| I'm feeling a bit off-balance, because usually it's Jon who's got the poliwonk and Stephen with the musician. Alas, no duets tonight... although I suspect that'd be an unprecedented television event...
Well, Stephen's got Chris Caldwell. No, not the Mentalist/corporate entertainer who "demonstrates telepathy, super-memory, and intuition," the Senior Editor at the Weekly Standard, columnist at the Financial Times, and author of Reflections on the Revolution In Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West.
He's also been published in an assortment of other Major Name Outlets, so naturally he's been reviewed in them -- especially those on the right. But even those on the left give his work a certain amount of respect:
The more time you spend with Christopher Caldwell and his all-over-the-map musings on his conviction that we should all be afraid, very afraid, of the danger presented by each and every Muslim in the world, the more you start to wonder if he is not in fact playing some kind of Stephen Colbert angle here.
Like the great Colbert himself, Caldwell can drone through an extended passage of what sounds like serious analysis as he explores his thesis that godless Europeans basically have no shot against the invading hordes of Islam who are going to take over their continent sooner or later, because, well, they're foreign. Then he can turn on a dime and let loose with a real howler....
Well OK, not that one. But you can see why I had to include it. Without getting into the details, let me give you this:
Caldwell somewhat overstates the case - surely the failures of European immigration can be attributed to both the hostility of the masses and the insecurity of the elites. But then he is not seeking to be balanced and reasonable. This is a declamatory, polemical work and no more so than in its treatment of Islam. In fact, the book is really two essays - one an insightful probing of Europe's confusion about postwar immigration; the other a rather cartoonish polemic about the potential Islamic takeover of Europe.
The Foreign Affairs review begins with "Nothing is as seductive as a half-truth," and one interviewer reflected after the fact:
So on the whole what to make of the book? Caldwell asked me that he didn’t want the book to fit in with one of the two types of immigration book – namely the Islamic reconquest of Europe book or the brotherhood of man book. I think that I’d only partially agree with this because there elements in the book which presents Islam as a bogeyman hovering over Europe. This is slightly weird because I also think that Caldwell is being honest when he said on ’start the week’ that he is instinctively pro-immigration and he was sympathetic to the argument that a lot of problem with the discourse is that the media sensationalises stories against Muslims.
However, If you read it for the pure reporting parts of it such as the rise of Pim Fortyn and his anti-migration stance fitting in with a defence of liberal traditions, and ignore the polemical bit, it is quite interesting and as Caldwell told me, something that he hopes 2nd and 3rd generation citizens can engage with.
Then again, there's this:
Caldwell is a columnist for the Financial Times and an editor of the conservative American magazine the Weekly Standard. Reflections on the Revolution in Europe is the latest in a succession of books by authors such as Mark Steyn, Oriana Fallaci, Bruce Bawer and Melanie Phillips warning of how immigration, and in particular Muslim immigration, is threatening the very foundations of European civilisation. The melodramatic title of Caldwell's book is a nod to Edmund Burke and reflects his belief that the impact on European of postwar immigration has been as dramatic as the fall of the ancien regime in 1789.
What is different about Caldwell is the high praise garnered by his book not simply from right-wing critics of immigration but from many liberals too - there were laudatory reviews in both the Guardian and the Observer. Caldwell, as Prospect editor David Goodhart puts it in the Observer, "is a bracing, clear-eyed analyst of European pieties."
But is he? Three basic arguments underlie Caldwell's thesis....
Reflections on the Revolution in Europe is trenchantly written and robustly argued. It is complex and often subtle. It is also fundamentally wrong in both premise and conclusion.
No idea how they'll approach tonight's interview.