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On New Year’s Eve, perhaps as many as a thousand North African or Middle Eastern men groped, molested and possibly raped woman in the vicinity of Cologne Cathedral. In the process, they did more to further the aims of ISIS than any murderous exchange. Their actions defined a new low mark for cultural integration and furthered the cause of the Far Right who argue that ‘Christian’ Europe and the Islamic Middle East are locked in a death spiral. The mob may have altered the course of modern European history.  It is a matter of waiting to see how profound those changes will be when they arrive.

What was perhaps most telling about the story was how it moved into the headlines with the pace of dripping slime. It was slow, messy, and undignified. It was also predictable. The problems faced in the immediate aftermath had little to do with geography, politics, or even law and order. They were largely problems of language.

Despite the sense of advancement afforded to us by technology, we live in a post-intellectual age.  Too often ‘intellectual’ is taken to mean ‘lofty’, and ‘elitist’ when, really, it simply refers to the ‘process of the mind’. The business of ‘thinking’ has been largely handed over to the various academies which have themselves been industrialised. This is much less evident in the sciences than the humanities, which perhaps explains why many of our most prominent ‘thinkers’ are scientists who have the luxury of evidence with which to back up their arguments. They also belong in a discipline where rigorous argument is welcomed. They haven’t succumbed to the follies of modern French philosophy (Derrida, Foucault, and, more impenetrable of all, Lacan) which has become the bane of all the humanities. Given the expansion of universities, especially in the UK, the amount of unreadable research in the humanities has increased in proportion to the number of badly conceived theses being written.

As a consequence, too many academic journals are filled with articles with a research value of diddly raised to the power of squat. It would be unfair (and too easy) to quote examples but anybody who has studied Philosophy, History, or English Literature will recognise the type of loquacious but vague papers that mix psychobabble with irrelevant social data. You would also recognize that unmistakable tension that occasionally falls across the hall at any academic conference when such a paper is challenged by those rigorous members of the audience who are unwilling to indulge in the usual habit of lofting an easy question so that the speaker can knock it back.

The lack of serious argument has led to a wider problem throughout our culture in which it is customary to allow bad opinions to go unchallenged. To do otherwise results in one of two outcomes. The most usual result is the use of a ‘thought terminating cliché’ such as ‘we will have to agree to disagree’ which has no more weight than the juvenile response of  ‘so what’ but lacks brevity.

The other most likely outcome is more sinister. It is the official complaint, the punishment for holding non-orthodox views, often followed by the Twitter campaign demanding a person’s apology, job and/or life. This, sadly, is become increasingly prevalent in British universities where invitations to speakers are routinely withdrawn or challenged simply because the speaker dares express an opinion that’s counter to the prevailing doctrine. Germaine Greer supposedly offends when she argues, rightly and, much more importantly, with humour, that ‘just because you lop off your dick and then wear a dress doesn’t make you a fucking woman. I’ve asked my doctor to give me long ears and liver spots and I’m going to wear a brown coat but that won’t turn me into a fucking cocker spaniel.’

It should be easy to laugh because Greer is funny and right, but some would find it easier to take the words as an assault on their pet theories based on abstract theory rather than hard science. More worrying is that the opprobrium heaped upon Greer makes academics pause before they say anything difficult or challenging. As with a lack of diversity in the natural sciences, within the context of academia, the limited gene pool produces yet more inbred follies of dubious scholarship that themselves enter into the cycle of bad ideas grown from the Petri dish of abstract stupidity.

The media is largely a product of this climate of paranoia. When Cologne happened, you could sense they went rigid with fear and, in truth, we all became wary of where we trod. They knew at once what they would need to report but they lacked the moral and intellectual strength so they would know how to say it. The situation in Cologne was a stark example of the problems caused when different cultural values conflict in an intellectual atmosphere where thought crime carries a life sentence. The attackers’ countries of origin could not be ignored yet describing it was itself a challenge. It quickly became a problem of language as to how these facts were reported.

