X Close

We need to talk about terrorism Today's progressive taboos around race and Islam are stifling constructive debate

Hate gangs flourished in East Germany after re-unification. Credit: Tom Stoddart/Getty

Hate gangs flourished in East Germany after re-unification. Credit: Tom Stoddart/Getty


February 22, 2021   6 mins

When, earlier this month, a 16-year-old boy became Britain’s youngest person to be convicted of terrorism offences, the British press responded with a mixture of disgust and incredulity, inquiring how someone so young could have become so fanatical. By all accounts, his career in violent extremism started at a remarkably early age: he joined a far-right internet forum when he was just 13. A year later, he had become a fully-fledged terrorist “mastermind” running a “Neo-Nazi cell” from his grandmother’s house in Cornwall. The teen, who can’t be named for legal reasons, had reportedly downloaded bomb-making manuals, spoke of his desire to launch a “white jihad” and had recruited a 17-year-old British neo-Nazi who was convicted of preparing acts of terrorism last November.

The case of Britain’s youngest ever terror offender is profoundly disturbing, reigniting serious concerns over young people and their vulnerabilities to radicalisation. But it also provides us with an opportunity to reflect on how we talk about terrorism, particularly in the highly politicised context of today’s post-Trump world.

In a saner time, I suspect we would hesitate to call a 16-year-old who has not actually committed any acts of political violence a terrorist at all. The boy in question was convicted under the “encouragement” and “possession” instruments in British terrorism legislation (two and ten counts respectively).As serious as this is, it isn’t terrorism as we conventionally understand it. It isn’t, for example, the same as carrying out a suicide bombing at a pop concert, or beheading a school teacher.

But even if one accepts that possessing bomb-making manuals and sharing violently hateful messages on WhatsApp is terrorism, one would surely hesitate to call a disturbed and misguided 16-year-old who didn’t realise he had recruited an undercover police officer a “terrorist mastermind”. My colleague Keith Hayward, a professor of criminology at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, has a word for this species of rhetorical slippage: adultification – the application of adult categories to those who are not yet adults. (Interestingly, the term is commonly used by sociologists to describe the racial bias against black schoolgirls in America, where they are unfairly viewed as more mature and “less innocent” than their white counterparts.)

The sensationalisation of terrorism is, of course, nothing new. But the coverage of Britain’s youngest “terror teen” intimates at a decisive shift in reportorial protocols around terrorism. This shift doesn’t reflect any real changes in the behaviour and threat level of terrorists, but is instead a direct consequence of the ever-tightening choke-hold of progressive taboos around race and Islam in contemporary western societies.

These taboos demand that we talk about terrorism in two distinct ways: on the one hand, we catastrophise its far-right variant, ramping up the agency and vileness of its perpetrators; while on the other, we infantilise its jihadi incarnation, playing down the agency of its instigators and forbidding any discussion of the religious motivations behind their violence.

As part of this juggling act, we are required to pretend that far-Right terrorism in America is far more problematic than jihadi extremism (this isn’t to deny the significant recent uptick in lethal far-right terrorism in America). We are also asked to believe that while the ideology of the far-right is a primary driver of terrorism worldwide, the ideology of violent jihadism and its links to fringe interpretations of the Islamic faith has little or nothing to do with jihadi violence and conflict. This hypocrisy amounts to “ideology for thee but not for me”, as Graeme Wood has acidly put it.

Take, by way of illustration, the case of the three East London schoolgirls who left Britain in February 2015 to join ISIS in Syria. The response that followed was hysterical in many ways, but the girls and their families were given a mostly fair and lenient hearing. The consensus was that the girls — the youngest of whom, Shamima Begum, was 15 — were victims who had been “groomed” by manipulative male online recruiters and bewitched by dangerously seductive ISIS propaganda.

For example, Sara Khan, the current head of the UK’s Commission for Countering Extremism, wrote that “just like child abusers groom their victims online and persuade them to leave their homes and meet them, male jihadists contact women through social media and online chatrooms, and build trust with them over time”. That consensus, however, was wrong. The real-life and online peer-groups in which they were radicalised were strictly women-only; the so-called online “groomers” were in fact other ISIS-supporting women. And, of course, the vast majority of the pro-ISIS British girls were on the verge of womanhood, making the comparison to sexual grooming somewhat overblown. They may have been young, but it seems misguided to deny them any sense of agency.

