I would like to stop writing about this topic, but it keeps bringing itself to the fore. So, here, I’ll do my best to wrap up both the most execrable examples of slothful induction with regard to islamic terrorism, and the most shining examples of people who have had the courage to call out the problem for what it is.
First cab off the rank is John Kerin’s essay in the Australian Financial Review of December 20-26, 2014, p.17. Kerin correctly points out the ideological affiliations of the Lindt Cafe jihadi, but refuses to draw the obvious conclusion, and indeed dismisses it as being irrelevant:
Whether Monis was a committed Islamic State follower or he simply cloaked himself in its ideology is a moot point.
He pledged allegiance to IS a month before the siege on his website. At the beginning of the drama he forced his hostages to post in the Lindt window the Shahada flag which, though not the official Islamic State standard, features the group’s war cry.
He then asked to be delivered the official Islamic State flag as part of his demands and he wanted it publicly acknowledged that his was an IS operation.
However we want to classify him – terrorist, madman, violent criminal – Monis’s actions were quickly exploited by IS-linked jihadist groups around the world. The pro-IS Jihadi Media Group was uploading a social media video of the four women held in the café while the siege was still under way.
And on social media various jihadist groups urged followers to emulate his actions and conduct more attacks. [John Kerin, ‘Terror of unknown unknowns’, The Australian Financial Review, December 20-26, 2014, p.17]
Let me know if you can work out what the hell Kerin is trying to say in the initial paragraph.
A similar situation to that of Australia prevails in France, where there were three attacks on civilians in as many days, with two of the attackers clearly shouting ‘allahu akbar’ while they attacked, and yet the authorities refuse to draw the obvious conclusion. Instead, where possible they grasp at the ‘mental illness’ straw in order to re-direct people from thinking of Islamic terrorism – as if these two things could only be mutually exclusive:
A man who ploughed into pedestrians shouting “Allahu Akbar” had been to psychiatric hospital 157 times and had no known links to jihadist groups, a prosecutor said, easing concerns the attack was inspired by Islamic extremism.
The incident in the eastern town of Dijon left 13 people hurt, and eight people remained in hospital on Monday.
The driver was arrested following the attack. Local prosecutor Marie-Christine Tarrare said the man acted alone and had no religious motivations, but rather was upset at the treatment of Chechen children.
He shouted ‘God is great’ to give himself courage to act, and not out of religious belief, Ms Tarrare said.
“He was not guided by religion but because he felt that politically he had to react,” she said, adding that nothing had been found at his parents’ home that would suggest he had any interest in the Islamic State group or other extremist gatherings
The attack came a day after a man assaulted police in the central town of Joue-les-Tours with a knife, slashing one officer in the face.
That man, who was shot dead, had also reportedly shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great”) prompting speculation both assaults were motivated by radical Islamism.
But French leaders were quick to play down any links between the two incidents, with President Francois Hollande urging the French not to panic and government spokesman Stephane Le Foll warning against “lumping them together”.
In Saturday’s attack, Bertrand Nzohabonayo, a French convert to Islam who was born in Burundi, was shot dead after entering a police station in Joue-les-Tours armed with a knife, seriously wounding two officers and hurting another. The assault prompted the government to step up security at police and fire stations nationwide.
I don’t know what’s more frightening – that the people in charge of our society believe this rubbish, or that they think that we will believe this rubbish when they say it.
Now, for the correctives. First, Janet Albrechtson, writing in The Australian on December 24, 2014:
When a killer slaughters people in the name of Islam, we should take him at his word. Monis is the newest form of terrorist. There is no Islamic State membership card, no initiation ceremony, no formal welcoming morning tea.
Not if you’re NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn, you don’t – how are you going looking for Man Haron Monis’ motivation, Cathy? Still wonderin’?
Next, Theodore Dalrymple, writing in The Australian of December 29, 2014 – I think you’ll find the reactions of those close to the attackers, and of the authorities, all too miserably familiar:
One swallow doesn’t make a summer, but how many swallows, exactly, do make a summer? Are two, or possibly three, terrorist attacks by Muslims in France in as many days, in three cities, killing one and injuring 27, a statistical blip or a sign of things to come?
In the first, a man aged 20, born in Burundi and a convert to Islam, walked into a police station in a suburb of Tours, drew out a knife and attacked the police, injuring one seriously and two others less seriously, before being shot dead by a fourth. The culprit accompanied his acts by the now familiar declamation, Allahu akbar — God is great.
The next day in Dijon, a man of North African origin aged 40 deliberately drove a car into pedestrians, injuring 14 in five different locations, while shouting Allahu akbar.
And the day after that, in Nantes, a man aged 37 drove a van into a Christmas market in the middle of the city, injuring nine and killing one. According to witnesses he too extolled the greatness of God. He then stabbed himself several times with a knife but failed to kill himself.
Considerable effort in France has gone into denying the significance of the religious exclamation of the perpetrators, for fear no doubt of stirring a primitive or visceral reaction by the French population. Unfortunately, official evasiveness is just as likely in the end to evoke violent rage as would downright incitement to hatred.
The authorities appear now to be constantly walking on the eggshells that — rather than good intentions — pave the road to hell.
The newspaper Liberation headed its report of the first of the episodes with a quote from an acquaintance of the perpetrator: The affair has nothing to do with religion. This was despite the fact that the perpetrator’s brother was a known extremist and he himself had become notably more religious recently, having posted a picture of himself with the flag of Islamic State, which has repeatedly called for Muslims in France to kill whomever they can.
