Denial: Then and Now
The failure to understand the danger of evil ideologies blinded our forefathers to the totalitarian threats of the 20th century. Today, we are currently in denial about Islam and the re-awakening of the original Islamic spirit. The comparison of our self-induced blindness to that of the mid-20th century is alarming.
I talked about the left’s willful blindness to the horrors of communism during the Red Decade. I’ve also described one eyewitness account of the denial of the Nazi threat. This article describes Stalin’s blindness to the nascent Nazi threat. The author says, “Stalin's failure to prepare his country for war was not due to a lack of intelligence about
If the errors of 20th-century intelligence had anything in common, it was the failure of analysts to set aside their political and cultural prejudices. Intelligence involves three major phases: the acquisition of material, its selection and collation and, finally, assessment and evaluation. How these phases are integrated determines the decisions made in response. Yet all too often, the process of integration incorporates preconceived ideas that bind the intelligence into a straitjacket detached from strategic and political realities. Ultimately, cultural constraints inhibit intelligence far more dramatically than the nature of the regime at hand.
This insight isn’t confined to intelligence. A worldview, or philosophy, is an integrating mechanism that, if it is valid, helps condense and grasp vast knowledge about the world. However, if one’s worldview is dogmatically created despite the facts of reality it will bind one to the rising threats, either completely, or jumble the data to obscure the nature of the evil in one’s midst.
With Islam we can ask if it originated as an imperialist warrior ideology founded by a military leader who conquered, slaughtered and oppressed. Or is Islam a personal religion whose founder just happened to face hostile forces requiring the understandable ethnic cleansing of Medina of Jews and the conquering of the known world by his followers in the decades that followed? And is that an incidental detail that poses no threat of being revived on a significant scale today?
In other words, what is the essence of Islam? What kind of religion was it and is it now? Are any changes substantial or superficial? Are changes fundamental or merely the atrophy of the historical practice? When trying to answer these questions and integrate the texts of the religion with the 14 centuries of historical practice, one has to have some working hypothesis. I generally start with several tentative theories and continually consider which one centers the facts better. As the scale tips, I select the one with the greatest explanatory power.
However, any process of exploration has to start with an open mind. Today, cultural taboos insure a positive prejudice. Tactics of intimidation – racism-baiting – encourage the elimination of critical hypotheses before the facts are considered. Similar to the 1930s we are currently in denial about Islam not by completely ignoring the facts but by marginalizing the important facts, downplaying the significant, and rationalizing our moral equivalence of what is clearly an unreformed theocratic political ideology inimical to individual liberty.
Our blindness will continue to diminish, in our minds, the growing threat of the Islamic revival. Daily jihadist violence is summarily dismissed or blamed on our foreign policy. Fear of criticism grows with every atrocity as the chorus of “don’t over generalize” becomes “don’t judge.” With each new inconvenient fact about Islam, attacks on our values and traditions become more virulent to maintain the moral equivalence. The truth further recedes as the blindness is solidified into a dogma that no one dares question.
It is the 1930s once again; not much has changed – only we are less innocent today.