacinda Ardern of a jihadist attack would, similarly, have provided a stark contrast with her actual response to the Christchurch tragedy. Rather than the empathic woman in the hijab, it is likely the Prime Minister would have adopted the persona of the stern shield-maiden of the nation. Unleashing without hesitation the terrible swift sword of national retribution, she would have become New Zealanders’ avenging angel. Not so much “they are us” as “they will pay”.

In this jihadist scenario, the deep and enduring bond between the Prime Minister and New Zealand’s Muslim community following the white nationalist attack could not have been forged. Consequently, her strong personal commitment to restricting Islamophobic “hate speech” would not be there. Equally absent would be the Ardern government’s determination to rid New Zealand of automatic weapons. Indeed, this government’s unusual receptiveness towards ideas and policies aimed at suppressing right-wing extremism and curbing white privilege would not be in evidence anywhere.

Over and above its devastating impact on the faith community directly involved, the Christchurch mosque massacre also acted as the catalyst for a sharp shift towards the ideological left in New Zealand. The very opposite to what is currently unfolding in France.

Since the year 2000, France has lost more than 250 of its citizens to jihadist violence, precipitating a pronounced political repositioning within the French electorate. Repulsed by the actions of Islamic fanatics, French politicians have reasserted their nation’s strong traditions of secularism and egalitarianism. Just last week, the French National Assembly passed a law which, in addition to proscribing “Islamicism”, also requires every citizen to indicate active support for the classic republican virtues of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.

Aware of the opening which this reconstitution of political forces has provided for the Radical Right, ministers in the government of President Emmanuel Macron are indicating a wish to go further. Leading the charge is France’s Minister for Higher Education, Frédérique Vidal. In a recent television interview, she announced an investigation into “the totality of research underway in our country”. Firmly in her sights was what she calls “Islamo-leftism”.

According to Vidal, “Islamo-leftism corrupts all of society and universities are not impervious.” Unsurprisingly, French academics reacted with fury – not least because Vidal went on to accuse those involved in race and gender studies of “always looking at everything through the prism of their will to divide, to fracture, to pinpoint the enemy.” In response to this, the National Centre for Scientific Research, came out swinging, condemning in particular “attempts to delegitimise different fields of research, like post-colonial studies, intersectional studies and research on race.”

In a nation like France, however, with such a long and strong imperial tradition, these fields of study are precisely those from which the political right stands to derive the most electoral advantage. Hence Macron’s haste in heading-off his principal rival in next year’s presidential elections, the far-right nationalist, Marine Le Pen, at the ideological pass. Both candidates are determined to not to be found wanting by those French voters who still take patriotic pride in their nation’s past glories.

Ironically, the same “intersectional” academic disciplines under attack in France are also responsible for inspiring the New Zealand government’s new and compulsory history curriculum designed to rectify New Zealanders’ woeful understanding of their country’s long and (allegedly) ignoble record of conquest and expropriation. That such a radical policy (along with kindred initiatives on Maori wards, hate speech, and limiting the rights of defendants in rape trials) could have advanced so far is inconceivable without the tremendous political impetus provided by the Christchurch mosque massacres. More, and even bolder, advances will be hazarded – most especially in relation to constitutional issues – if Labour’s current initiatives are concluded successfully.

That the success of Labour’s radical programme appears imminent is not only explicable in terms of the Christchurch attack, but also on account of the National Party’s all-too-evident ideological confusion. Some in National seem quite relaxed about intersectionalism and its policy implications, while others seem bitterly opposed. Should the former faction emerge triumphant, their party risks electoral marginalisation. At present there seems barely enough room on the New Zealand electoral stage for two “woke” parties – let alone a third in two minds on the subject! A win for the conservative faction would, therefore, seem the most likely outcome – especially since, thanks to Macron and his ministers, there is now a growing body of coherent ideological opposition to Islamo-leftism and its kindred political faiths for them to call on.

National will have to be quick, though, if Act is not to occupy the ground opened-up by the French Right first. Ideologically-speaking, David Seymour and Emmanuel Macron have much in common. Both are confident technocratic liberals, perfectly at ease in their defence of “Enlightenment values”, even as they unashamedly promote the arguments and interests of free-market capitalism. Both men, and their parties, also possess the philosophical clarity of mind to confront the intersectional and post-colonial theorists head-on. Unless they’re keeping their light especially well-hidden under a bushel, the person in National with that capability has yet to be elected to Parliament.

