The Wrong Man

Geert Wilders is on trial in the Netherlands, but who should the authorities really be prosecuting?

It’s a standard plot device in thrillers and spy movies: the police arrest or detain the wrong man—in fact, the only man who can stop the real murderer or foil the spies. Think of the Thirty Nine-Steps, one of Hitchcock’s first masterpieces. Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) has information that could prevent an international ring of spies from securing vital military secrets. Do the police believe him? No, instead they aggressively pursue him across England and Scotland for a murder he didn’t commit.

The same formula is a staple in science fiction and monster movies. The authorities—police, military or CIA—detain the one person who has the code or the formula or the knowledge that will destroy the monster or prevent the aliens from conquering the planet. And, invariably, the authorities are portrayed as obtuse, unimaginative types, who can’t seem to grasp the big picture.

What brings such movies to mind is the recently hatched high-brow plan to arrest the Pope. In April, Geoffrey Robertson, a high-ranking United Nations jurist, called on the British government to detain Pope Benedict XVI when he visits England in September. Robertson wants the UK to send the pope to the International Criminal Court to be tried for “crimes against humanity.” Robertson is backed up by celebrity atheists Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. According to the London Times, Dawkins and Hitchens have commissioned Robertson and Mark Stephens, a solicitor, to draw up a justification for legal action.

Let’s see…Islamic religious leaders in the UK and around the world are spewing hatred at Christians and Jews, and are calling for the destruction of Israel, the murder of homosexuals, the imposition of Sharia law in Europe, and the defeat of “the Great Satan” (the U.S.). Oh, and they want the right to marry twelve-year-olds—maybe as many as four per man. But according to the twisted logic of the West’s self-appointed virtue police, it’s time to lock up the Pope.

Not that the Pope is the one man who can save the world from domination by Islam. Rather, he is representative of the handful of men and women who fully realize the threat from Islam, and who, in a sense, possess the formula or special knowledge necessary to halt the imposition of an alien moral order on the West.

Before he became Pope, Benedict wrote a series of books and papers which explained why an alien culture (not just Islam, but primarily a rootless secularism) was taking over Europe. Europe, he said, had succumbed to a “dictatorship of relativism” which opened the door to values based only on fickle opinion, or else on brute force. The “formula” for saving the West which Benedict offered is the recognition of God-given rights that “belong to man _by nature_”—“values that cannot be modified.”

Likewise, in defending the Universal Declaration of Human Rights before the United Nations in 2008, the pope said that human rights should not yield to a “relativistic conception” whereby “their universality would be denied in the name of different cultural, political, social and even religious outlooks.” In case you’re wondering why the UN’s own Declaration of Human Rights has to be defended in the UN, consider that the largest voting block in the UN now is the 56-state strong Organization of the Islamic Conference. Many of the OIC member states are quite adamant in maintaining that Sharia law takes precedence over Western declarations of human rights. And from a multicultural/cultural relativism perspective, who can gainsay them? That’s why Benedict insists that the multicultural experiment won’t work if it’s cut off from its Western/Christian roots. It’s no accident that the Declaration was composed for the most part by people who had grown up in Christian cultures, and had inherited a social conscience that had been formed by the Judeo-Christian tradition. But what are the odds that today’s Islamic-friendly assembly of multiculturalists at the UN would be willing to approve the Declaration if it were put to the vote again?

Will the pope be arrested? Probably not—not this year, anyway. Others who won’t genuflect to the dictatorship of relativism haven’t been so lucky. Mark Steyn was hauled before three Canadian Human Rights courts on hate speech charges for simply observing that population trends would someday turn Europe into a branch of the Muslim world. Like Benedict, Steyn is also guilty of pointing out that a culture of relativism is essentially a suicidal culture. If the Steyn trials were a movie, the audience would be justified in thinking, “What thick-headed dunces. They’ve got the wrong man!” As more and more ordinary people are discovering, criticism of Islamic aggressiveness isn’t the problem, the problem is Islamic aggressiveness.

