Friday, 1 January 2016

David Cameron's New Year Message: Language, PR Politics and The Denial of Reality.

“When our national security is threatened by a seething hatred of the West, one that turns people against their country and can even turn them into murderous extremists, I want us to be very clear: you will not defeat us.
And we will not just confront the violence and the terror; we will take on their underlying poisonous narrative of grievance and resentment. We will come down hard on those who create the conditions for that narrative to flourish."
Prime Minister Cameron gave Christmas and New Year speeches to outline fairytales. As with any 'speech' by David Cameron, the emphasis is on the politically correct framing devices and use of words to recreate a fictional version of reality that would be absorbed passively in the age of the consumer.

A Cameron 'speech' has to be 'conservative' enough to allay fears of the real threats of ISIS terrorism by 'standing tall', remaining vigilant and 'tough' and 'taking the fight to them' through bombing the Caliphate in Syria. It has to be 'progressive' in promising an end to evil by taking on the 'root causes'

Any attempt to deal with 'the root causes' of evil 'extremism' is a radical progressive stance inherited from Tony Blair. The 'stance' and 'speeches' are infused with the sort of messianic certitude favoured by neoconservatives in the US with its portrayal of dark forces within that shall be vanquished by wars on evil.

Yet the idea that terrorism could be defeated by 'confronting a narrative' is ludicrous. For 'mainstream' politics no longer takes on ideas in the public arena but instead attempts to find acceptable public formats for reshaping perceptions through language from stilted phrases to emitting the right buzzwords.

There are a number of reasons why PR politics is futile. Stock phrases such as 'Islam is a religion of peace' are intended to assuage Muslims but only end up annoying others who can see quite plainly that, even aside from ISIS, that Islam must have 'something to do' with 'religiously inspired' violence.

Of course, ISIS does not represent Islam in its purest form. Yet its ideology and dogmas, its cultural frames of reference and language, from caliphate to kufr and jihad, all hail from a politicised interpretation of the Qu'ran and aspects of Islamic theology that ultimately stem from the Wahhabi Islam of Saudi Arabia.

It is the oil rich kingdom that has bankrolled madrasas and jihadists across the Middle East and wider world and helped create ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The violence of the Caliphate is in 2015 blowing back westwards and its power and influence derive from its uses to regional powers that are Britain's allies.

If Cameron were to 'come down hard on those who create the conditions for that narrative to flourish' he would start with Riyadh. But there is evidence some Tory politicians have a close relationship with Saudi Arab donors and successive governments have not wanted to risk losing lucrative investments and arms deals.

So the promotion of Wahhabi teachings in Britain is considered less important than a report on the Muslim Brotherhood done to assess its threat of 'extremism'. As has become obvious in Syria, 'extremism' is a politically convenient word meaning jihadists who threaten British interests. 'Moderates' do not.

The danger with Cameron and the political class play acting with words and labels like this is that it creates a fantasy version of reality. This makes it easier to persist in folly, such as entering the war in Syria without a strategy ( other than making absurd claims about 70,000 "moderate rebels" waiting to storm Raqqa ).

The other more evident danger is that, instead of the jihadi-Islamist 'narrative' actually being 'challenged' from a standpoint of logic and reason, the hypocrisy of the British government stimulates ever greater cynicism among those claiming that the 'real threat' is actually the government 'narrative'.

This is as true whether from the populist right ( 'Islam is the problem' ) or Islamists ( 'real Islam is the solution' ) and so the potential for spiralling paranoia and mutual accusation intensifies rather than diminishes because reality is ever more boiled down into slogans and soundbites that prevent intelligent thought.

Hence Cameron's government gets more deeply drawn into contorted and clumsy attempts to police opinion and redefine what is 'extreme' and what is 'moderate' rather than commit to practical policies and the open political debate that would preserve a free society from the grip of the emerging security state.

The 'root causes' of terrorism come less from 'poisonous narratives' but from the practical empowerment of jihadi groups through Saudi Arab financing. This allows the material spread of their power in the real world and allows those tapping in to the ideas they promulgate to believe that in joining them the world can be changed.

The causes of radical jihadism are ultimately political and interconnected with the appeal of 'political religion' for those who can plainly see that Muslims across the Middle East are suffering, in part, because of Western foreign policies, no matter how these impacts are said to be unintended consequences.

Even if ISIS is defeated in Syria and Iraq, the political instability and violence that drives the sort of 'narrative' based on conspiracy theories and hatred of sinister Western and collusion with 'Zionist elites' is going to remain, not least as long as Saudi Arabia keeps relentlessly bankrolling and promoting these ideas.

It is very difficult to prate about promoting 'our values' when the reality is the British government firmly aligns with the biggest state sponsor of jihadist terrorism in the world which spends billions on supporting both terrorists and dictators such as Sisi in Egypt and fomenting proxy wars from Libya to Syria and Yemen.

The persistence in pursuing foreign policies that over time promote state collapse and civil war, despite intentions to the contrary, only generates larger number of those who associate the liberation of their own lands with the destruction of the 'imperialist' forces that have have create tyranny and oppression.

The reality is that if Britain, along with other western EU states, is going to be open to mass migration from those lands destabilised as a consequence partly of its foreign policy, it is going to invariably face resistance from within Muslim diapora communities by those who value religious identity over the nation.

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