In his book "The Enemy at Home," Dinesh D'Souza shows little patience with the leftists who reacted to 9/11 by declaring that America had it coming. And yet, his book is a variant on that theme. It was our cultural decadence, our foul popular movies, music and pornography, D'Souza argues, that enraged traditional Muslims worldwide and moved some to violence.
D'Souza is a thoughtful and interesting writer, and many of his observations about the cultural left worldwide, and particularly about the dismaying state of popular culture in America, got vigorous head nods from conservative readers.
D'Souza summarizes episodes from a couple of recent TV sitcoms. "On the CBS show 'Two and a Half Men,' Charlie gets together with an old girlfriend only to discover that she is now a he. ... The humor deepens when Charlie discovers that the former girlfriend, now a man, is having sex with Charlie's middle-aged mom."
Shock jocks and rap music have long since blown through all barriers of taste and even what used to be called "common decency" on radio. Raw pornography is now available on all computers, most cable systems and in many hotel rooms. If you can't afford it in those forms, the American librarians have fought bravely to ensure that you can access it for free at your local library.
Conservatives no doubt emphatically endorsed D'Souza's view that this cultural filth is polluting America. But he has crawled out on a limb in suggesting that Islamic radicals are responding the same way to the same provocation. He quotes Mustafa Akyol, a Turkish Muslim writer, to the effect that "America must do a better job of portraying its principles of decency. Otherwise it will be despised by devout Muslims throughout the world, and the radicals will channel that contempt into violence."
For the sake of argument, let's stipulate that America's cultural exports in the form of movies and music are the principal cause of Muslim hatred of the United States. This cultural rot did not set in, D'Souza acknowledges, until after the 1960s. Yet the godfather of the radical movement that spawned Osama bin Laden was the Egyptian writer Sayyid Qutb, who formed his fanatical beliefs after living in the United States in the late 1940s.