A Few Words On The London Bridge And Borough Market Terror Attack

London Bridge terror attack - fake suicide vest

Finally, a step change in our response to Islamist terrorism. But this new authoritarianism is not the answer

This one struck a little close to home. For several years it was my habit to walk across London Bridge from the tube station to the north side, and then on to my office on Fenchurch Street.

Sometimes I would drink after work at the Barrowboy and Banker pub at the foot of the bridge, or go to choral evensong at neighbouring Southwark Cathedral – still regretfully closed some four days after the terrorist attack on London Bridge and Borough Market. My wife now works in the shadow of the Shard tower, and only today was her firm finally allowed to re-enter their office building.

It is quite surreal to see places which are so familiar splashed onto television screens in such a grisly context. One of the smartphone-recorded videos played most often on cable news – showing police ordering stunned bar patrons to the ground – was particularly jarring, as we had celebrated a friend’s birthday at that vaulted beer hall just a few months ago. It is no longer just the bus or the tube – places where we have been conditioned to be wary since the days of the IRA. Now we are to expect violent death anywhere, a car swerving onto the pavement with too little time to react, or being confronted by a knifeman while eating at a downtown restaurant.

But enough of that – it is tempting to make these terror attacks all about us, when really we should focus on those people whose lives were deliberately, callously snuffed out by the onrushing vehicle or the blade wielded by the Islamist fanatic. We rightly praise the heroism of our first responders, the rookie policeman who took on the terrorists alone armed with nothing but his truncheon, and the paramedics and civilians who rushed to help as soon as they were alerted to the carnage.

And yet after the proper acknowledgements and the less-welcome platitudes, the same questions beg to be answered.

Firstly, why did the Metropolitan Police and numerous politicians make such a big show of advertising that it took eight minutes from the first 999 call being received to armed police arriving at the scene to terminate the terrorists? No doubt this was supposed to reassure. But does it not also advertise to every other terror cell currently lurking undetected (or shockingly unmonitored) that in one of the most central and well-protected parts of the country they will have at least an eight-minute window to inflict as much bloodshed as they are able?

Eight minutes sounds remotely laudable because the terrorists were armed only with a vehicle, blades and some preposterously, evidently fake suicide vests. But what if the next terror cell has access to firearms? We rightly applaud the quick-thinking revellers who repelled the attack by throwing chairs and pint glasses, but these projectiles are much less effective against even a single low-calibre gun. What if the next marauding terror attack takes place not in well-protected London, but in a leafy Midlands market town or a provincial city without armed police on 24/7 patrol?

This attack could have been much, much worse. It could have been a Bataclan-level massacre, had the terrorists stormed a pub or restaurant with few exits or escape routes, armed with a semi-automatic weapon. Worse even, because so few British police are armed. Having elite units on constant standby is all well and good, but it is unreasonable to expect a standard unarmed police constable to be the frontline of our response to a mass casualty terror attack.

And no, the medium and long-term solution is not to deploy more armed forces on the streets – though this may be necessary, given the shocking decline in the number of armed police officers. Though the net drop since 2010 (approximately 700) is not that great as a raw number, the idea that the numbers were falling at all given events in mainland Europe is simply staggering. Operation Temperer (or tempura, as I first heard it – like we were going to deep fry the terrorists) may be a necessary stop gap, but we need to look again at whether it is practical to maintain a largely unarmed police force.

We should look too at whether it is reasonable to deny the people the opportunity to defend themselves with legally purchased firearms when the state proves itself time and again to be so unwilling and unable to protect them from lethal harm, either by facing up to the toxic Islamist ideology that fuels the present terror threat or by ensuring that the security services make best use of the vast amounts of data they already collect about all of us. Of course, this discussion will never happen. But it should.

If nothing else, we seem finally to have pivoted from “terror attacks have nothing to do with Islam!” to “something must be done”. And about time, too. Only days before the London Bridge attack, I wrote a piece (piggybacking on Brendan O’Neill) decrying the fact that all of the left-wing party leaders practically wet themselves in shock and outrage when UKIP’s Paul Nuttall dared to talk about the Islamist (not Islamic, Islamist) threat. If nothing else, perhaps we have finally pierced that particular veil of idiocy. The idiots remain, but the general public is no longer in thrall to their denialism.

And yet the undiscovered country of Taking Firm Action may be almost as bad as the state of denial and complacency which is finally being dispelled.

The danger was always that when the government finally roused itself to righteous anger in the face of Islamist terror, the response would be one of jackboot authoritarianism rather than incisive, strategic action. As Home Secretary under David Cameron, Theresa May was quick to take advantage of the various terror attacks in Paris to push for sweeping new powers for the security services, and now elevated (above her competence, it seems) to prime minister she is gunning for civil liberties and pesky human rights laws all over again. But this time, Theresa May is swinging an even bigger emotional cudgel thanks to the immediacy and proximity of the attacks in Manchester and London.

The security services are able to gather vast amounts of metadata on all of our communications with barely a whisper of public dissent, and can begin spying on an individual with no judicial approval required, just a ministerial signature – essentially, the executive overseeing itself. They could not have a more favourable political and operating environment. And yet despite having some of the most draconian surveillance laws in Western Europe, somehow three individuals were able to mount an attack – one known to security services but not considered an active threat, and another flagged as an extremist by the Italians but apparently ignored by British security services.

This is what happens when you expand the haystack too much, when you collect so much data and intelligence on everything that moves that it becomes impossible to sort through the information, make sense of it and hone in on the most serious threats. Yes, there is also an issue of resourcing – as with the armed police, the government has been complacent and refused to spend money where it should be spent – but much of the problem surely comes from trying to cast too wide a net at the expense of watching those already caught in it.

And yet Theresa May now wants to force internet companies to undermine the encryption of their own services so that the security services can gather even more data and make the intelligence haystack even more unwieldy and difficult to search for needles. And the prime minister as a thousand and one other draconian ideas up her sleeve, like the extension of detention without trial from 14 to 28 days – not because such a revised law would have prevented the Manchester and London attacks, but just because she doesn’t want to let this crisis go to waste without extending the power of the state even further.

The only grace is that the prime minister’s desire to control the internet will likely come a cropper as soon as she tries and fails to secure international cooperation. To a bizarre and frightening extent, our civil liberties may now partly depend on the stubbornness of Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and (yes) Donald Trump in resisting Theresa May’s maniacal efforts to regulate the online world.

Concerning too is the fact that we are suddenly talking about the internment of suspected terrorists for whom there is too little evidence to seek prosecution. Even as the news of the London Bridge attacks was coming in, strident calls were made on Twitter for the police to “bring in” everybody currently on the terror watchlist and presumably detain them without trial in perpetuity. Perhaps at a new British Guantanamo Bay on the Isle of Man. Then the omnipresent Katie Hopkins went on Fox News to repeat the call for internment, while Nigel Farage followed, warning that “people” would soon start to call for this step if the government failed to get a grip. Well, they certainly will now that the idea has been so helpfully injected into the political discourse. Thanks, Nigel.

