I haven’t read Dinesh D’Souza’s new book blaming the "cultural left" for
9/11, but in an interview in Crisis it is clear that he is very right about some things and very wrong about
A native of India, he is familiar with everyday Muslims in a way that few
Americans are and he decries the demonization of Islam.
He emphasizes that the new Islamic militancy is an aberration and not
representative of traditional Islam. I agree with him very much that we could do
worse than pray for a revival of traditional Islam.
Mr D’Souza rightly points out that much of Islamic ill will toward America
stems from the tawdry culture we export, though I think he underplays the
importance of American foreign policy, which he appears to support. He has no
sympathy for the Americanist mantra that "they hate us because we are good; they
hate us because we are free."
He points out that ordinary Muslims, while loathing terrorism, are also
loathe to condemn Islamic militants lest they be seen as supporting decadent
Western culture. As I have pointed out here, it is akin to Ireland in the Time
of Troubles: most Irish Catholics had no use for the IRA, but hesitated to say
so for fear of appearing to support British occupation of their country.
So far, so good.
Where Mr D’Souza goes awry is identifying the decadence of American culture
with "the left". We have discussed this on this blog, and nothing Mr D’Souza
says makes me question my criticism of the identification of tawdry culture with
"the left" or with the (overhyped) notion of the "red state/blue state"
It is a commonplace among conservatives to blame "the 60s" for modern
sexual deviance and for the erosion of sexual immorality in general.
This is an oversimplification. The lid may have blown off during the 60s
but the pot had been simmering for a long time. The Kinsey report was issued in
the late 40s, and the first issue of Playboy was issued in 1953. Hugh
Heffner was no hippie. Heck, he wasn’t even a beatnik.
And Sayyid Qutb, the grandaddy of modern Salafi jihadism, was radicalized
by the oversexed America he encountered in 1948.
There is a tendency among conservative baby boomers to exaggerate the
innocence of the world they knew as children. Some of this is because they were
protected more than children today are. And some of it is because much that was
unhealty was over their heads (I am not denying that things have gone downhill
badly since then, only that what we see today is not a radical departure from
the post-war culture but rather the sordid end of a logical sequence).
A while back I was at the library, looking for a suitable film to watch
with my children. I ran across an old Bob Hope movie; I forget the title. I was
not crazy about Bob Hope when I was young, but I thought the children might
enjoy it, so I checked it out.
I was shocked: the thing was pretty much uninterrupted salacious innuendo.
True, it wasn’t graphic, in-your-face crudeness like we see in modern media, but
the leering, nod-nod wink-wink tone was just as obscene.
We didn’t get far in the film at all.
For that matter even the Shirley Temple movies my mom gave us recently are
not free from suggestive elements; the tough guys and hardnosed dames in some of
them give one pause.
So is Bob Hope a "cultural leftist"?
Is Shirley Temple?
Nor is the simplistic liberal=decadent/conservative=clean paradigm accurate
in today’s world.
Anyone who has driven cross country can tell you that porn shops and strip
clubs are more common in the South than in New England. And I doubt that a
survey of the patrons of such places, or the users of online porn, would show a
disproportionate number of liberals among them.
The state with the highest divorce rate is Oklahoma, followed by other
Bible Belt states. Massachussetts has the lowest divorce rate.
A number of celebrity representatives of oversexed American culture-
Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson, Beyonce Knowles- come from Evangelical
backgrounds, and at one time made a big deal about their faith. They went from
being Public Virgins to Celebrity Sexpots almost overnight.
A survey of conservative pundits and politicians will show little or no
difference in personal morality. I mean when Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh are
the champions of traditional values you know we are in trouble.
And let us not forget that President Bush and Vice President Cheney have
greeted the news of Cheney’s lesbian daughter’s pregnancy with gushing
It may be hard for conservatives to admit, but the problem is not leftist
culture but American culture.
I’m glad Mr D’Souza resists the demonization of Muslims. Shame he couldn’t
resist demonizing his fellow Americans.