How the Left forced the planes to crash
The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/ 11 By Dinesh D’Souza Doubleday, 333pp, $ 55.95
YOU wouldn’t think from his book’s jacket photograph that Dinesh D’Souza was a fierce right- winger, a social conservative in the mould of Ann Coulter ( author of Godless: The Church of Liberalism and the US’s loudest theo- con). With his ageless face and wistful expression, he looks as if he couldn’t hurt a fly even if he wanted to. In reality, however, his determination to torment ‘‘ blue America’’ borders on the fanatical.
Having said that, the cover of The Enemy at Home, depicting a befouled US flag and a page of ominously smouldering parchment overlaid by a title embossed in Republican red, is a fairly good indication of the often sinister bluster within. In D’Souza’s eyes, the ‘‘ cultural Left’’ really is responsible for 9/ 11 and the ‘‘ spoiled children of the 1960s’’ are a genuine fifth column in the war on terror.
D’Souza was born in Mumbai, India, in 1961 and immigrated to the US in 1979. Since then he has built a lucrative career out of blaming the American Left for everything from the decline of educational standards ( Illiberal Education, 1991) to Afro- American underachievement ( The End of Racism, 1995). His last book, What’s So Great About America ( 2002), was a response to 9/ 11 in which he took on critics from within and without the US. The Enemy at Home picks up that theme, with an emphasis on the former.
According to D’Souza, the cultural Left is the ‘‘ primary cause of the volcano of anger towards America that is erupting in the Islamic world’’. The reasons, he suggests, are twofold: it has ‘‘ routinely affirmed the most vicious prejudices about American foreign policy’’ and it has fostered a decadent culture.
The first of these points is the saner one, though D’Souza, in the first of many non sequiturs, wilfully confuses a phenomenon with a cause. Moreover, the phenomenon ( the Left’s anti- imperialism) has been dealt with far more intelligently by liberal writers such as Paul Berman and Nick Cohen. Not that it hurts to be reminded of the assorted stupidities of the pseudo- Left. Whether we need a McCarthyesque list of ‘‘ domestic insurgents’’ is another matter, but D’Souza provides one, just in case.
Proceeding to the second point, we find D’Souza squarely in his element, or rather ostentatiously out of it. Pressing the pomaded handkerchief of traditional morality to his nose and lips, he walks us through the degeneracy and debauchery, the ‘‘ pagan depravity’’, of contemporary culture, a garden of obscenities for which, it seems, the cultural Left is exclusively responsible. Abortion, prostitution, drugs, pornography, Jerry Springer, Madonna, gay marriage: each item of filth is carefully sealed in its plastic bag and stored as evidence.
From this diagnosis of liberal culture emerges a prescription for the American Right that D’Souza lays out in the following terms. By setting itself against the Left and the sordid culture it has lovingly fostered, the Right can convince traditional Muslims that it shares their fundamental values. Since ‘‘ the real divide in the Muslim world is between Islamic radicals and traditional Muslims’’, the Right, by allying itself with the latter, can marginalise and defeat the former. It can thereby win the culture war and the war on terror in a single push.
To whom, then, is this book addressed? Not to the cultural Left but to the Right, the religious Right in particular. Consequently, I find it hard to comment on whether it’s worth the asking price. Suffice it to say: if the thought of an alliance of Mayflower screwballs and boring, bearded theocrats doesn’t make you recoil in horror, if you believe that female emancipation, human rights and freedom of speech should take a back seat to so- called traditional morality or if you’re simply a curtain- twitcher and a capital- letter moralist who thinks that what the US needs is more families like the Waltons and fewer families like the Simpsons, then this feeble- minded little book is for you.
Richard King is a Perth- based literary critic.