Astonishingly, there seems to be support for such a move from some sober conservative voices in America, which rather makes me question how strong their much-vaunted love for the Constitution can possibly be, when they encourage Britons to enact draconian laws which would rightly never pass muster in the United States.

I had a thoughtful exchange with the National Review’s Jim Geraghty on the related subject of whether merely expressing support for Islamist ideals should be criminalised – Geraghty initially expressed support but walked his stance back somewhat following my interjection, and we more or less came to a meeting of minds.

Sadly, the conversation elsewhere has not been nearly as civil, on either side. Of course anger is entirely appropriate when our fellow citizens are killed in cold blood by a religiously-inspired terrorist – young girls enjoy a pop concert in Manchester or Londoners of all backgrounds enjoying a Saturday night in town. But this anger has to be meaningfully directed, otherwise it will either achieve nothing or give known authoritarians like Theresa May the pretext they need to expand the state’s power.

But is this really who we are, as a people? Is this really who we want to be? A nation comprised of either self-abnegating terror apologists whose first reaction on hearing of an Islamist attack is to jump on social media to declare “nothing to do with Islam!” and patrol for “Islamophobic” comments, or jumpy authoritarians who want to do away with even the most basic civil rights in pursuit of the chimera of perfect safety?

We have certainly been called to action and shocked out of our complacency by the hideous events in Manchester and London, at long last. But at present there is precious little to suggest that we will start to move in the right direction now that we are finally awake.

 

London Bridge terror attack

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George Orwell’s “1984” Will Receive A Public Reading In London – But Have We Forgotten The Message?

Senate House London - 3

On June 6, hundreds of people will gather at London’s Senate House as a parade of actors, politicians and other notables read George Orwell’s dystopian novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” in its entirety. But how many of us actually understand Orwell’s message?

Besides a few posts on Twitter, I haven’t written anything about the heinous Manchester terrorist attack. What more is there to say? The locations change, as do the names and backgrounds of the victims, but the rote mourning processes, the denialism and the furious virtue-signalling always remains the same. Why jump into that toxic mêlée all over again?

But I did watch the BBC general election leaders’ debate on television earlier this week, when naturally the subject of terrorism and Britain’s proper response came up, and I was depressed as ever by the paucity of the “discussion” that took place.

Brendan O’Neill picked up on the section of the debate which also caught my attention, writing in Spiked:

Consider BBC TV’s General Election debate this week, which brought together leading figures from the main parties to talk about the problems facing Britain. There was an extraordinary moment during the debate. A member of the audience asked a question about security post-Manchester and the leaders talked about the need for better policing and intelligence and also for rethinking British foreign policy. It is possible, said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and SNP deputy leader Angus Robertson, that our meddling overseas has exacerbated the terror problem.

Then UKIP leader Paul Nuttall chimed in, and he said this: ‘Politicians need to have the courage to name [the problem]: it’s Islamist extremism.’ The reaction was swift and pretty scary. Nuttall was jeered at by the other panellists. ‘NO!’, one said. ‘Paul, Paul, Paul, Paul’, interjected Lib Dem leader Tim Farron. Nuttall has gone ‘straight for Muslims’, said a furious Robertson. Green leader Caroline Lucas said Nuttall was being ‘completely outrageous’ with this suggestion that ‘the violence in Manchester was somehow representative of Islam’.

Nuttall tried to explain himself. ‘Islamism, Islamism, Islamism’, he said over the din that his comments provoked. His point was that he had not said the word ‘Islam’. He hadn’t even used the phrase Islamic terrorism; he had said Islamist extremism. But his protests went unheard. The other leaders and some in the audience continued to shout over him and drown him out; to accuse him of being outrageous and prejudiced for using the phrase ‘Islamist extremism’.

This is an almost Orwellian level of linguistic denialism. For ‘Islamist’ is a perfectly legitimate and apt word for the terrorism that is impacting on cities in Western Europe. The Oxford dictionary’s definition of ‘Islamist’ is an ‘advocate or supporter of Islamic militancy or fundamentalism’. Is this not the right name for those in Paris, Brussels, Nice, Manchester and elsewhere who have carried out extreme acts of violence in the name of the Islamic State or radical Islamist ideology? To boo and demonise Nuttall for using the word ‘Islamist’ to describe those who blow themselves up in the name of ISIS is as nuts as it would be to boo and demonise someone for saying Oswald Moseley was a fascist: these are simply the correct words.

The response proved Nuttall’s point, which was that few politicians have the nerve even to say the word ‘Islamist’, even though it’s a political term in the actual dictionary. This live-TV pummelling of Nuttall for saying ‘Islamist’ really confirmed what the accusation of Islamophobia is all about today: it isn’t about protecting Muslims from genuine prejudice or abuse but rather has become a means for suppressing difficult political and moral questions about our society, its values and the divisions that exist either between communities or within them. That someone can be called ‘outrageous’ and anti-Muslim for using the phrase ‘Islamist extremism’ shows how deep and worrying our instinct to silence discussion about terrorism has become.

There isn’t much I would add to Brendan O’Neill’s warning, except for this: on 6 June, there will be a live public  reading of the entirety of George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, given at London’s Senate House. There has of course been a significant spike in interest in reading 1984, driven predominantly by people who believe that Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump herald the end to what was apparently a Utopian liberal era, and the start of an unprecedentedly authoritarian dystopian future.

The new converts to George Orwell seem to believe either that the architects of these particular geopolitical events used 1984 as some kind of How To guide, or that they themselves might find some clues within the novel to aid their survival during the coming apocalypse.

But here’s the thing. I’ll wager all the money in my pocket that many of the people who show up to this public reading of 1984, or who watch the live stream, will be the same people who never really had much to say about civil liberties violations in the War on Terror (at least when Democratic presidents and Labour prime ministers were in charge), or about the extra-judicial killing of American citizens by drone strike under Barack Obama.

I’ll wager that many of them will have said nothing when their fellow citizens have been tried and imprisoned for singing songs, writing offensive signs, asking impertinent or stupid questions, posting “offensive” tweets or expressing conservative religious views in the town square.

But I’ll also wager that a fair number of them will have reported posts that they found “offensive” on social media in an attempt to get the offending statements removed and the posters banned. I’ll wager that many of the younger student types will have called for The Sun and The Daily Mail to be banned from their university campuses, and for their Students Unions to stop playing certain songs with “problematic” lyrics. I’ll wager that they were the first to demand that boxer Tyson Fury be banned from boxing for holding the wrong views on family values, and to call for attention-seeking ex-LBC radio host/troll Katie Hopkins to lose her job last week.

