The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

Cecil the Lion

About four days ago, a story broke on RT, Reuters and AP about a well-loved lion having been hunted and killed. The vast majority of the world, including me, ignored it. Two days later, a dentist and bow-hunter from the US called Walter Palmer stepped forward to air his concerns that he ‘might’ have been the killer of this animal. Clearly, Dr Palmer (do you call dentists ‘Dr’? Everyone else is just calling him ‘bastard’) was not at all familiar with the internet and was therefore unaware that hunting creates a larger and more sustained reaction than child murder, one punch kills and mass shootings combined.

A great many posts wished for Palmer’s dentistry business to go bust and for Palmer himself to be immolated, driven to suicide, hunted by lions or killed by PETA activists. His clinic’s Yelp profile, FB page, address and telephone numbers, both business and personal, were released. Netizens all over the world bewailed the death of Cecil the Lion and condemned Walter Palmer for cowardice, malice and general evilness. His practice was shut down and he was inundated with angry calls and death threats. When a FB page called ‘Cecil the Lion’ put up a post asking for people to direct their outrage not at Palmer but at the law that continues to allow hunting, it drew about 667 responses, very much along the lines of these below.

“Regrets killing him,more like he is cacking himself of what will happen to him,now it’s world wide,hope someone shoots him”

Worthless piece of shit, hope you get hunted outside your practice u fucking c*nt!!!!!!!

HERE IS THE BUSINESS ADDRESS OF THIS WANKER. PLEASE REPOST AND RUIN HIS LIVELIHOOD

Which seems to be a fair summation of the world’s opinion of game hunting in general and Palmer in particular. Apart from the Zimbabwean government, of course. They seem to think big game hunting is an essential funding source for the upkeep of Hwange National Park. But there’s always a few loonies out there to ruin it for everyone.

In any case, I’m disgusted, appalled and ashamed at this disgusting episode. I’m also a bit sad about Cecil, and confused as to why killing for trophies is still done in this day and age, but mostly I’m disgusted, appalled and ashamed of the baying lynch mob that has gathered around Walter Palmer.

Firstly, I’m willing to bet that more than 99 percent of these keyboard warriors had never even heard of Cecil a week ago. I certainly hadn’t. Another thing that most of these people would never have heard of is Palmer’s 2 children. I wonder what kind of time they’re having now, and whether the netizens of the world believe that they deserve it, having committed the dread crime of being the offspring of such an egregious criminal? Some netizens have even suggested that a fit punishment would be to hunt and kill these vile offspring to show Palmer ‘how it feels’. There’s also the fact that Palmer runs a sizeable dental practice – do his partners and employees also deserve to suffer from the taint of his association? Probably, but we’ll never know because the mob decided before any of these questions could be examined.

Okay, internet – I get it. Hunting is wrong. Fine. But how on Earth did I miss the memo that said applying sanctions to a man by the means of mob rule was okay? And why are people not more outraged about other stuff? Like Dylann Roof? Or the man who was in the news yesterday for organising the commission of at least 500 sex offences against his own daughter? I suspect it’s because hunting is a ‘safe’ one. Whether you are genuinely outraged or not, if you get on television and cry about the death of a lion and rail against the cowardly practice of hunting dangerous animals at night, you will get a surge in popularity because practically everybody out there is loudly feeling the same way via Twitter. This is something we can all join in on – an outrage that doesn’t raise uncomfortable questions of race, gender or sexuality, that doesn’t seem to target any significant cultural group – it’s a good, old fashioned pecking party directed at one man. And splashing all over every innocent individual that man knows. But we wont worry about that – can’t think, pecking.

If we were really serious about stopping hunting, rather than having a hatestravaganza on someone who can’t kick back, our rage would be focussed on the people who routinely issue permits to kill big game animals for sport. We would be trying to put enough pressure on them to change their ways and find some other means of funding their wildlife reserves. But we’re not. Which means that it can’t possibly be big-game hunting that we’re actually concerned with. What we seem most concerned with, in this instance, is finding safe and popular targets for frenzied outpourings of hate. Which, if you think about it,  is a kind of hunting in itself.

Death Cult? What’s That When it’s at Home?

Watching our PM and his cabinet talking about ISIS, one can be forgiven for thinking that they have absolutely no idea what it actually is. Is it a state? A death cult? An Islamist movement or a nihilist anomaly?

It’s highly unlikely, however, that our PM, with his advisers, security agencies and privileged access to US and UK intelligence, is actually confused about what’s going on over in Syria and Iraq. He couldn’t possibly be stupid enough to have all this information without gaining a more or less clear picture of the events that he and his government are determined to obfuscate. If he was, he wouldn’t be the head of a major institution, he’d be committed to one.

