There exists today something of a crisis of legitimacy for many European governments. These governments have, with little tolerance of dissent, organized the recent acceptance of over a million migrants and refugees into Europe, as well as the provision of housing, food, and services to these individuals – all coming out of taxpayer money.
Many were strongly against their governments taking this decision without putting it to a popular vote. Those on the left, though, were openly in support. Their narrative painted a very different picture from reality; to them, there were no ‘migrants’, only refugees – despite the fact that perhaps only around 20% of the migrants were from Syria. Those on the left viewed the migrants through the lens of their narrative and saw them as victims of various horrors, namely religious extremism, poverty, and violence.
What the left did not do, is to see the migrants simply as individuals acting in their own interests. Individuals who, by and large, have been raised and acculturalized in environments substantially more violent and intolerant than our own. Individuals who mostly subscribe to religious ideologies that are fundamentally incompatible with European values. Perhaps the ‘Pro-Refugee’ campers thought that simply by entering into geographic Europe, the migrants and refugees would instantly metamorphize into fully-formed liberals.
But people are not influenced by mere geography. Entering Europe does not make you European. As a parallel, Japan is an extremely safe country, with a robust democracy, a strongly intellectual culture, and a harsh criminal justice system. Afghanistan has none of those things. Thus it follows that if you took all of the Japanese people and swapped them in place with all Afghans, Japan would most likely become one of the most violent, anti-women, intolerant countries in the world – just like Afghanistan is now. It is the people, not the land itself, that matters here.
Unfortunately, acknowledging that the migrants might carry across some of the problems that plague their own societies took us a long time. The wakeup call for most came after New Year’s Eve in Cologne, when the media blockade on migrant rape and sexual assault cases finally broke. There was much soul-searching after this event, and disheartened Europeans looked for an answer. This has played massively into the hands of the far right, who were the only group that had warned us all along that such events would inevitably occur. The boost in legitimacy and prestige from the fact that they had been correct in their observation was significant, and far right parties have made, and continue to make, massive gains across Europe.
The problem is in the fact that the far right doesn’t only want to get rid of migrants and rapefugees. They also want to get rid of genuine refugees – and there is also a disturbing amount of xenophobic and racist sentiment expressed in their stances. Jews and non-whites, for example, would fare very poorly under a far right ‘new order’. The gains of the far right, hence, threatens us with the entrance of a dangerous element of toxic xenophobia and racism into the societal and political life of Europe.
In order to prevent this, Western European governments have tried to cut off fuel to the far right by preventing the truth getting out. They have stifled debate and silenced any criticism on crimes by migrants. This denialism has reached scandalous and systematic proportions; consider the media blackout and total lack of response from the German government after the events of Cologne. The victims of these assaults are suffering terribly under a lack of recognition from the police, from the media and from their own governments; the trauma and psychological torment from this is surely immense.
A significant number of people across Europe have been subject to physical and sexual assault, rape, and more at the hands of migrants that they did not choose to have invited into their towns and cities, and western governments are ignoring them in their obsession with denying power falling into the hands of the reactionary right. Even today, discussion on migrant crime is rather muted; it is always played down and never spoken of frankly.
There is a solution to these problems that doesn’t involve empowering the racist right or compromising our values of liberalism and tolerance. If parties on the left and the center enter into open dialogue and debate about the real problems and challenges that these migrants pose, including on socially uncomfortable issues like culture, religion, and values, then the far right will lose its monopoly on the truth. They will cease to be an embattled, honest underdog and return to the status of racist social pariah. And by being honest, we won’t just be excluding the far right; after all, it is only when we acknowledge the full extent of the problem that we can work towards solving it. Being in denial never saved a soul.
Will TG Miller