The Genius of Murdoch
By Staff News & Analysis - August 19, 2010

How to Win the Clash of Civilizations … The key advantage of [Harvard political scientist] Samuel Huntington's famous model is that it describes the world as it is—not as we wish it to be. What do the controversies around the proposed mosque near Ground Zero, the eviction of American missionaries from Morocco earlier this year, the minaret ban in Switzerland last year, and the recent burka ban in France have in common? All four are framed in the Western media as issues of religious tolerance. But that is not their essence. Fundamentally, they are all symptoms of what the late Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington called the "Clash of Civilizations," particularly the clash between Islam and the West. Huntington's argument is worth summarizing briefly for those who now only remember his striking title. The essential building block of the post-Cold War world, he wrote, are seven or eight historical civilizations of which the Western, the Muslim and the Confucian are the most important. The balance of power among these civilizations, he argued, is shifting. The West is declining in relative power, Islam is exploding demographically, and Asian civilizations—especially China—are economically ascendant. Huntington also said that a civilization-based world order is emerging in which states that share cultural affinities will cooperate with each other and group themselves around the leading states of their civilization. – Wall Street Journal/Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Dominant Social Theme: It is the destiny of the world to be at war – economically, politically and ideologically – for at least the next 100 years, and it is a war the West must win.

Free-Market Analysis: Rupert Murdoch (above left) is a full-on genius – as we have pointed out before. Having purchased the Wall Street Journal and implemented a pay wall, he now has to come up with compelling news and opinions to make the Journal worthwhile buying. We know he is succeeding because when our thousand-person staff trolls through the Internet, we inevitably end up (all in a lump with a smudgy monitor) at the Wall Street Journal opinion page. We rarely end up at the New York Times or the Washington Post, but suddenly the Wall Street Journal has articles that furnish a compelling read.

We analyzed one just yesterday, written by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey. Armey is running an outfit called Freedomworks and he has a new book out published by a Murdoch affiliate. The article, A Tea Party Manifesto, is compelling reading because it analyzes the sweep of the Tea Party movement in the United States and then provides something called a Contract From America that various "Tea Party" candidates are signing. You can see the article here: Dick Armey's Tea Party Coup.

Why was the article compelling? Because it was both idea-driven and action oriented. Most mainstream publications in the United States (USA Today is a good example) will not deal at length with even partially controversial subjects – such as the way the US is gradually becoming a failed state. But here was Armey fearlessly discussing these issues and then offering a solution. The Journal achieves a number of goals with articles like this. It positions itself as a kind post-libertarian newspaper, theoretically allowing it to compete with the Internet. It also shows, by publishing such articles, that it is willing to host idea-driven proposals that offer new and different ideas. It stakes its claim, in a sense, to being on the "cutting edge."

Of course, there are some problems, as we pointed out previously. The Contract From America, while certainly an admirable effort, leaves out at least three major statist dilemmas. It doesn't address ending the war on drugs; it doesn't suggest that the hyper-aggressive laboratory of serial warfare – the Pentagon – needs to be pruned back; and finally, strangest of all, it makes no mention of the Federal Reserve, the policies of which have devalued the dollar's purchasing power by some 95 percent over the past century. But nonetheless, from certain angles, it was an admirable if not radical effort.

And now comes Ayaan Hirsi Ali with a devastatingly brilliant article, How to Win the Clash of Civilizations. What more could you ask for in a prestigious financial journal? As with the article by Dick Armey, we have here a report that marries a breathtakingly broad and bold historical treatise with an actionable analysis. If those in the West would only understand the nature of its "enemies" then the problems the West faces will yield to solutions (military or not) that give it the best chance to survive and prosper. Here is the crux element of the article:

The West's universalist pretensions are increasingly bringing it into conflict with the other civilizations, most seriously with Islam and China. Thus the survival of the West depends on Americans, Europeans and other Westerners reaffirming their shared civilization as unique— and uniting to defend it against challenges from non-Western civilizations.

Is there a dominant social theme here? It is in fact one that we have identified before – and recently. What is going on, in our view, is the creation of various new intellectual justifications for Western superiority and more importantly for people in the West to band together despite their current wretchedness. In this context, we feel like scientists observing the creation of a new volcano or some other natural occurrence. It is rare to be observing the birth of a new dominant social theme, but we believe we (and you) are witness to one. Here is an excerpt from a previous article we have written on the subject:

Two brand new dominant social themes in a very short space of time, or at least that is the way we see it. The state has come under tremendous attack in the 21st century and we believe the powers-that-be are pushing back. (Why wouldn't they?) In aggregate, the themes make a powerful argument that some level (perhaps a high degree) of state involvement in the economy is at least tolerable if not an unmitigated good.

We explored the first meme just the other day. It was, we believed, a sophisticated socioeconomic perspective promulgated by a brilliant young political observer, one Ian Bremmer – who had the perspicacity to focus on the idea that most of the major powers of the world today are practicing something called state capitalism.

Bremmer, we wrote, contrasts state capitalism to the West's "free-market" model and essentially seems to present this paradigm as a kind of "war." We concluded that Bremmer had intended to manufacture an argument that the West, even today, is free-market oriented (despite many evidences otherwise) and that America especially will come into conflict with state capitalism as represented by China et. al during the 21st century. To read the full DB article, click here.