These things should not have to be said but it’s a sign of our times that they must be made clear. Racism is spiritually bankrupt but also intellectually void. With the exception of a few instances, it is illogical and unacceptable to equate a person’s abilities to their ethnicity. Those exceptions are notable because they’re obvious. It is known, for example, that people born in sub-Saharan Africa are more prone to sickle cell anemia. It is thought that people of Northern European descent are more likely to be Celiac. There are many others examples but, in the main, who we are is not fixed by ethnicity. Nor does it have much influence on our development beyond our physical appearance. We are all within a certain range of heights, weights, skin tones, body temperatures, vocal ranges, and, indeed, genders. Race might not be skin deep (bone structures also convey ethnicity) but it certainly has little impact on our thoughts, actions and character.

Culturally, however, we are very diverse and it would be downright foolish to argue otherwise. A person born in London in 1955 would in all likelihood enjoy very different music to somebody born on exactly the same day but in a small rural town in Syria. Played to non-native audiences, any music can sound discordant and non-musical.

Such differences go to the root of our cultural identities and bless us with the rich diversity that we enjoy. We are all creatures of context, which means that our likes and dislikes aren’t hardcoded into our being as much as they are the ‘firmware’ installed throughout our development. It explains why different people might prefer certain types of weather or food. Just this week it was revealed that Cadburys have recorded a big loss due to Europeans rejecting the American recipe of Creme Eggs. American and European might be biologically the same but, clearly, our tastes are different.

The same can be true of intellectual habits, which include our morality. Different cultures promote difference normative values through their literature. Notions of heroism and goodness might be different according to the stories we were told. So too are masculine and feminine values taught to us at an early age. Of course, there are some situations where we are victim to the nature of our bodies. That is the essential truth of the more sensible versions of feminist theory which argue that the female condition is different to the male.

When those men groped their way across Cologne, the problem was clearly cultural and it would have been reasonable to describe it in precisely those terms. It is so self-evident that it needn’t even be started that ethnicity itself was not the cause of their actions. The factors that influenced the mob’s behaviour were most likely their culturally derived attitudes towards their own sexuality and the role of women in society.

To say any of this, however, is difficult in a climate where disagreeing with other cultural norms quickly turns into accusations of bigotry and racism. No sooner do commentators speak of the group’s origins in North Africa and the Middle East than others cite ‘Islamaphobia’, a word that has been repeatedly used and misused.

So let’s try to be clear then about this word. Self evidently, ‘Islamaphobia’ means ‘a phobia of Islam’ but it is rarely used in the strictest sense. The word is pejorative and people that use it cynically exploit its tricky nature. The more you study the word, the more ingenious you realise the trick. It is the linguistic equivalent of a snare. It lures you in because ‘Extreme fear’ is a reasonable meaning. Then its jaws snap tight and you realise that you’re being punished because ‘irrational fear’ is not.

Islam criticised in the same way that sceptics criticise all religions is reasonable, justified and, I strongly believe, necessary. Islam broadened to encompass ethnicity is not. ‘Islamaphobia’, therefore, is a very poor word unless it is defined as the ‘extreme anxiety of the dangers pose by the religion of Islam’. That is rarely the case. It is a word deliberately constructed as a ‘thought terminating cliché’. Once used, we are not meant to proceed any further and the failure of the media to aptly describe the problems of Cologne are, I think, symptomatic of the way we do not challenge these words.

We have a responsibility to challenge any concept, practice or ideology that promotes values which are at odds to those of our society. That doesn’t always mean that we reject anything that we perceive a foreign. Sometimes we embrace them and those values enhance our system, as has happened throughout our history. Yet, at the same time, we should feel no shame in decrying those values which are incompatible with our own. It happens frequently across the Middle East where Westerners are jailed for Western values and habits. And what is more: it is also correct that they are. If you go to Saudi Arabia and are caught having sex on the beach then the authorities have every right to charge you with criminality in the same way that they have the right to punish those that don’t abide by their rules concerning alcohol. If those cultures require improvement, it is up to the people living in those cultures to improve them as we improved our own. We need to rid ourselves of the mendacious cant that has polluted our thought and stifles our arguments. We need to say what we believe and feel no shame in believing in what we say.

David Waywell writes and cartoons at his blog The Spine.

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12 Comments on "The stench of bad Cologne"

  1. David, I’ve not come across reliable material to support the ‘Cologne Story’ that is creeping out. It doesn’t even have the ring of truth about it. Can anyone point me to some reliable source material?