But this isn’t as reassuring as it might superficially sound. While we can be fairly well convinced that they have some sort of idea of what it is we’re supposed to be fighting over there, their standard failure in communicating intelligently to the public leaves me wondering how much the electorate actually knows about ISIS. Not only are the government and local media apparently conspiring to say nothing that cannot be reduced to a catchphrase of five words or less, the movement itself has been through a bewildering series of evolutions and permutations resulting in a bewildering alphabet soup that continues to confuse to this day.

Given that a large amount of what the government is pleased to call ‘policy’ these days is predicated on the notion that fighting ‘Daesh’ is one of this country’s most urgent priorities, it is vital that the public be aware of who and what they actually are. Recognising this, Mr Abbott has helpfully provided the information that they are an ‘evil death cult’. Apparently, we are required to be satisfied with that. I, for one, am not. How does an evil death cult work? What resources, materiel and future potential does it have? In what way specifically does it represent a threat to our country and its interests? What is the best way to fight it? And most importantly, what the hell is it? All that this description does for us is point to an inexplicable phenomenon and identify it as ‘the enemy’.

And this is key – to most people, I believe, this phenomenon is just that: inexplicable. We have a hazy, back of the mind notion that every moslem is one short step away from being a bomb-strapped crazy, which leads us to the uncomfortable belief that organisations like ISIS are an inevitable result of the existence of a faith that the left dare not criticise and that the right blames for every evil currently not attributable to the left.

All of which is, of course, unadulterated bull excrement.

It is ironic that some of the clearest and most coherent branding for ISIS has come from our own government. The movement itself has shown scant regard for this side of things. It markets itself under a bewildering alphabet soup of brand names with reckless abandon, having changed its name at least seven times in the past fifteen or so years. Its history and the history and identity of its founders are enigmatic and contentious, but the official line tells a story of a nihilistic, grassroots offshoot of the classical, intellectually elitist Al Qaeda. More of this in another post. For now, though, I think it’s important to have clarity on what ISIS is in the here and now.

Put simply, it’s an international movement holding a base territory straddling Syria and Iraq, including a handful of major cities, but with affiliates in Libya and other parts of Africa. This basic footprint of its influence has been virtually unchanged through its days as AQI, AQIM, ISIL, etc., because this is a movement that is now and always has been focussed on jihad in Iraq, Syria, the Levant and the Maghreb.  Popular to contrary belief, their activities are not confined to raping slaves and beheading people on the internet. Their brutality, while public and ubiquitous, is far from being chaotic or random. It is a targeted exercise in public relations and intimidation, inspiring the disaffected and terrifying everyone else. Their territories are run with varying degrees of efficiency but, most importantly, they are run. Reports from Raqqa indicate the implementation of complex civil service systems and the delivery of services such as education and garbage collection. The education is reportedly modelled pretty well exactly on the Saudi secondary school curriculum and is delivered to children of both sexes. Taxes are collected, licit and illicit businesses are supported and conducted by both the movement itself and the people living within its territories. In true nation state style, ISIS appears to be selling oil to the Assad regime, one of its declared enemies. These activities produce an estimated revenue stream of about two billion dollars per year. Reports from other, less securely held centres would indicate that the ISIS local leadership is either unable or unwilling to govern effectively. This inconsistency is unsurprising, given the volatile state of its ‘borders’ and the wild variations in the quality, competence and intelligence of its leaders and fighters on the ground.

On a military level, even the most casual observation reveals that they are strategically and tactically shambolic and reckless. Their decision making is difficult to fathom because they appear to have been unable to read or understand the insurgent playbook. They hold territory, fight pitched battles that they cannot hope to win and throw the lives of their fighters away on lost causes. Their entire military strategy appears to be predicated on keeping recruitment numbers above casualty numbers. To this end, practically every ISIS fighter is also an online recruiter and propagandist – a bottomless pool of volunteers and the sophisticated marketing of brutality are the keys to their military successes.

So no, this is not a ‘death cult’. Or rather, it is, in that it is a movement with a violently nihilistic ideology, but that’s purely on a moral level. As an entity viewed in military and foreign policy terms, it simply cannot be reduced to the status of a frothy-mouthed anomaly. It calls itself a state and, in some ways, functions very much like one. It also transcends borders because of the universality of the appeal of nihilistic revolution amongst the poor, the angry and the oppressed. Knowing what ISIS is, it is difficult to understand why our government has chosen the approach that it has. Alienating the Islamic minority in order to fight an organisation that recruits from alienated Islamic minorities? Understating the local effect of an organisation whose chief appeal seems to be the possession of a territory to house its followers? Disincentivising the return of people who have gone to this territory, seen the reality of its operation and now no longer wish to participate? If our government were a recruiting branch for ISIS, they could hardly do a better job of funnelling fighters to them and guaranteeing their retention. Let’s get real, drop the slogans and the pig-headed refusal to acknowledge the realities of their existence. That way, we might be able to formulate a realistic, multi-layered approach to wiping this abomination off the face of the long-suffering Earth.

