Denial is an often useful innate human trait. Few of us would be able to function in the present if we did not put out of mind many unpleasant realities — such as our inevitable death. The Woody Allen character in the movie "Annie Hall" stated the comic extreme version of not using the denial mechanism when, as a child he refused to do his homework because in 5 billion years the sun would explode, "so, what's the use?"
But when a person, or a society, denies emerging or imminent dangers, the peace of mind it gains will be extremely short term, while the harm may be sustained or fatal.
Most of the world today not only is in denial concerning the truly appalling likely consequences of the rise of radical Islam, it often refuses to even accept unambiguous evidence of its existence.
The latest minor example of the latter is occurring at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As has been generally reported, an Iranian Muslim student drove a jeep into a crowd of students, causing only minor injuries. He turned himself in and informed the police and the media that he was trying to kill the students to "avenge the deaths of Muslims around the world."
Neither the university nor most of the media has been willing to characterize this event as a terrorist attempt by a radical Muslim. Mr. Colmes, on "Hannity and Colmes" seemed to express genuine puzzlement as to why it mattered whether we called it that or merely an act of violence. Similarly, the attack at the Los Angeles International Airport a few years ago was for nine months just called a violent attack, before it was finally characterized by police as a radical Muslim act of terrorism.
I have been in contact with British politicians who tell me that there is increasing radical Muslim street violence in Britain that is explicitly motivated by radical Islam but is not reported or characterized as such. Even in its cleansed versions, I am told, these incidents are being extremely underreported.
In Antwerp last month, according to the reporter Paul Belien, rioting Moroccan "youths" went on a rampage destroying cars and beating up reporters, but the police were instructed not even to stop them or arrest them. According to an anonymous policeman, "An ambulance was told to switch off its siren because that might provoke the Moroccans." This event, too, was under reported, or not reported at all in American media.
And of course, last October in Paris and other French cities, hundreds of buildings were torched and tens of thousands of cars burned by Muslim "youths" through weeks of rioting, while both the French government and most of the "responsible" experts denied there was any radical Muslim component to the greatest urban violence to hit France since World War. It was all to do with poverty and teenage angst and alienation.
Of course poverty and alienation can't explain the Iranian student in North Carolina. He has just received one of the finest educations available to a privileged American. He reportedly has received advanced degrees in philosophy and psychology from one of our top universities.
The media has pointed out that there is no evidence he was connected to Al Qaeda or another terrorist cell. But that is exactly the point. As I discussed in my book last year, the threat to the West is vastly more than bin Laden and Al Qaeda (although that would be bad enough.)
The greater danger is the ferment in Islam that is generating radical ideas in an unknown, but growing percentage of grass-roots Muslims around the world — very much including in Europe and, to a currently lesser extent, in the United States.
A nation cannot design (and maintain public support for) a rational response to the danger if the nature and extent of the danger is not identified, widely reported and comprehended.
What are we dealing with? A few maladjusted "youth"? Or a larger and growing number of perfectly well-adjusted men and women — who just happen to be adjusted to a different set of cultural, religious (or distorted religious) and political values. And does it matter that those values are inimical to western concepts of tolerance, democracy, equality and religious freedom?
The public has the right and vital need to have the events of our time fully and fairly described and reported. But a witch's brew of psychological denial and political correctness is suppressing the institutional voices of government, police, schools, universities and the media when it comes to radical Islam.
As the danger grows but is not publicly described, the public will first be ignorant and fail to demand sufficient remedial action.
But as incidents and rumors are encountered over time, the public mind will inevitably suspect the worst and demand the strongest action. Demagogues will emerge to gratify that vox populi. (The Dubai port deal is a small example of such a process — although in that incident the threat is real and there are many sincere and rational voices amidst the many demagogues.)
Institutional voices are not being responsible by suppressing honest description of radical Islamic events. Denying the existence of evil (or refusing to be judgmental about it) has never proved a reliable method for defeating it. Hell is presumably filled with souls who didn't understand that point.