One week back in 2007, I was paid a not inconsiderable sum of money to fly first class from Oslo to Washington, D.C., on the Tuesday and to fly back on the Thursday, so that I could give a hour-long lunchtime talk on the Wednesday to an audience of American and international diplomats. Given that I had been compensated so well and given, as it was explained to me, that I had been accorded the star spot, the sole solo turn, in the middle of a day-long conference consisting otherwise of panel discussions about Western Europe, I foolishly expected a friendly reception.
My first doubts in this respect began to arise only moments after the event kicked off. Sitting through the morning’s panels, I heard one highly credentialed individual after another – professors, politicians, and retired and active diplomats from various countries – join in predicting a glowing future for Western Europe. Socially and economically, they all agreed, prospects looked a lot brighter for Western Europe than for America. Not a single one of the dozen or so panelists diverged from this consensus.
After three or four hours of sunny prophesizing, everybody lined up for the buffet. When they were all back in their seats, I was introduced and, from a lectern up front, proceeded to serve up a condensed version of the argument of my 2006 book While Europe Slept. I described the rise of Islam in Western Europe, the failure of Muslims to integrate, and the consequent increase in gang crime, welfare dependency, forced marriage, sharia-run enclaves, and numerous other ills – the usual litany. Western Europe, I maintained, was undergoing a radical metamorphosis that, unless drastic action were taken, would ultimately bring its liberal democracies crashing down.
It’s easy to read an audience. As I spoke, I could feel the snappily dressed, self-impressed-looking crowd growing restive. When I was done and they were invited to ask questions, I didn’t get questions but incredibly condescending razzes, remonstrations, and reproaches. A German envoy reacted angrily to my account of some recent incident – I don’t remember what – that had taken place in her country. Her colleagues from a couple of other countries had similar bones to pick. “These are just anecdotes!” one diplomat thundered dismissively. I tried to engage them in a reasonable give-and-take, but they weren’t having it.