One final point needs to be made here. Macron and his ministers have been quick to blame the intellectual disorientation of its best and its brightest on what The New York Times describes as “destabilising influences on US campuses”, with Macron himself denouncing “certain social-science theories entirely imported from the United States.” Now, that is a particularly cheeky gallic accusation! Because, when it comes to the destabilising influence of the philosophical movement generally referred to as “Post-Modernism”, just about all of its leading intellectual lights – past and present – declaimed at length upon the death of meaning in strong French accents.

This essay was originally posted on the website of Monday, 22 February 2021.


AB said...

Chris - you are straying into tautology. Essentially, your point is that if NZ wasn't NZ but actually like somewhere else (France), then everything would be different. Of course it would - by definition through your initial thought experiment. If NZ had an Algeria in our past, or had more enthusiastically joined the Iraq or Afghanistan invasions, or was a totally uncritical supporter of Israels' west bank expansion, then something like your thought experiment might have played out. But we don't and we haven't. I feel your analysis here tells us nothing useful, other than your determination to find new angles to attack 'wokeism'.

Brendan McNeill said...


I’m wondering if there remain any more sacred cows to be herded into the public square for slaughter? The ‘cancel culture’, Labour’s inaction, Radio NZ’s embrace of Woke, and now the politics of Islam all in the space of a few days! I’m sensing and appreciating a trend here.

John Hurley said...

There's an interesting run down of the Frankfurt School here by a Black Muslim who while knowing the topic well feels that Blacks are pawns. He is very candid.

The above is why I detest the Labour Party. Hegemony as a concept is what it is all about. How else could naughty Mani Dunlop use te reo whenever she feel like it and not get fired?

Hegemony refers to the processes by which dominant culture maintains its dominant position: for example, the use of institutions to formalize power; the employment of a bureaucracy to make power seem abstract (and, therefore, not attached to any one individual); the inculcation of the populace in the ideals of the hegemonic group through education, advertising, publication, etc.; New Discources

Nick J said...

John, an interesting read on the Frankfurt School. The role of the German, mainly Jewish intellegentsia in recognising the failure of the Marxist revolution to eventuate amongst Western proletariats is evident. Their genius was to change tack and lay down thd concept of identity victimhood as opposed to class victimhood to promote the revolution.

From this we now face critical theory as the latest (nearly 100 year old) intellectual challenge to pretty much all Western heritage and values that are vacuously bundled up in the catch all term capitalism. This inseparability of our culture with capitalism is both false and extremely dangerous. The concept is tear down everything to make way for the revolution that will create the world anew. We saw that play out with the Soviet Union and the huge death count.

GS recently accused critics of neo Marxism of not being able to name the founders and followers, his contention being to deny the reality of this intellectual plague. Try this, Lukacs, Pollock, Fromm, Marcuse, Gramsci. When academic Marxists in the 70s were brought face to face with the crimes of the Soviet and Chinese communists they changed spots as leopards dont. Derrida, Foulcaut repacking rotten fruit.

I applaud Chris for sticking his neck on the block and raising these issues.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

1.I love how conservatives go on about "cancel culture" as if they didn't invent it. Let's ask the Dixie Chicks and Colin Kaepernick. :)
2.Interesting how conservatives can't stand a few words of Maori.
3.Well said AB.

David George said...

The problem for our right wing parties in asserting core values such as freedom of speech and personal responsibility is that these will invariably be twisted into wholly unreasonable accusations of racism - or something. Also they don't have the benefit of a strong, further right wing party, as the French do, to appear moderate against or an almost religious national devotion to liberty as the French and Americans do.

How far will the Ardern government push their woke agenda, I guess they're watching opinion polls but there is definitely a strong undercurrent unhappy with a great deal of it and seriously wanting a big push back and someone credible to front it. So what would it take to really motivate Christians, Kiwi and immigrant conservatives and genuine liberals to join forces and rebel against the left orthodoxy. How long will people continue to put up with the very idea of inequality in the name of equality.

How do they feel when their kid comes home from school with the idea that you're bad because of your race, or they can't get into med school, or granny into hospital because someone was jumped ahead of you because of their race. Or that it's OK with government that you be accosted by Maori road blocks or to have some religions protected but not yours, for some groups to receive special recognition of their "spiritual connection" and receive cash, land and power because of it. To have your culture openly denigrated while your genuine criticism is criminalised.

The continuing failure to deal with housing, educational decline and the consequences of an unaffordable and unworkable rejig of out entire energy and transport sectors can only hasten the inevitable.

Seems to me there's a big and growing pile of dry tinder waiting for a match.

greywarbler said...

Watch out you may be next Brendan McNeil - for analysis and discussion which you seem to find distasteful. Strange as it may seem to you, that is the whole purpose of this blog as I see it. It's a WTF is going on and how do we make sense of it exercise. It is an exercise that is at times carried out under the tertiary educational demand of 'Compare and Contrast'. It is an exercise in using imagination, seeking a new perspective; we certainly need understanding of the strength of Unbridled Wokeism.

