8 February 2018

Douglas Murray on The Strange Death of Europe

"Not long before the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris I happened to read a column in the now woefully sanctimonious Financial Times in which the writer went out of her way to sneer at the know-nothing bigots who would soon be claiming that huge immigrant flows into Europe gave cover for the movement of terrorists. As it turned out, several of the perpetrators of the Paris outrage had indeed slipped in and out of Europe posing as migrants, and more were to follow."


Multiculturalism is in its essence anti-European civilisation. It is basically an anti-Western ideology.

Samuel Huntington


If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.

George Orwell


Not long before the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris I happened to read a column in the now woefully sanctimonious Financial Times in which the writer went out of her way to sneer at the know-nothing bigots who would soon be claiming that huge immigrant flows into Europe gave cover for the movement of terrorists. As it turned out, several of the perpetrators of the Paris outrage had indeed slipped in and out of Europe posing as migrants, and more were to follow. A few minutes’ reflection on the part of this liberal journalist would have saved her from writing a foolish piece of “virtue-signalling” instead of addressing the obvious, namely that the migrant flood presented organisations like Isis or Al-Quaeda with a golden opportunity to exploit. Her refusal to contemplate reality, and instead attack the character and motives of those who would, is emblematic of the way the political establishment, supported by the liberal media, has more generally misrepresented the downside of mass Islamic immigration, using a mixture of suppressio veri, false statements and character assassination of those who raised the issue. These deplorable developments, now going back decades, are the starting point of Douglas Murray’s sober and sobering account of what he sees as the accelerating death of European society and political culture as we know it – or knew it until mass immigration began.

Murray’s text describes the early migration into Europe to satisfy its economic needs in the nineteen-fifties and sixties, then the rapid increase of refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants in the new millennium, and finally the backlash of the present day. Host populations are no longer content to accept the falsehoods, reassuring bromides and evasions which governments and their allies in the media deployed for years in order to keep substantive discussion of immigration off the agenda. He shows how the grave problems of unemployment, gangster ghettoes in European cities, home-grown terrorism, increased sexual crime, renewed anti-Semitism, violent sectarianism and also (to a greater degree than admitted) pressure on social services, health services, education and housing, are the result of deliberate decisions by governments who were (and mostly still are) in denial about their potentially grave consequences. However his particular focus is Islamic immigration on a scale that poses a direct challenge to Europe’s civilisation with its Judaeo-Christian roots.

Our liberal columnist would probably say she does not recognise the scenario presented by Murray. Unfortunately for her, increasing proportions of the populations of European countries most certainly do, thus invalidating the strategy hitherto of treating immigration sceptics and their political representatives as marginal extremists (“Islamophobes” is the preferred epithet) who can effectively be smeared as xenophobes, racists, fascists or Neo-Nazis. To see how the political environment has been changed to the detriment of ideological enthusiasts for immigration, you only have to list the claims for it that are now widely disbelieved (probably also by many of those who are propagating them):

1. Migrants pay in more to the host societies than they take out.” It may be possible to sustain this argument where immigration is low and consists almost entirely of skilled labour, or unskilled labour that goes home once jobs are no longer available. But that is not what is happening with contemporary mass migration. Murray points out that Sweden’s 2016 budget anticipated only the direct costs for the latter to be running at circa 50.4 billion kroner, with many more indirect costs not factored in. The welfare system in most Western European countries is based on contributions that are recognised through the tax system which distributes services. It is obvious that new arrivals must pay into the system for some years before they are likely to be putting in more than they and their families take out.[1] Intra-EU migration takes care of this by reciprocal agreement, but obviously this is not the case for economic or other migration from outside the EU. Despite efforts to spin the argument so that it appears that the “average” migrant is bringing much-needed skills to the country, as some undoubtedly are, the overall picture of mass migration from beyond the EU is very different. As Murray puts it: “The reality is that whatever its other benefits, the economic benefits of immigration accrue almost solely to the migrant. It is migrants who are able to access public facilities they have not previously paid for. It is migrants who benefit from a wage higher than they could earn in their home country. And very often the money that they earn – or much of it – is sent to family outside the [host country] rather than even being put back into the local economy.”[2]

