Marginalizing extremists, at home and abroad
The trouble with folks like Mark Steyn is that all their clamor about Europe being swept away in a tide of hostile immigrants obscures the very real problem of assimilating new arrivals. Steyn, for example, is absolutely correct that criminalizing Geert Wilders’ moronic proposal to ban the Koran is antithetical to the idea of a free society. But I can’t help thinking that these warnings would be a lot more credible if Steyn and his ilk hadn’t spent so much time making wrong-headed predictions about Europe’s imminent Islamist takeover.
As for Wilders, I do hope our European cousins realize that manufacturing free speech martyrs is not a very effective way to marginalize extremists. Wilders’ substantive views are so radical they’re almost self-refuting – strip away the persecution complex and vague allusions to “defending free speech” and the guy’s platform is proto-fascistic (Alex Massie’s apt distillation: “In other words, the only way to save the western liberal tradition is to kill it”). Would Wilders survive without free publicity from being banned in Britain and his absurd prosecution in The Netherlands? I doubt it, if only because he would no longer be able to posture as some heroic protector of free speech. Instead, he’d be stuck explaining how banning religious texts is consistent with European liberty.