Daesh. No, Daiersh. Daaaeeiioorshe. Ahhh, F*ck it – ISIS.

When a horrifically violent terror organisation takes by storm a territory about the size of Tasmania and uses it as a base for the re-introduction of slavery, the rape of minors and the radicalisation and recruitment of tens of thousands of people from around the world, obviously one of the first priorities of any government is to make long and tedious announcements about what the name of that organisation is. It’s a self-evident fact that slipping up in the all important area of language would be a fatal mistake in the fight against global terror. Our government is so serious about this that they have abandoned any attempt to communicate clearly on any other issue and, with almost spooky foresight, instituted this policy well before ISIS even emerged.

Now, the name that our government has settled on is ‘Daesh’, being a loose acronym for Al-Dawla al-Islamiya al-Iraq al-Sham. The justifications for this range from the ludicrous to the ignorant to the sensible, which would make it business as usual for the foot-in-mouth gang we inexplicably voted in at the last election. First and foremost is the refusal to use names that identify the group as Islamic or a ‘state’. This falls in the ludicrous (and possibly ignorant) category, as they are using an Arabic acronym that does both these things, just not in English. If just avoiding the words ‘Islamic’ and ‘State’ is sufficient, then the English equivalent of this acronym, ‘ISIS’, does the job equally well and means pretty well exactly the same thing. The other reason for using ‘Daesh’ is that it’s the name favoured by the group’s enemies as it is phonetically similar to words for ‘oppressor’ and suchlike in Arabic.

So, the name was chosen on the grounds that it doesn’t identify the group as an Islamic State, even though it does, but in Arabic, which nobody understands. Also, it is a derogatory pun, which is good, even though it’s in Arabic, which nobody understands. I think this kind of thinking is exactly what the word ‘loopy’ was invented to describe.

Apart from the serious cognitive dissonance and triviality involved in spending any time whatsoever on such a decision, it’s generally been a positive thing. It hasn’t caught on at all, with pretty well everyone calling the group ISIS, IS, ISIL or Islamic State, but it has provided literally hours of amusing television in which various government officials find themselves unequal to the task of pronouncing or mispronouncing the word in any consistent manner. I, for one, think that Julie Bishop suddenly looking rabbit-in-headlights as she realises she’s going to have to say ‘Daesh’, and then making three or four failed attempts at it, is comedy gold. Especially from a Foreign Minister.

But it does make me wonder – how much can our government (or anyone, for that matter), actually understand about this phenomenon if they’re still grappling with what the bloody thing is called? It’s a serious threat to our interests and allies, as well as to the global balance of power and what, for want of a better term, I’ll call the current world order. On top of all this it’s causing untold suffering and committing atrocities and war-crimes on a daily basis. So it’s definitely worth talking about and taking action against, but so far, our action and our talk have been equally misguided, ineffective and just plain old, garden variety stupid. Almost equal portions of time are spent mangling an Arabic dipthong and announcing draconian measures that are a gold-plated, red-ribbon gift to the online recruiters and ideologues of ISIS. If Abbott and the Islamophobes he unwittingly incites want to know why Australia has the highest per capita incidence of jihadist recruitment, all they need to do is find a mirror and take a good, hard look at themselves, preferably just after somebody has tattooed on their foreheads:

ALIENATION CAUSES RADICALISATION. YOU STUPID, STUPID BASTARDS.

 

 

Confusion on the Right and Antifa on the Left

The recent rallies held across the country have been thought-provoking to say the least. Ostensibly, they were about Australia’s attitude to Islam, but in terms of revealing or resolving this attitude they have achieved next to nothing. While I’m certain that both sides had a great deal to say on the issue, all that seems to have filtered through to the media is reports of violence on one day and then reports of its absence the next. What the rallies have done, however, has been to shine a spotlight on some of the more extreme elements of Australian politics.

I spent the last two posts looking at the far right groups that have recently been the loudest. I focussed on these groups because of their relative novelty and, in the case of Reclaim Australia, the intermittent ability to rally significant numbers to their cause, something which has recently been missing from hoary old dinosaurs like Australia First and the Hanson bedevilled One Nation. Of course, the unifying factor amongst all these far right factions and parties has been confusion. The simple fact of the matter is that nobody can really discover what it is they want because they themselves are generally incapable of framing, clarifying or communicating their grievances or their visions for the future. They are nothing more than parties of complaint squawking meaningless protests in the language of victimhood and outrage.

On the extreme left, however, the story couldn’t be more different. Let’s take Antifa as a case in point. For those of us who aren’t aware, Antifa protesters were the ones we saw on Saturday wearing black bandannas and hoodies and doing violent stuff on television.