2. Immigration has had no significant adverse impact on housing, education or health provision.” This argument relies on attributing scarce availability of housing or upward pressure on property prices to anything but the arrival of large numbers of immigrants who will need housing, education for their children and medical care. In Britain it is now estimated that 60 per cent of local authorities will have a shortage of primary school places by 2018 and the NHS is similarly stretched, spending more than £20 million annually on translation services alone. Furthermore the much higher birth rate among almost all immigrant families from beyond Europe simply intensifies problems that already exist.[3]

3. Europe’s ageing population needs to be refreshed.” This is the argument from the demographers. It is apparently axiomatic among the latter that the European population must continually increase, and necessarily by immigration since European fertility rates are often below the rate of replacement. If it does not, the countries concerned will fall into ineluctable decline. Murray makes two points about this: firstly the left, especially the Greens, used to argue for limiting population growth on environmental and welfare grounds; however it now seems to have decided that what should have been applied to irresponsible native Europeans should not be applied to Muslim immigrants (whose Imams often urge them to have up to five children), since that would be “discriminatory”. Secondly, he points out that it is not obvious that the quality of life will improve in the already overcrowded cities of the developed world if we encourage a further influx, bearing in mind that almost all migrants end up in the conurbations. The immigration argument here is purely utilitarian, and like most purely utilitarian arguments, it ignores essential aspects of what constitutes a healthily cohesive society. Murray suggests that economic constraints and lifestyle probably account for caution amongst European couples about having more than one or two children. One might add that these constraints hardly apply among those from a background where children, especially boys, traditionally represent an imminent income source. Having several children on the European welfare state, with its entitlement to benefits, is certainly a far better deal than could be expected in the countries of origin. Murray comments mordantly that “only three types of people [i.e. in the host countries] now have three children or more – the very rich, the poor and recent immigrants”.[4]

4. The argument from diversity”: This argument elides with the now bankrupt doctrine of “multiculturalism” and is open to the same objections. Europe has indeed benefited from many foreign cultural influences ranging from Chinoiserie to chicken tikka masala, besides wisdom, learning and some technology. Representatives from the cultures that gave us these may also live prosperously and happily amongst us. But this is not what the advocates of “diversity” and “multiculturalism” actually mean. As Sarah Spencer, one of its leading ideologists, has written: “The days when holding a British nationality rested on a notion of allegiance are over.”[5] In this and other propagandist remarks, she has shown that “diversity” and “multiculturalism” are viewed by the liberal left as Trojan horses to achieve the abolition of the nation state. Whenever the arguments of such people are inspected more closely, it turns out that “diversity”, to them at least, entails the dilution of the host culture more than its enrichment.

Diversity dogma also holds that all cultures are of equal worth, which soon presents a problem of conflict between values and attitudes that are inherent or aspired to in the host culture (acceptance of homosexuality, equality of the sexes, religious toleration) but in many cases rejected by the culture of incoming migrants. The left-leaning authors of Suicide of the West[6] epitomise a certain confusion on this issue when they write that “cosmopolitanism is desperately naive” – but immediately add that “diversity” is indispensable and “Westerners need to be respectful and stop assuming that non-Westerners have or should have the same values”.[7] This of course begs the question of which values should prevail in western societies if those of Muslim (or any other) migrants are in conflict with those of the host country.

5. Atoning for historic guilt”: This is arguably the most insidious doctrine of all and implicitly assumes that Europeans have so much to atone for (e.g. because of the colonial record, or in Germany’s case, Nazism) that any attempt to limit migration represents a failure to pay the bill for past sins. Proponents of this argument make easy and tasteless references to the Holocaust and appear to assume the unique iniquity of “the West” in history, ignoring the violent past, however genocidal, of Arabs, Africans and others who, they think, should arrive in Europe with a sense of entitlement. At times this attitude amounts to an astonishing self-hatred that clearly lies in some deep psychic disturbance. Murray quotes the Swedish Prime Minister, the allegedly Conservative Frederic Steinfeld, as saying that “Only barbarism is genuinely Swedish. All further development has been brought from outside.” In a speech on Christmas Eve 2014, alleges Murray, Steinfeld went further, maintaining that Swedish people were “uninteresting”, borders were “fictional constructs” and that Sweden belongs to the people who have come to make a better life there rather than to the people who have lived there for generations.[8] Just to ram home the point, a Swedish State Secretary, asked if she thought Swedish culture was worth preserving, said, “Well, what is Swedish culture? And with that I guess I’ve answered the question.” Perhaps a little more understandably, self-hatred has infected Germany as part of the legacy of Nazism. Only today, as I was writing this article, I read a letter from a German gentleman in the Financial Times, the last paragraph of which runs: “Mrs Merkel is responsible for changing the distribution within Europe and for making me, for half a year in my long life, happy to be a German.” One notices how even this abject and maudlin statement has to resort to the euphemism of “changing the distribution in Europe”.

