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An Unduly Hard Month of May in the Current Age of Reason

This month of May has already taken a deadly toll on the intellectual life of America, in ways both figurative and literal. Aside from all the daily dumbing-down of the United States that you’ll note in the headlines and talk radio chatter, we’ve also lost some of the very best minds from the previous better era of high culture and academia.
Earlier this month we penned a heartfelt farewell to Tom Wolfe, who was the greatest American writer of the past half-century in our opinion, and now we find ourselves respectfully noting the past week’s deaths of both Richard Pipes and Bernard Lewis, who in our opinion were the two most formidable thinkers of their time in their essential academic fields
Neither Pipes nor Lewis were ever nearly as household-name famous as any of the Kardashians or the latest rap star or that lawyer for a porno performer who’s lately been on the cable channels causing all sorts of problems for the President of the United States, but in the long run we expect they’ll prove far more consequential.
Pipes, who died on May 17 at the age of 94, was a Harvard professor of Russian and Soviet history. That sounds pretty boring by current pop culture standards, and that Harvard professorship will immediately raise suspicions among the current version of conservative talk radio chatter, but his scholarly analysis of the Cold War, which was a hot topic at the time, played a key role in bringing that conflict to a for-now successful conclusion for what’s left of Western Civilization and classically liberal democracy.
Despite his Harvard professorship and the academic fashions of his moment, which politely agreed that international communism was an historical inevitability, Pipes daringly predicted that the Soviet model’s fundamental flaws doomed it to failure that a robust challenge from a more culturally and economically vibrant and militarily stronger West could more quickly bring about. President Ronald Reagan had already reached the same conclusion, but he still drew on the depth of Pipes’ analysis as he pursued that agenda, and he was quite effective in noting to the press and public opinion that his policies had the imprimatur of a some fancy-assed Harvard professor who scholarship was unchallenged even by his critics. Both Pipes and Reagan suffered the derision of the left, which was probably harder on the academic Pipes, but for now they seem vindicated by history.
Lewis, who died Saturday at the ripe old age of 101, was a longtime professor of Middle Eastern studies at the equally fancy-pants Princeton University. That sounds pretty boring to the popular culture and suspicious to the talk radio chatter, too, but he also did Western Civilization a huge favor by defying academic fashions about the great global civilizational clash that was unleashed at the end the Cold War.
Lewis was born into a middle-class Jewish American family around the same time T.E. Lawrence, who had majored in was was then called “Orientalism” at an elite British University, was leading an Arab revolt to help Britain’s efforts in World War I. By the time Lewis was pursuing his higher education in the same discipline it was called Middle Eastern studies, but he went at it with the same diligence and cultural confidence as “Lawrence of Arabia.” He mastered Hebrew far beyond what his Bar Mitzvah reading required, became equally fluent in Farsi and Arabic, modestly joked that he could “make the noises” of another 11 languages, and dug deeply into all of the cultures those languages represented and reported his finding in pristine English prose.
Although he inevitably found plenty of good and bad in all the cultures he surveyed, as well as the intrusive and all-too-human culture he came from, Lewis never shied from the necessary judgments needed to make sense of it all. He frequently defied the academic fashions of his time by opining that fundamental differences between the Islamic and more or less Judeo-Christian cultures made a “conflict of civilizations” inevitably in an increasingly small world, and that in the long run the world would be better off the more culturally and economically and military stronger West prevailed.
Despite his undisputed scholarship and Ivy League credentials, in the 1990’s Lewis was challenged as the premier Middle Eastern scholar by Columbia professor Edward Said, whose surprisingly best-selling book “Orientalism” charged that the academic field was still tainted by a Occidental bias against the poor victims of the West’s rapacious colonialism. The debate was still raging when some suicidal Islamist terrorists crashed hijacked airplanes into the Wold Trade Center and the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania farm field way back in ’01, and for a while there the debate between Lewis and Said was a hot topic. Both sides have since had considerable influence on subsequent events, for better and worth, but for now Lewis has been more influential, and we expect that in the long he will be vindicated.
For now, though, one month’s loss of the likes of the clear-eyed likes of Wolfe and Pipes and Lewis gives some worry, ¬†especially when the rest of the news and talk radio chatter is so alarmingly divorced from the sort of fact-based and dispassionately objective analysis these men once provided.