And I’ll wager that a good number of these 1984 listeners, fearless young defenders of society against creeping authoritarianism that they are, will have cheered along when Tim Farron, Angus Robertson, Caroline Lucas and the rest of the lefty nodding head brigade ripped into Paul Nuttall for the high crime of correctly identifying the deadly ideology which killed 22 young people at an Ariana Grande concert, maiming 116 more.

I’m sure their hearts just swelled with pride and warm affirmation as their left-wing political heroes put that nasty, evil brute Paul Nuttall in his place and shouted down his vile, dangerous hate speech. I bet they sincerely believed that doing so was a great victory for Hope over Hate, that this was how society should best respond to terror attacks. By furiously avoiding looking at the source, assigning the blame to unidentifiable random “evil”, singing some John Lennon and angrily vilifying anybody who dared to react in a different way (such as by looking to identify and name the real problem so that it might be tackled and reduced).

And hearts aglow with courage and moral righteousness, many of these same people will assemble at the foot of London’s Senate House on June 6 and fortify themselves by listening to George Orwell’s stern literary warning about the dangers of groupthink, thoughtcrime, Newspeak and censorship, utterly oblivious to the fact that they are actively serving as advance guard to the Ministry of Truth.

 

George Orwell - 1984 - Thought Criminal - Almeida Theatre

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The Left Compare Conservatives To ISIS, Warning Of The ‘Radicalisation Of Young White Men’

milo-yiannopoulos-alt-right-conservatism-online-radicalisation-of-young-white-men

This is the week when leftist cowards, unwilling or unable to counter opposing ideas with a compelling vision of their own, decided to smear conservatives by comparing the expression of conservative ideas to the radicalisation activities of ISIS

Update: See footnote at bottom for reaction to news that the anonymous Guardian article cited here was in fact a satirical piece designed to lampoon left-wing SJW attitudes

It all seems to be quite co-ordinated.

One anonymously-written article published in the pages of Britain’s leftist press, bashing conservative commentators and describing them as a “gateway drug” to full-blown racism, might be generously seen as an isolated if highly offensive smear. The existence of two such articles strains credulity. But with three such articles across two publications, I think it is safe to say we are looking at the British Left’s new official position on the rising popularity of conservative (or at least anti-statist) ideas.

First came this hysterical effort in the Guardian*, in which an anonymous pinch-faced, wobbly-lipped “white male” social justice warrior described how he had been temporarily led astray by the siren song of the online alt-right, only to realise that he was being indoctrinated into a “cult” and pull back from the brink at the last minute.

(* This article turned out to be a brilliant spoof by the excellent anti-SJW provocateur Godfrey Elfwick, something which was not known when I wrote this piece. The fact that the Guardian’ editorial team did not realise and published the article in earnest only goes to highlight that the establishment Left have swallowed the denialist myth that anybody who disagrees with their worldview must have been “radicalised” by the evil forces of conservatism – thus proving my point about the Left’s intellectual decline.)

The Guardian Man’s tremulous confession:

I am a happily married, young white man. I grew up in a happy, Conservative household. I’ve spent my entire life – save the last four months – as a progressive liberal. All of my friends are very liberal or left-leaning centrists. I have always voted Liberal Democrat or Green. I voted remain in the referendum. The thought of racism in any form has always been abhorrent to me. When leave won, I was devastated.

Because wanting Britain to leave a failing, antidemocratic, supranational political union can only be motivated by racism, naturally.

I was curious as to the motives of leave voters. Surely they were not all racist, bigoted or hateful? I watched some debates on YouTube. Obvious points of concern about terrorism were brought up. A leaver cited Sam Harris as a source. I looked him up: this “intellectual, free-thinker” was very critical of Islam. Naturally my liberal kneejerk reaction was to be shocked, but I listened to his concerns and some of his debates.

This, I think, is where YouTube’s “suggested videos” can lead you down a rabbit hole. Moving on from Harris, I unlocked the Pandora’s box of “It’s not racist to criticise Islam!” content. Eventually I was introduced, by YouTube algorithms, to Milo Yiannopoulos and various “anti-SJW” videos (SJW, or social justice warrior, is a pejorative directed at progressives). They were shocking at first, but always presented as innocuous criticism from people claiming to be liberals themselves, or centrists, sometimes “just a regular conservative” – but never, ever identifying as the dreaded “alt-right”.

So apparently it is a “rabbit hole” when watching one conservative-leaning YouTube video leads to the suggestion of others, but Guardian Man’s inevitable constant feed of prancing, left-wing virtue signallers is entirely healthy? Righty-ho. Left-wing ideological bubbles are good and virtuous, right-wing ones are dangerous and evil, got it.

Before long, Guardian Man had hit rock bottom:

At the same time, the anti-SJW stuff also moved on to anti-feminism, men’s rights activists – all that stuff. I followed a lot of these people on Twitter, but never shared any of it. I just passively consumed it, because, deep down, I knew I was ashamed of what I was doing. I’d started to roll my eyes when my friends talked about liberal, progressive things. What was wrong with them? Did they not understand what being a real liberal was? All my friends were just SJWs. They didn’t know that free speech was under threat and that politically correct culture and censorship were the true problem.

On one occasion I even, I am ashamed to admit, very diplomatically expressed negative sentiments on Islam to my wife. Nothing “overtly racist”, just some of the “innocuous” type of things the YouTubers had presented: “Islam isn’t compatible with western civilisation.”

She was taken aback: “Isn’t that a bit … rightwing?”

I justified it: “Well, I’m more a left-leaning centrist. PC culture has gone too far, we should be able to discuss these things without shutting down the conversation by calling people racist, or bigots.”

The indoctrination was complete.

At present, Guardian Man can be found tightening his cilice and loudly flagellating himself for having dared for even one moment to consider points of view which run contrary to the leftist One True Faith. With the tortured mind of an actual criminal, he is trying to find a way to apologise to his wife for having subjected her to such salty language and non-conforming ideas:

I haven’t yet told my wife that this happened, and I honestly don’t know how to. I need to apologise for what I said and tell her that I certainly don’t believe it. It is going to be a tough conversation and I’m not looking forward to it. I didn’t think this could happen to me. But it did and it will haunt me for a long time to come.

And offers his wise conclusion:

It hit me like a ton of bricks. Online radicalisation of young white men. It’s here, it’s serious, and I was lucky to be able to snap out of it when I did. And if it can get somebody like me to swallow it – a lifelong liberal – I can’t imagine the damage it is doing overall.

It seemed so subtle – at no point did I think my casual and growing Islamophobia was genuine racism. The good news for me is that my journey toward the alt-right was mercifully brief: I never wanted to harm or abuse anybody verbally, it was all very low level – a creeping fear and bigotry that I won’t let infest me again. But I suspect you could, if you don’t catch it quickly, be guided into a much more overt and sinister hatred.

And there it is – the official soft rollout of the term “radicalisation of young white men”. Expect every leftist commentator in the country to be using it multiple times in every piece by the end of next week, with Owen Jones, Paul Mason, Laurie Penny and Polly Toynbee all vying with one another to take primary ownership of the slur.

