Since its first full broadcast floated over Eastern-European airwaves in 1951, Radio Free Europe (RFE) has proved itself a durable institution in the promotion of democracy. Its durability is seemingly matched by the scope of its projection — into Romania, Hungary, Poland and Bulgaria; and later, into Afghanistan during the Soviet Union’s disastrous misadventure in the Graveyard of Empires; then, into the Graveyard again during the 2001 US invasion.
I was at Radio Free Europe over the summer while I was visiting Prague for a journalism seminar — the City of a Hundred Spires where the organization was born. I thought of that trip while I was browsing Small Wars Journal, an excellent resource for counter-insurgency connoisseurs. Something at Small Wars Journal caught my eye — a link to a Wall Street Journal article announcing the expansion of Radio Free Europe’s mission to “dent Islamic State recruitment in Central Asia.” The new mission “will include local language broadcasts featuring repentant foreign fighters, widows, and parents that have lost children in Syria and Iraq.”
I wonder. Will it work?
The ISIS recruit is, of course, a different breed from the ideologically malleable Eastern European. The mindless, pornographically violent, social media excretions of the typical sexually-repressed, blood-lusting, clinically moronic ISIS “soldier” have more in common with the Neanderthal than the Slav: “We will take revenge for the blood of Muslims on your land, we will kill the young before the older watch this.”
“Kill the young” isn’t something I remember stumbling upon in even the most mindless instances of communist propaganda. (Readers, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.)
I happen to think that ISIS’s desire to commit a voyeuristic slaughter of the young in front of the youths’ progenitors comes from a series of serious sexual dysfunctions—for example: daesh’s repressed homosexuality, manifested in a hyperactive misogyny; or, the penchant for public execution, which appears to me to be the murderous equivalent of public flashing — all of which afflict the run-of-the-mill ISIS soldier. But, hey, that’s just me.
But still, the soul of any nation is a long time in the making. Even the severest oppression couldn’t remove the Soviet Union’s Russian history. It was still the locus of Peter the Great’s westernizing reforms, a society where romantics sometimes learned French and German better than their native tongue.
There was a lingering humanity and intellect in the souls and minds of all those people living behind communism’s black curtain. This explains impressive feats performed by the post-communist Russian diaspora, which yielded phenomena such as the Israeli city of Beer-Sheva, a city which has more chess grand-masters per-capita than any other place in the world. All because of Eastern-Europeans who emigrated from communist countries.
There does not appear to be a similar romantic or intellectual legacy in Dar-al-Islam.
President Harry Truman spoke of the existential combat between democracy and communism that inspired Radio Free Europe’s mission: “This is a struggle, above all, for the minds of men.” But in waging a struggle for the mind, there must be men whose consciousness can be made into a battleground in the first place. If the mind is closed to the possibility of a duel between beliefs, then the struggle never begins.
And this is to my overall point. There’s some serious doubt that Islamists have the portal into which new ideas could be plugged. The stubborn pride of primitivism is something most nations have moved past. Not so in Dar-al-Islam.
See, for example, an article in The Atlantic on terrorist attacks during Ramadan: “Ramadans have witnessed a stunning rise in attacks relative to other months in recent years — an increase attributed, in part, to the Islamic State, and its attempts to transform the month of prayer and atonement to one of bloodshed and violence.”
Where are the rabbis performing decapitations on Sukkot? Or, the drowning of other sects by the Catholics on Easter Sunday? Where is the Shinto persecution of homosexuals, the Amish genocide, the Buddhist theocracy that forbids women from walking the streets alone, uncovered, without a male chaperone?
A favorite argument of multiculturalists is but what about Christianity’s history of bloodshed? This is a curious rejoinder for people who are otherwise averse to historical arguments. You could never persuade a multiculturalist by countering that 500 years ago homosexuality was punishable by most governments, or that women in the workplace was a laughable concept before the 20th Century.
And today? Where is the inquisition today? Where are the Torquemadas? There are none to be found.
But in Chechnya, an admitted homosexual is paraded out to recant for admitting the truth of his homosexuality. “Televised apologies by Chechens who criticize the republic’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov are a regular occurrence in the Muslim-majority North Caucasus republic,” you see. This is a funny sticking point in itself. Does Ramzan Kadyrov feel personally criticized by the reality of a confessed homosexual?
Oh, is that not the case here in the United States? Nobody remembers any recent I’m-sorry-I-said-I’m-gay admissions, forced by government sanction, broadcast on US television in the last month? That’s funny. Well, you know, 500 years ago…
The odds are stacked against Radio Free Europe. At least that’s how I see it. Then again, at one point the odds against toppling totalitarianism weren’t spectacular either. So, maybe, just maybe, Radio Free Europe. can roll back the tide of ISIS’s barbarous primitivism.
To Radio Free Europe: Good luck and Godspeed.
Alex Grass is the Religion & Law Correspondent for The Media Project. His opinions are his own.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.