Or take the case of Geert Wilders. Wilders is on trial in the Netherlands for…you guessed it, “Islamophobia.” He’s also charged with the crime of calling for a halt to Islamic immigration—immigration which, according to Wilders, constitutes a threat to freedom and human rights. It’s another case of the wrong man. Wilders is one of the few European leaders who is calling attention to the real danger, and is trying to do something about it. Let’s conjure up a bit of B-movie dialogue:

Wilders. “I’m telling you it’s out there, and it’s getting closer! We have to alert   people before it’s too late!

Dutch cops. “Tell it to the judge, buster; we’re bringing you in for questioning.”

In Austria, meanwhile, criminal charges have been filed against Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, a self-described mother and feminist, and a leader of the anti-jihad group Citizens’ Movement Pax Europa. Her crimes?—the usual charges: hate speech, defamation of religion, and Islamophobia. Ms. Sabaditsch-Wolff has been in the habit of saying threatening things such as “I want to preserve Europe,” and “…sharia cannot be reconciled with democratic principles and universal human rights.” This time it’s a case of the wrong woman. If her story were a film, the appropriate audience response would be: “Wake up you idiots! Don’t you see what’s happening?”

It would be possible to add several others to the list. For example, the late Oriana Fallaci had to flee Europe to avoid being tried on charges of defaming Islam. Before her death Fallaci expressed a strong affinity to Pope Benedict, and like Benedict she was a stout defender of human rights. The point is this: nowadays, when they “round up the usual suspects” (to borrow Captain Renault’s memorable phrase), the suspects turn out to be the leading defenders of Western civilization.

Of course, the pope hasn’t been arrested, the cases against Steyn were dropped, and the fate of Wilders and Sabaditsch-Wolff has yet to be determined. Still, if no one has actually been locked up, all of these people have been effectively tied up. It takes an enormous amount of time, energy and resources to defend oneself in court or to defend against a media blitz. Time is particularly of the essence in such situation. As every moviegoer understands, at such times there’s no time to waste. As the looming disaster draws nearer, you don’t want the ones who might avert it being tied up, either literally or figuratively.

One might counter that in the case of the plan to arrest Pope Benedict, there were real crimes and real cover-ups involving both priests and bishops. But the whole point of the Hitchens/Dawkins/Robertson initiative is not to punish the actual perpetrators, but to indict the whole Catholic Church, as some sort of global conspiracy of perverts directed by the pope. Thus, the pope is supposedly guilty of “obstructing justice on a global scale” (Hitchens), and the Catholic Church is a “truth-hating, child-raping institution” (Dawkins). Moreover, according to the National Post, one of the specific charges being assembled against the pope is “child sexual slavery.”

Anyone who has been closely following the abuse story knows that this is pretty much the reverse of the truth. From the point in 2001 when the sex abuse cases where transferred to his office, and he became fully aware of the extent of the abuse, Cardinal Ratzinger moved swiftly and decisively to clean up what he referred to as “the filth” in the Church. Once again, it’s a case of the wrong man. But in this case quite a bit of damage has already been done. According to a recent CBS News poll, forty percent of Catholics in America say that the abuse scandals have caused them to doubt the Vatican’s authority. The attacks on the pope have insured that the next time he warns about the dangers to the West, fewer will be listening.

I don’t know what part Hitchens, Dawkins and company think they are playing in the high-stakes drama that is now unfolding across the world, but it looks like they have stumbled into the role of the clueless authorities in the movies who can’t see the real danger. Probably the best movie analogy is the scene in Dr. Strangelove where Colonel Bat Guano (Keenan Wynn) is holding Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers) at gunpoint. As you may recall, General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) has gone bonkers, and ordered a wing of nuclear-armed B-52’s to attack Russia—an attack which will set off the Soviets’ world destroying “doomsday device.” Captain Mandrake is the only one who knows the secret code to recall the bombers, and thus save the world. But Colonel Guano doesn’t buy his story:

Mandrake. “Colonel! Colonel! I must know what you think has been going on here!”

Guano. “You know what I think?…I think you’re some kind of deviated prevert.  And I think General Ripper found out about your preversion, and that you were  organizing some kind of mutiny of preverts. Now move!”

Thanks to all the Bat Guanos of the world, and their inability to grasp the big picture, we are moving rapidly towards our own version of doomsday.