Writing in the Spectator, Douglas Murray – while outraged that his own name was not flagged as part of the “slippery sliding slope” to racism – calls out the Guardian for seeing radicalisation where it does not exist and denying it where it does:

At least at long last the Guardian has published something acknowledging the possibility of ‘online radicalisation’.  When they’re not busy running puff pieces for Muslim radicals or joint-letters defending Muslim radicals by other Muslim radicals, the Guardian tends to pretend no such thing exists.  Only now do they admit it does because – as their correspondent ‘Anonymous’ shows – ‘online radicalisation’ occurs among ‘young white men.’

This – it should be remembered – is a paper that complains solemnly about ‘post-truth politics’ as though they haven’t been practising it for years.  The Guardian has spent years denying the reality of Islamist terror.  The only mentions such terror does get is in the news pages, when Paris, London, Brussels or any other city suffers a major Islamist attack.  Of course the paper tries to demonstrate that these things only happened because the attackers were the victims of racism, sexism, homophobia, low self-esteem, government austerity or all of the above.  But the ‘I’ word does occasionally slip through because even the Guardian finds it has to report some of the news some of the time.  The comments pages, on the other hand, are filled with people who doggedly deny that any such terrorism or extremism exists.  Indeed its comment pages tend to be filled with people who, like ‘Anonymous’, stared at themselves in the mirror, realised they had become arseholes but chose to enjoy the view.

So here we are, with the Guardian pretending that Sam Harris – a man who has never called for anyone to be Jihad-ed, killed or oppressed and who is about the sanest, sweetest and most thoughtful person you could imagine (really a Buddhist, but with a bigger brain) is in fact a horrible hate preacher and gateway drug.

While Murray’s conclusion is bang on the money:

Let me tell you what is actually going on here.  Someone at the Guardian – perhaps everyone at the Guardian – has it in for Sam Harris.  So they have decided to publish an ‘Anonymous’ hit-job in order to try to smear him and damage him as much as possible.  That is all.  It tells us nothing, except that the state of the left is so incredibly poor that in 2016 Britain’s only remaining lefty newspaper is willing to publish an ‘Anonymous’ hit-job on an actual liberal to try to help save itself from going bust.

One marvels at the intellectual insecurity it must take  for leftist commentators to be so incapable of rebutting opposing arguments and so lacking in confidence in the persuasiveness of one’s own position that the best strategy now available to them is to warn the public not to listen to other points of view lest entertaining conservative ideas sets them on the path to becoming Hitler.

Guardian Man’s article was swiftly followed up by a piece in the New Statesman, in which a supposed Jeremy Corbyn supporter “confessed” to watching YouTube videos and media appearances by conservatives and alt-right stars and (pass the smelling salts) furtively enjoying them.

Alex Shattock writes:

As a Jeremy Corbyn supporter, former public sector worker and all-round lefty, I have a confession to make. I am a little bit in love with Milo Yiannopoulos, highly-paid internet troll and alt right poster boy.

Well, everyone has a guilty pleasure.

Out of context, it is difficult to see how anyone could enjoy listening to the person making these arguments, let alone be persuaded by them. But as Abi Wilkinson has pointed out,  alt right arguments like the ones above are gaining ground online, and contributing to the radicalization of young white men. How is this happening?

And there’s that phrase again, gradually being forced into our collective consciousness as though saying it often enough will make it a real thing.

A lot of the alt right’s appeal has to do with the delivery mechanism of their ideas: colourful entertainers who are a bit outrageous and disarmingly self-effacing. This is why, despite myself, I like listening to Yiannopoulos. He jokes, exaggerates, pushes the boundaries. It is all to provoke a reaction, get online attention, and rack up the view count. It works. One of his recent videos, “BBC tries to ambush Milo,” has over a million views.  Like his right-wing bedfellows, he is genuinely entertaining to watch.

Contrast the polished media performers of the right with left. When I get my daily fix of social-liberal political news, there is a deadly serious style of debate that turns people off straight away. Whenever Nigel Farage or Yiannopoulos appear on a Sky News debate with a dour-looking lefty academic, they’ve already won.

Really? As a holder of more right-wing (or at least classically liberal) opinions, I often chafe at the fact that the people they wheel out to defend “my side” of the argument on television are grotesque caricatures, while the people found to defend the centre-left status quo are inevitably the well-manicured picture of reasonableness.

And I’m not alone in this thinking. As a friend of Pete North’s memorably mimicked the BBC’s EU referendum coverage:

And now on BBC Radio 4, to talk to us about the EU, we have Professor Claus van der Reasoning, an expert on the European Union and a jolly good chap. Professor van der Reasoning is the Clegg Professor of Europe at the European Institute of Europe and has absolutely no axe to grind.

Here to give the anti-European perspective is Sir Henry Bigot MP, a foam-flecked lunatic who hates and little else, and was once reported by the Guardian to have felched David Duke while singing Horst Wessel Lied. He may experience technical issues.

Welcome both of you to this balanced programme that represents both sides of the argument.

That pretty much sums up every single Brexiteer vs Remainer clash on the broadcast news in the weeks and months leading up to referendum day. If Shattock thinks that the British political Right is brimming over with so many winning, articulate spokespeople that it constitutes an advantage over the Left then he is living in a parallel universe – one in which nobody from UKIP exists, for a start.

Not that Shattock is wrong about everything:

Boris Johnson, another master of the art, wrote in this magazine a couple of years ago that “lefties…are much more likely to think that right-wingers are genuinely evil.”  At times, we certainly give that impression. Now, I’m not saying there has never been a Tory activist who has, on a misty moonlit night in East Surrey, sacrificed a newborn to hasten the awakening of Azathoth. But if we stop assuming they all do that, the tone of our arguments will change accordingly, and Tory voters would feel less patronised.

A more self-effacing and less self-righteous approach can work wonders for public engagement, as Ed Balls seems to have discovered on the dance floor.  Whether or not this means giving Sunday Politics interviews in spandex is the way forward for Labour, I’m not sure. But our current Foreign Secretary is a prime example of how not taking yourself too seriously can go down well with the public.

Well, quite. It’s funny how people switch off and stop listening when you scream continually in their faces about how evil they are and how enlightened you are.

Shattock then indulges in some unbridled sanctimony:

But we also need to learn from the things the alt right commentators don’t say. At the heart of their appeal is the fact that, behind the jokes, their arguments are bracingly simple.

This is a huge advantage when it comes to persuading people. Instead of debating policy in detail in the national media, we should take a leaf from their book and go on the offence, attacking individual opponents and saying why they are unfit to govern as people, not flag-carriers. When Tony Blair called John Major “weak, weak, weak”, that was more effective than a hundred policy explanations. Where they are needed, our policy arguments need to be short, sharp and self-explanatory, or they are no good at all.