Of course, as Murray points out, this tsunami of historic guilt seems rather selective in its targets and the remedies demanded. The tribal leaders of Africa who sold their own people into slavery, the Arab states that actually continue to connive at slavery or have a violent and ruthless past, the mass murdering Chinese of recent history, the descendants of the massacring Ottomans – none of these nationalities are required to live in a huddled state of perpetual guilt. In a bumper evening of denunciation in October last year, the BBC’s Newsnight featured in its “Viewsnight” slot a person of colour who ended his diatribe with the observation that the white man was responsible for all the violence in the world. This overtly racist claim mysteriously failed to attract the caterwauling of condemnation that arises when any European makes an observation that is, or can be twisted to seem, racist. Later on in the evening, a political programme featured a comedian making much the same point as Viewsnight. But despite, or perhaps because of, this blackmailing onslaught on the evil white man, there are signs that its target has finally had enough of being bullied by pharisaical intellectuals, TV presenters and politicians seeking cheap kudos among the bien pensants. The right is in the ascendant over much of Europe and the liberal left is beginning to discover that treating the voters as little more than contemporary representatives of an evil past is no longer a one-way street to political success. This is presumably the reverse of what they hoped to achieve, but much of the damage they have caused may be irreversible.


Quo vadis Europa?


While the first two thirds of the book covers ground that is somewhat familiar (for example from the two coruscating exposés by Bruce Bawer[9] of the deceit practised by politicians and the media in regard to Islamist outrages and the formers’ attempts to suppress free speech critical of Islamism), the last third is an extended meditation on the bizarre instances of masochism, self-hatred and self-delusion in European political culture today. While there is much that is thought-provoking, this section is a little uneven, mixing complaints about the shallowness of most modern art that sometimes sound a bit fogeyish with deeply felt passages on the spiritual emptiness of modern life, to overcome which, conversion to Islam may seem to make sense to potential converts.

Doomsday scenarios are of course almost always in vogue, the tone being set by Gibbon’s ironic account of the Roman Empire’s decline with which many a modern pessimist has drawn parallels. It has continued into modern times with Oswald Spengler’s Der Untergang des Abendlandes (1918)[10] or James Burnham’s Suicide of the West (1964).[11] As recently as 2006 a former UK cabinet minister collaborated with a businessman to write the above-mentioned Suicide of the West, a book which, however, is not quite as pessimistic as its title implies. Common to most such prophecies of collapse is a feeling that western civilisation is suffering from spiritual exhaustion, partly through the demise of structural myths that held society together by means of a shared religion, partly as a result of materialism, consumerism and narcissism.

James Burnham wrote that “Liberalism is the ideology of Western suicide. When once this initial and final sentence is understood, everything about liberalism – the beliefs, emotions and values associated with it, the nature of its enchantment, its practical record, its future – falls into place.” This was an arguably prescient insight into the mixture of paralysing guilt and internal contradictions which modern liberalism often displays. These features have been explored by other writers, notably Pascal Bruckner in his books The Tyranny of Guilt and The Tears of the White Man. For his part, Murray points out the irrationality of assuming all the accumulated guilt of Europe’s past history without requiring a minimally critical stance with regard to their own culture among those who seek to settle here. The result of this irrationality is a strangely lopsided ethos: the Christian heritage is denied as the basis of the EU’s constitution for fear of offending non-Christians, yet often it is precisely that heritage which underlies the values from which many liberal shibboleths ultimately derive.