When Sir Geoffrey Palmer wrote his book 'Unbridled Power' published in 1979 its subtitle was 'An Interpretation of New Zealand's Constitution and Government'. This was revised and republished in 1987 ' to describe how government works - and how it can be altered. It has vital information on: how laws are made; how parliament works; what MPs and Ministers do; to make a submission to a select committee; how the voter can make his or her point of view known; how democratic New Zealand really is. Sir Geoffrey could not have foreseen the present moral outrage and its all-encompassing snowball effect.

Comparing now with then, France with New Zealand, would be a brain exercise that is not a waste of time. I recall reading from two different sources, Dutch people commenting on the indirection found in the United Kingdom; the lack of directness in speech and thought that the Dutch prize and use is notably absent. I have also read an Israeli living in NZ say that we seem unable to be clear and definite when requested for an honest opinion. He noted that we wouldn't advise whether his English-speaking skills were improving, instead giving encouraging positives. My point is that we don't have the guts and the desire for integrity in our thinking and speech to assess our achievements and failures, and so we need to think more widely for perspective and history.

Both the 'woke' and the citizens being berated, need to examine honestly the matters contested, not just settle into an argument as pointless and lacking an informed outcome, as the one in Monty Python on youtube which is reminiscent of discussions I have attempted to have on The Standard.

We need to keep examining the way we think and arrive at assessment of the subject and this Durham University vid 'The Argument Clinic' would refresh minds who have dropped the practices already known, washed over by the queen tide of emotionalism at present.

And considering hegemony, an agreed culture could be considered a hegemony; if it is a good and reasonably fair culture, and education, propaganda maintains this meme in an honest way, it doesn't mean there is malpractice or the hegemony is oppressive.

R-Lo said...

France has had extensive problems dealing with religious minorities, all the way back to the Dreyfus affair and before.

New Zealand just isn't like this. Religion is a private matter here and if you keep it to yourself, you will be left alone. Muslims who have immigrated to New Zealand have immediately grasped that this is a really good deal for them and have abided by it. This is why everyone was so angry about the mosque attacks: these people were minding their own business in their own building. Even people who don't like Islam were outraged.

I do not see the point of comparisons with France, the UK, the United States, or Australia. We are very different from those countries. As our COVID response showed, we are better and they are useless.

Barry said...

All very interesting but the reality is that there will be an islamic terrorist action in NZ sooner or later. It might be next year or it maybe in 30 years.
The reason is that islam regards western culture as a broken system that they regard as depraved. They also have a view of christianity that pretty much calls for the elimination of christians. Its all part of their religious belief. If you are born a muslim you cant withdraw. To do so calls for death by stoning. The religious system also calls for the society to be run under islamic law.
This is all at odds with western democratic societies. Be as kind or as diverse as we like it wont make any difference to some deep believer in the full application of islamic rules. Its simply a matter of when.

Barry said...

A very interesting background interview is this one:
Its a discussion by a black woman about her and societies experiences in western and muslim societies. Its pretty much a prediction about what Europe has in store as a result of the influx of mostly muslim young men into Europe. It outlines some of the conflicts between islamic culture and western culture.

Andrew Nichols said...

Barry said "This is all at odds with western democratic societies. Be as kind or as diverse as we like it wont make any difference to some deep believer in the full application of islamic rules. Its simply a matter of when."

The sort of phobia we hear endlessly about the latest designated enemy. No different to the 60s when you could insert "godless communists" in there instead of "moslems"

Sorry mate. I grew out of swallowing all this Establishment driven fear years ago, when the last lot predicted to arrive and take us over didn't. That's what maturity does for you.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"The reason is that Islam regards western culture as a broken system that they regard as depraved. "

There is no such thing as "Islam". So no they don't.

"If you are born a muslim you cant withdraw."

Just like some branches of Christianity. But if it's true, why have 25% of Muslim immigrants in the US left their religion?

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Andrew N.

I’m largely with Barry on this one. Islam is different to Communism in so far as it has been around for seven centuries, and currently has 1.6 Billion followers globally. It is also different to Communism in that it is theistic rather than being anti-theistic, or atheistic if you prefer. There remains a difference between what your ‘dear leader’ may instruct, and what God instructs, regardless of how ideologically driven you may be.

Most people who are indifferent to Islam, or who see it as simply being another religion just like Christianity and Judaism (aren’t they all the same really?) have never studied Islam’s holy texts for themselves, nor investigated the life of its prophet Mohammad.