Admittedly, it is far easier for the right to make simple arguments than the left. On the left we are naturally more inclined to nuanced positions and complex explanations, and tend to look down on simple generalisations (try explaining to yourself why political correctness is important, in one sentence, with no commas). This intellectualism can too easily be used against us in debates. It was, quite literally, impossible for Ed Miliband to say that Labour overspent in government, because it would have been intellectually dishonest and a gross oversimplification.

What Shattock calls the “nuance” of left-wing arguments, many on the right might describe as woolly, hand-wringing moral relativism and a craven refusal to acknowledge basic truths and realities. But sure, if believing in a maximalist approach to free speech and civil liberties makes right-wingers “simplistic” then we shall wear the insult as a badge of honour. Rather that than sell out our freedoms one by one under the false guise of “tolerance”.

More:

This is, unfortunately, the world we live in now. Johnson, Farage, Yiannopoulos and, of course, Donald Trump, are all pioneers of post-truth politics. If we’re going to win, we have to fight them on their terms. If you think the strategy of “we go high when they go low” worked out well for Hillary Clinton, then you’ve been inhaling the same thing her husband didn’t. It is no longer good enough, if it ever was, to have sensible, rational economic arguments, and naïvely hope the truth will emerge from our public debates. That is just not where we are at in 2016.

Nowadays, if you want people to listen, you have to mock, exaggerate, cajole, put on a show. In our post-truth world, when it comes to persuading people you’re right, presentation is 90 per cent of what matters. The truth alone is no longer going to cut it.

Let’s ignore the free shot we could take at the ludicrous assertion that the British Left have at any point in their history “gone high” in terms of their political rhetoric, or that “post-truth politics” was somehow pioneered by Evil Brexiteers while those honourable, upstanding Remainers clung nobly to the trusty shield of truth. This blog and others have debunked that fatuous assertion more times than I care to remember.

And newsflash: better “presentation” by future witty young leftist YouTube stars will not solve the fundamental problem that the Left’s message is deeply unappealing to millions of decent people who are by no means racist, sexist or prejudiced, but who simply want to live their lives free from overbearing, hectoring, leftist moral guardians. Owen Jones has a YouTube channel with 82,000 subscribers. He might have many more, if only his output did not consist of finger-wagging screeds accusing his fellow citizens of being evil, heartless racists.

Look: this isn’t complicated. The reason that conservatives have increasingly fled to new media, starting with talk radio in 90s America all the way up to YouTube today (and yes, sometimes including fake news, though the Left are also guilty of consuming such propaganda) is because the mainstream media unapologetically persists with a left-leaning bias. Doubt it? Note the way that American newspapers and television networks all speak about “undocumented” rather than “illegal ” immigration now, under pressure from the social justice wing to avoid calling lawbreaking by its proper name. Or the way that British media peddle the idea that Brexiteers are anti-immigration (and therefore racist) as opposed to anti-uncontrolled immigration.

In a thousand small ways (and a few egregiously large ones), the mainstream media in Britain and America has taken a clear position, usually against those with conservative or classically liberal beliefs. And pumping out a one-sided product day after day is a surefire way to force your viewers and listeners to go elsewhere, often ending up in the arms of the likes of Milo Yiannopoulos, Mike Cernovich or even Alex Jones and the InfoWars crowd.

But left-wing versions of these shows do already exist. Look at The Young Turks in America, a very successful left-wing YouTube channel founded by Cenk Uygur, a former MSNBC host. There may be fewer such outlets on the Left than the Right, but that is largely because the Left can fall back on nearly all of the television news media to give them succour and reflect their views. When you control the mainstream media it is unreasonable to expect to dominate the counterculture, too.

Here in Britain, there is a dearth of good online commentary altogether because the mainstream media (including the Guardian, the New Statesman and the Spectator) all stubbornly refuse to engage with the blogosphere, jealously horde readers for themselves and throttle the limited independent political blogosphere in the crib. Want more fun, humorous political commentators? Well, maybe try acknowledging them when they publish things or try to make a name for themselves instead of studiously ignoring them and insisting on recruiting from the same old predictable, nepotistic “talent” pool.

And finally, here is Abi Wilkinson, peddling the same idea that white young men are being “radicalised” in the same manner as brainwashed ISIS recruits:

When we fret about young people leaving western countries and going to fight with Isis, it’s common to focus on the role of the internet in their political radicalisation. It’s time we discussed the radicalisation of angry, young white men in a similar way. The manosphere gave us Elliot Rodger. He was a regular on the forum “PUAhate” – populated by bitter men who had tried the techniques advocated by so-called “pick-up artists” to attract women and failed.

Reading through the posting history of individual aliases, it’s possible to chart their progress from vague dissatisfaction, and desire for social status and sexual success, to full-blown adherence to a cohesive ideology of white supremacy and misogyny. Neofascists treat these websites as recruitment grounds. They find angry, frustrated young men and groom them in their own image. Yet there’s no Prevent equivalent to try to stamp this out.

How many neo-nazi terror plots were thwarted in Britain this year, Abi? How many men’s rights massacres were narrowly averted by MI5? When young, disaffected and unassimilated Muslims radicalise, they have an unfortunate tendency of skulking away to Syria to join ISIS, plotting murderous attacks on the streets of Britain or at least turning a blind eye when others do so. When young white men watch too many YouTube videos from the “manosphere”, they become insufferable, obnoxious clowns. Where is the equivalence?

A counter-extremism strategy which aims to prevent the commissioning of terrorist attacks and physical violence is potentially justifiable. A “Prevent” scheme designed to stop young white males from thinking or expressing certain nonviolent thoughts on the internet is several steps further down the road to tyranny. Perhaps that’s why even Theresa May’s droolingly authoritarian government hasn’t suggested re-education camps for those who .

Whether these articles are anonymous or penned by star columnists, all of them reflect an insidious new effort by the British Left – which increasingly seems morally adrift and intellectually dead, utterly unable to counter conservatism with intelligent ideas of their own – to instead portray conservative thinking as a sign of intrinsic disorder, an unnatural and dangerous state of thinking which can only be brought around by foul play and manipulation.

That’s why we now see prominent left-wing publications like the Guardian and the New Statesman talking with a straight face about the “radicalisation” of young white men. Having spent much of the past decade fervently denying that radicalisation of young British Muslims is a problem, they are now screeching that the real danger is radicalised young white men. Somebody who marinates 24/7 in a stream of jihadist propaganda and lives as part of a community which exists in parallel to the rest of British society rather than fully assimilating is apparently A-OK. But beware the young white male gamer who watches one too many Milo videos and might one day be tempted – shock, horror – to say something triggering in a university lecture or public place.

This is offensive beyond measure, putting the legitimate (if sometimes juvenile) political views of young conservative media watchers – and in reality both the viewers and the media outlets span a wide spectrum, and should not be lumped together like this for the purposes of demonisation – on a par with the murderous ideology of fundamentalist Islamism. There is simply no comparison. While lone right-wing extremists have always existed and continue to lurk in the margins of society, the terrorist threat they pose is nothing compared to the threat currently posed by radical Islam. I see what the leftists are trying to do with this snide new comparison, and they need to stop.

