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The bias of normalcy in a time of insanity

There have been no civil wars in America’s recent past, no cities burned to the ground, and no famines. But there’s no denying that American society has changed in radical ways.

( Steidl)

I came across the term “normalcy bias” the other day.  It refers to a mental habit of assuming that things will continue to function as they normally have.  The normalcy bias causes us to underestimate the possibility of a life-changing disaster or a radical societal change.  It renders us more vulnerable and less prepared when hard times strike.

If a society goes a long time without experiencing a major catastrophe, then the normalcy bias is strengthened.  If history has treated your nation kindly for a long stretch, it’s natural to assume that it will continue to do so.

There have been no civil wars in America’s recent past, no cities burned to the ground, and no famines.  But although there have been no major disasters of that type, American society has changed in radical ways.  The normalcy bias reassures us that everything is as it has been, but your society is no longer normal when:

I could go on, but you get the picture.  The normalcy virus is easy to catch and hard to resist.  One reason it’s so prevalent in American society is our embrace of relativism.  That’s because relativism deprives us of the standards by which we can judge right from wrong and normal from abnormal.

With a loss of standards comes a loss of perspective.  The trivial can seem important, and the important, trivial.  Recently, one of the top stories in the news was Kellyanne Conway’s plug of Ivanka Trump’s line of clothing.  This relatively unimportant breach of White House protocol was treated as though it were the second coming of the Teapot Dome scandal.  From the media response, one would think she had seriously jeopardized national security.

Meanwhile, if you scoured the alternative media, you would discover that national security actually was being put at risk by a number of careless House Democrats.  At about the same time that the media was blasting Conway for her fashion faux pas, three Pakistani brothers, Abid, Imran, and Jamal Awan were relieved of their duties as information technology managers for dozens of Democrat members of the House of Representatives.  The brothers, who are suspected of illegal access and theft of data, worked for a long time for three members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, five members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and for various Democrat members of the Homeland Security Committee, the Armed Services Committee, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee (which oversees the nuclear industry).

In the big scheme of things that is a far bigger story than Kellyanne Conway’s comments on Ivanka Trump’s fashion line.  Yet I don’t recall any reference to it in the mainstream media.  Nor did I see any references in the MSM to Andre Carson’s connections to Muslim Brotherhood groups.  Who is Andre Carson?  A convert to Islam, Carson is a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence and was recently selected as the Ranking Member on the Emerging Threats Subcommittee which is responsible for much of counterterrorism oversight.  Yet Carson has extensive ties to Muslim Brotherhood-linked Islamist groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Muslim American Society (MAS), and the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO). Recently, Senator Ted Cruz introduced a Senate bill which would designate the Muslim Brotherhood, along with CAIR and ISNA as terrorist entities.  So the top Ranking Democrat on the Emerging Threats Subcommittee is a man who regularly associates with representatives of… emerging threats organizations.

Even if the loss of perspective and preparedness were confined to a handful of Congress members, there would be reason enough to worry, but it looks like the problem has spread to the general population.  A recent Rasmussen poll shows that a majority of Democrats think that Christians in the Muslim world are treated better than Muslims in America.  A CBS poll revealed that two-thirds of Democrats believe that Islam and Christianity are equally violent.  Meanwhile, judging by media reports, a good number of Americans think that a temporary immigration halt intended to keep Islamic terrorists out of the U.S. is a greater threat than the terrorists themselves.

The normalcy bias seems to have predisposed Americans to buy the argument that today’s Muslim Immigration is just like past immigrations to this country.  Like the German, Irish, and Italian immigrants of a century and more ago, Muslims, it is assumed, will assimilate and help make America a better place.  The hitch in this argument is that the Germans, Irish, and Italians were Christians, and Muslims are followers of Muhammad.  And that distinction seems to make a world of difference—especially when one considers that Muhammad saw migration as a means of conquest.

Instead of dreaming that Muslim immigration to the U.S. will follow the normal pattern of assimilation, it would be prudent if the dreamers were to cast their eyes across the Atlantic and contemplate an actual instance of large-scale Muslim immigration.  Europeans have had quite a bit of recent experience with Muslim immigration and, if the polls are to be believed, they don’t like it.  A new poll by Chatham House, a London-based think tank, shows that a majority of European citizens want a complete and permanent end to immigration from Islamic nations.  Those were the sentiments of 71 % of Poles, 65 % of Austrians, 53 % of Germans, 51 % of Belgians, 58 % of Greeks, 61 % of Frenchmen and 64 % of Hungarians.

You can’t say that the Europeans didn’t give it a try.  No one has been more committed to multicultural diversity and to welcoming the stranger than the people of Europe.  Only it hasn’t worked out, and Europeans can no longer take the chance that it someday might.  Instead, they are erecting walls and barbed wire barriers along their borders, while the police raid mosques, and the courts deport radical imams.  In Germany, a permanent security force now guards Cologne Cathedral, and in France a 21 million dollar bulletproof glass wall is being erected around the Eiffel Tower.  Faced with the example of Europe, Americans have no excuse for continuing to indulge their fantasy-based view of Islam.

Bruce Bawer, an American writer who has spent more than a decade living in Europe, puts it this way:

There was a time, in the years immediately after 9/11, when I was reasonably (though not entirely) confident that we Americans would be too savvy to let ourselves be led down the primrose path of Islamization.  I assumed that the alarming example of Europe—where the destructive nature of Islam’s impact was there for all to see—would be effective enough to persuade us to pull up the welcome mat and double-lock the door.

What he failed to imagine, he writes, was “that the post 9/11 generations of Americans would grow up to be so thoroughly drenched in political correctness that many of them would, in fact, come to see Islam not as an violent existential threat but as the most vulnerable of victim groups.”

“How depressing,” he continues, “that while more and more Europeans are snapping out of their self-delusions, all too many North Americans remain first-class dupes.”

According to an old saying, “Experience is a hard teacher, but a fool will have no other.” Let’s hope that Americans will learn from the harsh experience of Europeans, and give up their foolish hopes about Islam before it’s too late.  If we don’t, future generations may regard us not just as fools, but as damn fools.

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About William Kilpatrick 77 Articles
William Kilpatrick is the author of several books on religion and culture including Christianity, Islam, and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West (Ignatius Press). His new book, What Catholics Need to Know About Islam, is available from Sophia Institute Press. His work is supported in part by the Shillman Foundation

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