The Strange Death of Europe by Douglas Murray is a strange, sensational and almost hysterical book. The very first line is “Europe is committing suicide” and the core premise of the book is that European culture and Western values are being killed by a combination of Islamic immigrants and guilt ridden liberals. Yet unfortunately this is a viewpoint that has been spreading lately with the rise of the alt-right and has some appeal to people fearful of Islam and angry at political correctness. So, I thought I try something a bit different and review a book that promotes an essentially alt-right view.
The first major problem I have with the problem is the lack of evidence. Murray makes bold claims but has little to support them and has a rather dishonest approach to evidence and citations. He rarely uses evidence or sources to back up his claims, instead relying on broad generalisations. He never gives proportional figures to give proper context, instead he uses absolute figures to make the scale of immigration seem larger. He never fully quotes or explains the views of other people, instead we get odd snippets deliberately chosen to make the person look dumb and/or hysterical. The most extreme position is taken as representative, so if a single advocate said something, he acts as if all pro-immigration people must agree. If a study shows the benefits of immigration, then he’ll ignore it or dismiss it as having a pro-immigration bias (to him anything positive to immigration is biased). If an expert disagrees with him, that merely shows that they are delusional, out-of-touch with reality or part of the cover-up.
The worst example of this is the chapter on refugees crossing the sea, which contains contains almost no references or citations, yet it is asserted that the refugees lie, rape, become criminals, have no jobs in Europe, are rich etc. To give one example:
“Perhaps 80 per cent of the people coming were young men.”
There is no citation or indication as to where this figure comes from and the vagueness of the word “perhaps” hints at its unreliability. Did he read a report and forget to cite it? Did he hear a rumour of 80% but not have any reliable source? Or did he just make a guess (based on what)? At best it’s sloppy writing and at worst it’s dishonest.
In fact, Murray has an excuse for his lack of sources and it’s an almost conspiracy theorist excuse. According to him, the government, police and media are working together to cover-up all evidence of the harms of immigration. If you dare to point this out, you will be silenced and shouted down. He preposterously claims the British media refuses to talk about immigration, even though he is a British journalist with his own column that talks about immigration. Has he never heard of the Daily Mail and the Daily Express? There are thousands of articles about immigration printed every year in Britain alone, so he must live under a rock if he has never come across any.
He also makes an obviously false claim that politicians don’t talk about immigration, does he live in a parallel universe where the British Conservative Party doesn’t exist? He never mentions UKIP either in the book. He reluctantly admits that the Conservatives did fight the 2005 election with immigration as the main issue (thereby destroying his entire argument) but quickly dismisses this and the 2010 promises to limit immigration and hopes the readers don’t notice. Later in the book, he refutes him by quoting numerous European leaders who implemented limits on the number of refugees entering the country. Yet he doesn’t let this get in the way of his narrative, he still claims politicians are refusing to talk about immigration.
Murray bemoans the lack of an honest discussion on immigration, but he does nothing to contribute to one. While it is clear what he opposes, it’s vague as to what views he actually supports. He is incredibly vague with his own views and merely hints at them. For example, at the start of the book, he gets very worried about the fact that in the latest census, “White British” people comprised only 44% of the population of London. He clearly thinks this a bad thing, but never explains why. He omits that the second largest demograph is “Other White”, that the rest of Britain is overwhelmingly White British and that Muslims are only 12% of the population of London and 4% of the total population. Instead he gives the impression that the majority of London is comprised of non-White Muslims. He acts as if “White” and “British” are the same thing and non-whites can’t really be British. But he never openly says this, merely hinting and wearing a cloak of deniability. He says the census shows people who were demonised and insulted (note how they are the victims) for fearing they were losing their country were right. How have they lost their country?
He can’t comprehend the notion of assimilation and takes it for granted that such thing is impossible. One of the oddest arguments at the end of the book is when he shows assimilation isn’t working – because Mohammed is the most common name for baby boys. I’m not sure what his logic is, but to him it’s obvious that you can’t be named Mohammed and also be British. He claims without any reference that pubs close when Muslims move into the neighbourhood, this is proof assimilation has failed. At times he is beyond parody, such as when he claims immigrant neighbourhoods lack diversity because there are not enough White British – does he think all immigrants are the same?
There is a strange ambiguity in Murray’s argument, an elephant in the room, namely Eastern Europeans. Murray doesn’t really know what to do with them or where they fit into his argument, so he ignores them. You see, Murray talks about immigration and immigration of Muslims interchangeably, whenever he gives an example of immigrants they are almost always Muslim. He gives the impression that most immigrants to Europe are Muslim, but this isn’t true. The largest nationality of immigrants to the UK are Poles. This is a basic fact, yet one that is never mentioned in the book, as if the author hopes the reader never finds out.
