French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the global Frankfurt Book Fair last week, preaching European unity and cultural diversity to thousands of book buyers, agents, editors, and publishers. But French author Michel Houellebecq’s appearance and reading from Submission stole the show.
“There are so many groups trying to spread hatred, fanaticism, and dogmatism, and we have to stand up to that,” Macron declared to the crowd, leaving what groups he was thinking of unnamed. Books are “what holds us together, what prevents us from closing ourselves off, and prevents us from giving way to fear, brutality, and disunity.” They “help us to understand and see what we have in common, and to understand our differences,” Merkel added with signature vacancy. “In literature, we see the reflection of the soul of our society, which is based on freedom, and that freedom of expression goes hand-in-glove with political freedom.”
Wait a second. European countries frequently prohibit freedom of expression, as Americans understand it. Islamophobia, Fortress Europe, più immigrazione graffiti, Alternative für Deutschland, and Le Pen constitute fear and brutality in French and German leaders’ eyes.
And there’s Houellebecq. With style and sardonic wit, Submission tells the tale of weary Euro-depravity and the French political class’s sellout to Islam with a happy face. It’s one of the most important books of our times. “Michel Houellebecq is one of the biggest stars in France’s literary scene — and one of the most provocative. Fans eagerly awaited his event, where he said European culture was endangered and hoped for more French pride,” German television Deutsche Welle exclaimed.
This weekend Austria elected a smooth new chancellor, 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz. He is openly nationalist, pro-Catholic, and immigrant restrictive in outlook. As foreign minister, Kurz rose to prominence after arranging in 2016 to seal Austria’s southern border and close the Balkans route. He criticized boat policy in Tripoli this May, saying, “migrants who are saved in the Mediterranean should not be guaranteed a ticket to Central Europe.” Joining forces with the Freedom Party, Kurz wants, for example, to decrease migrant welfare incentives and close separate Islamic pre-schools.
Europe’s ruling class and established media despise such thoughts, just as they loathe Michel Houellebecq. After the December 2016 Austrian presidential election, which provided a preview of the winning coalition, “one could not help but feel reminded of the 1930s,” wrote a fevered Julia Ebner in the Guardian. “Nazi activities have risen at an unprecedented pace.”
But it’s not that at all. Ordinary Europeans are worrying about their uninvited guests. Many think government authorities disregard their jobs, safety, schools, and housing in favor of migrants and asylum seekers. These Europeans do not benefit directly from global finance or cheap imported labor. They are often regionalists at heart.
Two years ago, in the summer and fall of 2015, a million or more Mideasterners, most of them Muslim, relocated in the heart of Europe, where they are destined to remain. Enabled by corrupt Greek and Turkish governments, an uninvited, undocumented army of youngish men streamed into southeastern Europe, moving toward Munich, Budapest, and Vienna without resistance. Europe could not — or would not — protect its borders.
The Atlantic media portrayed this sudden, opportunistic invasion as a sea of distressed Syrian refugees, forlorn mothers clinging to their babies. EU officials and economists insisted that migrants were essential ingredients of Europe’s population growth, economic welfare, and healthy future. They were a reservoir of talent able to “rescue” economies.
But after two troubled years, it’s hard to keep pretending — or expect Europe’s taxpayers to abide the costs of wooly thinking. The Wall Street Journal reports, “there is a sense that the government, having housed and fed migrants, is failing in the longer-term effort to integrate them in German society.” Many Europeans want to know how these “guests” who don’t speak any European language, possess few technical skills, and often abhor basic Western ideas are a benefit. First-world money keeps the disorder and squalor contained, but European voters don’t like the deracination that goes with the increasingly alien landscape.
The AfD party was the big winner in German federal elections last month, securing third place in the Bundestag, the national parliament. Coming up short, and under pressure to create a ruling coalition, Merkel has agreed grudgingly to limit new migrant arrivals to 200,000 per year going forward. She has never repented her disastrous 2015 open-borders policies.
Too late and too hollow, Merkel is no longer the uncontested leader of the German government or the EU. Macron wants to be number-one, but he must be careful. When he reproached African requests for handouts last summer, he was roundly denounced for his honesty. Xenophobia, racism, and eugenics lurk behind efforts at population control, according to the international community.
Repeated financial crises and globalist ideology have dulled EU appeal and authority. Nationalism and sovereignty are on the uptick. As was spottily forecast in 2015, a rising number of Europeans — British, French, Dutch, Germans, Austrians and others — seek government officials and policies pledged to their security and coveted ways of life.