Yet even when, aged 19, Begum surfaced in northern Syria and boasted to a reporter that seeing a severed head in a bin didn’t really faze her — she told another that the Manchester Arena suicide bombing was justified — many liberals remained firmly in her corner, insisting that she was still a victim of grooming, and that she should be given a second chance.

This urge is noticeably less strong among progressives when it comes to far-Right terrorists. And I suspect this points to a politicisation of terrorism that makes it almost impossible to talk about it in a coherent and serious way.

Traditionally, the liberal-left consensus on terrorism was founded on three principles. The first concerned the fundamental illegitimacy of the word itself; it was, they said, simply a label used by the powerful to demonise and control the weak. It was a term and tool of repression, a way of legitimising the ever-widening net of social control against dissidents and rebels with a righteous cause.

The second part was concerned with the legitimacy of terrorism itself and the moral standing of the terrorist. While some — notably Leon Trotsky and Frantz Fanon — sought to brazenly justify “red terror” as a weapon of the last resort in times of asymmetrical conflict, others were more equivocal, condemning the murder of innocents while at the same time making sure to situate such atrocities into a wider context that made it morally understandable (“This is wrong, but
”). From this perspective, the terrorist was not a monster, but instead a misguided soul who was “pushed” or “driven” to commit atrocious deeds. And whatever else he was, he was essentially forgivable; he was still one of us.

This is connected to a third and final aspect of this liberal-left consensus, which relates to the way that society should respond to acts of political violence. It took the form of the following cautionary wisdom: do not over-react to terrorism. Doing so not only tramples on human rights and sets in place a dangerous precedent for further rights-infringements, but it also risks alienating and further radicalising people, provoking a lethal “blowback”.

Much of this worldview remains in place on the liberal-left, but in recent years it has been brought into conflict with the emergence of a second, contradictory consensus. According to this new paradigm, there is actually nothing wrong with the label “terrorism”; what’s wrong is that it’s selectively applied to Muslims and other minority groups and not applied nearly enough to the white majority.

Moreover, the “real” terrorists — whether they’re storming the US Capitol or hiding on neo-Nazi online forums — really are monsters and deserve not an ounce of forgiveness. Indeed, they should be purged from the social order. And anyone who tries to contextualise or understand, still less give a platform to, these terrorists should be roundly condemned.

But the problem for liberal-leftists is that this consensus cannot co-exist with the other one. You can’t implore forgiveness for Shamima Begum while at the same time scream for the metaphorical lynching of the Capitol rioters.

None of this would be much of a problem if the pathologies and contortions of the liberal-left’s terrorism discourse simply remained there, but since this political tribe is now ascendant in elite institutions in America and parts of Europe, it’s becoming a problem for the rest of us. Indeed, so culturally prevalent and deep are the progressive taboos around race and Islam in the West that it has become difficult to talk about terrorism in a sane and rational way. Even traditional centres of power — like the police and civil service — are seemingly incapable of talking plainly about the threats we face. Last summer, for instance, the Met Police considered dropping the term “Islamist” when describing terror attacks carried out by jihadists.

Meanwhile, anyone who tries to understand the root causes of far-Right rancour is dismissed as a rank defender of the far-Right. The investigative journalist Naama Kates, for example, has told me that she regularly receives censure from so-called progressives for giving a platform to misogynistic “involuntary celibates” on her superb Incel podcast; Kates’s offence is that she uses a methodology called empathy to better understand incels.

Moreover, if you’re not Muslim and study or report on jihadist violence, you run the risk of being accused of Islamophobia. Even Thomas Hegghammer, one of the world’s leading experts on jihadism, has recently been accused of perpetuating “stale and harmful notions of Muslim essentialism” — all because his focus on the conservative, non-violent and strongly religious cultural practices of otherwise violent Muslim militants is regarded as perpetuating a dangerous conflation between conservative Muslims and jihadists. Which is a bit like saying that if a person points out that Tommy Robinson eats dirty fry-ups, they are smearing all fry-up-eating Brits with the taint of white supremacy.

Plainly, this is nonsense. But it is also dangerous nonsense. The implication is that any reference to the Islamic religiosity of jihadists is off-limits. And the result, as we can see, is the creation of a schizoid terrorism discourse that leaves us dangerously ill-equipped to face common threats to peace and security.