    • Hm… Now you have me wondering if I’ve described it clearly enough. It was really a sense a few days ago that the media really picked up the Cologne story so very very slowly. I was talking to somebody who first pointed my attention to it and she said that she was surprised that it wasn’t across the news. It has, obviously, now become headlines but as Tim pointed out (HERE) more forcefully than I ever could, there was a certain reticence about talking about it. There was a piece HERE in The Guardian which touches on the subject and another HERE about German’s media.

  2. Ah, yes, I remember now. No doubt that’s why I’ve got red lights flashing in my mind about this whole matter.

  3. In Islamic countries across Asia and Africa children learn that the West is permissive and immoral. They learn girls are easy. They see pictures in magazines and in videos of scantily clad girls, boys kissing girls and son on. So as adults they carry this mentality. We have seen this in Rotherham England for example. Asian men wouldn’t allow their own daughters or sisters to speak to strangers let alone engage in illicit relationships. If an Asian girl of Muslim background is caught, at best she would be ostracized, her mobile is confiscated, at worst she will be murdered.
    Such men don’t understand that Western girls are not easy meat. A girl has to fancy a man and like him before she even let him touch her hand. So the behaviour of Muslim men in Cologne doesn’t surprise me. They are shocked by the reaction because they were under the impression it is OK to touch a girl or even rape her. Yes indeed it is a cultural thing that needs to be addressed at source in the schools in Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and all Arab countries.

    • Many thanks Nehed. That’s fascinating and explains so much. I agree. As I wrote, the problem is really about education in the countries where these people originate and that’s something we’re unable to change. I think there’s a certain naivety about people who assume that every person coming to Europe share our European sensibilities. I do it myself. I can never believe anybody could kill another person based on religion but that’s because I’ve never been indoctrinated with religious fundamentalism. That’s really why we have to look beyond colour and ethnicity and talk about cultures in a critical way. To do anything less is to fool ourselves into thinking that the world is enlightened, democratic, and safe.

  4. I wondered whether to comment on this subject as I have a lot to say but not the time to articulate it properly. As simply as I can put it then.
    Yes cultural background has played a role, but I don’t believe for one moment that the people doing this didn’t know that what they were doing was wrong, if that wasn’t the case there would be millions of sexual assaults of western women by immigrant muslim men every year. The perpetrators are scumbags who have been allowed entry because of inadequate border controls, a naive belief that helping people fleeing war torn countries trumps proper vetting and a misguided policy of propping up creaking economies and their welfare systems with immigrants, no matter who those immigrant are. This at a time when we have singularly failed to bring about the proper integration of the existing muslim population in Europe, frankly it beggars belief that anyone feels that adding more new faces is a good idea. My overly simplistic measures would be as follows, an IQ test with the bar set fairly high, you fail it you don’t get in, plus a 10 year parole period whereby if you are found as much as dropping a piece of litter you are back to your country of origin whether that is a death sentence to you or not. Finally if you attempt to enter illegally then you are immediately barred as you are already showing a willingness to break the law. When I talk to my muslim friends they think the Cologne mob ought to be flogged and sent back home, they recognise the danger people like this represent to their families and lives here and they think that our measures to deal with criminals like this are wholly inadequate and I have to say that liberal or not I find myself in agreement with them, we have enough home grown scum to deal with without importing more.

    • Thanks Rob. Your first sentence pretty much sums up how I’ve been feeling for weeks when struggling with earlier attempts at writing this. It’s such a difficult subject that I had to take a deep breath and try to write it slowly until I hit the end. Of course, it leaves gaps in my argument and that’s why I was so interested in reading Nehad’s description of other perceptions of Western values.

      You say that they knew what they were doing was wrong and, indeed, I find it hard to dispute that. But how wrong? Is it beyond our imaginations to believe that they simply don’t see Western women as being the same as women in their own culture? I’d like to understand the psychology of the mob. Were they simply ‘bad’ or is it more complicated? Do they simply ‘hate’ or does religion give them a warped notion of morality and the freedoms of the individual? It seems to me that we have a foolish notion that all people are the same when, in truth, cultural differences are profound and occasionally dangerously so.

