Friday, 24 May 2013

Terrorism, the EDL and the limits to tolerance

A brutal murder in broad daylight, in front of horrified onlookers.  Whatever the identity of the victim, this would have been a shocking event - made even more disturbing by being a soldier outside his barracks, butchered by apparent jihadists on a random, arbitrary basis.  The act of assassination is an odious evil, and there is no relativity that can justify it, no apologist sufficiently odious to make excuses and limited human capability to understand and forgive.

In isolation this is a new level of barbarity within the UK, although not, sadly for the wider human race.  The brutalisation that has never been pushed out, and the doctrine adopted of what is unreported and unknown is acceptable, does radicalise and render morality relative rather than absolute.  Yet the moment that this is view put forward to contextualise and understand the challenges faced there there follows an inevitable tirade of abuse for multicultural collaborationism and treachery.  To observe that a catalyst has been the ineptitude of the language used by Tony Blair and George W. Bush when they launched their counter-terrorism strategy is so obvious, yet the hysteria tends to militate against putting isolated acts into a geopolitical context.

Hardly surprising, therefore, that the English Defence League and its fascist adherents used the murder for a grotesque parody of patriotism.  Reading Daniel Trilling's interesting, if rapidly outdated, study of the far right in Britain, Bloody Nasty People, it is clear that the EDL is a front for hooligan thugs whose articulation of national identity is mindless racist violence allied to the day-to-day pseudo-morality pushed by the Daily Mail, The Sun and the far right of the Tory Party (where it elides into UKIP).  On a night when law enforcement should have been focused on the investigation into what was clearly a terrorist murder, the EDL sent a bunch of masked, racist cretins onto the streets of Woolwich - chanting abuse and throwing missiles at the police.  True patriots, indeed.

This is what makes anyone ashamed to be British - this is fomenting hatred and gratifying urges that a civilised community does not need to suppress.  The apologists come out and blame multi-culturalism, in the unlikely event that they can spell it, or particular immigrant groups.  Whatever the reasons for alienation from mainstream politics, this is beyond the pale of utilitarian liberalism.  A spark of debate towards a secularisation of the state may be the correct response - rather than the knee-jerk simple condemnation that the left will tend to come up with - but it is hardly a great advertisement for nationalism that these moronic BNP-dupes are allowed to run riot and incite violence and hatred.

In the context of a new, undefined, territory of terrorism, there are far-rightists who will try to exploit this for evil ends.  There is no simple victory that can be achieved against them, beyond not descending to their level of street thuggery, but there needs to be a differentiation between a diverse, tolerant society and one where groups can intimidate and attack others.  They fail on the latter test, so have no place within the spectrum of human decency.

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