Most importantly, the secularism that flowered in the Enlightenment and underlies freedom from religious (and other) tyranny is itself based on the biblical injunction of “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s”.[12] This is not an injunction to be found in the Koran, still less in sharī’ah: as we see from the example of Iran and soon, no doubt, Turkey, in an Islamic state religious observance and secular governance are indivisible. However, when secular “European values” (based on Judaeo-Christianity) are challenged by uncompromising Islam, liberals tend to retreat. Perhaps only thus can the comfort zone of liberal Manichaeism, which draws its oxygen from the struggle of enlightened liberalism (the “good guys”) versus reactionary conservatism (“the bad guys”), be maintained.

An example of this sort of dilemma for liberals appeared recently in an article on nationalism in The Economist, which featured a list contrasting “altruists” (i.e. liberals) with “narcissists” (i.e. nationalists). The list opposes the characteristics of each in pairs (“Look to the future – Rake over the past”; “Work together – Gang up;” “Immigrants add variety – They threaten our way of life”, and finally “United by values – United by race and culture”).[13] This last pairing reveals the tendentious nature of such a list – what values of a given society are not ultimately derived from race and culture? Where else are they supposed to come from? Rousseauists may posit “universal values”, and Napoleon’s troops may have assumed they were bestowing such on a grateful Europe; however the beneficiary nations exhibited a reprehensible lack of gratitude, and even imagined they were being exploited, just as African colonies later similarly believed. It is true that “universal values” (essentially those of the Western European Enlightenment) are now enshrined in the UNO charter and elsewhere, but it is precisely through their use as chess pieces in geopolitics that they have become tainted with hypocrisy. It is hard to take seriously a UNO “Human Rights Committee” that was once chaired by Gaddafi’s Libya and included Syria and Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe (it was reconstituted in 2006 as the “Human Rights Council”, on which sit China and Cuba, both of course noted for their devotion to human rights).

The insistence on universal European guilt has become a diversionary ostrich-like tactic when liberal policies are directly challenged by the enemies of liberal secular society; however, as Murray observes, “Just as a nation could not thrive if it forbade any criticism of its past, so no nation can survive if it suppresses everything that is positive about its past”.[14] A state of “perpetual remorse”, in Murray’s phrase, seems to be peculiar to the European intelligentsia. Even if such were remotely appropriate (given that it is not the perpetrators of alleged or real past crimes who are enjoined to feel it), it becomes no more than aberrant masochism if nobody else in the world feels an analogous responsibility for their own past.

At its most extreme, a determination to see only the evil in a western nation’s history, while according what Orwell called “benefit of clergy” to incomers, increasingly looks like a death wish. There is further a reluctance to recognise the uncomfortable truth that principled good will may not always be perceived as such, but merely as weakness to be exploited. Murray gives the surreal example of Eritrea being censured by the UN in Geneva for crimes against humanity, which prompted a mass protest by Eritreans outside the UN building “The Swiss people had been told, like everyone else in Europe, that here were people who had come to Switzerland because they were fleeing a government they could not live under. Yet thousands turned out to support that same government when someone in Europe criticised it.”[15] Another surreal anecdote relates how Salah Abdeslam, the surviving suspect of the 2015 Paris attacks, had collected unemployment benefit to the tune of 19,000 euros before setting out to murder as many of his hosts as possible, something, says Murray rhetorically, that makes “European societies among the first in history to pay people to attack them”.[16]

Arguably even more bizarre and perverse is the level of indoctrination that makes even victims conceal, or even apologise to, their attackers. A woman belonging to a left-wing youth movement who was raped by migrants in Mannheim in 2016 at first lied that they were Germans in order, as she put it, to avoid “fuelling aggressive racism”. Later she wrote an open letter of apology to her assailants: “For us both I am so incredibly sorry. You, you aren’t safe here because we live in a racist society. I, I am not safe here because we live in a sexist society. But what truly makes me feel sorry, are the circumstances by which the sexist and boundary-crossing acts that were inflicted on me, make it so that you are beset by increasing and more aggressive racism” – and more in the same vein.[17] Naturally it never occurred to this lady (who was half-Turkish) that the society from which the immigrants came was a good deal more sexist than Germany (one of the reasons they had little moral qualms about their attack), and that their attitude to a person they took to be a female German citizen was also instinctively racist. Her attitude dovetails with that of a German intellectual who told Murray that the German people were anti-Semitic and prejudiced and for that reason alone deserved to be replaced. It did not occur to him, comments Murray, that some of those replacing them would make the average contemporary German look like a paragon by comparison.[18]

It is in the nature of such books as Murray’s that analysis of problems is more persuasive than the solution, if there is one. Indeed he seems to suggest that it is too late to remedy most of the damage to European civilisation (as he sees it) already inflicted or looming. It is often impossible even to deport criminal migrants, either because the courts accept a human rights defence (obtained in the UK with considerable expense from the public purse) or because no state will take them.

