Sunday, 18 January 2015

A World War of Freedom Against Terror.

Ever since the 9/11 attacks on New York in 2001, the western world has seen a rise in the level of public discussion over the concepts of freedom and liberty in the face of what is often still rather depicted forthrightly as a sinister and psychopathological death cult intent on mass murdering us all.

The reaction by some on the 'anti-imperialist' left in the US and Britain depicted these terror threats rather sniffily as a sort of mere reflex action to the history of 'Western' imperialism in the Middle East where Islam was the majority religion and where Muslims were said to be poor and oppressed.

Unfortunately, such simplistic responses, in trying to rationalise away all evidence to the contrary, ended up stimulating yet another form of stupidity in the shape of those proclaiming themselves 'pro-liberationists' defending liberal democracy at home and abroad in the face of weak liberals.

Part of the reason for that was an understandable sense of horror at the growth of Islamist terror atrocities mingled with a sense that liberals had 'lost their way' in defending 'our values' and so assisted, either unwittingly or by design, the rise of an 'Islamofascist threat' from the 'religious right'.

This was pretty much the standard fare from a number of noted writers and journalists who started to labour under the strange delusion that their polemical spats with equally stupid leftist opponents could then be mapped onto the world stage as a whole as part of some cosmic battle against evil.

Such was the thrust, if it could be called that, of Nick Cohen's What's Left : How Liberals Lost Their Way, a tract which blasted off a sort a scattergun attacks on those 'making excuses' for Islamofascist terrorists and committing such follies and idiocies as opposing 'the liberation of Iraq' in 2003.

With the Paris terror attacks and the murder of 12 Charlie Hebdo journalists being described as an obvious threat to freedom of speech as well as a French '9/11', Cohen has been quick to reposition himself as a stalwart Voice of Reason, though maybe hoping his position on Iraq is forgotten.

Journalists, including hacks like Cohen, tend to want to please their readership and audience by staking out a position that will rally the readership towards them on 'big issues'. In this sense, bad journalistic windbags such as Cohen are not unlike politicians with their 'framing' mechanisms.

Cohen's version of liberal politics and freedom of speech pits it as a sort of liberation theology in direct confrontation with religious tyranny and absolutism everywhere. He makes the same mistake as Christopher Hitchens in conflating the resurgence of religion in politics with totalitarian power claims.

This ideology is itself an outgrowth of a style of secularised religious thinking whereby the power of Western states ought to be invested with a world historical mission in promoting universal values through their right to intervene militarily everywhere on battlefield earth in beating back 'reactionary' forces.

Britain and France thus find themselves beset from within and without by these forces. Just as in the Cold War there were crypto-Communist subversives trying to weaken the west's willpower to stand up to totalitarian states, so too there are those 'objectively' aiding the 'existential enemy'.

Such people include Will Self. Cohen accuses him, rather baselessly, of 'claiming moral equivalence' between terrorists and those defending free speech. Self claimed there are in fact limits to free speech in any society, a factual observation as opposed to a statement on what ought to be the case.

Self was wrong to have asserted in the Channel 4 interview that satire should be aimed at those with power only; he said it should essentially punch up against those with real power rather than down at Muslims who in the West who do not. However, he was on the right lines about what it ought to do.

Self got that wrong less because of 'moral equivalence' but because he does not take the threat of Islamist militancy tin Britain that seriously. Yet that threat is real even if it is manipulated to generate a fear which can be exploited to justify military intervention abroad in Afghanistan or Iraq.

The issue of terrorists murdering journalists is less a free speech one than an issue of practical counter-terrorism prevention as two hate fuelled gunmen were never going to be able to ensure the French media simply did what the murderers apparently were demanding-no satirising of Islam.

Whatever the limits of free speech are and should be are is something different to the reality. This was quite evidently proven in factual terms by the arrest of French 'comedian' Dieudonne for putting a moronic comment on Facebook-"Tonight, as far as I'm concerned, I feel like Charlie Coulibaly."