Incidentally, a sentence in Le Monde’s account was very revealing about the social milieu from which the perpetrator emerged: “He was known for petty crimes — robberies, drug-dealing — but had never really drawn attention to himself in the quarter where he lived.” Robberies and drug-dealing are nothing unusual, and therefore unworthy of remark.
The second perpetrator was a man with a long psychiatric history who had been released from hospital only weeks before what I dare say will soon be called his “accident”. The police reported that after his arrest he spoke incoherently of the children of Palestine, Islamic State and so on, his incoherence — a symptom of madness — coming as a relief to those who want to hear or see no evil. It allowed them to dismiss him as an isolated lunatic, such as there have always been and always will be. It did not occur to them that madness and political or religious fanaticism are not contradictory or even incompatible.
For now, there is more mystery about the third perpetrator. The prosecutor of Nantes said his attack was an “isolated” event with no terrorist intent. Absurd though this sounds, she might be right. Clusters of unusual events do occur, coming and going without signifying any long-term trend or common origin. Moreover, bizarre or sensational crimes often evoke imitation by the weak-minded. But no one in France is likely to believe this, even if true.
The political class is so wedded to political correctness, which it expresses in language of almost Soviet woodenness, that people are now inclined to assume that it is lying even when it speaks the truth. And since 1200 young French Muslims gone to Syria to kill for Islamic theocracy, which is more fun than working for a living or long-term unemployment in a soulless and soul-destroying HLM (Habitation a Loyer Modere, rent-controlled housing), there are certainly enough Islamists in France to commit three acts of terrorism in quick succession.
At the very time these attacks took place, the writer and journalist Eric Zemmour, a ferocious opponent of what he believes to be the creeping Islamisation of France (with the connivance, willing or unwilling, of the political and intellectual elite), was sacked from the television program on which he had appeared for several years because of an interview he gave to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
Having evoked the dangers of Muslim separatism in France, he was asked whether he thought Muslims could or should be deported from France. He replied: “I know it’s unrealistic but history is surprising.
Who would have said in the 1940s that, 20 years later, a million pieds-noirs (French colonists) would have left Algeria to return to France? Or that, after the war, five or six million Germans would have left central and eastern Europe, where they had lived for centuries?”
While Zemmour (who is of Berber Jewish origin) could claim that he was not actually advocating the kind of violent ethnic cleansing that the pieds-noirs and Germans suffered, his words could certainly be construed as encouraging or at least as wishing it. Nor is it true that his dismissal by the TV station was censorship, as he and many supporters claimed. A man’s right to free speech does not entail the duty of any particular publisher or broadcaster to disseminate his views; and in practice his dismissal has led to more publicity for his views than if he had not been dismissed. Millions of people have now read his interview who would not have read it otherwise.
In France on the one hand there is a cowardly denial that there is any problem; on the other more and more people dream of a radical or even brutal solution to it. I am reminded of the description by the Tsarist minister of justice, Ivan Shcheglovitov, of the situation in Russia in 1915: The paralytics of the government are struggling feebly with the epileptics of the revolution.
‘One swallow doesn’t make a summer, but how many swallows, exactly, do make a summer?’ A v. good question, highly relevant to our being able to draw appropriate conclusions. For slothful inductors, the answer is, sadly, ‘no number is high enough’.
Lastly, I will provide some quotations, from George Orwell’s original preface to the novel Animal Farm, written in 1945 and pertinent both to slothful induction and to the importance of upholding and defending liberty:
Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without the need for any official ban. Anyone who has lived long in a foreign country will know of instances of sensational items of news — things which on their own merits would get the big headlines-being kept right out of the British press, not because the Government intervened but because of a general tacit agreement that ‘it wouldn’t do’ to mention that particular fact. So far as the daily newspapers go, this is easy to understand. The British press is extremely centralised, and most of it is owned by wealthy men who have every motive to be dishonest on certain important topics. But the same kind of veiled censorship also operates in books and periodicals, as well as in plays, films and radio. At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is ‘not done’ to say it, just as in mid-Victorian times it was ‘not done’ to mention trousers in the presence of a lady. Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals …
It is important to distinguish between the kind of censorship that the English literary intelligentsia voluntarily impose upon themselves, and the censorship that can sometimes be enforced by pressure groups. Notoriously, certain topics cannot be discussed because of ‘vested interests’ …
The issue involved here is quite a simple one: Is every opinion, however unpopular — however foolish, even — entitled to a hearing? Put it in that form and nearly any English intellectual will feel that he ought to say ‘Yes’. But give it a concrete shape, and ask, ‘How about an attack on Stalin? Is that entitled to a hearing?’, and the answer more often than not will be ‘No’, In that case the current orthodoxy happens to be challenged, and so the principle of free speech lapses. Now, when one demands liberty of speech and of the press, one is not demanding absolute liberty. There always must be, or at any rate there always will be, some degree of censorship, so long as organised societies endure. But freedom, as Rosa Luxembourg [sic] said, is ‘freedom for the other fellow’. The same principle is contained in the famous words of Voltaire: ‘I detest what you say; I will defend to the death your right to say it.’ If the intellectual liberty which without a doubt has been one of the distinguishing marks of western civilisation means anything at all, it means that everyone shall have the right to say and to print what he believes to be the truth, provided only that it does not harm the rest of the community in some quite unmistakable way…
If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.