The first thing one notices about Antifa is coherence. Their various websites are clean and professional looking, with their mission and vision statements outlined in simple, muscular prose that Hemingway would have found unobjectionable. There is neither a cultivated nor an incidental presentation of the ‘Grand Aussie Mess’ that is so fashionable amongst their equivalents on the right. They have no interest in being seen as a regular bunch of blokes fighting with confused frowns the iniquities of the nameless authority. They present themselves as warriors – articulate, purpose-driven and crystal clear as to what they think and what they want. This, of course, breaks down a little on the Facebook pages where individual members launch into long, rambling Marxist rants, but all the official material – the prose that was written by representatives of the organisation – is stark and clear.

It is for this reason that I have absolutely no difficulties in breaking down their position and their mission. Antifa believes that Capitalism is a system that helps to create fascistic and bigoted systems and institutions. Their aim is to detect, disrupt and destroy these as early as possible, lest they gain traction and bleed into mainstream society. This mission could be copied and pasted onto the website of any of their long term enemies in the counter-intelligence world without causing any comment whatsoever. Of course, if we dig deeper, we find the same kind of flailing with reality that is common to much of the extreme left in these progressive modern times: an awkward love affair with the old language of communism and a weird dissonance between efforts to stay relevant and core mission objectives. But the point – the salient point – is that a member of the public’s first and abiding impression is one of unity of purpose and clarity of vision.

So they’re against fascism, racism, homophobia and Islamophobia – so far, so good. What, if anything, makes them extremists? Well, first and foremost is their advocacy of violence. On their various websites and blogs, violence is referred to by various code words, e.g., ‘direct action’, or ‘disruption’, but it is abundantly clear that what they are talking about is physical confrontation and the destruction of property. One blog post recounts a planned right wing rally in Hyde Park. “Our operatives scoured the park but could find no evidence of the cowardly fascists…” says the author. The clear implication is that, hearing about the rally, a posse of Antifa ‘operatives’ mobilised and headed for the park in order to bring the pain. In their social media streams, the far right is characteristically schizophrenic in their treatment of the opposition. They will, in the same breath, dismiss them as “Merlot swilling parlour socialist dickhead keyboard warriors fighting from mummy’s basement”, and then show real fear of their operations on the ground: “God protect our warriors and keep them safe from the Antifa scum”. Which is reminiscent of wartime propaganda concerning the Japanese, if you like.

Are they a threat? In spite of their superior organisation, muster capability, rhetoric and intelligence, I’d have to say no. They are self-consciously reactive, seeing themselves as a sort of quick response force to outbreaks of fascism. They are also deliberately limited in their aims. Antifa, as far as I can tell, isn’t particularly interested in revolution. They are focussed entirely on their aim of smacking down fascist groups wherever they see them. So, no, not a threat unless they decide to go to war against you.

And I guess that comes to the nub of what I find so disturbing about all of these groups. It doesn’t matter what they say they stand for, or what their motives and mission are, you can’t get away from the reality that all of these people, left or right, are willing to view a greater or lesser portion of the Australian population as ‘the enemy’. So whether or not it’s possible to agree with their politics, the absolutist, warring-faction mentality that underpins them is an automatic dealbreaker.

Who Are the United Patriot’s Front?

Not being an avid watcher of the far right, I was blissfully unaware of their shenanigans until various organisations started advertising this weekend’s rallies in Melbourne and Sydney on my Facebook newsfeed.

I should explain that, having noticed just how tightly shut an echo chamber the internet can be, I deliberately follow several feeds and pages that are diametrically opposed to my own beliefs. This ensures that I am not just hearing my own opinions in different words, and is closer to the ideals that I think should inform our usage of the internet.

It was for this reason that I began hearing about an organisation called the United Patriot’s Front (not to be confused with the Sudanese separatist movement), a far right, ultra-nationalist, anti-Islamic group that could be described as a splinter group of Reclaim Australia, if only because their founder is a former spokesman for Reclaim and split off on the assumption that the bulk of Reclaim would follow him (they didn’t). The UPF are initially quite difficult to gather information about, largely because of the looseness of their organisation. In digital terms their existence is confined to a handful of Facebook pages, some very angry Youtube videos, and a website with the message “Please bare [sic] with us while this site is under construction”.

This means that in order to find out about who they are and what they have to say, one has to go through the rather depressing process of reading their material and watching their videos. What we first gather about these people is that they are angry. They are, in fact, very angry indeed. What they mainly seem to be angry about is the existence of Islam, having a confused idea that just because violent political ideologies in the Middle East happen to identify with Islam, that Islam must therefore be the enemy of civilisation. They also appear to be angry about female genital mutilation, cherry-picked passages of the Quran, Halal certification, the media and, weirdly, communism. The upshot of their worldview appears to be that a vague entity that they label ‘The Left’, in cahoots with the ‘Communist Media’, is conspiring to destroy the Australian way of life. So far so garden variety loony. Unusually, they are also inordinately angry at the idea of being called racist. I could just about understand this if I was able to believe it. Unfortunately, their non-racist credentials are seriously questionable. Aside from their public and close association with more or less openly racist parties and groups, there is clear evidence that a senior neo-nazi was invited to join yesterday’s bus trip from Sydney to Melbourne, and that he was prominently and loudly kicked off only after various media outlets had detected and reported his presence.

