American politicians and media people have been making much of what they perceive as a profound distinction between “radicalization” and “self-radicalization.” While they consider both to be Bad Things, the perception seems to be that, as a rule, “radicalization” is the badder of the two, as it implies that foreign jihadists are able to exert a powerful influence within the borders of the United States. Yet this distinction is as dubious, not to say false, as a hypothetical differentiation between conversion and self-conversion would be, since both radicalization and conversion are effected by a combination of outward responsiveness and internal disposition. If anything, self-radicalization is a more alarming phenomenon than other-radicalization, so far as it indicates the formation of a fifth column within the United States born of profound social disaffection and genuine religious bigotry and intolerance.
However that may be, radicalization of one sort or another has been proceeding in America since the 1930’s, when radicalism meant communism, and again since the 1960’s, when it meant the New Left—mainly among the intelligentsia and the political class who, in recent decades, have been fervent adherents to the radical ideology of multiculturalism, their very own invention. Is this a case of radicalization or self-radicalization, then? As in all previous instances, it is, of course, a combination of both. Indeed, the most prominent contemporary example of an American radical is President Barack Obama, who was radicalized in childhood by his racist self-hating white Marxist mother and has subsequently been self-radicalizing himself throughout his career.
The fact has escaped notice by the left, for whom radical means “white extremist” and “religious extremist” of any faith. More tellingly still, leftists refuse to recognize that the evils they falsely attribute to Christianity are all inherent in the religion of Islam, whose good name they are determined to defend at any cost, including the security of “the homeland” and the safety of their fellow citizens.
Chilton Williamson, Jr., was the senior editor for books for Chronicles since 1989, and was appointed as editor beginning June 1, 2015. He is the author of several books, including Mexico Way, The Education of Hector Villa, The Hundredth Meridian, The Immigration Mystique, The Conservative Bookshelf, and After Tocqueville: The Promise and Failure of Democracy. His latest book, Jerusalem, Jerusalem (Chronicles Press), released in 2017.