In a language similar to that used by staunch defenders of free speech against barbaric 'reactionary' and 'radical Islam', Dieudonne is going to stand trial for 'apologising for terrorism'. Clearly, freedom of speech is freedom to agree with the version of freedom defined by those defending freedom.

Dieudonne is a sort of Islamist Bernard Manning. The purpose of his statement, made after attending the Paris unity and free speech rally was to hint that he might well feel like Amedy Coulibaly after being on the march or else maybe that like both the Charlie Hebdo staff and Coulibaly he feels 'dead'.

Either way it is largely unimportant. There is nothing in that statement which suggests Dieudonne is plotting a terrorist attack or signalling to other Islamist malcontents that he thinks they ought to feel like the Jew-hating gunman who brutally murdered shoppers in a kosher market in eastern Paris.

Then again, in the world of those advocating a universal crusade for imposing liberal democracy by force, liberalism is itself a sort of religion. As Cohen made plain last week 'My friend and comrade Maajid Nawaz was a jihadi before he converted to liberalism and understands the totalitarian mind.'

So liberalism is an ideology that minds shall and must be converted towards once they have been made to see the light. Liberalism must be 'muscular' and in conflict with totalitarian religious death cults everywhere. Those who disagree are spineless pathetic 'appeasers': they are 'craven' and stunted.

That Islamism is not a global totalitarian threat on a par with either Nazi Germany nor with Soviet Communism or is not one monolithic ideology uniting foot soldiers of God, waiting to rise up and overthrow liberal democracies across the globe, is seldom remarked upon by these 'free thinkers'.

It was surprising that for all the posturing of a section of the liberal-left on the need to roll back 'clerical fascism' in the Greater Middle East and the need to impose secular democracies, very few seemed to have bothered studying the history of the region and its complexities that much.

Scholars such as Malise Ruthven in a Fury for God emphasised that even if Iraqis hated Saddam Hussein there was a tradition too of being very suspicious of the western powers because of the colonial past. Invading Iraq was risky and threatened to reignite sectarian-ethnic enmities.

Of course, far-right Islamist ideology does attempt to rationalise terrorism as being a mere 'extreme response' to the 'extreme' circumstances Muslims face across the world and which is believed wholly to be the fault of 'the West' and the 'Zionist entity' in destabilising 'the Muslim World'.

However, this inherently paranoid creed does not about to an ideology that is held by those with the ability to do much more than go off cretinous rants. The danger only lies in the a willingness and ability of a fraction of 'radicalised' Islamists to gain access to weapons and terrorist training.

The absurdity of the jihadi-Islamist terror threat is that the ideology is bigged up by those in power who have an interest in doing so the better to have pretexts for the very foreign policies of military intervention that have helped in creating the failing and collapsed states where Al Qaida have thrived.

Replace Communism with Islamism and it is clear the idea being propagated by Tony Blair through to David Cameron is that Al Qaida is one 'seamless global threat' that 'we all' have to be on our guard against as individuals and as part of a 'community' both worldwide and at local level.

Such propaganda, which posits some sort of oblique threat lurking everywhere, is also potentially a threat to freedom of speech because it induces paranoia and the idea of either being for or against freedom in the way defined by the state. The irony of this seems to pass by liberals such as Cohen.

Of course, it is questionable whether so many of those liberals defending freedom by advocating wars abroad to export democratic revolution throughout the 2000s were really ever that liberal. Many were former Trotskyists who had given up on communist revolution but not the idea of enforcing freedom.

So it was inevitable that this sort of credo was bound to tie itself up in perverted contortions and knots of its own making. Cohen writes,
'Dr Klug can play with his thought games for as long as he likes, but as he must know, no one has been murdered for criticising free speech. The supposed “free-speech fundamentalists” are not the killing type. '
The fact nobody has been killed for criticising free speech does not mean people have not been arrested or killed for exercising it: it is in the exercise of free speech that the principle itself as such is tested and not in prating about believing in a principle as opposed to a practice.

This becomes more readily apparent when it is understood that Cohen is on record as giving a certain endorsement to the idea that torturing barbarians in extreme cases might be needed order to save people from being blown to bits in some sensationalised Hollywood style ticking time bomb scenario.

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