As for numbers and support, this is also a bit nebulous. Many of the ‘allied organisations’ they reference do not appear to exist and their on again off again relationship with Reclaim Australia is obviously fraught. Far less fraught is their relationship with parties like Australia First and the National Democratic Party of Australia. Their turnout at the Melbourne rally yesterday, which would ordinarily serve as a good guide, is difficult to calculate as their leadership failed to name the pre-rally point, meaning that by the time the rally had begun many of their supporters appear to have been stuck on the wrong side of the police lines set up to protect them. This is sourced from their Facebook page and would appear to be fairly indicative of their general intelligence and organisational ability.

So what are they? Farcical or dangerous? It’s extremely difficult to say. I, personally, find them deeply worrying. The brand of non-reflective, anti-intellectual ultra-nationalism that they push seems to me to have the potential for mass appeal. There is a significant portion of the Australian community who are sufficiently ill-informed to buy in to the kind of xenophobic anxiety that groups like this push. It is interesting to note that their FB page has over 8000 likes and their founder’s page over 22000. And the half-truths and fabrications that they publish are no more radical or bizarre than the comments on Islam that I hear from many ordinary Australians on an almost daily basis.

Why does a group like this even exist? Neo-nazis and fascists haven’t had this kind of a popularity wave since the ’90s, when the Howard government attempted to access deep-seated anxieties about Asian immigration in a bid to garner populist brownie points.

Wait a minute… I think I’ve got it…

The Logic of Hatred

It’s easy to think, given the current happenings in the Middle East and elsewhere, that the world is in uncharted territory, facing a new, historically unique threat.

Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. There is no new thing under the sun, and the recently prominent wave of Islamist terrorism is no exception. Strip away the superficial, incidental factors of faith, ethnicity and geography, and what we are left with are the basic fundamentals common to all violent radicals – something I like to call ‘the logic of hatred’.

The Red Brigade, The Black Hand, every tired old variation of the ‘People’s’ this and the ‘Freedom’ that, right back to the bomb throwing nihilists and anarchists of three centuries ago, have all hated exactly the same thing. Problems arise, however, when we try to determine what that thing actually is. The language of hatred tends to be vague, dealing heavily in symbols whilst being sparing with specifics. The enemy tends to be described in practically meaningless terms such as ‘The Man’, ‘The Military Industrial Complex’, ‘Western Imperialism’ or ‘America’. Chasing down what these things actually mean is a complete waste of time. They are labels of convenience, bandied about merely to provide a focus for the specious reasoning that is the real common identifying factor of all such groups.

Basically, it goes like this:

  1. I don’t have the things that I want
  2. This must mean that the world has been rigged against me
  3. It therefore follows that those who have these things must also be the ones who rigged it.
  4. Given this state of affairs, violence is my only recourse.

Which, if you look at it, is an interesting mix of self-pity, blame culture and zero-sum thinking, none of which are worth a tinker’s damn to anyone interested in the truth.

The problem, however, is the intense appeal of this kind of logic to the disaffected. It is a line of thought that chimes in perfectly with feelings of impotent rage and bitterness, providing the perfect pretext for the angry and the marginalised to follow their own personal inclinations. We are never more ready to believe in the truth of an idea as when it happens to agree entirely with our own personal feelings.

So there we have it – the logic of hatred is not only invalid, it’s not even original. So why bother to understand it? The answer is simple. We need to understand this kind of thinking in order to clarify our own position.

In the case of Islamist extremism, this understanding leads neatly to three conclusions.

  1. As the majority of this kind of ideology is centred on political goals, the fact of their professed faith is little more than a coincidence. Basically, this kind of action has nothing to do with mainstream Islam.
  2. Bearing in mind the narrow stupidity of this kind of world view, it is generally fair to say that these groups are not susceptible to reason, which means that attempting to engage them in dialogue or negotiations of any kind would be pointless.
  3. Given that these groups are violent almost by default, and that they cannot be reasoned with or appeased, the only possible solution is to eliminate them, while at the same time making efforts to prevent the formation of whatever next week’s flavour of violent malcontent is going to be.

When we understand the logic of hatred,the seemingly irreconcilable imperatives of tolerance and the prosecution of the ‘war on terror’ no longer seem quite so contradictory. Which is nice. But the important thing – the vitally important thing – is to be absolutely 100% crystal clear as to who we are fighting and why.

