Essay: Caliphate: Propaganda and Prediction
Caliphate, Tom Kratman, 2008.
There is a thought in some quarters today – Castalia House and some of its bloggers, for instance, come to mind — that science fiction is too politicized.
I sympathize. If someone believes that “everything is political”, that the totality of everything is political, then they are a totalitarian with everything in the world on the agenda to be promoted or destroyed or altered.
On the other hand, politics is baked into science fiction’s literary genes. Half of its forbearers, the satire and the utopia, are inherently political genres.
No science fiction reader would disagree. We can all think of dreadful warnings about what will happen if our society doesn’t stop something or other. And we all know about the utopian schemes of many a science fiction writer.
Every once in a great while one of these political books does achieve something of its goals. More often they are ignored. Sometimes, when reading a utopian work, one thinks “Can you just send me the policy abstract, please?”
Propaganda, swaying minds, is a difficult thing. And we probably could come up with our own list of science fiction novels that have done that – but our lists would vary. One reader’s life changing book is another’s turgid sermon with cardboard characters and ridiculous assumptions.
I thought I’d look at one recent book, a propagandistic novel, because I think it does use some interesting strategies in its attempt to sway minds and because the issue it deals with still plagues us and is unresolved ten years later.
I’m using the term propaganda in a morally neutral way, here fiction intended to produce a desired opinion in the reader. We’ll put aside issues of authorial veracity.
I’m also going to admit up front that this novel, whatever its rhetorical or political merits, is probably, like so many propaganda works, a failure. You’ll find few freestanding reviews of it online though there are 250 plus Amazon reviews.
It didn’t sway my mind. I already shared Kratman’s concerns. I only picked it up because of the back cover blurb by Mark Steyn: “Kratman’s dystopia is a brisk page-turner full of starling twists.”
Steyn didn’t just provide the cover blurb. His America Alone, concerned with the problems of Moslem immigration to the West, is one of the major inspirations for this book. I have not read America Alone, but I’m familiar enough with the updated versions of its arguments since I’m a paid member of the Mark Steyn Club.
As to the rest of the back cover (which, obviously, Kratman probably had little control over):
‘Slavery is a part of Islam … Slavery is part of jihad, and jihad will remain as long as there is Islam.’ – Sheikh Saleh Al-Fawzan, author of the religious textbook At-Tawhid (‘Monotheism’) and senior Saudi cleric.
Demography is destiny. In the 22nd century European deathbed demographics have turned the continent over to the more fertile Moslems. Atheism in Europe has been exterminated. Homosexuals are hanged, stoned or crucified. Such Christians as remain are relegated to second class citizenship and specially taxed via the Koranic yizya.
In that world, Petra, a German girl sold into prostitution as a slave at the age of nine to pay her family’s yizya, dreams of escape. Unlike most girls of the day, Petra can read. And in her only real possession, her grandmother’s diary, a diary detailing the fall of European civilization, Petra has learned of a magic place across the sea: America.
A brief summation of the story follows.
We follow two characters. One is that girl Petra, eventually sold into a brothel in the European caliphate. The second is John Hamilton, graduate of the Imperial Military Academy, class of 2106. That would be the Empire that America became and that now occupies South America, North America, Britain, and parts of the Philippines.
Hamilton will eventually leave the regular army to head a mission to track down three bacteriological warfare scientists who have defected to the European caliphate. With the help of a Chinese agent working in the same brothel as Petra and Petra’s brother Hans, a crypto-Christian Janissary, Hamilton will burn the renegade’s lab (and the renegades) and accomplish his mission.
It’s fairly well told, Kratman lending his military experience (he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army) and, as these military adventures go, the action gets more detailed and slo-mo-ish the further you go. It’s somewhat lurid. Not only does Petra work in a brothel. That Chinese sleeper agent, Ling, becomes Petra’s lover and erotic tutor though, eventually, she’ll develop a thing for Hans. (And, now that you ask, Hamilton and Petra do develop a love for each other in the book. And, yes, Hamilton did have a did girlfriend, killed in combat, who looked a lot like Petra. I said the book was well paced, not cliché free.)
That theme of slavery runs through the book. Not only are there the traditional sex slaves in the brothel. There are some who are little more sacks of wet meat programmed to perform sex acts -via implants in their brains. Ling herself has something similar but high level and with added skills appropriate for her espionage work. Hamilton is very disturbed that his cover includes picking up a plane full of children in the Republic of South Africa to serve as sex slaves. It is, Hamilton notes, “a filthy future”.
Kratman goes out of his way to not show all Moslems as bad. When Petra is sold into slavery, her first placement is with a nice family, and she bonds with the family’s daughter. But she gets caught in some nasty family dynamics when the mother, jealous of the attention and resources her husband ladles on his daughter – her stepchild, maneuvers to have her son rape Petra and have her denounced as a whore. It’s off to the brothel with her.
But the novel’s main interest, besides Kratman’s basic political stance, are two documents that its characters read.
Petra’s grandmother, Gabrielle, kept a diary starting in 2003. It details her anti-Americanism and romance with a nice Moslem immigrant from Egypt, Mahmoud. He talks of Islam’s backwardness and viciousness towards women and warns his love of the danger posed by the increasing presence of Moslem men in Europe. He came there to escape Islam.
