The most important weapons of al-Qaeda and the rest of the Islamist
terror network are the suicide bomber and the suicide thinker. The
suicide bomber is typically a Muslim fanatic whose mission it is to
spread terror; the suicide thinker is typically a Western academic or
journalist or politician whose mission it is to destroy the West’s
will to resist not just terrorism but any ideological challenge at all.
But al-Qaeda didn’t create the ugly streak of nihilism and
self-loathing that afflicts too many Western intellectuals. Nor, I
believe, is it a natural development. It was brought to us by
Department V of the KGB, which was charged during the Cold War with
conducting memetic warfare that would destroy the will of the West’s
intelligentsia to resist a Communist takeover. This they did with
such magnificent effect that the infection outlasted the Soviet Union
itself and remains a pervasive disease of contemporary Western
Consider the following propositions:
- There is no truth, only competing agendas.
- All Western (and especially American) claims to moral superiority
over Communism/Fascism/Islam are vitiated by the West’s history of racism and
- There are no objective standards by which we may judge one culture
to be better than another. Anyone who claims that there are such
standards is an evil oppressor.
- The prosperity of the West is built on ruthless exploitation of
the Third World; therefore Westerners actually deserve to be
impoverished and miserable.
- Crime is the fault of society, not the individual criminal.
Poor criminals are entitled to what they take. Submitting to
criminal predation is more virtuous than resisting it.
- The poor are victims. Criminals are victims. And only
victims are virtuous. Therefore only the poor and criminals
are virtuous. (Rich people can borrow some virtue by identifying
with poor people and criminals.)
- For a virtuous person, violence and war are never justified. It
is always better to be a victim than to fight, or even to defend oneself.
But “oppressed” people are allowed to use violence anyway; they are
merely reflecting the evil of their oppressors.
- When confronted with terror, the only moral course for a Westerner
is to apologize for past sins, understand the terrorist’s point of
view, and make concessions.
These ideas travel under many labels: postmodernism, nihilism,
multiculturalism, Third-World-ism, pacifism, “political correctness”
to name just a few. It is time to recognize them for what they are,
and call them by their right name: suicidalism.
Trace any of these back far enough (e.g. to the period between 1930
and 1950 when Department V was at its most effective) and you’ll find
a Stalinist at the bottom. Among the more notorious examples ware:
Paul de Man — racist and Nazi propagandist turned Stalinist, and
fonder of postmodernism; Jean-Paul Sarte, who described the effects
of Stalinism as “humane terror” and helped invent existentialism; and
Paul Baran, who developed the thesis that capitalism depended on the
immiseration of the Third World after Marx’s immiseration of the
proletariat failed to materialize.
Al-Qaeda didn’t launch any of these memes into the noosphere, but
it relies on them for political cover. They have another effect as
well: when Islamists characterize the West as “decadent”, and aver
that it is waiting to collapse in on itself at the touch of jihad,
they are describing quite correctly and accurately the effects of
Stalinist agitprop created Western suicidalism by successfully
building on the Christian idea that self-sacrifice (and even
self-loathing) are the primary indicators of virtue. In this way of
thinking, when we surrender our well-being to others we store up grace
in Heaven that is far more important than the momentary discomfort of
submitting to criminals, predatory governments, and terrorists.
The Communist atheists of Department V understood that Christian
self-abnegation tends to inculcate a cult of self-sacrifice even among
Westerners who are themselves agnostics or atheists. All the
propagandists had to do was make the case that the value of
self-abnegation applies to culture as well as individuals. By doing
so, they were able to entrench the idea that suicidalists are morally
superior to non-suicidalists.
They did this so successfully that at least one major form of
Western self-abnegation seems to have developed as a secondary
phenomenon: “deep environmentalism”. I can’t find any sign that this
traces back to the usual Stalinist suspects, but it is rather
obviously a result of generalizing suicidalism not just to culture but
I think it’s important to understand that, although suicidalism
builds on some pre-existing pathologies of Western culture, it is not
a native or natural development. It is an infection that evildoers
and their dupes created and then spread as part of a war against the
West; their goal was totalitarian control, and part of their method
was to talk the West into slitting its own throat.
Al-Qaeda’s goal is the restoration of the Caliphate and the
imposition of shari’a law on the West so that the Dar al-Harb is
abolished and absorbed into the Dar al-Islam. In other words,
totalitarian theocracy. Western suicidalists have transferred
their allegience from Communism to Islamofascism without a hitch.
They’re doing their best to see that we lose — and their
best is rather more effective than any bombing campaign.
Thus, to defeat al-Qaeda, stopping the suicide bombers is
not sufficient. We must recognize, condemn, and reject the
suicide thinkers as well.
UPDATE: Readers who think I’m peddling mere conspiracy theory here should read
Double Lives : Stalin, Willi Munzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals for a description of the way KGB disinformation activity, espionage and memetic warfare fused in the 1930s.
MORE: Some intelligent comments on these memes
here, pointing out that they get their
infectivity from being partially true.