The enemy is emphatically not Islam, even when it takes the form of angry teenagers shouting in the street because they’re sick of being discriminated against. The enemy is actually any individual, ideology or group that uses the logic of hatred as a pretext for violence. Our own use of force cannot – must not – derive from this same mixture of self-pity, self-righteous indignation and fear. Just as we ruthlessly exterminate the personnel and materiel of terror groups overseas, we must fight, with equal ruthlessness, the flawed and vile logic of hatred that exists within ourselves.

 

 

Shorty Wanna be a Thug

Let’s say my name is Abder Mohammed Moussa. Let’s say that I was born in this country, in the fine city of Sydney, some time in the late seventies. Let’s say that my parents were refugees from Iran – my dad was an atheist and my mum a civil rights activist: two categories that guaranteed death in the homeland and refugee status in this land, the country of my birth. Let’s say that the government at the time persuaded my parents that a Moslem services hub existed in Lakemba, and that this was therefore the very best place for us to stay.

Let’s say that I went to school in my local neighbourhood, surrounded by local boys and girls, laughing, brassing, making a nuisance of myself in fast food outlets and shopping malls, all in the great Australian tradition of larrikinism.

So years pass by. I marry someone, have some children and start working on becoming a pillar of the community. I go to RSL raffles. I join Rotary and the Lion’s Club. My wheel alignment business becomes one of the major employment options in my neighbourhood. I spend about as much time as the average Christian does actually thinking about God – which is practically none at all.

Then all hell breaks loose.

9/11. Gulf 2. Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq. Bali, 7/7 and Boston. All of a sudden, my name produces difficult questions. The young lads I hung out with are inevitably contacts of interest from ASIO’s point of view. My faith – never something I thought all that much about – becomes a major concern. It seems that every hand is turned against me. People who I’ve known for years are suddenly forensically interested in every detail of my faith and upbringing. They ask me questions I’ve never actually known the answers to. The news is full of not-so-veiled inferences about crazy Moslems and people look at me suspiciously on public transport. Especially if I’m carrying a bag. The only people who seem to have anything nice to say to me are on Youtube wearing balaclavas and holding RPG launchers. Then, to cap it all off, one very early morning my front door gets kicked in and a bunch of officers who refuse to identify themselves are taking all my computers, asking me questions about my local Imam, the people I go to prayers with on Fridays. They seem to find it impossible to believe that my attendance is mainly about community – about making friends in my neighbourhood and keeping my devout wife happy.

After a fun-filled few days in a white room with no windows, I’m turned loose. Everyone on my street looks at me like I’m Osama himself. The busted door and remains of police tape don’t help. Nor the plain van parked across the road day and night.

Obviously, all this makes me feel like an accepted and valued part of a community. Not, however, the one I grew up in. My completely understandable reaction to this kind of thing is clearly going to be along the lines of knuckling down and loudly proclaiming that I’m part of ‘Team Australia’. Mainly because I don’t want to be dragged to a paddy wagon in my underpants again. And possibly booking a flight to Syria, where there are people who really understand me.

This hypothetical is not all that far fetched. Okay, so the name I made up is ridiculous, but the circumstances are drawn directly from the experiences of people I’ve met, drank with (yes, alcohol) and worked with. From the Morroccan I knew who disappeared off the face of the Earth after announcing his intention to join Hamas to the Indonesian family who appear to have been raided on the strength of a lone anonymous call to a hotline and membership of an iffy mosque. Ordinary, hard-working people who spoke with Aussie accents and tried desperately to take more than ten years of suspicion, marginalisation and abuse with a sense of humour.

If any or all of these people become a threat to Australia, I know exactly who and what I’ll be blaming. Here’s a clue – it won’t start with ‘Is’ and end with ‘lam’. The real culprit starts with an ‘H’ and ends in ‘ysteria’. For as long as we are unable and/or unwilling to distinguish between radicalised and non-radicalised Moslems, we will continue to largely create the threat that we are currently most afraid of. Just as grinding poverty and police brutality creates gang culture, marginalisation borne of hysterical ignorance creates radicalism.

Shorty wanna be a thug in Compton. In Sydney, Moussa wanna be a Jihadi – in much the same proportions and for much the same reasons.

 

 

 

 

Can We All Stop Screaming About Iraq and Think for a Second?

Recently, a friend pointed out that the left has been strangely silent on the subject of IS and its atrocities. He posited that this argued an unreasonable degree of Islamophobia-phobia: i.e., an unwillingness to criticise Islam in any way for fear of being branded an Islamophobe, presumably by hipsters who believe that vegan females should free range or something. I thought about this for  while and decided that, whilst correct, this is completely beside the point.

I’d like to illustrate the idea using a thought experiment of sorts. Imagine I have created a meme. Imagine that it’s like the unimpressed African child who points out the stupidity of first world problems and behaviour, only specifically appropriate to Iraq. Which is why I have called him ‘Headless Baby’. Which is also why you need to imagine it. I’m not trawling Google for images of a headless baby – I’m on enough watchlists already (probably).

