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Our two towers

Winning the war on terrorism means confronting Western versions of Saruman

Issue: "Tsunami," Jan. 15, 2005

J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings triology is about the epic struggle of "the free folk of the West" to ward off and defeat the temptations and the enemies that would destroy them. As such, the movie version has had a powerful cultural resonance for the free folk undergoing the war on terrorism. Now all three movies are available in extended DVD versions, forming a single 12-hour saga that sheds light on one of the strangest phenomena of our current war: the alliance between our left-wing intellectual establishment and radical Islam.

In Tolkien's epic, all of Middle Earth is under attack. Sauron, the demonic Dark Lord whom the free folk assumed had been defeated long ago, is back in force, determined to wipe out everything good in Middle Earth and make it like his own hellish realm of Mordor.

But Sauron has an ally from within Middle Earth, who represents that civilization's highest accomplishments. Saruman the White is the head of Gandalf's order. He is an intellectual, a scientist, a technologist. Saruman decides to support Sauron. Whereas Sauron uses wraiths, dragons, monsters, and his own occult powers, Saruman uses the power of scientific rationalism. He genetically engineers a breed of super-Orcs. He invents gunpowder to blow up fortress walls. He cuts down the forest as fuel for his factories, turning his own once-beautiful realm into a Mordor-like wasteland.

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The "Two Towers" of the trilogy's second title refer to the Dark Tower of Sauron and the White Tower of Saruman, the two different but allied threats against which the free folk must contend.

Tolkien was not writing political allegory, but similar alliances have characterized the last two centuries. When Hitler assaulted Western civilization, he had enthusiastic allies in Western intellectuals, such as the existentialist philosopher Martin Heidegger, the modernist poet Ezra Pound, the deconstructionist literary critic Paul de Man, and Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger. With the next threat of Communism, Western intellectuals and artists were even more open in siding with the Soviets working to bury us.

Today, much of the Western intellectual establishment supports the Islamic terrorists. This goes beyond simple opposition to the war in Iraq. (Tolkien also depicts the response of hopeless pacifism, as in King Theoden-still under the influence of Saruman's agent Griga Wormtongue -when he laments, "Hasn't there been enough killing?" and refuses to attack the enemies at his door.) The hardcore leftists want the Iraqi insurgents to win. Filmmaker Michael Moore calls them "minute men" and "freedom fighters." Left-wing websites celebrate the killing of American soldiers and claim solidarity with Muslim revolutionaries. Some of the most virulent anti-Israeli rhetoric can be found in American and European universities.

Western leftists are feminist, pro-gay, and morally permissive. And yet, they are willing to make common cause with radical Islamists who brutally repress women, punish homosexuals by execution, and impose the harshest of legalistic codes. Just as Sauron would eat Saruman for dinner, Western intellectuals would not last one day under an Islamist republic. And yet, the hatred Western intellectuals have for the civilization that brought them into existence is so great that they will embrace its every enemy. How can this be?

University professors and students have long been deconstructing the great achievements of Western civilization, chanting in anti-liberal arts demonstrations, "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western civ has got to go." The vogue of multiculturalism has meant criticizing Western culture in favor of non-Western cultures. Many Islamist terrorists are graduates of these universities, which schooled them well in the evils of the West.

One clue might be found in the terrorist taunt that "we love death more than you love life."

Those who are willing to kill others and themselves to make an abstract political statement share a mindset with those who see nothing wrong with aborting children, euthanizing sick people, and using human embryos for medical experiments.

The Saurons and Islamists hold to a religious nihilism, full of a spiritual energy that is wholly negative. The Sarumans and left-wing intellectuals hold to a secular nihilism that is equally negative. The free folk must confront the two towers, both the Minaret and the Ivory Tower.

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith

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