Prophets without Honor: Europe, Immigration, and Trump

Why a crucial problem is back in the national conversation.

Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

Europe’s slow-motion immigration disaster has accelerated with the continuing turmoil in the Middle East and Africa. In Calais hundreds of illegal immigrants stormed the entrance to the cross-Channel tunnel in an attempt to reach more immigrant-friendly England. In northern Greece, 3000 migrants attacked the border with Macedonia to get closer to more prosperous northern Europe; Macedonia let them pass a few days later. Hungary, a member of the EU border-free Schengen zone, is deploying its army to slow down the migrant tide, and border-fences are springing up in Bulgaria and Hungary. Meanwhile, thousands of immigrants continue to drown in over-crowded ships or suffocate in smugglers’ trucks while trying to enter Europe.

Europe has long had an immigration problem, but in the last year the numbers have skyrocketed. About 124,000 immigrants reached Greece by sea between January and July this year, a 750% increase from the previous year. Germany estimates 800,000 new migrants will reach the country by year’s end, 4 times as much as last year. The United Kingdom has seen 330,000 enter so far this year, while 107,500 made it to Europe, both numbers new records.

It’s not just the suddenness of these increases that’s the problem. For decades now Europe has mishandled its immigrant population, whether through over-generous welfare subsidies, or lax standards for granting asylum or reuniting families. More dangerous has been the nexus of bad ideas––from fashionable civilizational self-loathing to sentimental multicultural Third-Worldism––that has encouraged ethnic separatism and demonized assimilation. The result is a ticking social and political bomb.

Europeans, however, can’t say they weren’t warned. Two prophets––one British and one French, both stripped of honor in their own lands for speaking presciently about the dangers of uncontrolled immigration––decades ago laid out the dangers.

In 1968 British MP Enoch Powell delivered a speech that quickly became notorious as the “rivers of blood” speech. A London Times editorial called it “an evil speech,” adding, “This is the first time that a serious British politician has appealed to racial hatred in this direct way in our postwar history.” Powell was fired from his position as Shadow Defence Secretary in the Shadow Cabinet of Conservative Edward Heath, the last cabinet post he ever held.

Powell noted that England was increasing the numbers of immigrants without giving much thought to the consequences of so quickly adding culturally different people:

Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. We must be mad, literally mad, as a nation to be permitting the annual inflow of some 50,000 dependents, who are for the most part the material of the future growth of the immigrant-descended population. It is like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre. So insane are we that we actually permit unmarried persons to immigrate for the purpose of founding a family with spouses and fiancés whom they have never seen.

Powell also linked the increases to a failure to assimilate newcomers into the culture, values, and mores of the majority native population, and to special interests whose political and social leverage came from the balkanization of British society:

Now we are seeing the growth of positive forces acting against integration, of vested interests in the preservation and sharpening of racial and religious differences, with a view to the exercise of actual domination, first over fellow-immigrants and then over the rest of the population.

Commenting on the Labour Party’s Race Relations Act, which aimed to prevent discrimination in housing, Powell envisioned how immigrants and their champions could manipulate government and law in order to aggrandize their own power and further divide the people:

Here is the means of showing that the immigrant communities can organize to consolidate their members, to agitate and campaign against their fellow citizens, and to overawe and dominate the rest with the legal weapons which the ignorant and the ill-informed have provided. As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see “the River Tiber foaming with much blood.”

The quote from Vergil’s Aeneid, spoken by the Sibyl who foresees the wars between the immigrant Trojans and native Latins, gave the speech its popular title and predicted for England as well a future of increasing violence as its society and politics continued to fragment into ethnic factions pursuing zero-sum advantages.

Jean Raspail’s novel The Camp of the Saints is even more significant, for it delves deeper into the civilizational failure of nerve and the self-loathing that have prevented many Europeans from vigorously defending their way of life and political principles. Raspail, an explorer, travel writer, and novelist, published his novel in 1973 to similar condemnations­­––Time magazine called it a “bilious tirade,” and years later the Southern Poverty Law Center said it was “widely revered by American white supremacists.” 

The story begins when millions of Third World peoples simultaneously start hijacking ships and sailing for Europe. Once there, the migrants swarm the Côte d’Azur while the French flee in panic to the north. The failure of the French to resist the invaders is the consequence of civilizational guilt over alleged Western crimes like racism, colonialism, and imperialism. This weakness emboldens the invaders. In India, where the mass migration starts, the French consul scolds a Catholic bishop who approves of the migration and is proud to be “bearing witness” to it. The consul retorts,

Bearing witness to what? To your faith? Your religion? To your Christian civilization? Oh no, none of that! Bearing witness against yourselves, like the anti-Western cynics you’ve become. Do you think the poor devils that flock to your side aren’t any the wiser? Nonsense! They see right through you. For them, white skin means weak convictions. They know how weak yours are, they know you’ve given in.

Raspail clearly links this failure of nerve in the face of existential assault to the increasing secularization of European culture, the abandonment of the Christian faith upon which its civilization and cherished principles––political freedom, human rights, rule by law––were in part founded. At novel’s end, after Europe is lost to the hordes streaming northward, the narrator wonders: “Who knows how things might have worked out if the peoples of the West, in similar straits, had put their faith in God.” For in the struggle between different cultures with different religions and mores, “One still believes. One doesn’t. The one that still has faith will move mountains. That’s the side that will win. Deadly doubt has destroyed all incentive in the other. That’s the side that will lose.”

Those last comments are particularly pertinent to the core of Europe’s current immigrant problem: many are Muslims who worship a faith radically different from the liberal culture of freedom, tolerance, and individual rights that created Europe and the United States. Hence most of the violence Powell predicted has come from unassimilated young Muslims–– the terrorists who bombed London in 2005 and Madrid in 2004, the rapists in England and Malmo who target non-Muslim women, the French “youths” who periodically smash hundreds of cars or murder journalists and Jews, and the Muslim who assassinated Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh and drove Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Geert Wilders into hiding. And in most cases, these criminals have been the beneficiaries of welfare largesse, their violence often rewarded with increased “social welfare spending.”

But we Americans shouldn’t feel superior, for we have our own immigration problems, especially with illegal aliens. Our problems aren’t as severe as Europe’s, for the vast majority of our immigrants come from countries that are essentially Western, rather than from Muslim countries whose religion is inherently hostile to Christianity and the West. But we have compromised that advantage by indulging the same carelessness about policing the border or dispensing social welfare largesse. We too have problems with crime from illegal aliens, ranging from drug-gangs and murder to the daily disorder and disregard for law that makes life more difficult in many communities. And we also have an anti-assimilationist lobby that leverages white guilt and self-loathing into political power.

But we too, for now, seem to have a prophet. Whatever his flaws and weaknesses, Donald Trump has thrust the problems of lax immigration policies and weak enforcement of immigration laws back into the national conversation. Like Enoch Powell, politicians from both parties have tried to marginalize him. But in the age of the Internet, YouTube, and cable news, the citizens who agree with Trump can voice their approval more loudly than in Powell’s day. And they delight in the rough treatment he gives to immigration hacks like Univision’s Jorge Ramos, whom Trump tossed out of a news conference. Let’s just hope that a critical mass of people is listening, and that the Republicans embrace Trump’s warnings on illegal immigration instead of demonizing him.