The PC credo of many leftists may make them exquisitely uncomfortable criticising Islam without commensurate criticism of other, more “privileged” groups, so one can understand why left-wing commentators are starting to seize on this narrative of “white male radicalisation” because it allows them to defray criticism of one of their most favoured victim groups and suggest that radicalisation is problem throughout British society, and not just within Islam. Unfortunately, it is a massive overreach – the evidence simply does not back it up. If Abi Wilkinson has documentary proof of the “slippery slope” from watching alt-right YouTube stars to committing politically-inspired murder then I will hear her out. Until then, she should stop peddling misinformation.

But more than anything, the fact that we are now being peddled the myth that young white men are somehow being indoctrinated by flashy right-wing shock jocks reveals the extent of the Left’s intellectual decline. At this point it is utterly inconceivable to them that somebody might embrace patriotic, civic nationalist, anti-PC and pro-free speech positions held by the alt-right and popular right unless they were brainwashed or “radicalised” into doing so. They simply cannot understand why anybody would spurn their infantilising, identity politics-ridden world view unless a Big Bad Man is grooming them for an evil terrorist purpose.

That is how far the modern British (and American) Left have drifted from the people, and many of their own former voters. Furious with an electorate that does not respond warmly to their exacting Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics, leftists are now lashing out, accusing anybody who refuses to support their dodgy candidates and tired old policies of not only being unreasonable, but actually having succumbed to Evil Tory radicalisation.

Back in the real world, ordinary people will sit back and watch the Left throwing this tantrum, accusing people who reject leftist orthodoxy of having been “radicalised”, and conclude that the Left, not the Right, represents the dangerous and intolerant cult in modern politics. And they would be absolutely right to do so.

In between their screaming tantrums, left-wing commentators in Britain and America might consider pausing to consider just how much reputational and intellectual harm this total war against conservatism is inflicting on their own movement.

 

Update: The first anonymous Guardian article cited in this blog post turned out to be a brilliant spoof by the excellent anti-SJW provocateur Godfrey Elfwick, something which was not known when I first wrote this piece. The fact that the Guardian’ editorial team did not realise and published the article in earnest only goes to highlight that the establishment Left have swallowed the denialist myth that anybody who disagrees with their worldview must have been “radicalised” by the evil forces of conservatism – thus proving my point about the Left’s intellectual decline.

 

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The Southern Poverty Law Center Is Enabling Islamist Extremism By Smearing Its Most Stalwart Opponents

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By labelling dedicated anti-extremism campaigners like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Majid Nawaz as anti-Muslim extremists themselves, the deluded and morally compromised Southern Poverty Law Centre is doing the Islamists’ work for them

There have been few sadder debasements of once-fine and noble institutions this year than the Southern Poverty Law Center’s decision to stop serving as a fearless searchlight highlighting violent extremism and instead become a trendy-lefty Islamism-denying propaganda outlet.

That might sound harsh, but there really is no other way to describe the SPLC’s fawning, slavish deference to leftist SJW dogma – a philosophy which furiously denies that there is any problem within the Islamic community or with a certain branch of the Muslim faith, and that anybody who disagrees and dares to draw attention to problems within Islam is effectively Hitler.

Last week, in a blaze of publicity, the Southern Poverty Law Center published a list of fifteen individuals singled out by that organisation as holding and disseminating false and extremist information and opinions about Islam.

In the preface to their report, the SPLC declares:

The anti-Muslim extremists profiled here have, between them, claimed that Islamic extremists have infiltrated the CIA, FBI, Pentagon and other agencies; asserted that there are “no-go zones” in Europe where non-Muslims including police are afraid to enter; suggested that there is a Muslim plot to impose Sharia religious law on U.S. courts; and claimed that President Obama is a secret Muslim. These claims, along with many others, have been shown conclusively to be false.

This misinformation and hateful rhetoric have consequences. When huge numbers of Americans believe that a majority of Muslims are terrorists or terrorist sympathizers, it can hardly be a surprise that some percentage of them engage in hate crime attacks. After all, they learned of the threat they believe Muslims pose from sources who were presented by the media as authoritative experts.

This country faces an array of complex and daunting problems, the threat of terrorism indisputably among them. Let’s not make them worse by allowing self-described “experts” to propagandize our fellow Americans with defamatory and frightening falsehoods. Our media, in particular, has the opportunity to present an objective picture that illuminates, rather than distorts, reality.

So far, so noble, you might think. There is certainty a lot of hyperbolic and often baseless scaremongering about Muslims and Islam in the media, and flagging particularly odious or disreputable sources for media attention is not in and of itself a bad thing. Until you realise who is on the list.

Some of the names are old suspects that one would expect to see. But in news which has provoked widespread outrage, the list also includes the names of entirely innocent and worthy activists fighting against Islamist extremism, like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Maajid Nawaz.

And what is the SPLC’s charge sheet against Maajid Nawaz? What actions classify him as an “extremist”?

In the list sent to a top British security official in 2010, headlined “Preventing Terrorism: Where Next for Britain?” Quilliam [Nawaz’s anti-extremism think tank]  wrote, “The ideology of non-violent Islamists is broadly the same as that of violent Islamists; they disagree only on tactics.” An official with Scotland Yard’s Muslim Contact Unit told The Guardian that “[t]he list demonises a whole range of groups that in my experience have made valuable contributions to counter-terrorism.”

Well, what’s so shocking about that? It as an entirely logical statement on Nawaz’s part. Unless the people at the SPLC are truly dim and do not recognise a difference between Muslims and Islamists then there is no excuse for trying to turn a perfectly obvious point – that some people who support a fundamentalist ideology will choose violence while others do not – into some kind of “gotcha” smoking gun evidence of Nawaz’s secret Islamophobia.

And worse:

According to a Jan. 24, 2014, report in The Guardian, Nawaz tweeted out a cartoon of Jesus and Muhammad — despite the fact that many Muslims see it as blasphemous to draw Muhammad. He said that he wanted “to carve out a space to be heard without constantly fearing the blasphemy charge.”

Was this provocative? Perhaps. But again, Nawaz is himself a Muslim. Who better to judge what is or is not offensive to one’s religious moral code than the person tweeting the image? And even if doing so is “offensive”, are there not times when the offence is a price worth paying to make a broader argument in support of universal free speech? And if the Southern Poverty Law Center is so concerned about the emotional harm that may be inflicted by “blasphemous” acts like this, how do they explain their deafening silence when it comes to Christian beliefs and symbols being mocked in the popular culture?

The SPLC is not taking the side of ordinary Muslims here, some of whom may indeed be quietly offended by depicting Muhammad. They are taking the side of violent Islamists who seek to enforce blasphemy laws in the 21st century.