You see, Murray can’t acknowledge Eastern European immigrants because doing so would undermine his core argument. If he argues that Eastern Europeans have a different culture to British people, then his thesis falls apart. How can European culture be undermined by other Europeans? Doing so would admit that there is no common European culture or Western values (or the equally preposterous idea that half of Europe doesn’t have European culture). But on the other hand, if he does admit that Eastern Europeans have the same culture as British people and are not a threat, then his argument is still weakened. Murray uses the book to present a picture of Europe being overrun by hordes of foreigners, but if a large proportion of these foreigners are fellow Europeans, then the problem is nowhere near as dire. Muslim immigrants are only a small proportion of the immigration population and are in no risk of overrunning everyone else.
This is another case where Eastern Europe is the elephant in the room. Murray claims our values are under attack, although he never says what they, many would say that democracy, freedom of the press and assembly are core features of Western society. While Murray tries to argue that Muslims are attacking these freedoms, he is completely silent on their rollback in Hungary, Poland and Russia. The only time Murray mentions Orban is to praise him for taking a tough line on refugees. You could say that Putin is against Western values, yet Murray never mentions him. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that Murray doesn’t actually care about culture and values, but instead cares about race and ethnicity.
There is an uncomfortable point that Murray tries his best to avoid – namely, that cultures always change. At times he claims there has been a continuous European culture for hundreds or even thousands of years, yet there is an awkward fact that culture changes. Our culture has changed massively in the last 50 years, so how can Murray act like culture is some unmovable rock that never changes. The largest changes to British culture has come not from immigrants but from America. The radios are full of foreign music, televisions full of foreign movies and bookshops full of foreign books. This has certainly changed our culture, but it is change by America (mainly) not by Muslims. This means Murray has no interest in it.
He gives an example of Muslims not sharing our values in their attitude to homosexuality and takes it as a given that Muslims are homophobic. But what about homophobic British people? Should we be worried that they don’t share our values and don’t have our common European culture? If homophobic Muslims shouldn’t be welcome in Britain, then does the same apply to homophobic Britons? Or is there one rule for white natives and a separate rule for non-white immigrants?
But I remember the same-sex marriage referendum here in Ireland who those campaigning for marriage equality were condemned as being intolerant because they didn’t accept people who thought homosexuality was immoral. We were told we had to listen to and respect those opinions. We live in a society where people are free to express any opinion and everything should be up for debate. It’s strange how these arguments are dropped the moment Muslims are mentioned. When it comes to Muslims it turns out some opinions are wrong and not worthy of debate or even tolerance.
Yet Western attitudes to homosexuality have changed drastically during the past 30 years. If respect for homosexuals is a Western value, then did the West not have Western values 30 years ago? Or are Western values a new invention? Or do cultures constantly naturally change and such change can often be for the positive? Homosexuality was only decriminalised in Ireland in 1993. Marriage equality only began in the last 20 years, with most Western countries only getting it in the last 5-10 years. In Eastern Europe, homophobia is a much larger problem and most countries don’t allow same-sex marriage, in fact they have added amendments to their constitutions to prevent it. This leads back to the earlier problem, does Eastern Europe have the same values as the West?
The biggest weakness in the book is that Murray never defines what he means by Western values and European culture. He takes it for granted that immigrants have a culture that clashes with natives but never explains why this is. He criticises politicians for not knowing what Western culture is, but he doesn’t seem to have any idea himself. He complains that assimilation has been made difficult because immigrants haven’t been clearly told what parts of European culture they adopt and what parts of their old culture they must drop, yet neither does Murray. He treats all immigrants as being the same and having the same culture. To him, the world can be divided in two – our culture and their culture.
Murray acts as though there is one common culture across Europe, but is there? Is our culture Christian or secular? Collective or individualistic? During elections don’t parties offer different worldviews, different values and people choose the one they like best? If we all share the same values, then wouldn’t we live in a one-party state?
Murray claims he only cares about culture, it’s not the colour of the skin of immigrants he opposes, but rather their different culture. But sometimes the mask slips.
“Throughout most of its history, and certainly for the previous millennium, Britian had retained an extraordinarily static population. Even the Norman Conquest in 1066 – perhaps the most important event in the islands’ story – led to no more than 5 per cent of the population being Norman.”
This is wrong, there has been a long history of immigration to England since 1066. But it also cuts the legs out from under his core argument. Murray tries hard to complain he’s not a racist, he only cares about culture. Yet the Norman invasion lead to one of the largest culture changes in British history, yet this doesn’t bother him because the ethnicity didn’t change much.
