Friday, January 2, 2015

Don't mention the inconvenient

So, a black guy with a long criminal record, a history of mental illness and attempted suicide, attempts to murder his girlfriend, kills two cops in Brooklyn and then shoots himself. A mainstream newspaper provides details on his life, ignoring an obvious one; he was Muslim (his name being Ismaayil Abdullah Brinkley is something of a hint).

There are some fairly obvious similarities with the Martin Place hostage taker. Violent misogyny: check. Homicidal self-righteousness: check. Terroristic grandstanding: check. Since police killing unarmed blacks (or civilians generally) is not a currently prominent issue in Australian society, that does not seem to be the link between the two homicidal grandstanders, despite the enormous rhetorical fuss made over that aspect of the Brooklyn killings in the US. Some of which commentary is stunningly innumerate and almost all of which is a case of just don't go there. (And a black man walks up and kills two cops: that will of course do nothing to reinforce police fears of black men--this is John Wilkes Booth level of homicidal stupidity.)

Juan Cole insists that the media should not parade lone-wolf nuts as "Muslim terrorists". (He is apparently getting his wish in the Brooklyn case, where it is being fitted into the preferred narrative of reaction to homicidal racist cops.) I think a much more interesting question is; why are there such similarities  between two "lone wolf nuts" who happen to be Muslim from opposite sides of the globe?

Not all "lone wolf" terrorists are Muslim, but a disproportionate number are, with the disproportion increasing in recent years. Radical Islam seems to becoming the strongly preferred framing for grandstanding de-personalised homicide.

Something of a pattern
In the case of the Martin Place grandstander, it was not a case of no warning signs. The hostage-taker was someone whose dangerous qualities were presciently identified in a 2009 piece by an ABC religious affairs reporter. More recently, a SMH reporter was a little less prescient: she was, however, following Juan Cole's preferred approach.

The Martin Place tragedy has now brought down the NSW Opposition Leader. But the late unlamented Man Monis is a perfect icon for culture war dispute--an asylum seeker, on welfare and out on bail as an accessory to murder. So, someone the Australian state let in, paid for and then let out. With all the rhetorical power, and statistical pointlessness, a single recognisable case provides.

The question of commonalities is even more interesting because of a somewhat similar case that occurred in Broken Hill a century ago and because such behaviour is being engaged in on an organised basis. With extras: is not part of the appeal of the Islamic State homicidal psychopathic sex tourism? With self-righteous religious rhetoric to match. An appeal than cannot be said to be entirely random; there are now apparently more British Muslims fighting for the Islamic State than in the British Army. Probably also true in Australia, although Australian jihadis are apparently being killed about the same rate as new recruits. The Syrian civil war has attracted thousands of foreign fighters, many of whom have ended up fighting for the Islamic State.

The jihadi movement considers democracy blasphemous or heretical--since it presumes for mere humans to take on the law-making prerogatives of God--engages in violent misogyny, Jew-hatred and queer-hatred while using modern technology (such as social media) to promote a violently atavistic warrior ethos which extols the triumph of the master-believers over all others. To the point of massacre, slavery and teaching children courses in beheading, with practice on (temporarily) live victims.

Atavistic counter-reaction
It is the contemporary version of Nazism: like it a violent atavistic counter-reaction against the stresses of modernity. As if to emphasise the point, there is a nasty cat's cradle of links between Nazism and both Arab nationalism and radical Islam. Hitler, unsurprisingly, thought Islam a better religion than Christianity:
Had Charles Martel not been victorious at Poitiers--already, you see, the world have fallen into the hands of Jews, so gutless a thing is Christianity!--then we should have in all probability have been converted to Mohammadism, that cult which glorifies heroism and which opens the seventh Heaven to the bold warrior alone. Then the Germanic races would have conquered the world. Christianity alone prevented them from doing so (p.667).
Taunting a captured Iraqi officer.
The jihadis are even more explicit in their violence and brutality than the Nazis. It is not wildly unreasonable to suggest different religious framings might be a factor here: the teachings and actions of the Gospel Christ really are profoundly different from those of the Received Muhammad (who had folk who said bad things about him beheaded, massacred defeated males and sold their women and children into slavery--all of which may sound vaguely familiar).