And then the SLPC really descends into the gutter:

Nawaz, who had described himself as a “feminist,” was “filmed repeatedly trying to touch a naked lap dancer,” according to an April 10, 2015, report in the Daily Mail. The paper apparently got the security film from the owner of a strip club who was incensed by Nawaz’s claims to be a religious Muslim.

And how we have the inevitable SJW identity politics hit job, seeking to ruin Nawaz’s reputation in the court of public opinion by repeating the shocking news that Nawaz has not at all times lived according to the letter of his faith. Well, so what? Sometimes, without thinking, I accidentally eat meat on a Friday during Lent. Does that make me virulently anti-Catholic and unable to fittingly discuss my faith in the media? Of course not. People’s actions diverge from their faith in a myriad of ways, small and large, and this applies just as much to those who got upset about Nawaz’s strip club visit (like the Muslim strip club owner) as to Nawaz himself. None are in a position to judge. Yet the SPLC feels that any divergence from Islamic teaching is sufficient to declare people that they don’t like to be somehow anti-Muslim.

This National Review editorial laments the SPLC’s corruption and decline:

The SPLC is an example of the way in which the Left corrupts and perverts the institutions it controls, from the IRS to the universities. While decrying “conspiracy theorists,” the SPLC itself is obsessed with “Terror from the Right” that is, pardon us for noticing, so rare as to be nearly insignificant. For all of the SPLC’s hysteria about neo-Confederates, skinheads, secret Nazi cabals, and the like, there is very little evidence that these organizations, to the extent that they exist as more than shared social-media fantasies, are actually up to much of anything. Even if we accept the tendentious characterization of SPLC favorite Timothy McVeigh as some kind of right-wing extremist (as with many such figures, his actual beliefs were confused, contradictory, and eccentric), the main organ of white-supremacist nuttery in the United States is prison gangs, which constitute a fairly constrained and peculiar phenomenon with relatively little effect on the outside world.

Not so violent Islamic radicalism, which is a factor in the United States and in practically every country in Europe, Africa, South Asia, and beyond. That is the great irony here: People like Ayaan Hirsi Ali are doing the work the SPLC is supposed to be doing — understanding and countering violent extremists — and the SPLC denounces them for it.

Very strange.

Some of those on the SPLC list are Muslims, former Muslims, and lifelong students of Islam. What they mostly have in common is that they are, broadly speaking, conservatives, people who are influential among conservatives, or writers and activists admired by conservatives. The SPLC is so drunk on its own poisonous ideological brew that it has simply come to conflate conservatism with violent or potentially violent extremism. One of these things is not like the others: A category of social tendencies that includes both Aryan Brotherhood felons in San Quentin and Somali-Dutch atheist women with celebrated literary careers is not an especially useful category.

While Nick Cohen provocatively (but accurately) declares in The Spectator that “the white left has issued its first fatwa” against Nawaz:

It is an organisation that ought to share Nawaz’s values, but because of the crisis in left-wing values does the dirty work of the misogynists, the racists, the homophobes, the censors, and the murderers it was founded to oppose. It does it with a straight face because, as I am sure you will have guessed, the fascism in question is not white but Islamic. And once that subject is raised all notions of universal human rights, and indeed basic moral and intellectual decency, are drowned in a sea of bad faith.

Nawaz is from Essex. He has fought and been beaten up by white British neo-Nazis. He fell in with Hizb ut-Tahrir while he was young. When he ended up in a torture chamber in an Egyptian jail, he abandoned Islamism for liberalism. Since then, he and his Quilliam Foundation have struggled against both the white far right and the Islamist far right. They have defended liberal Muslims and, indeed, all of us from lethal blasphemy taboos and the threat of terrorism. They respect freedom of speech, including the freedom of their enemies to speak.

A significant faction on the left hates them for upholding the values they have forgotten,  and will use any smear to denigrate them. As my secularist friend Faisal Saeed Al Mutar observed, when he, Nawaz and hundreds of others step forward and try to liberalise Muslim communities from within, they are attacked, ‘for being not Muslim enough, not Arab enough, not Pakistani enough, not filled with enough revenge and enough hatred’.

In the liberal orientalist world view the only ‘authentic’ Muslim is a barbarian. A battery of insults fires on any Muslim who says otherwise. They are ‘neo-conservatives,’ ‘native informants,’ and ‘Zionists’: they are as extreme as jihadists they oppose, or, let’s face it, worse.

This searing criticism could not be more accurate. For there is nothing so racist as the tyranny of low expectations in which the fashionable leftist intelligentsia holds the Muslim world, viewing them not as people with moral agency of their own but as little pets to be protected (or overgrown pets to be cowered from), people whose sometime decision to commit violence and murder cannot be condemned because it is supposedly “provoked” by forced beyond their control.

I have personally interviewed Maajid Nawaz, back when he was running as the Liberal Democrat candidate for the London constituency of Hampstead & Kilburn in the 2015 UK general election, and whatever one may think of his domestic political views, this is clearly not somebody who belongs on a list of violent, hateful extremists.

What is concerning is that the Southern Poverty Law Center would actually now prefer the old incarnation of Maajid Nawaz, back in the days when he was a member of a legitimate extremist group, Hizb ut-Tahrir. As such, he would be protected under the umbrella of leftist denial and fawning appeasement, so central to the SPLC’s new dogma, and they would bend over backwards to excuse his fundamentalist beliefs and violent actions.

By contrast, having long since rejected violence and an extremist fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, the SPLC would have us believe that Nawaz is somehow full of hatred and antipathy to normal Muslims, the equivalent of a knight of the Ku Klux Klan. It is absolute nonsense – pure, amoral leftist bilge.

This is also how Western civilisation destroys itself – by furiously denying the existence of opposing forces or in some cases openly bending the knee to them, while attacking those who actually recognise the danger and seek to confront it. In a world where precious few people have a remotely coherent strategy for tackling fundamentalist Islamism, Maajid Nawaz stands out as one of those with genuine understanding of the problem, and a plan for addressing it – and so the debased SPLC must now attack and undermine him at all costs, by pretending that he is an anti-Muslim extremist.

And one can only concur with Nick Cohen’s assessment that it is “heartbreaking” to witness an organisation so integral to the American Civil Rights movement, which bravely shone an unforgiving light on genuine violent extremism where it once existed, now creating McCarthyite lists of people who offend leftist/Islamist dogma and labelling them with the same term of “extremist”.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali makes the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list too. Why? Because she actively and gleefully foments prejudice and violence against ordinary innocent Muslims? Of course not. The SPLC include Ayaan Hirsi Ali in their leftist collaborationist fatwa because she had the temerity to renounce her faith and speak out passionately for the cause of secularism, thus gravely offending the real extremists to the point where she has to hire bodyguards to ward off assassination attempts.

It takes some twisted morality to come down on the side of those who seek to carry out an execution for the crime of apostasy over their intended victim, but somehow the SPLC has found a way.