Bremmer, we decided (whether he knows it or not) is essentially creating a new dominant social theme that justifies Western capitalism not just in previous free-market incarnations but as it is today. The argument he presents, we came to believe, is one that if taken to its logical conclusion implies that instead of criticizing Western capitalism, Westerners ought to devote their energies to combating state capitalism abroad.

This is in our humble opinion analogous to what happened during the Cold War, which demanded that citizens of the West tolerate any necessary engorgement of Leviathan in order to combat the Communist menace. Bremmer's perspective can surely be used to support Western capitalism as it is. Thus we would argue that such perspectives (intended or not) are useful to the power elite; they provide further justification for the status quo in the face of a fairly relentless Internet attack that has pointed out how far from the free-market Western capitalism has actually strayed.

Now the NEW meme (new to us anyway) that we want to cover in this analysis is most interesting, and buttresses what Bremmer is proposing. This suggestion is brought to us from the mainstream libertarian wing of the US sociopolitical dialogue. As we can see from the above UK Telegraph excerpt, it postulates that data shows governments are most effective at supporting economic growth and free-markets when they comprise no more than 15 to 25 percent of total GDP. Because today governments in the West are consuming so much more of GDP to provide "services," the "Rahn Curve" claims that government is basically out of control.

Why is this a new dominant social theme and not merely a libertarian observation? Fairly or unfairly, we believe there is, in fact, no economic or historical justification to make the claim that government is an effective supporter of free-markets and economic growth at ANY percentage of GDP. We base this conclusion on the dividing line between classical and neo-classical economics, which is known as marginal utility.

To read more from this story, click here: Libertarians Seek Rahn's Ideal State.

Two new sub-themes proposed in major publications in a period of weeks. And now we have a third – that of a "Clash of Civilizations" as proposed by late Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington. While Huntington's model is not persuasive to us, it is eloquently presented by Ali. Since we had not heard this name before, we went to Wikipedia. This is what we have found:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Somali feminist activist, writer, and politician. She is the daughter of the Somali scholar, politician, and revolutionary opposition leader Hirsi Magan Isse. She is a prominent critic of Islam, and her screenplay for Theo Van Gogh's movie Submission led to death threats. … Hirsi Ali has attracted praise and criticism from Anglophone commentators. Commentator and journalist Christopher Hitchens has called Ayaan Hirsi Ali a "charismatic figure in Dutch politics" and criticized the Dutch government for their negligent attitude towards her lack of protection from "fascist killers". Patt Morrison of the Los Angeles Times called Hirsi Ali a freedom fighter for feminism who has "put her life on the line to defend women against radical Islam." Novelist and screenwriter Roger L. Simon has praised Ali's defense of women's rights, calling her "one of the great positive figures of our time, a modern Joan of Arc who surpasses the original Joan in a moral sense.

We then looked up Ms. Ali's contributions to the Journal and apparently she has only started contributing in June, and her first commentary was "What You Can't Say About Islamism … American intellectuals won't face up to Muslim radicalism's Nazi past." You see why we call Murdoch a genius, dear reader? Not only has he generally revivified the opinion page of the Journal in less than a year by animating actionable points with sophisticated ideas, he is now in the process of opening its pages to some of the most brilliant lights of international letters.

Of course, we would feel a bit better about Ms. Ali – and Murdoch's brilliance in general – if it didn't seem to us somewhat manipulative (as we have indicated above). It seems obvious to us that Murdoch's new and improved Wall Street Journal is not merely presenting some of the most scintillating writing available, it is doing so under the aegis of a very specific agenda: "Yes, Western regulatory democracy in the modern era is perhaps a wretched thing to live under. But compared to other places, the West is GOOD or at least BETTER."

Whether it is Dick Armey writing a whole article in defense of freedom without once criticizing the American military industrial complex or Ms. Ali offering a brilliant analysis of why the West must stand firm against "Nazi Islam," Murdoch is repackaging "neo-con" arguments. But now, incredibly, they are resonantly presented by a black Joan of Arc and a former House Majority Leader who has refashioned himself as a modern day Thomas Paine.

As we have tried to point out in this article, a new dominant theme is being imagined. It is being developed from several different angles by various brilliant writers that the power elite has seemingly cultivated like hothouse flowers – and now has released on the world in all their brilliance. We would not be so silly as to speculate that these various writers are necessarily consciously involved in this latest manipulation but the end result, nonetheless, is to create support for the argument that the West itself (with all its authoritarianism, warring and financial ruin) is still the best hope of the world.

After Thoughts

The sophistication of these arguments is breathtaking. The manipulation of information is spell-binding. This is how it has always been done – for the intelligentsia must be satisfied before a meme can truly take hold. When we contemplate how cleverly these fear-based promotions are developed it seems to us that they are among the highest forms of art. What we are saddened about however is that they are to be placed in the service of cultural paranoia, militarism and domestic repression. The net result of this overwhelming brainpower, therefore, is to bring closer the day when George Orwell predicted the modern state would resemble nothing more than "a boot stamping on a human face – forever."

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