Drowning in guilt
But Murray doesn’t believe that Muslims are the only cause of the death of Europe, he also believes Europe is drowning in guilt. I have no idea how he can read people’s minds and make generalisations about hundreds of millions of people, but Murray is very comfortable with wild generalisations. For example:
“Today’s Australian schoolchildren are taught that whatever its present virtues, their nation was founded on genocide and theft.”
There is absolutely no source for this or any evidence whatsoever to support it. He gives an example of a man who found out his ancestor was a slave trade and went to Africa to apologise. Murray uses this as proof of the guilt that Europe feels but it doesn’t make any sense to extrapolate from one guy.
This guilt apparently comes from colonialism, which Murray thinks wasn’t so bad. In fact, he thinks it was completely normal and no different to the countless other wars and conquests throughout history, except it was carried out by white people (he genuinely believes the only reason people complain about colonialism is because white people did it). He gets very angry at the apologises Australia made to the aboriginal people, which he calls a “mania” that “constantly” happens and has allegedly left the country burdened with guilt. He believes this guilt also affects America and despite the improvements in the standard of living for black people, the “rhetoric of shame” has only increased. Despite having a black Supreme Court judge and black President, people still complain. That’s right, Murray thinks African-Americans are just ungrateful agitators always looking for more and trying to guilt white. He claims there are loud demands for reparations to black people and this belief has gone mainstream. His evidence is a single article.
“To say that American presidents have been apologising for [slavery and racism] for decades is an under-statement. The country fought and won a civil war over the issue nearly two centuries ago.”
This combination of sentences makes hardly any sense. First of all, what presidents have apologised? Murray gives Clinton as an example, but that’s the only one and there’s no sources. Did Bush, Reagan or Nixon apologise? If decades is an under-statement, what is a correct statement? Centuries? Half the country did fight against slavery, but half of it fought to defend it. While the Civil War did end slavery, it didn’t end racism. Murray quickly moves on to another topic and I’m left puzzled as to what the hell he means.
At times Murray veers towards borderline White Nationalism. He never uses the term “White Genocide” but instead uses “Great Replacement” and claims the native Europeans are being replaced by foreigners. He praises “Camp of Saints” and extremely racist book where hordes of filthy immigrants overrun France and the hero is the last resistor who starts killing them. His chapter on white guilt is also very similar to white nationalist talking points. He uses typical racist imagery of Muslim men molesting white women (and getting away with it because no one wants to be seen as racist). The picture of immigrants is one of people who kill, steal, rape and lie, they have no redeeming features. There is no such thing as an anti-Islam extremist, he presents them all as reasonable and calm people. If they are criticised it is because of a liberal conspiracy, never because of anything they have done. No mention is ever made of attacks on Muslims or discrimination against them, Murray acts like it doesn’t exist. Anders Breivik (who also thought Europe was committing suicide and Muslims were invading the continent) is never mentioned, only terrorism committed by Muslims appears in the book.
There is supposedly an epidemic of rape by Muslims. He doesn’t specify why this is but takes it for granted that there is something inherent about Muslims that cause them to rape white women. (By the end of the book, Murray puts less effort into pretending he’s talking about immigration in general or just culture, by the end he just hates Muslims). He uses debunked Sweden rape statistics, compares stats between 1976 and now and claims immigration is the only difference. He uses the Rotherham case where claims of rape were ignored. Rather than examining how our culture deals with rape, preferring to ignore it, doubting the claimants, he instead believes it was fear of being called racist was the only reason the police didn’t arrest them. If they were white they would have been arrested immediately. Yet this isn’t the case. I was reading this during the Brett Kauvanagh hearing where allegations of sexual harassment were ignored. The Me Too movement over the past few years has uncovered numerous allegations of sexual harassment that were ignored (even though the accused were white). But this is too much nuance for Murray, it’s easier to just blame the Muslims.
After all this, Murray has no solution or proposals. He has no ideas about what to do or plans for the future. He is strangely silent on topics like Brexit and Trump’s Muslim ban. He harshly criticises others for failing to build an immigration policy, yet he doesn’t have one himself. I know what he is against, but it’s hard to know what he is for.
If I could ask him one question, I would ask if he’d rather live in Eastern or Western Europe? Eastern European countries are mostly ethnically homogenous, with little immigration, almost no Muslims, less political correctness and guilt. In other words, they sound like Murray’s dream for the future. But they are no paradise, huge numbers emigrate every year to the Western Europe that Murray thinks is dying. Despite the lack of immigration, they have higher crime rates and less opportunities for their people. It seems to me that rather than dying, Western Europe is prospering.