Cohen concludes:

Do these jerks not think about the consequences of their rote-learned, pseudo-leftist bombast? Have they not heard that, across the world, lists circulate of ‘apostates’ along with invitations to the faithful to kill them when they can?

Maybe they have but do not care, and it will take drastic action to shake them out of their spiteful stupor.  A court action could do it. If Nawaz sues, SPLC’s work in fighting the white far right will suffer grievously. But, as it is so eager to be on the wrong side in the fight against the religious far right, I think we could call it evens.

It is hard to disagree. Gone, it seems, are the days when the Southern Poverty Law Center could be found seeking justice for the victims of real prejudice, oppression and extremist violence.

Where once the SPLC battled segregation and fought civil cases to ensure that racist lynchings and arson attacks were acknowledged at a time when the criminal justice system did not want to prosecute them, now they can be found patrolling the borders of our language, seeking to excommunicate decent and honest people from polite society for the high crime of having caused “offence” to certain protected groups.

And when an organisation has drifted so far from its founding ethos to the extent that a one-time civil liberties group is now in the business of making McCarthyite-style lists of people whose blasphemy offends Islamist extremists, then the time has probably come to wash our hands of that organisation, sad though it may be.

 

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Top Image: Wikimedia Commons

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Russell Square Knife Attack – Probably Not Terrorism, But No Grounds For Complacency

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It appears that last night’s London knife attack was motivated by mental illness rather than terrorism. But it could easily have been otherwise, and some in the media and positions of authority once again proved themselves unwilling to accept the Islamist self-justifications of lone wolf terrorists

In the wake of a gruesome knife attack in Russell Square, London, which left one woman dead and many others injured, Conservative Home’s Paul Goodman is busy arguing at straw men:

In short, Bernard Hogan-Howe is right to warn in relation to another terror attack in Britain that it’s a case of “when, not if”, and it is doubtless necessary for the police to step up their presence.

But it is important to bear in mind that not every assault claimed in the name of Islam was planned by a terror group in Raqqa or elsewhere.

And it is worth remembering that the combination of mental illness, drugs and family breakdown can itself drive crime, and that Islamist ideology is not necessarily a fourth factor.

There’s an Islamist theat, to be sure.  But caution is one thing; panic would be quite another.  The personal risk to most Britons of being caught up in a terror attack is low, at least at present.

Terror is terrifying.  That’s its point – why terrorists carry out terror.  But there’s no need to make it more terrifying than it already is, and every need to keep calm and carry on.

My emphasis in bold.

But of course not every attack claimed in the name of Islam or the Islamic State was planned by an overseas terror group. I don’t know a single person who suggests that they were, and yet time and again we see establishment figures earnestly lecturing us about the blazingly obvious. But just because an attack was not planned from within territory held by the Islamic State does not mean that fundamentalist, radical Islam was not the motivator.

When improved intelligence work makes it harder for would-be terrorist attackers to move across borders or communicate specific plans electronically, ISIS increasingly relies on pumping out a constant feed of propaganda and indoctrination material in the hope and expectation that it will be picked up by the susceptible and used by the recipients to self-radicalise.

This is entirely in line with the directive made by senior Islamic State leader Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, who instructs his faithful:

If you can kill a disbelieving American or European – especially the spiteful and filthy French – or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be. Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him.

You can keep calling the people who pick up the Islamist WiFi signal and act upon it “mentally ill” if you want – and some of them may indeed be so. But to look at their actions only through the lens of mental illness while furiously ignoring the religious terrorism aspect out of some craven obeisance to politically correct dogma is to disregard the entire context in which an attack takes place, stripping it of any sense and making it impossible to counter.

Archbishop Cranmer is also on the warpath against those who rushed to disseminate the mental health aspect of the story while withholding other pertinent details:

Perhaps it’s unhelpful to speculate about the ethnicity and religion of the assailant. Perhaps ‘assailant’ is also an unhelpful term if he has significant mental health issues. It was a ‘he’, wasn’t it? Yes, we know the sex of the suspect. And ‘suspect’ is a much better term, even though the police tasered him and currently have him under armed guard. Innocent until proven guilty, and all that. Act of terrorism? No, we can’t go with that: it’s just a ‘classic’ random stabbing – for the moment, anyway. So, we have a male suspect involved in a London stabbing who has “significant” mental health issues which are obviously mitigating. Yes, that’s the story.

Other facts are obviously known. But these truths must be withheld. The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has called for the public to remain “calm and vigilant”. Yes, that’s the message. A 19-year-old man (how do they know his precise age before his name?) with significant mental health problems has murdered a 60-year-old woman and slashed five others, and we must keep calm and carry on. Nothing to see here.

Funny thing, truth. It requires clarity of thought and expression. It derives deep metaphysical speculation and complex judgments, such as those pertaining to religious mania or psychological health, from the most obvious facts and indubitable distinctions. The starting point must always be what is known, with a rational apprehension of how what is known has been made known. Sensibilities change, but the form of facts does not.

The human mind and heart can be moved in various ways, depending on how those facts are presented (or not). The Met and BBC can suggest shadowy lines of thought, and the Mayor of London can issue a command to be calm and vigilant.  But neither can command the mind to move to assent to something, especially if something more is suspected. Is it too much to ask that the establishment bear witness to truth? Or do they presume we have no interest in finding it? Isn’t it rather patronising to withhold it and exhort calmness and vigilance, when that very exhortation releases passions and induces concerns? Vigilant about what? Teenagers with mental health problems? Isn’t that a rather malleable conviction or manipulated truth, not to mention a slander on all who suffer mental health problems? Isn’t the whole truth a far better breastplate against extremism and shield against stereotyping than filtered facts and mediated knowledge?

At the time of publication (12:30PM, Thursday 4 August) it appears that the suspect in custody is a Norwegian citizen of Somali origin. It further appears that there is no evidence thus far of radicalisation, and that the tentative link to terrorism originally spoken of by the Metropolitan Police may not be true. Time, and further investigation, will tell.

But even if this is definitively proved not to be an Islamist attack, a woman is still dead and others are in the hospital. There is nothing to celebrate. And judging by the media and commentariat’s desperately weak understanding of how Islamist terror has adapted to work in an age of hyper vigilance (setting the bar so high that it “doesn’t count” unless personally orchestrated by black-clad jihadists out of Raqqa), there is much to be concerned about in terms of our own readiness and willingness to confront the threat.

Finally, praise must also be given to the armed respondents of the Metropolitan Police, who quickly raced to the scene of a very disturbing crime and managed to subdue the assailant using only a taser. If this attack had happened on the streets of New York or Chicago, the attacker would be in the morgue with about 20 police bullets in him and we would not have the opportunity to learn more about his motives first-hand. And while Britain’s need for armed police is regrettably increasing, we must take care to preserve the spirit (and the rules) which insist that shooting a suspect is the last resort, not the first.

 

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