On the face of it, the jihadi movement is a violent denial of everything Western progressives are supposed to stand for. And their collective inability to confront it in any useful way extends at times to active protection of, or even implicit collaboration with, its adherents and advocates. Going with the principle that any sin indicts Western civilisation or Western capitalism or Western whatever and no sin indicts Islam.

It is, as Nick Cohen puts it, the great betrayal. And yes, the generic indictments are bunk, but it is the selective willingness to engage in, or tolerate, them that is revealing. When lone wolf killers are white supremacists or extreme nationalists, going for general indictments is all the rage among progressives. If a lone wolf killer is a Muslim, that fact gets downplayed or simply ignored and general indictments are furiously denounced.

It is striking how intellectually impoverished modern progressivism has become: when real Nazism was stalking the world, progressivists did not attempt to frame the debate as "let's not be nasty to Germans". Nowadays, in the face of the homicidal reality of the jihadi movement (the overwhelming majority of whose victims are, in fact, Muslims), it appears that the only framing that is seriously adopted is "let's not be nasty to Muslims". 
The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem saluting the Waffen SS Handschar division in Yugoslavia in 1944. 
In a speech he apparently stated that there were 
"considerable similarities between Islamic principles and National Socialism".

Apparently, anything resembling Nazi evil can only be committed by folk with white skins. A moral infantilising of the non-white on a massive scale. Not anti-racism at all; just massive purblind condescension passing itself of as compassion and anti-oppression while averting eyes from inconvenient victims (which, in the case of the Middle East, seems to be any minority except the one which is a majority elsewhere--the Palestinian sub-group of Arab Sunnis). Parading as modern moral bwanas "protecting" their mascots of the moment.

A betrayal with consequences. Do folk really think that the attack on Sony over the film The Interview has nothing to do with the Mohammad Cartoons affair or the Satanic Verses fatwa? Demonstrable ability to be intimidated--or, worse, side with the intimidators--just encourages others to play the game (or pretend to, it is a bit murky what precise game was being played). Which, yet again, has been shown to work, at least to some extent.

And yes, the neocons and fellow travellers have demonstrated amazing capacity to be blundering fools or worse. But if they are the only "willing to do something" game in town, they will end up being the people turned to when the next mass attack happens. Nick Cohen makes a similar point about the British state's predictably ham-fisted response to the domestic manifestations of radical Islam. (A somewhat similar point was also made by Marcia Langton and Noel Pearson {pdf} about the Northern Territory Intervention and progressivist aversion from issues of simple functionality in indigenous communities.) When public speech primarily becomes a game of "I am more virtuous than you" dealing with issues that profoundly affect people's lives gets lost in the game-playing.

Not that anywhere in the Anglosphere has gone anywhere to the extreme of Sweden in blocking free speech and basically "rigging" national politics to make (Muslim) immigration an absolute non-topic, even as the Swedish police have released a map of 50 "no-go" areas and the ambulance union demands military-style protective gear to enter such areas.

OK, let's not be nasty to Muslims generically. But let's actually have an open debate about strains within Islam (both as a religion and as a civilisation), let's not engage in the massive condescension of refusing to critically examine ideas held by non-white folk, let's critically consider using religion to project viciously nasty ideas (other than, and much worse than, conservative Christians) and accept that evil is not limited to folk with white skins. Especially as, in the world today, Christians are disproportionately the victims of inter-religious violence.

Let's also not hide inside a Condescension Virtue Bubble, congratulating oneself on moral courage and perception and the wickedness of dissent; an impoverished perspective that does not seem to have anything to say about homicide, massacre, slavery and vicious misogyny beyond "let's not be nasty to Muslims".

Really folks, how would "let's not be nasty to Germans" seem at the time, or in retrospect, as a preferred response to Nazism? 


[Cross-posted at Skepticlawyer.]

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