Being a good multiculturalist, she ignores the lesson. She gets pregnant. He even converts to Christianity. But he’s not going to live in a Europe increasingly under the sway of the Crescent. And his wife isn’t going to migrate to America.
He leaves for America. Where he dies – along with millions of others – when Islamic terrorists nuke three American cities.
In Germany, Gabrielle is raped and the officials are of no help. She finally, for her sake and her daughter’s, goes to an American consulate and applies for a visa.
In one of the most startling scenes, the consul official turns her down. She’s not the spouse of an American, and America is no longer willing to take the chance on allowing those who hate it and are of a culture too weak and suicidal to preserve itself and keep invaders out to immigrate to America.
The diary is, in effect, a dire warning of what will happen, personalized through the story of one woman, if Europe doesn’t mend its ways.
What happens from that point to the time of Hamilton is covered in Empire Rising (from Baen Historical Press no less), a rather repressed history that Hamilton reads before his deployment as an intelligence operative.
It’s interesting to note that, during his time fighting Filipino Moro rebels in the American Empire, Hamilton explicitly compares his work to the Einsatzgruppen, the roving Nazi death squads that operated in conquered lands on the Eastern front during World War Two.
Now, there are plenty of science fiction novels of the future that have their heroes and heroines come across some narrative of how things got so messed up before they were born. Often those stories lead a protagonist to mount some heroic reform effort on their world or, at least, escape it. Not here.
Hamilton doesn’t reform his world. He saves America and what’s left of Western Civilization from genocide, but he doesn’t change the world, just stops a disaster, makes a few lives better.
Empire Rising is sort of a libertarian and disapproving history of how things went very wrong after those cities got nuked on September 11, 2015. President Pat Buckman (yes, it does sound like Pat Buchanan) takes drastic matters to consolidate power and launch revenge on Islam. That consolidation includes the sanctioned execution of political opponents when prosecution of political homicides become entirely the province of the federal government. Private citizens carry out the assassinations. The president issues pardons.
I suspect Kratman’s point is, while this sort of thing could become necessary, wouldn’t it be better if it didn’t, if Islamic immigration to the West ceased?
That’s the propaganda. What about the prediction?
Well, this falls in the category of science fiction jeremiads that deal with gradual disaster, not sudden apocalypse.
Obviously no American cities have gotten nuked. On the other hand, the disaster of Moslem migration seems continuing as Kratman predicted.
Depending on the preferences of your local government-media-tech company combine, you can find the stories. But, for some, ideology and normalcy bias will mean things are ok. When haven’t we had massive bombings, bollard installations, grenade attacks, anti-blasphemy laws, and widespread child rape? A small price to pay for exotic food and diversity.
As the saying goes: “Democracy. Multiculturism. Mass Immigration. Choose any two.”
The reason why you don’t get all three is that immigrants vote, conglomerate in zones where previous immigrants of their type went – and bring relatives (or at people claimed as relatives) to the soil of their new country. The authorities, to keep peace between the factions, began to clamp down on speech and ignore crimes if committed by a favored group.
The details of how this happens are outside the scope here, but you can read Kratman’s afterword to the novel on his website to learn some of them.
In short, I’m on board with most of his criticisms.
Yet, there’s a whiff of libertarianism about that afterword and a naïve belief in human universalism.
Kratman seems to blame Europe’s problems in part on socialism, importing workers to pay generous pensions of native Europeans who didn’t have enough children.
That’s certainly a factor in its problems. But Douglas Murray’s The Strange Death of Europe, whose first edition I read this summer, hints the problem may have started with a certain ennui and dissatisfaction in Europe even before the First World War. Granted, socialism played its role. On the other hand, Scandinavian socialist countries functioned relatively well before they allowed mass immigration.
The usual tactic of Western politician who pushed this immigration policy for decades is tell a skeptical public that immigrant labor is needed, they won’t drain the welfare system, they won’t increase crime, the culture won’t change. When the public complains at the millions undigested by the former culture and the attendant problems, the answer is “Well, it’s too late to do anything about it now.”
Of course, immigrants and immigrant bodies are a physical problem that is entirely manageable in the physical world.
But there comes a time, particularly in regard to Moslem immigration, when I suspect the resolution will come to blood or submission to an invading culture. (And Murray talks about the disaffected in the West who willingly submit even now.) That’s basically Kratman’s future without the nukes.
I think the idea of an effective American Empire, even at the point of a very vigorously wielded sword, very unlikely. Americans are crappy imperialists, way too moralistic, and even nuking three cities, I suspect, would not change “who we are”. Nor do I think a military force drawn from all those conquered lands would be as effective as Kratman imagines. Bluntly, I doubt the potential quality of the recruits.
A much more improbable bit of psychology comes with Kratman’s depiction of Moslem reaction to the acts of the American Empire. It nukes large swathes of the Middle East including Mecca. Yet, the Caliphate reigns in Europe. I think the nuking of the Black Stone, rendering it unable to speak a Moslem’s name to Allah on their death, would create a major demoralization in Islam, peel off many believers in this fatalistic religion which claimed that could not happen. Do I think Islam would end? No, it has many clever clerics. Certainly one of them could come up with the necessary contortions to preserve the faith. After all, the Millerites survived the Great Disappointment.