      That makes me sound like I’m making the kinds of excuses that I wrote this article to discredit yet I agree with much of your conclusion. If we allow people to come in, we should also be allowed to send them back. Open borders are obviously dangerous and threaten the stability of Europe in a way that’s little discussed. Economic migration within the EU has changed nations in the past ten years in ways that are deeply worrying. It’s a failure of the Left to properly address wage deflation and migrant workers having fewer rights. However, they are so paralyzed by their own moral paranoia that they do nothing, meaning the issue is largely defined by the Right, many of whom are secretly delighted that there’s so much cheap labour knocking around.

      I like many things about the EU but I’ve always quite liked the idea of proper borders that require passports. The alternative is (self-evidently) chaos and a situation so complex that it’s beyond the power of our computers to model. I also like the idea of nations being nations. There’s also nothing remotely romantic or appealing about one great homogeneous mass called ‘Europe’ which is too big to even comprehend, let alone control.

  5. I’m now going to bore you with an anecdote David, sorry. I grew up on a particularly nasty council estate in the North East, when Labour put that deprivation study out about a decade or so ago it was in the worst 1% on the list. The school I went to was equally crappy, in the 5 years I was there we had 3 pupils killed, 2 murders, 1 manslaughter. I knew one of the murder victims, one of the accused murderers and the lad convicted for the manslaughter. At the time growing up, as I knew no better, it didn’t seem nearly as abnormal as it does today. Anyway you get the general idea, it wasn’t a nice place to grow up. Many years ago on the last day of my first year at school (I’d be 12) I witnessed in miniature something similar to Cologne. Being the last day our school always fought the school down the road, so by 2pm a group of 40 or so lads, some who had done their exams and recently left and a number of ex pupils who should have been old enough to know better had gathered at the bottom of what was a very large school field ready for the off, seeing this the headmistress let us out early, as soon as we were out, the small number of youths from the other school ran away, leaving the mob of our ex pupils with nothing to do. So instead of fighting they chose to chase down some 4th year girls who would have been about 15 and strip them naked, they caught about 3 of them as I remember. Whether the motive was directly sexual or not I am not sure, after they had got their clothes off they let the girls go, they possibly just thought it was funny, who knows, one thing is certain, there would have been a few ringleaders and a lot of followers. So where am I going with this?. Well some liberals would point to a deprived background, lack of parental guidance and being in the midst of a brutal existence to excuse the actions, those on the right would say what do you expect from feral males from a northern council estate, where they are male chauvinists and have no morals or respect for the law. They would both be wrong. If every male ex pupil aged 16-18 had turned up there would have been 450 young men there instead of 40 but the missing 410 weren’t scumbags so they didn’t bother, same shared experience, same education but they didn’t turn up to have a fight and cause trouble. In the same way if every recent male migrant to Germany had have turned out on NYE to commit robberies and sexual assaults there would have been utter mayhem, the majority that didn’t turn out to commit sexual assaults on the 31st come from the same cultures as those who did, share the same religion as those who did yet they don’t commit crimes. I wouldn’t dispute what Nehad says about the attitudes of some Asian men, it concurs with my experience (particularly in the case of Pakistanis) though I would add that it isn’t a view that is applied to all western women, just those seen as being loose by their actions or dress, yet the people I have heard espouse this to my knowledge have never behaved like the mob in Cologne. Do these attitudes influence the rate of offending, undoubtedly, but are they the reason? not for me, that is individual criminality. Some people are just bad people, others are easily led which in my view is just as bad and twice as dangerous.

    • First of all, Rob, nothing boring about that and, thank you for taking the time to give such a full argument, it’s very helpful to the debate.

      I do think we’re at cross purposes, however, in that I totally agree with what you say but not sure how you could think I was arguing otherwise.

      My piece was really about my own struggle to understand the reasons why the media and liberals in general (and, in that, I do consider myself fairly liberal) often refuse to debate issues when they involve ethnicity. I tried to
      provide a rational basis from which to address these issues. I then crudely tried to address that irritating word ‘Islamaphobia’ and, finally, argue that we need to start affirming our own cultural values without shame. That’s not to say we should be flag waving patriots. Much about our country and its history is wrong. But living in the here and now, we have a morality which we must defend with self-awareness but also a certain confidence. We have too many young ‘thinkers’ who are like the louts in Oxford wanting to tear down the statue of Cecil Rhoades. They are happy to argue that the Empire did much that was bad but unwilling to see the much that was good. The truth is always a mixture of both and only by accepting our history, both good and bad, can we move forward. Expunging Rhodes is the worst thing we can do. He is a reminder of where we were and, also, how we came to where we are now.

