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May 4, 2004
NYT Book Review Lauds Anti-American Rip-off

I don't mean to write a book review here, never having read Globalia by French author Jean-Christophe Rufin, but based on the New York Times review, I don't plan on adding it to my summer reading list, either. Alan Riding gives plenty of column space to what appears to be nothing more than a bad derivative of Brave New World, 1984, and Logan's Run, with a heavy dose of French anti-Americanism tossed in for seasoning:

In the novel Globalia, which embraces much of North America and Europe and parts of Asia, is the political unit that dominates the globe, aspiring to be a perfect world in which organ replacement ensures extraordinary longevity, private companies flourish and social welfare is guaranteed, political and ethnic conflicts have disappeared thanks to the abolition of history. Its motto is "Liberty, Security, Prosperity."

Globalia's cities and territories are enclosed by bulletproof glass walls and roofs that protect the inhabitants from the impoverished masses who live in "nonzones." These outsiders play the critical role of posing the threat that preserves Globalia's cohesion. Blamed for terrorist actions even when Globalia's agents plant the bombs, they provide the fear that persuades Globalians to accept constraints on their freedom and knowledge. ...

He added that other aspects of Globalia were inspired by the United States, like fear of growing old, unrelenting advertising, the hidden power of giant corporations and permanent apprehension about terrorism. Even Globalia's denial of history, he said, has echoes of the founding fathers' idea of "breaking with the old world, with its legacy of the past, and building a society on moral rather than historical foundations."

What a shock -- a French author who thinks that the US is dangerous! Unfortunately, the good doctor (Rufin is a physician) misses the mark. For instance, where he got the idea that we have a "permanent apprehension about terrorism" escapes me, especially since we've spent most of the last thirty years ignoring it. He also asserts that the current fear of terrorism is mostly overblown, conveniently ignoring the deep hole on the southern end of Manhattan and the 3,000 people that were murdered less than three years ago. For an author, he seems somewhat uninformed:

Yet the absence of history, he said, tends to promote conformity. "It is a kind of tyranny of the majority that imposes itself," he added, "and fear is one of the few ways of justifying this. In the cold war there was a real risk of mutual destruction. Today I believe the depiction of the threat far surpasses the risk. There is a sort of mise-en-scne of the threat which illustrates how, without an enemy, democracy creates one. It cannot function without one."

The last sentiment is, quite frankly, ridiculous. Tyrranies can't function without enemies, external if possible but internal if necessary, in order to justify the totalitarian approach to governing. Democracies go too far the other direction; they shade their eyes against rising threats, preferring to believe that everyone wants to get along, just as they do at home. To have a Frenchman making this argument shows how disconnected from history Rufin really is. After all, the last time France held world-power status, it refused to act on the growing Nazi menace on its own eastern border until it was far too late, and then capitulated rather than fight. Nor are we blameless in this impulse. We have sat around playing deaf and dumb for over twenty-five years while Islamofascists have declared war on us, until 9/11 forced us to acknowledge that people really want to see us dead -- a fact that some among us still refuse to see.

Meanwhile, the New York Times' Book section has no problem celebrating an author who tells us that democracy is totalitarianism while selling a book that warns against double-speak. I don't know why this surprises me, but it still does.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 4, 2004 6:51 AM

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