What happened in Cologne on Saint Sylvester’s Eve? It’s difficult to know exactly just from reading the reports, but we do know, at least, what was going on inside of heads—in those of the aggressors, perhaps; in those of Westerners, certainly.

It’s a fascinating tale of fantasies being played out. The events in themselves couldn’t correspond better to the mingling images that the Westerner cultivates of the Other, the immigrant-refugee: bleeding-heart optimism, terror, reactivation of the ancient fear of invasion of barbarians, and the foundation of the binary barbarian vs. civilized. The immigrants we’ve welcomed attack “our” women, assault them, rape them.

All this conforms to the ideas that the right and the extreme right have always constructed in their discourse against welcoming refugees. The latter have been understood to be the aggressors in this case, even if we don’t yet know that with any certainty. Are the guilty parties...

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