Immigrants, it is often said, do the dirty jobs a country’s natives won’t do.
The much-denounced far-right political parties of Europe are attempting a job the major political parties, especially on the center-right, mostly refuse to do: cope with real public discontent with multiculturalism and mass immigration.
Naturally, these concerns are dismissed as racist and xenophobic. These adjectives aren’t always inaccurate. Some of these parties have fascistic roots or remain deeply illiberal to this day. Even the parties that don’t fit this description often attract bigots and cranks.
But you don’t have to be a bigot or a crank to look at what happened in Paris Wednesday and see a real threat to Europe’s traditional liberal values. A dozen people were murdered at a French satirical magazine that published cartoons and criticism deemed unacceptable to Islamists.
“We have avenged the prophet Muhammad!” the attackers were alleged to have said. “Allahu Akbar!”
How did Western liberals respond? In many cases, by failing to ascribe any motive to the attackers or even refusing to describe their religion. Howard Dean declared himself qualified to decide who is and isn’t a Muslim. (Vermont, where Dean was governor, is the third least Muslim state in America and may have had no mosques when he was in office.)
“France’s Front National leader Marine Le Pen pinned the blame for the killing of 12 people in Paris today on Islamic radicals, as mainstream leaders tried to downplay the religious dimension of the attack,” Bloomberg Businessweek reported. The story’s headline? “Le Pen plays Islamist card linking attacks to immigration.”
The caveats that this doesn’t represent the behavior of all Muslims certainly applies. But it is also less of an outlier than an abortion clinic bomber whose motivations no one would hesitate to discuss. The Charlie Hebdo attacks were a particularly bloody example of France’s difficulty assimilating a portion of its Muslim immigrant population.
The New York Times quoted a 32-year-old mother of two who said she was punched on the Champs-Élysées by a “gang of Muslim girls” (the Times’ choice of words) who called her a “dirty Jew.”
“I love France, and this is my country, but I am disgusted now,” the young woman is quoted as saying. “In Israel there is an army that will protect us. Here, I can no longer see a future for my children.” She’s not alone. France was the largest source of Jewish migration to Israel last year.
Crowds in France burned Jewish-owned businesses and attacked a synagogue. Some of the rioters shouted “Gas the Jews!” and “Kill the Jews!”
That’s what has made the rise of some nationalist and populist parties of the right a more complicated phenomenon than their neo-Nazi forebears and contemporaries. Le Pen has distanced herself from anti-Semitic remarks made by her father, the former Front National leader.
A 1990s and early 2000s Dutch Le Pen equivalent was Pim Fortuyn, a gay man who feared Muslim immigration would adversely impact the Netherlands’ social liberalism. He was assassinated by an environmentalist in 2002.
Some members of the United Kingdom Independence Party advertise their support for the state of Israel. The French writer Renaud Camus denies being a right-winger but says “today’s immigration is the most important thing to have happened to France — ever.”
Obviously, it would be better for mainstream political parties capable of governing to deal with these issues instead, in a responsible and humane manner. (This is true in the United States too.) Then you wouldn’t have to worry about whether a candidate responding to his constituents’ immigration concerns was secretly or not-so-secretly a racist maniac.
Some major conservative parties of Europe have taken steps in the right direction, though frequently because of political competition from their right. More often, you have Sweden shutting out parties concerned about immigration and German Chancellor Angela Merkel lecturing similarly motivated protesters (though Germany does have some strong historical reasons to be cautious about nationalists’ motives).
The French journalist and author Eric Zemmour told the BBC parties the Front National is “not a cause, it is a consequence.” He added, “People vote for the FN to say to their elites, ‘Stop doing what you are doing!’ But they never do.”
“If Europe is getting more immigrants than its voters want,” Weekly Standard senior editor Christopher Caldwell wrote, “this is a good indication its democracy is malfunctioning.”
Le Pen’s party is an error message. Wednesday’s Paris murders are something worse.
W. James Antle III is managing editor of The Daily Caller and author of the book Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped? Follow him on Twitter.