‘See something, say something.” We’ve all seen ads from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that ask people not to turn a blind eye to suspicious activity. But all too often the reality, both in the U.S. and even more so in Europe, is that neighbors, politicized police departments, and the mainstream media act as if the slogan should be “See Something, Do Nothing.”
After the two San Bernardino terrorists killed 14 people last month, KNX Radio in Los Angeles reported that a neighbor didn’t report suspicious activity at the couple’s apartment for fear of being accused of racial profiling. Before he launched the 2009 Fort Hood massacre, Major Nidal Hasan spouted violent Islamic rhetoric to his neighbors on the base, but they ignored him for fear of being accused of “Islamophobia.” As part of a court settlement with the ACLU, the New York City Police Department has just ended its mapping program that allowed it to identify places in the city that an Islamic terrorist might frequent. The settlement also required the NYPD to take down from its website a 2007 report called “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat.”
Ostrich-like behavior that puts political correctness ahead of security concerns is even more prevalent in Europe. Just after German chancellor Angela Merkel broadcast a New Year’s Eve welcome (with subtitles in Arabic) to the million new migrants that had entered Germany during 2015, a mob of a thousand men — largely of “Arab or North African” origin — sexually assaulted more than 100 German women near Cologne’s train station. The number of overall criminal complaints, including theft, stemming from that night now stands at 561. Of the 31 people whom police are investigating in relation to the Cologne attacks, 18 are asylum seekers. Similar attacks also occurred in Hamburg, Stuttgart, and five other German cities. All told, there 167 reports of sexual assault on New Year’s Eve.
At first, Cologne officials did all they could to avoid reporting the politically awkward facts surrounding the crime orgy. Then police reports leaked out. One man detained by police allegedly scolded them: “I am Syrian. You have to treat me kindly. Ms. Merkel invited me.” Another tore up his permit to stay in Germany and said: “You can’t touch me. I’ll just go back tomorrow and get a new one.”
Cologne mayor Henriette Reker’s first response to the assaults was to insist that “under no circumstances” should the crimes be attributed to asylum seekers. Instead, she suggested that women follow a “code of conduct” and keep “an arm’s length away” from men. After the public learned that police had concealed full descriptions of the assailants, Reker was forced to fire Cologne police chief Wolfgang Albers. After this move, however, she continued to focus on the behavior of the women, rather than the attackers: “One must behave wisely when moving around in a group. One behaves wisely by not demonstrating exuberant joy to everyone you meet and who smiles at you. Such gestures can be misunderstood.” Talk about blaming the victim.
Germany’s mainstream media were painfully slow to react to the Cologne assaults. Jorg Luyken, a reporter for the English-language Local newspaper, noted that “the national media also ignored the story until a wave of anger on social media made covering it unavoidable.” This isn’t surprising “in a media climate which is far more comfortable wringing its hands over the far right than offering objective reporting,” he wrote. “Newsrooms are at one and the same time scared of appearing racist and terrified of stirring up a latent racism they believe still exists in German society.”
Germany’s government has its own priorities. This week, it concluded an agreement with Facebook, Google, and Twitter to censor German “hate speech” about migrants on social media — the very media that forced the Cologne story into the open. Small wonder that a poll from the Allenbach Institute found nearly half of all Germans are afraid to voice their opinion on migrant issues, saying they feel they must be “very careful” about what they say.
Peter Agren, who headed the police unit at the 2014 festival, told the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter that the police withheld information for fear of inflaming public anger at refugees and building support for the Sweden Democrats, a hardline party that wants to restrict asylum seekers. “We sometimes don’t say it like it is, because we think that’ll play into the hands of the Sweden Democrats.” Such restraint may explain why Sweden today is the rape capital of the West. Southern Africa’s Lesotho is the only country in the world where more rapes occur.
For years, the Swedish media have largely failed Swedish citizens by not giving them a true picture of the country’s growing crime wave. As Soeren Kern of the Gatestone Institute reports:
The Internet radio station Granskning Sverige called the mainstream newspapers Aftonbladet and Expressen to ask why they had described the perpetrators (of recent crime) as “Swedish men” when they actually were Somalis without Swedish citizenship. They were hugely offended when asked if they felt any responsibility to warn Swedish women to stay away from certain men. One journalist asked why that should be their responsibility.
Then there is the infamous Rotherham case that broke open in 2014. That English town of only 110,000 people harbored a child sex-ring run by men of Pakistani descent that abused some 1,400 English girls over a 16-year period. An official government inquiry found that authorities had turned a blind eye to evidence of abuse for fear of “giving oxygen to racist perspectives.” Denis MacShane, the former member of parliament for Rotherham and a self-described “liberal leftie,” lamented in retrospect, in the official report that Rotherham produced after the crimes hit the news, that too many people in positions of power were “not wanting to rock the multicultural community boat.”
All this is madness, even a form of suicide of the West, to borrow James Burnham’s famous title. In the current issue of the National Interest, Malte Lehming, an editor at Berlin’s Der Tagesspiegel, wonders whether there is a revival of “a nasty theme in German history.”
He points out:
After the Second World War, the crimes of the Third Reich were suppressed. During the Cold War, many did not want to acknowledge the crimes of the Communists. Are Germans now suppressing what awaits their country thanks to the high number of immigrants?
For Americans, the more pertinent question is this: Are we allowing political correctness to destroy the very values of individual responsibility and truth-telling that have helped immigrants assimilate successfully throughout our history? Or, under the thumb of PC, are we increasing the risk of terrorist violence? If the answer to both is yes, the unhappy political conditions might be such that Americans would feel tempted to rip up the welcome mat for foreigners.
— John Fund is NRO’s national-affairs correspondent.