Recent research from the Pew Center examined the numbers of Muslims currently in European countries and the predicted percentages of the same in the populations of thirty years’ hence. In most of the main western countries Muslims are projected to make up between 15 and 19% (the figure for France is uncertain because people are not obliged to state their religion; also excluded Europe-wide are an estimated 970,000 migrants who have gone underground). A high end projection for Sweden (assuming that more restrictive policies are not adopted) suggests the country could be 30% Muslim by 2050. Of course such figures are subject to a wide margin of error, but with higher Muslim birth rates than the host population and generous provisions for bringing in family members, Europe’s present 26 million Muslim population can be expected to grow very significantly.[19]

Does it matter? The answer to that no doubt depends on the individual’s ideology and vision of society. Will our descendants be happy with the prospect of Islam occupying ever more of Europe’s cultural space and Muslims (as well as other immigrants) placing ever more demands on public services? Will they remain indifferent when Mr Erdogan or a successor returns to Europe to rally Turks (many of them holding dual nationality) and declares that “assimilation is a crime against humanity”?[20] Will they be able to tolerate increasing numbers of allegedly moderate Muslims who nevertheless seem resolutely opposed to secularism and free speech insofar as any commentary on Islam fails to accept in toto its fundamental(ist) claims? Will they resist, or be able to resist, demands that sharī’ah be integrated into local law or be allowed to operate independently of it? Will they resist, or be able to resist, the “assassin’s veto” applied to opinions, writings, plays, broadcasts, or other artistic artefacts alleged by militants to be “offensive” to Islam? Will Orwell’s injunction at the head of this article only hold good for one side in any dispute?

Murray’s coruscating book reminds us that the populations of Europe were not consulted as to whether they wished to embrace an uncertain future stemming from the potentially combustible religious and ethnic mix that has been imposed on them; on this issue, over decades, they have been misled, lied to, abused and patronised by politicians, academics and the liberal press in a way that has undermined faith in democracy. The bill for all this has now arrived.




[1] Douglas Murray: The Strange Death of Liberal Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam (Bloomsbury Continuum, 2017, pp. 38, 252–3 – hereafter Murray, op. cit.)

[2] Murray: op. cit., p. 43.

[3] Murray: op. cit., pp. 38 and following.

[4] Murray: op. cit., p. 47

[5] Murray: op. cit., p. 52.

[6] Richard Koch and Chris Smith: Suicide of the West (Continuum, 2006).

[7] Richard Koch and Chris Smith: op. cit., pp. 171, 173.

[8] Murray: op. cit., p. 251.

[9] Bruce Bawer: While Europe Slept (Anchor Books, 2006) and Surrender (Anchor Books, 2010).

[10] Oswald Spengler: The Decline of the West (English abridged edition Oxford University Press, 1991.) Der Untergang des Abendlandes was originally published in two volumes (1918 and 1922). The title has also been rendered as The Downfall of the Occident.

[11] James Burnham: Suicide of the West: An Essay on the Meaning and Destiny of Liberalism, Foreword by John O’Sullivan and Introduction by Roger Kimball (Encounter Books 2014, originally published 1964).

[12] Matthew 22.21.

[13]Nationalism” in The Economist, 23 December 2017. In the same article: “Since the second world war, the West has preached that liberty, law and democracy are universal – something The Economist endorses. The rest of the world is not so sure.”

[14] Murray: op. cit., p. 305.

[15] Murray: op. cit., p. 314.

[16] Murray: op. cit., p. 204.

[17] Murray: op. cit., p. 198.

[18] Murray: op. cit., p. 270.

[19] See: Zsuppán András: “A rémálom neve: Eurábia” [The name of the nightmare: Eurabia], in Heti válasz, 14 December 2017, for the figures from the Pew Research Center and a discussion of their implications.

[20] Murray, op. cit., pp. 155–6. Prime Minister Erdogan, as he then was, addressing a mass rally in Cologne in 2008.

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