Book Review: ‘The War on the West’: Ringing Response to Denying a Positive Western Tradition

BY Stephen Oles TIMEJune 14, 2022 PRINT

“In recent years it has become clear that there is a war going on: a war on the West, a cultural war, being waged remorselessly against all the roots of the Western tradition and against everything good that the Western tradition has produced.”—Douglas Murray

In his previous book, “The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race, and Identity” (2019), Murray compared himself to a machine that explodes land mines so that soldiers may follow more safely behind.

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“The Madness of Crowds” is Douglas Murray’s previous book. (Bloomsbury)

The British author, only 43, who has written for National Review and the Spectator, may be the most valuable and articulate critic of everything that ails Western society today. He bravely and forcefully takes on subjects that most of us are afraid to even bring up.

His “The Strange Death of Europe” (2018) details the impact of that continent’s welcoming in millions of Third World migrants. “The Madness of Crowds” exposes the destructive insanity of identity politics. Now Murray completes the trilogy with “The War on the West” (2022), an appropriately infuriating but ultimately moving and inspiring defense of Western civilization against the cultural vandals who seek to destroy it from within.

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“The Strange Death of Europe” by Douglas Murray charts the impact of migration on the continent. (Bloomsbury Publishing)

Poisonous Flowers

The book is divided into four sections: “Race,” “History,” “Religion,” and “Culture.” Murray marshals an army of facts against those who see nothing in the Judeo-Christian West but racism and oppression.

He traces this trend back to the 18th century, showing how Enlightenment self-criticism brought forth in the 20th century the poisonous flowers of nihilism and Marxism.

This was followed in the 21st century by “critical race theory” and other movements that dismiss our civilization as evil and exploitive while celebrating everything non-Western as blameless and morally perfect.

Conservatives have long believed that the worst, most extreme ideas of the Left, born in the academy, would stay there. Once students graduated, got jobs, and had families they would wise up. This hope turned out to be false. Since the 1960s, young people have carried the radical notions that they acquired in college into nearly every institution and corporation in America.

Patriotism, marriage, religion, and tradition became dirty words and several generations were taught to hate or at least be embarrassed by their country and the civilization that gave rise to it. (I remember a course, when I was in college, that boiled down American history to exactly four events: slavery, the Salem witch trials, segregation, and McCarthyism.)

Murray says that since every decent American knows and laments the history of slavery and racism in this country, decades ago “racist” became the worst thing one American could call another. Two years ago, when the George Floyd video shocked the nation, the left jumped at the chance to seize power by weaponizing racial division.

Although no evidence was ever produced that Floyd’s killing by a rogue cop had anything to do with skin color, extreme leftists were off to the races, denouncing everything and everyone who got in their way as racist and “white supremacist.”

A Ringing Defense

Murray chronicles the resulting hysteria from the Black Lives Matter riots to the Journal of the American Medical Association encouraging doctors to “level the playing field” by “letting more white people die.” All this self-loathing has given the Chinese Communist Party the perfect excuse for China’s miserable human rights record.

With even our current president declaring the United States a hotbed of “systemic racism,” a Chinese ambassador could confidently deny the United States the right to “get on a high horse and tell other countries what to do.”

This may all sound depressing, but Murray’s dry sense of humor makes it hilarious as well. His conclusion is a ringing defense of the civilization that developed universal human rights and banned slavery, and that gave people of all races and nationalities modern science, medicine, and free markets, along with the cultural gifts bequeathed by Shakespeare, Beethoven, and Michelangelo.

While he never denies the West’s imperfect moral record, he asks why only its sins are dwelt upon, while all non-Western cultures are celebrated, and their sins glossed over or blamed on Western influence.

In his indispensable trio of books, Murray gives us the factual ammunition to see clearly where we are and how we got here, and to push back against malicious “cancel culture.” Through it all, he remains optimistic:

“We in the West need to transform our societies from societies of resentment into societies of gratitude, to recognize that what we have is highly unusual, and to have some gratitude for that. […] And if we feel grateful for that, then to add to that inheritance as well.”

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Douglas Murray’s “War on the West.” (Broadside Books)

‘The War on the West’
By Douglas Murray
Broadside Books (HarperCollins), April 2022
Hardcover: 308 pages

Stephen Oles
Stephen Oles has worked as an inner city school teacher, a writer, actor, singer, and a playwright. His plays have been performed in London, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Long Beach, California. He lives in Seattle and is currently working on his second novel.
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