We desperately need to better understand why and how people — from all backgrounds and faiths and ethnicities — embrace ideologies that command and license them to kill other people for political ends. And we must try to do so with an open mind and in a spirit of curious inquiry, accepting our findings wherever they lead. To abdicate this responsibility from fear of offending the shallow pieties of what John McWhorter calls “the elect” is not only cowardly, but ultimately dangerous, given the very real threats that menace us.


Simon Cottee is a senior lecturer in criminology at the University of Kent.


Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

98 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Vikram Sharma
Vikram Sharma
3 years ago

There are a number of studies on pathways to radicalisation (easily found on Google). There is no single cause but one finding is worth noting. French Muslims who join Jihad are from run down neglected estates. British jihadis are often middle class, educated, usually in medicine and engineering, and mostly ‘assimilated’. So here is the interesting question, why do some Muslims who have done well in British society still feel that it is their enemy? Might it be the nature of how British intellectuals persuade our Muslim youth on how islamophobic, institutionally racist, white and wicked Britain is?
As to more debate, sorry but that is nonsense. More is not better quality. In his essay on the Paradox of Tolerance Karl Popper argued decades ago that eventually any liberal society will confront illiberal ideas. It then has to decide whether to tolerate the intolerable. If Quran requires the stoning of gays and Quran is beyond reproach, then society has to make a firm stand on which of these directly opposing values (gay rights or religious belief) to accept. More talking only helps when a middle path is available. When there is no middle way (unless we stone gays on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and not on the other four, Sunday being rest), no debate is possible or necessary, since what is considered debate is often entrenchment of beliefs.
We need to speak more honestly than just speak more. And act where needed than pontificate.

Martin Price
Martin Price
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

Well said. We also need an honest discussion to identify when left/right ideology goes too far. This point seems much more defined on the ‘right’ than the ‘left’ in western society but a wider discussion is long overdue in my opinion.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

Might it be the nature of how British intellectuals persuade our Muslim youth on how islamophobic, institutionally racist, white and wicked Britain is?
We are facing the same question in the US. After 12 years of indoctrination on how terrible the place is, plus four more in college, it’s no wonder that a significant percentage of young people want to scrap the Constitution.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Thumbs up.

Vikram Sharma
Vikram Sharma
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

The young will always want to scrap things, that is part of their youthful idealism. Your (and our) problem is that the supposed grown ups in the room feel want to behave like adolescents

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

Excellent post. Things are getting worse and worse but the real question is, what is to be done? The revolution has taken place and we didn’t even notice it.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

Wrong day-of-rest?

Vikram Sharma
Vikram Sharma
3 years ago
Reply to  Doug Pingel

🙂

Ivan Ford
Ivan Ford
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

I agree it is difficult to account for the general disparity in life circumstance between French and British cohorts of islamic terrorists. Personally, I think that the alt-right groups are largely made up of those with similar life experiences and that both have an unhealthy dose of nihilism. Whether correct or not, in a democracy where the people have the right to canvass others for support and if their message resonates enough, elect governments that agree with their world view; terrorism is what it is, the funding, planning and carrying out of acts of violence which should be roundly condemned and considered punishable in all circumstances irrespective of religion or ideology I think confusion and difficulties arise when we widen our perspective and look at countries where governments violently oppress their citizens and permit no opposition. Did the majority of British people agree that those opposing and fighting against white rule in Southern Africa were terrorists? The answer is probably yes back in the 1950s and early 1960s. But, thankfully other perspectives prevailed, Today, would we call the people of Myanmar who oppose the recent coup terrorists? This is where relativism creeps into the mix generating confusion. Social media and the surreal world views it provides access to, seemingly divorced from reality and often impervious to any rational contradiction must also be a factor. I think that the only way to move forward is to look to our own institutions, ensure genuine democratic accountability and equality of opportunity, educationally, economically and politically. If there is one stand out thing from this pandemic, it is how malfunctioning our state, economic distribution and political systems are. Sorting these out would go some way to addressing the alienation of large numbers of people.

Mark Kerridge
Mark Kerridge
3 years ago

Let’s not forget the opprobrium heaped upon anyone who drew comparisons between the capitol riots and the blm / antifa “mostly peaceful protests” that were going on for months in the US.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Kerridge

Thumbs up.

Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Kerridge

Agree Mark – every mention of non-Islamic terrorists was “right wing” (read:like Nazis) but nary a breath about the 6 month long siege in 100 US cities that resulted in $20 billion damage to property (including many minority-owned businesses) and about 20 deaths. Ergo, anyone who voted for Trump is a Nazi-sympathizer and the Antifa/BLM far anarchic left are concerned with “social justice” and justified. In the US, THAT is the problem (perhaps we have fewer jihadists ?) and the author of this article swept it under the rug.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Pearse

Thumbs up.

David Probert
David Probert
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Kerridge

Let’s also not forget the Antifa as ‘Agents Provocateurs’ actually led the Capitol “Riots” shall we? For doubters the mass of video evidence, with known identified individuals concerned, is compelling ( even though the US Courts apparently show no interest.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

Today’s progressive taboos around race and Islam are stifling constructive debate
Well, yes; that is the whole point. It is, however, perfectly okay to call people white supremacists or to say that noticing a man is in a dress indicates some sort of “phobia.”

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Thumbs up.

Alison Houston
Alison Houston
3 years ago

Perhaps we need to talk about Jean Paul Satre. We need to talk about left wing academics who championed violence and terror and gave it legitimacy and kudos. We need to talk about all those violent, slaughtering extremist left wing dictators as much as we talk about you know who. Pol Pot, and allthe rest, who took up Satre’s theories and put them into practice. And we also need to talk about anti Communist and anti Islamist extremism in America and Britain under Blair and Clinton and Bush.

The fashion for talking about ‘white guilt’ is a very convenient cover up for politicians and academics and thinkers who really caused and encouraged the violence of the last century. We also need to talk about the military industrial complex and the City of London and Wall Street and greed and corruption.

When we have had this conversation and held a Nuremberg trial for all those still living who did so much damage in the twentieth and twenty first centuries, and when we have thoroughly destroyed the reputations of those already dead, and put their crazy, violent, psychopathic ideas out of harms way, forever, then we can start getting censorious about silly kids dreaming of Jihad or downloading bomb making manuals in their bedrooms.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago
Reply to  Alison Houston

An excellent post. I applaud every word. Sadly, getting to the state you envisage appears all but impossible for now; but we must achieve a degree of pushback, at least. Perhaps one day more can be done…

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Alison Houston

Fair enough. So when do we get to talk about people who are behind terrorism, be it the antifa types in the US or jihadis on almost every continent? Violence has a long history among mankind, and it’s not always had white hands involved. A teacher in France was beheaded not long ago and the pearls couldn’t be clutched fast enough when Macron said something about it aloud.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Thumbs up. His name was Samuel Paty, but so far no T-shirts, and Lewis Hamilton is silent on the matter.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Alison Houston

I have to say that I think this rant is a rant against anything and is typical of the reason why the wokes are winning. The wokes are disguised as humans but this rant isn’t.

Last edited 3 years ago by Chris Wheatley
Vijay Kant
Vijay Kant
3 years ago
Reply to  Alison Houston

We first address the immediate threats, and then discuss the historic. That is how fires are fought.

Derek M
Derek M
3 years ago
Reply to  Alison Houston

It’s interesting that we would never have a self described Nazi or Fascist on a TV talk show but self described communists are regular media commentators and given a respectful hearing. There are many historical documentaries on the crimes of Nazis but barely any on the crimes (historical or contemporary) of the communists.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Derek M

Thumbs up.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 years ago
Reply to  Derek M

There are still also no shortage of apologists for the crimes committed by communists. Usually they start with “You have to appreciate…..

ian.walker12
ian.walker12
3 years ago
Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

This article merely states an obvious truth, but that is rare these days, and one will never see that truth articulated in the MSM, which is why we have given up on the MSM. And Jonathan Barker, below, is right to say that the US and UK governments also commit the most appalling acts of terrorism in order to keep feeding the Military Industrial Complex.

