After any terrorist attack — until last year — those familiar with the threat always asked the question, “Will this wake people up?” Until quite recently I used to think, “Possibly.” After the March 2004 Madrid train bombings killed 200 people, there were those who said something would change. But the only thing to change was the Spanish government, booted out by an electorate irritated that it had fingered the wrong culprits in the moments after the blasts.
In July 2005, when four home-grown “British” suicide-bombers took to the subways and buses of the capital, killing 52 people, many wondered if this would make a difference. Prime Minister Tony Blair claimed that “the rules of the game have changed.” But they didn’t. His government continued to oversee a massive increase in immigration from the Muslim world and continued to give hate-preachers free reign and free benefits.
In the years that followed, in the U.K. alone, at least one mass-casualty terrorist attack was thwarted each year. For a while the spectacular attacks fell off, and the main targets of Islamist assault seemed to be Danish artists. So as long as you didn’t draw pictures in the Scandinavian region you could have been forgiven for thinking you’d ducked it. Of course there was the occasional irritation like the slaughter and decapitation on a London street of a British soldier at home on leave. But such things led to nothing but inconsequential government reviews and an increase in the semi-fraudulent study of “radicalization.” Attacks like the one on the Jewish museum in Brussels in 2014 (four dead) also had no impact.
After the January 2015 terror attacks in Paris, there were those who thought things would change. But the victims were, again, only journalists and Jews and after a million-man march and some serious political grandstanding everyone went home. Then after the slaughter of 130 people in one night in Paris last November something changed. But the change was not what anyone predicted it could be. Opinion polls had for some time suggested that across the continent European publics had been forming a view of this problem for years, and quiet majorities in most countries now saw Islam itself as being at odds with our societies. The publics of Europe had formed this view in the face of the entirety of their mainstream political class who had cried “Islam is a religion of peace” after every atrocity. But despite this rather startling wake up and contrary to some scare-mongering, there were no pogroms of Muslims, nor any mass rejection of the majority of decent ordinary Muslims living among us. People woke up quietly and reacted decently. But they also became fatalistic.
After November 2015, we started to accept the terror. We accepted that this is what the Islamists are going to keep doing, and that our governments have no answer to the problem they have lumbered us with.
Of course there are those on the left who will continue to try to pretend that Belgian foreign policy, colonialism, innate racism, or Brussels housing policy are to blame. And there will continue to be sinister Muslim figures across our media who pretend that the Islamists do not believe in Islam. But such people are losing purchase. As the American scholar of Islam Daniel Pipes has noted, this is a one-way street. Nobody in Europe says that they used to be worried about Islam but no longer are. All that you hear is people saying that they are getting more and more worried.
Our governments continue to talk a big game (a “generational challenge” they say), but nobody believes they will do anything. And that is why across Europe those parties who have consistently been vilified as “racist” for expressing the concerns of the people on Islam, immigration, and national identity, are in each country in turn becoming the leading parties in the opinion polls. This is already the story in Sweden and Holland, and earlier this month a German party that is only three years old — but willing to break the German political consensus on these issues — came second in a regional election. The mainstream will keep covering this as the “march of the far-right” but many involved in such parties are far from far-right, strikingly liberal, but fed up with the pass to which their societies have been led.
Of course some Americans will survey this scene and think how much better off America is. But after losing 3,000 people in a single day 15 years ago, America didn’t change much. You invaded two countries, with deeply mixed results. But at home you continued to be willing to be lied to by your politicians and intimidated into silence by Islamist front-groups whose propagandist intentions are so clear that a child could see through them. You continue to suck up to mainstream-media frauds who tell you that Islam is a religion of peace and that everyone who says otherwise is a bigot. And now you are having a political reaction of your own. We’re all in the same boat: stuck between the actions of our enemies and the inability of our existing political class to face up to them.
So how many will it take? Ten Brusselses? A Paris every month? More. Much more. Illusions only break when you can’t afford to hold them anymore. It seems we can hold these illusions through a lot more Brussels-style attacks, just as you held yours throughout 9/11 and its aftermath. But one day those illusions really will crack. And what a painful day that will be — for everyone.