The New Romantics

“Because perfect democracy does not exist anywhere, the imperfect democracies of the West can be damned and the worst forms of political power legitimated.” — Pascal Bruckner, The Tears of the White Man.

What sort of pink-tinted spectacles do you need to march while chanting, “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the Gas”? Or to march alongside the black flags of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria? It is not just the new Romantics that bow down to the myth of Islam as the path to peace. Governments, church-leaders, do-gooders of every stripe accommodate every demand made by Muslim minorities. “Shari’a law? No problem.” “Islamic Banking? Why not?’

What answer can there be to explain such wished-for self- defeat?

History has taught that revolutions devour their own children: Jahangir Razmi’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of Islamist revolutionaries in Iran executing Kurdish men and others in 1979.

It is terribly easy to romanticize. Human beings do it all the time. But romanticizing can get out of hand. Think of all those millions of German women who swooned as Hitler drove past; the groupies of Stalin, the steadfast admirers of Osama bin Laden, or the women who offer to marry murderers on death row. Charisma, as Max Weber told us, is not so much an innate characteristic of a leader or guru as something brought to him by others. [1]

Hitler was not a good-looking man, not tall, not prepossessing, not particularly intelligent, not a great orator — more a strident tub-thumper — yet millions of Germans loved him and died for him. In the end, Germany itself all but died for him.

Today, the romanticizing of sociopaths has not ended. However much we know about the clay-footed idols of the past, or the enormities committed by those demagogues and rabble-rousers and charlatans, many of us just transfer our allegiance to the next monster-in-waiting.

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