In 1975, there were political billboards around America proclaiming portentously that 1984 was only nine years away. The reference, of course, was to George Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty-Four, the novel of a collectivized, indoctrinated human future, which high-school students had been reading since it was published in 1949.
The year 1984, by Gregorian reckoning, came and went, and Americans seemed to have dodged the Nineteen-Eighty-Four bullet. We weren’t being interned for reeducation by a Ministry of Love. Although conservative, constitutionalist, limited-government ideas came under relentless attack in the mainstream media and the academy, those who expressed the ideas remained free to do so. (They in fact became freer with the lifting under Reagan of the genuinely Orwellian-named “Fairness Doctrine.”)
The MSM built narratives about the reprehensible heartlessness, hypocrisy, and stupidity of conservatives, Republicans, and Christians, but we remained largely free to live and work as we chose. Reagan was reelected in 1984, and George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush were elected in the years since. Republicans might have imposed unnecessary constraints on themselves – e.g., the party leadership unaccountably believing, against the evidence, that Republican candidates need to tack left to attract votes – but for the most part, the GOP continued to have a fair shot at the ballot box.
In 2012, the atmosphere has changed. The sacredness of our right to free expression – religious, political, artistic – is not necessarily given priority by either our federal government or the MSM. Dissent is treated as a pestilence, or worse (e.g., global-warming skeptics being compared to Holocaust deniers). Media and political figures cater nakedly to political narratives, no matter how many times truth bites them in the backside. They simply ignore the truth – often while being faced directly with it on live TV – focused instead on faithfully repeating the narratives launched from the Obama White House, as well as on nurturing narratives of their own.
Thus, when multiple attacks were mounted on U.S. diplomatic facilities in the Muslim world on 9/11 – one of them a clearly pre-planned assault on the US ambassador in Libya (see here as well; the media originally reported the Libyan attack as pre-planned) – the Obama White House promptly launched a narrative: that these attacks were unrelated to the 9/11 anniversary, and were instead the fault of a shadowy naturalized American, who had made what is apparently a silly, low-quality video about Mohammed and Muslims. (The clip on YouTube seems to confirm this assessment.)
Attacks on US embassies and consulates all across the Muslim world, on 9/11/12 and the days following, could hardly be interpreted as other than a form of attack on the United States. Egyptian radicals storming the US embassy in Cairo chanted, “Obama, Obama, we are all Osama!” – which carries not a whiff of righteous fury about an amateur video, but clearly invokes Osama bin Laden and the tactical triumph of al Qaeda on 9/11/01, and carries a warning to the president of the United States. Assaults and attempted assaults on US diplomatic facilities occurred from Pakistan and Afghanistan to Morocco – including violent riots against our embassy in Tunisia, the vanguard of the Arab Spring and a North African nation with which America has had peaceful, friendly ties for more than 200 years.
At the very least, the Obama administration is misinterpreting what is going on. The eruptions in the Muslim world are happening because of the larger shift that started 18 months ago. Crowds of radicals from the Muslim world generate a fury that Bolsheviks could only wish for; the developments across the Muslim arc of the Eastern hemisphere today are not necessarily to be interpreted in the categories of Soviet-era instigation and fomentation, for which Marxist cadre were famous. Today’s events are somewhat different.
Significantly, Mohammed Morsi is emblematic of a new kind of Sunni Arab leader who will grope toward a signature concept of state Islamism. But that concept is as yet without clear form, and the numerous attacks on American facilities can’t be pinned on it. The two phenomena – attacks from the street and state Islamism – are related, but they have not gotten to a melding point yet. This is the evolution we need to be watching for.
The Arab Spring nations have either remained, uneasily, under sclerotic despotisms, or have migrated to an evolving Muslim Brotherhood rule. Neither case is a factor for stability, social peace, or a consensual idea in the political realm. Libya is as yet unpacified by her putative national government; Syria is in full uproar. The Middle East has not found a stability point, and that condition is red meat to radical extremists, who include both the terrorists who assassinated the ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi, and the inciters of attacks on US embassies in Cairo and elsewhere.
About the Author: J.E. Dyer is a retired US Naval intelligence officer who served around the world, afloat and ashore, from 1983 to 2004.
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