The War on the West: How to Prevail in the Age of Unreason
About this deal
There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021. He discusses how young people don't know any holocaust history yet research that looked at adults from a range of ages like Pew has shown that older US adults do not do much better only scoring slightly better on holocaust knowledge. I liked the use of humour in the book, It helps lighten the tone of an otherwise very negative book. The sections on cultural appropriation seemed correct to me, I dislike the movements trying to create ultra rigid barriers around cultures and insistences of cultural purity. He has cogent points here about the inconsistencies in its advocates. I liked the use of polling data on Americans and racial tensions surrounding the police and more generally. I liked several of his refutations, particularly surrounding Nicholas Ferrar and anti-Cecil Rhodes activists.
As expected from a polemicist as smart and gifted as Murray, both elements are well-executed and repay the reader’s attention. Applause for the West has become the exception rather than the rule in recent years. Here we get the almost unsayable: a full-throated hymn to its permanent and continuing contributions. While I can’t answer Murray’s rhetorical question to colonizers, I can at least limit the answer. What should Columbus have done after he discovered America? Not genocide would be a good start, and not exploit the native population as slave labor would be a great second thing to do. This also flies in the face of the previous chapter, as that chapter listed plenty of academics, some of which are historians and most which have written book about history, who all disagree with Murray’s position. Is Murray really suggesting that these people know less about history than he does?The author of The Strange Death of Europe has never been afraid of controversy, and Murray’s latest is no exception. The War on the West is a panoramic survey of a new prejudice that has commandeered western institutions in the name of social justice. It is, Murray argues, out to “demonise the people who still make up the racial majority in the West”. The war on our civilisation turns out, for Murray, to mean a war against whiteness. Murray starts out with a brief and very surface-level explanation of ressentiment, with a focus on the way Friedrich Nietzsche framed ressentiment in On the Genealogy of Morality. However, the way Murray lays out ressentiment and applies it to the progressive movements in the West, you’d think he had never read any Nietzsche.
Some of the events of recent years have had me scratching my head, (such as Germaine Greer being no platformed). This book provides the intellectual lubrication necessary to un-grind my gears. In his earlier book The Strange Death of Europe, Murray took issue with Bonnie Greer stating that the unique genius of Britain was to be able to absorb cultures. Murray took offense at this, suggesting that it means that Britain has no culture, but one could equally argue that it is a sign of strength not to have to signpost your customs. For example, as David Starkey once pointed out, England alone among European nations has no official national dress, precisely because England, through Britain, dominated the world and that was validation enough. There was no need to circle the wagons around English culture in the same way that conservatives do to the Western tradition today.
I also felt like Murray draws attention to how one sided the criticism is for the west, when many eastern and Asian countries have done or doing similar things. China’s expansion and recolonization of Africa in particular is incredibly concerning yet is seemingly unnoticed while the west is focused on social justice issues and searching for every person who should be canceled and what can now be considered a micro aggression. Murray asked: “Do we have a right as a country to be proud of anything in our history? Do we have the right to have heroes and stand up for them? Do we allow cultural revolutionaries to just tear them all down? I would hope the answer to all that is, 'No'. But most people are amazed at the speed, swiftness and depth at which people have come in to assault and to tear down. For people going through it, it’s devastating. This is our history.”