Should you take the time to do this you will understand why a young man fills his back pack with explosives and ball bearings in order to kill himself, children and teenagers at a pop concert in Manchester. Why a young man ritually slaughters a catholic priest at his alter in France, attempting to sever his head completely. Why the Al-Azhar Mosque and University in Cairo, the leading repository of Sunni Islam’s theological scholars in Egypt, would not condemn ISIS as being ‘un-Islamic’. ISIS is a legitimate and valid expression of Islamic theology and Scripture and a living example of their prophet’s life and actions.

Of course, not all Muslims agree that they should embrace jihad, kill the infidel wherever you find him, or that Islam is destined to rule and subdue the infidel. But it doesn’t take a very large percentage of 1.6 Billion adherents to embrace that theology for it to become a problem to those of us living in the west. Clearly Europe is ahead of New Zealand in its issues with Islam, having a Muslim population approaching 10%, while ours is only 1.3%, having doubled since 9/11. Is it reasonable to ask if we want to grow our Muslim population and experience the same problems as France? Or is that question off limits?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Brendan. I see you are trying to get yourself more theologically qualified to criticise Islam – but I doubt somehow if you're study of the holy texts or the life of the prophet stray very much outside the right wing fear mongering type of article.

I also doubt if you would blame the Bible for the various religious massacres that have taken place since Christianity began – the worst of course being the Holocaust of the 1930s and 40s. Or the symbiosis between Christianity and white supremacy in the US. Or the support of Christians for the Orlando shooter, who seemed to have something against gay men.

I guarantee you wouldn't blame Christian holy writings for the persecution of Muslims in the Philippines, or the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland Although of course you'd probably blame the Buddhist holy writings for the persecution of Muslims in Thailand, or the massacres of Hindu Tamils in Sri Lanka. And quite possibly you'd blame the Torah for the stabbing of six gay people at a parade in Israel by some religious nutter. Or would you given that it's your own old Testament basically?
It's about time you stopped this nonsense of assuming that Christianity is peaceful and other religions aren't.

You obviously don't understand your own holy book, because if you studied it properly you would understand why a young man sets off a bomb outside Harrods in London. Or why someone should commit suicide by way of a hunger strike in a British jail. Or why someone would fire mortar rounds at Margaret Thatcher – although to be honest the damage she did to Britain I might have some sympathy with that.

Brendan, I used to regard you as a somewhat harmless old buffer with slightly eccentric right-wing/religious opinions, but I'm beginning to feel that your lack of anything but the most superficial understanding of pretty much anything from homosexuality through transgender to crime and terrorism makes you outright dangerous, and if I believed in the concept of evil I might even ascribe that appellation to you. What worries me is not you, so much as those people in positions of power in – well pre-much everywhere in the world who believe as you do. No matter what religion they might be. Because as Hitchens said, it poisons everything.

Nick J said...

GS, what do you mean by "there is no such thing as Islam"? In which case what is that mosque doing in Kilbirnie?

Also it might behove you to listen to Aayan Hirsi Ali on people leaving Islam. They dont get that opportunity in Islamic countries. And to do so in the West is also fraught with difficulties.

John Hurley said...

What about Macron reacting to the ideologies spreading from American Universities?

We don't read that in the news.

Brendan McNeill said...

Dear GS

Thank you for your comments. I look forward to you taking time to critiqe my thesis, that France has a problem with Islam because 10% of its population is Muslim, and within that cohort a small percentage take seriously the doctrine of jihad and the example of their prophet. It is they who are responsible for the slaughter of innocents.

Second, that if New Zealand were to increase its Muslim population to a similar percentage, (up from the present 2.3%) we would likely have similar problems.

Finally, is this a subject that we are able to discuss publicly in New Zealand, (as Chris has; bless him) or is it off limits?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Nick – Islam is not monolithic. The mosque in Kilbirnie is nothing like a mosque in Saudi Arabia. And I have read all sorts of stuff about trying to leave the religion. Yes it's difficult, it's also difficult to leave Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnessism (sic) and various other puritanical sects in the American Bible belt. You will be cut off from all your family and friends at the very least. The punishment for apostasy in Judaism is death according to the Torah. Russia and India still prosecute or persecute people for blasphemy. In fact they are two of the top 10 countries that prosecute blasphemy. There have also been prosecutions in Austria, Finland, Germany, Greece, and Switzerland. On the other hand, in sub-Saharan Africa blasphemy prosecutions are very rare.
The places that still have the death penalty for leaving your religion are primitive, no matter how sophisticated they might claim to be. But then all sorts of places used to be primitive and became secular.
And difficult or not, as I said before 25% of the Muslim immigrants to the US have left their religion. More power to their elbows says I. Because religion poisons everything as Hitchens said.
I'm not sure why you people make such a thing about Islam, considering the proportion of Muslims in New Zealand is very tiny, and they seem relatively relaxed. We don't live in Saudi Arabia or Yemen, and I suspect that most of these Muslims, as has happened in Britain will become more and more secular. Probably doesn't help that you guys keep demonising them though. If only you got as upset about Christian sects stockpiling guns and ammunition ready for the apocalypse like the Full Gospel Mission Fellowship.