So, we have the Headless Baby meme. What would it say? I don’t believe it would say anything. I reckon any meme that represented the Iraqi people under IS would scream. It would scream things like:

Headless Baby does not give a fuck about your ignorant, retardedly simplistic opinions of Islam.

Headless Baby does not give a fuck about your internal politics.

Headless Baby does not give a fuck about your paranoid fantasies about immigrants.

Headless Baby would like IS to stop murdering his remaining family, defiling his country and pissing all over the spirit and laws of his religion.

And you know what? I’m pretty sure that we can agree that point number four is the one that’s really of the essence. We can deal with the other stuff when it’s time to be mean and xenophobic to the displaced Iraqis and Kurds that we’ll get a tiny trickle of in the near future.

What we need to do now is to wrap our heads around how we can get this done. We need to stop shouting in the language of outrage and begin performing the calculus of force/resistance, victory/defeat. Because, for better or worse, we live in democratic countries where our governments require broad-based public support to make any policy decision viable in the longer term. This represents an opportunity to show the rest of the world that we deserve the power that we hold, by discovering the best solution and backing it. So what might that be?

If we are to believe what we hear, boots on the ground is out. Apart from military advisors, it seems unlikely that this will change unless and until Irbil and/or Baghdad is threatened. Or maybe not even then. So, having knowledge from recent history that airstrikes alone do not a total victory make, what are we left with? Proxies.

I hear a lot of talk about the Peshmerga. With generous and entirely proper feelings, people declare that we should arm the Peshmerga and give the Kurds their own state already. Five seconds of thinking will make people realise that doing this will cut the territory of three major Middle Eastern powers and cause geopolitical chaos. And I think we can all agree that now is probably not the best time to be causing additional ructions in the region. As for arming them, that’s been done (repeatedly in secret, before any of this mess ever started and once now in public). There are a couple of problems, however, with the Peshmerga as a solution, however brave and committed they might be.

Firstly, they’re small. Too small to counter the IS threat by themselves, much less eliminate it.

Secondly, their focus is split. They are currently fighting three insurgencies in various nations – they had their hands full before these murderous bastards ever came knocking.

Thirdly, for very excellent reasons, they view the West with profound distrust. They are much more comfortable acting as proxies for Iran, which they have been doing for quite some time. In fact, it is believed that Iran is ramping up support for the Peshmerga, deploying Al  Quds unit(s?) to fight alongside Peshmerga forces in Mosul.

Which leads us to Iran as ‘surprise helper’ in the Middle East. In the case of IS, the interests of Iran and the West co-incide. Iran is not an Arab nation and is also predominantly Shia and, crazy mullahs aside, generally practises religious tolerance. Which means that they are as afraid of and disgusted by groups like IS as we are. Co-operation against radical Islamists also has an historical basis – Iran were key allies in the invasion of Afghanistan. They helped locate and target Taliban, as well as capturing and holding approximately 2000 Al Qaeda fighters on our (the coalition’s) behalf. Granted, they let them go again, but only after Dubya publicly spat in their faces by calling them a part of the ‘Axis of Evil’ for no reason at all that I can conceive of other than the currying of domestic favour. Remember that, as we go on.

They’re ready to help us again. They have boots on the ground – eager, formidable boots. The Quds force is known throughout the region and is believed to have conducted audacious and successful operations all over the world, including on US and Israeli soil. Usually to our horror and chagrin, but not always.They’re not supermen by any means, and, by some Western standards, they’re not even proper soldiers, but what they are is willing, battle-hardened, committed and – above all – free. Free in the most important sense being that their deployment should not cost us a single drop of blood.

And there we sort of run to the end of the list of immediately viable options. The Iraqi armed forces are disheartened and overwhelmingly absent, riven by sectarian-driven mistreatment and antagonism, they simply cannot represent a coherent or responsive force for some time to come. The Peshmerga are an excellent piece, but they are by no means even close to constituting man materiel sufficient for an entire campaign. Turkey’s not talking to us because we armed them, and also because they have problems of their own. Syria, to whom we would have turned in the past, is… well… Syria. Our biggest ally within a thousand miles is unable to move outside its contested borders without the entire damn world screaming and is, in any event, locked in its own murderous and toxic struggle.

We’re down to Iranian help. Again. They have the militia, they have the will and they have a history of (secret) co-operation with the US. They have a long history of supporting beleagured religious minorities throughout the region, and not always for hard-nosed political reasons. A longer history than ours, probably because they know the names of these minorities and how to spell them. This could work – Iranian boots, NATO planes… But it must be remembered that if and when Iraq is resolved, there’s Syria to go. And on Syria, Iran and the West fundamentally disagree. Iran wants Assad, or at least a Shia-like bloc, to stay in power. This presents a future problem, against which I think we would be advised to store up some good will.

