Editor’s Note: Kathryn Joyce’s feature on the work of American right-wing extremists spreading US-style culture war to Europe was originally published in March 2008. We repost it here in the wake of the news that a manifesto written by the accused Norwegian shooter, Anders Behring Breivik, heavily referenced American writers who consider Islam a growing threat.
Steve Mosher is telling me about wolves returning to the streets of European towns. Not as part of some Vermont-model wildlife-recovery scenario but as emblems of a harsh comeuppance mankind is due–they’re stalking out of the forests like an ancient judgment, coming to claim mankind’s ceded land. We’re sitting in a sunny Main Street cafe in Front Royal, Virginia–a beautifying ex-industrial town in the Shenandoah Valley that, as the far edge of DC’s suburban sprawl, is lately home to a surprising number of conservative Christian ministries. Mosher, president of the Catholic anticontraception lobbyist group Population Research Institute (PRI), describes his grim vision of Europe’s future: fields will lie fallow and economies will wither. A great depression will sink over the continent as it undergoes "a decline that Europe hasn’t experienced since the Black Death." The comeuppance has a name, one being fervently hawked among a group of Christian-right "profamily" activists hoping to spark a movement in secular Europe. It’s called the "demographic winter," a more austere brand of apocalypse than doomsayers normally trade in, evoking not a nuclear inferno but a quiet and cold blanket of snow in which, they charge, "Western Civilization" is laying itself down to die.
How so? Europe is failing to produce enough babies–the right babies–to replace its old and dying. It’s "the baby bust," "the birth dearth," "the graying of the continent": modern euphemisms for old-fashioned race panic as low fertility among white "Western" couples coincides with an increasingly visible immigrant population across Europe. The real root of racial tensions in the Netherlands and France, America’s culture warriors tell anxious Europeans, isn’t ineffective methods of assimilating new citizens but, rather, decades of "antifamily" permissiveness–contraception, abortion, divorce, population control, women’s liberation and careers, "selfish" secularism and gay rights–enabling "decadent" white couples to neglect their reproductive duties. Defying the biblical command to "be fruitful and multiply," Europeans have failed to produce the magic number of 2.1 children per couple, the estimated "replacement-level fertility" for developed nations (and a figure repeated so frequently it becomes a near incantation). The white Christian West, in this telling, is in danger of forfeiting itself through sheer lack of numbers to an onslaught of Muslim immigrants and their purportedly numerous offspring. In other words, Mosher and his colleagues aren’t really concerned about wolves.
Another profamily soldier banging the drum about demographic winter, Christine de Vollmer, head of the US-funded Latin American Alliance for the Family, says that thanks to "obstinate antifamily policies, the end of European civilization can be calculated in years." Such predictions are winning the ear of top US conservatives, with Mitt Romney taking time during his campaign exit speech on February 7 to warn that "Europe is facing a demographic disaster" due to its modernized, secular culture, particularly its "weakened faith in the Creator, failed families, disrespect for human life and eroded morality." With this, the American Christian right has hit on a potent formula: grafting falling Western birthrates onto old morality arguments to craft a tidy cause-and-effect model that its members hope will provide their ideology an entry into European politics.