Nick J said...

GS, your response sort off made sense until you got to the "you guys keep demonising them" bit. Some people might, myself not.

Reading your opinions leads me to conclude that you see no value in religion and are prepared to judge religious adherence and practice very negatively. Which is fair enough in a world where freedom of thought and expression is allowed. Yet it appears to me that you are contemptuous of peoples right to express faith and religious expressions, especially Christians.

As a non religious person I too find religious expression often at variance with my position. It is not an excuse to denigrate it. There is a great Youtube where brothers Christopher Hitchens and Peter, the former an atheist, the latter religious debate the issue. It would seem to me that those of no faith are far more dogmatic.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"GS recently accused critics of neo Marxism of not being able to name the founders and followers, his contention being to deny the reality of this intellectual plague. "

Actually, no I didn't. I accused Jordan Peterson of not being able to name more than half a dozen of those people who are currently working to undermine Western society from within. And I believe I may have said, that he should have had hundreds of names at his fingertips given their supposed ubiquity. And I may well have followed up – can't exactly remember, because I've discussed this numerous times with various people – by saying that the ones he did mention were not exactly in prominent positions in academia.
There are probably just as many RWNJ professors out there working to bring about neoliberal/libertarianism.

Ben Carson for instance, Robert George, Mary Anne Glendon, Francis Fukuyama, William Shockley, yes I know he's dead, Jordan Peterson, and that's as many as Jordan Peterson mentioned in his debate. And pretty much all of the more influential than most. Yes university faculties tend to be leftish or liberal, but the latest research I found was – in the US at least 60% self-described as left or liberal, and that doesn't really mean a hell of a lot in the US with the Overton window being where it is there.
And are they indoctrinating their students and trying to take over the world? That bastion of communism the Economist thinks not.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Ah Brendan, it's a pity you can't get out of your Islamophobic mindset for a little while. France has always had problems with terrorism, from the left, from the right, and from Islamists. And it's partly due to the way they treat their Islamic citizens, partly due to the fact that they have traditionally offered terrorists sanctuary as long as they didn't commit their attacks in France. This allowed them to build up networks of contacts, and equipment which was later ironically turned against their hosts.

Not to mention France has a history of right-wing terrorism, which you people do tend to ignore a fair bit.

Interesting though that you should be able to state so confidently that 10% of the people in France are Muslim, given that France forbids the collection of such statistics, and the CIA estimates about 8% – but I quibble.

On the other hand this is typical of the pseudo-research you do that promotes hatred against non-Christians, and favours the torture of gay people.

Interesting also that you would claim with such confidence that if we increase the number of Muslims in this country we would get "similar problems" to France. It doesn't follow, particularly given that many of the Muslims we have taken in our refugees, fleeing the sort
of Islam that you vociferously and with some justification condemn.
And there are countries with fairly large Muslim populations that don't have much in the way of Muslim terrorism at all, or if they do it's the result of persecution by the majority. India for instance has had relatively few Muslim terrorist incidents outside of Kashmir. And it generally treats its Muslims quite badly. Singapore has had little to none Muslim terrorism in spite of having a large Muslim population which isn't treated particularly well, and in spite of being very close to Indonesia and Malaysia. So it ain't that simple.

Honestly Brendan, like most right-wingers you love things to be simple don't you – they very rarely are.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Nick – I do see very little value in religion, but I have no objection to anyone following any religion at all, as long as they don't try to impose their beliefs on everyone else. I am not contemptuous of those who express their faith, simply those who expect me to live by their rules. Again you are making judgements about me way beyond the evidence presented in my posts.
I'm a little surprised though that you think I shouldn't denigrate religious expression, when you are so much in favour of freedom of speech.

Nick J said...

No GS you have long since proven to be a zealous dogmatist. You have every right to see things your way yet are forever damning others for doing the same. Your outstanding quality is that no matter how wrong you are you will continue the fight. Some people would call that idiocy, myself I couldn't possibly comment.

PS with your tolerance of religion might you consider the repeated phrase "Jesus wept" offensive to Christians?