      My argument would be that: from where I’m sitting, I’d rather live in Europe than in the Middle East. I think many in the Middle East would share that opinion. However, attempts to change Europe so it has, for example, Sharia Law, would mean we lose those very qualities that make Europe preferable. It is therefore the duty of Europeans to say with a certain confidence that we don’t agree with beheadings, stonings, or female genital mutilation. Again, we can say it with confidence because we know from our own history that we our cultures use to have equally nasty practices which we had the good sense to abandon.

      Going back to Cologne: all of what you’ve written is right and reasonable. I’m not denying that people can be ‘bad’ or, in this case, are bad. I would add a caveat, though, in that there is definitely a difference between individual behaviour and mob behaviour. What you describe is what I think most people would recognise when in a mob and it’s that people act differently when surrounded by people. Didn’t Derren Brown do something about this last night? I didn’t see it but read about his using peer pressure to make people commit terrible crimes. If I’ve got it wrong, forgive me, but my point is that there is something about mobs which turn people feral and it probably has something to do with people dropping to the very worst element within them.

      There I think we just agree that some people are bad. As to why they are bad… I’m an atheist so I don’t believe in angels or demons. I think people are probably wired to be bad like some people are wired to like excitement. Jon Ronson wrote a good book about this. The Psychopath Test.

      As always, thanks for the feedback. It’s good to have my brain prodded with alternate points of view (though here I think we largely agree), especially when they’re done in the spirit that my pieces are written.

      • I certainly didn’t think you were arguing otherwise David, I was just (considerably) fleshing out my earlier post and responding to your question of what motivates this sort of mob behaviour, which in my view is a hardcore of bad people manipulating weak idiots. I remember a Derren Brown program some years ago which carried out the Milgram experiment as part of it and which I think was assessing how likely it would be to persuade members of a group to carry out a serious crime, they were chosen based on how little they would challenge a figure in authority I think, with those who did eliminated, perhaps it was a repeat of that?.

  6. I would like to thank you for the excellent article.

    It seems that there have been numerous similar attacks in Sweden over the past few years though not involving so many people so somehow this was simply waiting to happen. The question remains – how long is the western public going to accept such behaviour and how do they combat it? After all during the past months there have been many reports of young female refugees being raped in the various shelters by groups of refugee males and no one seems to be very bothered, especially when the girls are Christians, who seem to be the main targets. Any criticism is met with accusations of racism against the refugees/asylum seekers and many cases were simply hushed-up and not reported.

    I’m afraid that this is only the beginning of a very difficult transition within those societies which have accepted such large numbers of mainly male migrants. But even in the UK we have seen a real reluctance to engage with this problem even when serious crimes have been committed (Rotherham and elsewhere). It’s not just the problem of being non-PC to criticise and mention it, it seems that the criminals involved came from communities whose leaders are loath to engage and combat the topic. Is it just mob behaviour to abuse hundreds of young girls who don’t have sufficient parental guidance and whose blight was ignored by the social services who were supposed to protect them?

    • Many thanks, Ruth. Glad you liked it.

      What you say is so very true. The lack of community action is clearly one of the main problems. In that respect, Rotherham is probably the perfect example. Too many places in the UK have allowed ghettos to develop where there’s been very little done to encourage integration and the adoption of UK customs. Some people move here yet never learn English, which seems ludicrous. The result is that we have places like Rotherham where communities do become sealed off and insular, continuing customs and cultural norms that clash with the culture of the surrounding society. I recollect that the independent inquiry on Rotherham cited a lack of response from inside the local community, as well as the trepidation of politicians who feared to address the ethnicity question. They are both symptoms of the same problem and we should start to solve it by learning to separate the largely pointless talk about ethnicity from the necessary discussions about culture. We need to learn to become blind to the colour of a person’s skin and look to judge their actions. Wrong is wrong and it shouldn’t be so difficult to say that.

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