So, can we please stop shouting about Moslems for a bit and get this problem sorted? Because Iran does, in fact, give a fuck about our opinion of the Islamic world in general and of Iran in particular. They’re famous for it. So if we want to help, we can start by not poisoning any chance of co-operation with the big players in the region. We do this by shutting our stupid mouths about Islam. Not Islamism or Islamists – criticising those things is the right and duty of every right-thinking individual. Islam itself though? Just leave it alone. Especially if all you know about the difference is based on spelling.

Well of course she was asking for it

Well, she was. What did she expect? Out late at night, putting herself in that position, dressed the way she was, what was I supposed to do?

I’m talking, of course, about the young woman I just ran over with my car. Now I know what you’re thinking, and believe me, I understand how you feel. I had the same thought when I first saw her. Running people over is generally considered to be a bit mean, and I have a big four wheel drive with a kick arse bull bar, and I knew it wasn’t exactly going to tickle if I ploughed right through her. She’d probably suffer lasting physical and emotional damage. She could even die.

So yes, I understand that you think running her over wasn’t the right thing to do. But hear me out.

It was late at night, as I said, and it was in a bit of a dodgy neighbourhood, so there were no streetlights. But on top of all that, she was also wearing dark clothes! How dumb can you get? She must have known that if she dressed like a ninja, and then crossed a dark street late at night, there was a good chance she would get hit by a car. What was she thinking?

Now if you think that’s bad, wait till you hear this. Despite all of that, I still managed to see her in the middle of the road. I am, after all, an excellent driver. My dad even lets me drive on the driveway. So yeah, I saw her. And yeah, I could have stopped, or beeped my horn to warn her. But you won’t believe what happened next. I looked up, and saw that she was crossing the street while the little man was red!

Can you believe it? No don’t worry, I couldn’t either.

So I stomped on the gas and ran that bitch over.

It’s what any nice, normal young man from a good family would do.

Po Po No Nos

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, and your rock has no internet access, you would have heard about some alleged instances of police brutality at the Sydney Mardi Gras last weekend. The incident I want to talk about is the one involving 18-year-old Jamie Jackson.

The facts seem to be these:

  1. While partying at Mardi Gras, Jamie did something to catch the eye of some nearby police officers, and they sought to arrest him. Jamie says he tickled someone, although I don’t find his story particularly convincing.
  2. At some point during the arrest, Jamie attempted to, or actually did, punch and kick the officer attempting to restrain him.
  3. The officer eventually restrained Jamie face down on the ground, and handcuffed him with his hands behind his back.
  4. After being handcuffed, Jamie seems to have done or said something that resulted in the officer throwing him face first to the ground.

That is, I think, all we know for sure at this point.

The main source of controversy seems to be the way the officer threw Jamie face first to the ground, apparently without concern for his safety. There are a lot of theories floating around as to what Jamie did or didn’t do to provoke the officer into doing this, and depending on who you listen to, he’s either the world’s most brutalised police suspect, Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan’s love child, or something in between. In any event, a large proportion of the people who have felt the need to voice an opinion have decided that, regardless of what Jamie did to make the officer throw him to the ground, “the little vagina probably deserved it” (as one of my Facebook friends phrased it, albeit a little more forcefully).

The reasons why Jamie apparently deserved to be slammed face first onto the pavement are many, but the main ones seem to be:

  1. He didn’t do what the officer told him. So he deserved it.
  2. He called the officer a name. So he deserved it.
  3. He attempted, or actually managed, to punch, kick and spit on the officer. So he deserved it.
  4. Police officers risk their lives to be treated like crap by drunken idiots for shit pay. So he deserved it..

Now, I could point out that the police officer in question also told someone to stop filming, which he is not allowed to do. And I could point out that name calling, is, well, just name calling. And I could point out that police don’t always arrest the right person. And I could point out that the collective frustrations of the whole police force shouldn’t be taken out on one individual, even if he’s done the wrong thing.

But I don’t need to.

The police are there to enforce the law, and arrest and charge those who break it. Yes, they sometimes need to use force to restrain their suspects. But they are not there to hand out punishments. Ever. Jamie Jackson doesn’t “deserve” anything except what the courts dish out to him. And he certainly didn’t deserve to be slammed face first onto the ground with his hands behind his back, an action that could have killed him (yes, people die from hitting their heads on the pavement).

If you want to stand up and say that Jamie “deserved” it, you go right ahead. As long as you realise what you’re really admitting – that Rodney King had it coming, too (probably more so, right? What with the whole car chase thing). As did this guy who threw a plastic bottle, resisted arrest, and was given a bit of a touch up back at the station. And so would you, or your son, or your daughter, or countless other people rightfully and wrongfully arrested.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for the police. They do risk their lives, and they are treated like crap by drunken idiots, and they do get shit pay. But they’re also human, and they make mistakes.

This officer made a mistake, and so did Jamie. Let’s just admit it, and let the courts take it from there.