Carl Goulding
Carl Goulding
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Yes it does but merely stating the obvious truth is a risky business these days. Thank you to the author for raising his head above the parapet.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Quite so. And the article, although brave and salutary in many ways, makes the widespread mistake of calling Marxists “liberal”. Any attitude founded in the opinions of the butcher, Trotsky, is the reverse of Liberal; and this includes the “justification” of terror from so-called “oppressed groups” and the converse condemnation of far less than terror from so-called “privileged classes”. We see this double standard in action every day. Breitbart has recently reported two cases in which members of an ethnic minority were given ultra-lenient sentences for potentially life threatening assaults on white people. In one, a sixty year old lady was pushed into the path of a bus. Her assailant was given a suspended sentence, even though she had attacked her victim half an hour before the attempted manslaughter. And this is not to mention the racist abuse to which she subjected her victim. Had the situation been reversed, in ethnic terms, we know how stiff the sentence would have been. That our legal system is operating according to this extremist, loaded, terror-friendly, Marxist attitude is unspeakably vile – and reveals the depth of the hole we are in.

Last edited 3 years ago by Simon Denis
G Worker
G Worker
3 years ago

First, all this talk of white extremism is only government trying to justify its necessarily suppressive hand upon Muslim extremism.
Second, if governments had not sought for decades to multiracialise white living spaces everywhere … if governments had allowed ethnic nationalism to flourish in party politics … then there would be no push back. There would be the legitimate expression of white peoples to have a secure existence and a white future for their children.

Zach Thornton
Zach Thornton
3 years ago
Reply to  G Worker

White living space. We all remember a certain someone who was rather keen on ‘living space’. I suspect that you’re probably quite familiar with his teachings.

Zach Thornton
Zach Thornton
3 years ago
Reply to  Zach Thornton

I am English and I can assure you that, like me, you have a right to life and land. However, you do not have a right to deprive fellow citizens of their rights because of their skin tone.

G Worker
G Worker
3 years ago
Reply to  Zach Thornton

Do you really think the Hitlerium Ad Naseum is a winning line? You are denying the right to life of the English people while arguing for lebensraum for non-whites. You are a first-class racist hypocrite.

Last edited 3 years ago by G Worker
Zach Thornton
Zach Thornton
3 years ago
Reply to  G Worker

Unherd really is just a forum for racists and people who haven’t realised the depths on here.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 years ago
Reply to  Zach Thornton

Can you please justify that statement

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago

Something may come from the Prevent strategy review.
I don’t know much about Shawcross, but the alternative – Nazir Afzal – seems to have too many axes to grind with the government – which would almost certainly prevent him from carrying out the job objectively.
Noticing that the Runnymede Trust object to Shawcross gives me confidence that he is probably the right man for the job

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Barton
Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

What is ignored is that since the 1920s and The foundation of the Muslim Bretheren in Egypt the those whom exercise power in the Muslim World has changed. Basically speaking up to 1973 to 1979, the Islamic world was ruled by cosmopolitan upper class people. From this date, lower middle Islamicist groups such s the Muslim Bretheren gained influence. Muslims who came from Pakistan as late as 1973 came from a country which was far more tolerant tha today. In the 1960s upper middle class women in Cairo, Beirut and Kabul wore mini skirts. Basically Wahibism/ Muslim Bretheren preaching has driven out the more tolerant Sufi inspired Islam.
I have yet to hear any person describe the changes in the way Islam is is practised since 1973.

brian knott
brian knott
3 years ago

In a saner time, I suspect we would hesitate to call a 16-year-old who has not actually committed any acts of political violence a terrorist at all. The boy in question was convicted under the “encouragement” and â€œpossession” instruments in British terrorism”

In my youth nearly every teen had read or seen The Anarchists Cookbook. It is available from WH Smiths. Which covered most of the same ground.

So is there more to this story or is he just being made an example?

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago

A good conversation starter…but too much talk about ” far-right terrorism”. No such groups have taken over city centers, burning and destroying…. Little is said about the effect on the minds and attitudes of young citizens when they see dozens of incidences of slaughter perpetrated across the land (the world, really) rationalized because of some odd predilection to excuse practitioners of-the “religion of peace”. They are described as “lone wolves”, when it’s clear to everyone that they are all part of-sticking with the wolf analogy-a loose pack. Law and justice need to get to a place where the act is judged: no motivation, however lofty or well-couched in political grievance-speak, should attenuate, much less exempt, anyone from swift, sure punishment for wanton violent and destructive actions against others.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago

Actually, Islam did strike first. It invaded and occupied the eastern Roman Empire over centuries of relentless aggression, before sweeping across north Africa in the eighth century and on into Spain. It was stopped at Poitiers and Vienna but preyed upon European peoples well into the nineteenth century, carrying hundreds of thousands into abject slavery. The Crusades represented a first attempt to answer back. As for Anglo-French management of the middle east, it was a good deal more just and enlightened than anything the Turks had offered.