— Bud Norman

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Cultures of Rape, Cultures of Denial

Few Americans are up to date on the latest events in Cologne, Germany, or Rotherham, England, or Malmo, Sweden, and far too many Americans are altogether unaware that such places even exist, which is a shame. Here in America we’re understandably preoccupied with our own problems ranging from rape to immigration to our entirely unsatisfactory presidential contest, but the events elsewhere should provide some applicable lessons.
It took a few days for even the most knowledgable Germans to learn to about it, but the New Year’s Eve celebrations in Cologne and Hamburg were marred by the coordinated attacks of gangs of as many as a thousand young men robbing and groping and often raping young women revelers in the public squares. It took a few years for the English to learn that more than 1,400 young women and girls in Rotherham were systematically abused by organized gangs over a 16-year period. Even now most Swedish media would rather not admit that their country rivals Lesotho, South Africa, as the “rape capital of the world,” and that its third-largest city of Malmo can probably claim that awful distinction. The American media are mostly just as reticent about the matter, and not just because of their audience’s stubborn parochialism.
Even the most polite press have been forced to admit that those gangs in Cologne and Hamburg were described by their victims of being “North African or Arab,” the gangs that terrorized Rotherham are described by even the most discreet British presses as “Asian,” and by now only the most steadfastly proper publications in Sweden deny that the horrific rise in their country’s rape rate is caused by its carefully undefined “immigrant population.” Most of the American media are just as reticent as about it, given their fealty to a variety of storylines that are severely complicated by these facts.
When forced to confront such inconvenient truths, the more forthright of the liberals will bravely argue that tales of rape and pillage have always been used by white folks to oppress the “other,” from “The Birth of a Nation” to lurid pulp tales of the Sheik of Araby’s harem to the white slavery of the Yellow Peril, and that after all a rapist of color is no more deplorable than the more pallid sorts of rapists, and we’ll stipulate to all of that. We’ll also stipulate to the undeniable fact that most “North African and Middle Eastern” and “Asian” and immigrant people and whatever else you want to call Muslims are not inclined to rape. Such arguments are of little consolation to the victims of Cologne and Rotherham or Malmo or countless other cities throughout the west, however, or to those who love them, and there’s no denying that the victims are increasing in number or that is has something to do with a policy of admitting large numbers of immigrants from cultures with vastly different notions from the west regarding women and their rights as fully-fledged human beings.
Better to leave to such matters unmentioned, so far as the polite press is concerned. The polite press is more concerned with the “culture of rape” that supposedly permeates the modern American campus, where the administration and other smart folks claim that one in five co-eds endure a rape along with that all that crushing student loan debt, and celebrates a Columbia student who hauled a mattress around campus for years to protest the treatment of her thoroughly-debunked claim she was raped by a foreign student, and worries about such sexist micro-aggressions as presuming a student’s preferred pronouns, and never seems to notice that the modern American campus is the most liberal institution in America. They’re also busy promoting an open-door policy toward parts of the world that have vastly different notions regarding women and their rights as fully-fledged human beings, not to mention the rights of homosexuals and transgendered reality television show stars, so they’d rather not get into a discussion of how that fits with the happy rainbow multi-cultural storyline. They’ve also got the difficult chore of sustaining the candidacy of a feminist heroine whose husband has been believably charged with everything from groping to rape to jet trips with pedophile billionaires to islands full of underage sex slaves.
The modern liberal can somehow reconcile all of this. Bill Clinton’s worst offenses can be forgiven because of his support of abortion, and of course of his wife shouldn’t be held responsible for the behavior she merely enabled. Multi-culturalism trumps feminism, just as everything else always seems to trump feminism in liberal politics, and if Donald Trump is predictably rude enough to point that out, well, Donald Trump is easily ridiculed in liberal circles. The feminist hero is insisting that all should be welcome and that Islam has nothing to with anything but peace, and that all victims of sexual abuse save her husband’s should be believed, and the news from Cologne, Rotherham and Malmo will go largely unmentioned, and the crackdown on collegiate sex and the welcoming of millions of unassimilable young men from parts of the world with vastly different views regarding women and their rights as fully-fledged human beings will all somehow make sense.

— Bud Norman