Last edited 3 years ago by Simon Denis
George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Correct, except that the redoubtable’Normans’ under Roger Bosso and Robert Guiscard struck back first at Muslim Sicily, some years before the First Crusade got under way.

willrjones
willrjones
3 years ago
Reply to  George Lake

Muslim Sicily was Byzantine Sicily prior to the Islamic conquest of the island.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  willrjones

Don’t you mean Roman?
Byzantine is a 16th century German ‘construct’ as you probably know.

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago

Whilst i think the Left’s marriage of convenience with islamist terror explains some of the taboo around the subject there is a narrower realpolitik at work here: In UK at least there are, thankfully, no effective threats from right wing terror or even right wing street violence, so its been necessary to invent them. That is why this child was adultified and subjected to a show trial. I expect the nearest the UK has to violent right wingers is the rump of the UVF. If they decided to move away from acquisitive crime and back to political violence the powers that be would have their hands full. Maybe then they would regret wasting police and court resources by false flagging some deranged child as the next Iron Guard!

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

Thumbs up.

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 years ago

Would it help to break down the taboo to say that Islamic terrorism and far-right terrorism are not polar opposites, but bedfellows? Both predominantly masculine and militaristic, both driven by a sense of ideological or religious supremacy and both driven by a desire to reimpose order according to correct morality?

G Worker
G Worker
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

But there is no moral balance between a native and migrant population. The very idea that migration is to be tolerated while native peoplehood is to be deprecated is already an unnatural dictate. The entire racism debate in the West is predicated on that unnaturalness.
In simple, the cause of every people of the land, without exception, has a higher value on that land than the cause of the colonising foreigner; for defence of life and land is unimpeachable and must be superior to aggression against it or, logically, we are cast into a world in which any people can take what it wants from any other, whenever it wants it, and there is no viable right of defence or protest. We do not want such a world, so the defence of the English life, the native British life, the white life is absolutely right; and those who argue otherwise are always and in all circumstances wrong (and, usually, malignant).

Zach Thornton
Zach Thornton
3 years ago
Reply to  G Worker

Take Windrush migrants. They were British subjects that spoke English and practiced Christianity. Many believed in the greatness of British civilisation having had it preached to them for generations. To believe that these people were and are nothing more than a colonising foreigner is the height intellectual dishonesty and a complete distortion of British history. African people made slaves and taken to far flung islands by the British Empire who then migrated to Britain to help re-build after WW2. I might add that they were legally entitled to move here as British subjects. They came for a better life and to help British people, not to invade and colonise in the manner that we did to their ancestors. For what you say to be true one has to ignore and distort history.

Zach Thornton
Zach Thornton
3 years ago
Reply to  Zach Thornton

It is a terrible sign of our times that white supremacy and fascism is filtering into mainstream society once more. It appears to even be in vogue in these right-wing circles. The so called ‘culture war’ rhetoric is fertile recruiting ground.
For the record, there is no concept of race in human biology as we are all one species of homo sapiens. In terms of history, you can’t even address the points that I made but merely recite your racist propaganda. Your idelogy is founded upon lies and that alone will hopefully ensure that it is condemned to history. If it is not, well, you will find that there are millions willing to resist fanatics like you.

Zach Thornton
Zach Thornton
3 years ago
Reply to  Zach Thornton

I am white, you fool. I do not hate myself nor my fellow citizens. You do hate your fellow Brits because of their skin tone and that is not acceptable. Your narrative is historically illiterate. Just because someone has brown skin does not make them a colonising aggressor.

Vijay Kant
Vijay Kant
3 years ago
Reply to  Zach Thornton

Sorry, you cannot wish away your colonial past after looting these colonies for centuries.

G Worker
G Worker
3 years ago
Reply to  Zach Thornton

Either you approve of colonisation or you don’t. If you approve then you cannot argue against those times in the history of the British Empire in which colonisation (as opposed to only colonialism) took place. If you don’t approve of colonisation then you must join with the English people in desiring freedom from it now. What you cannot do is to deprecate white colonisation of non-white lands but applaud non-white colonisation of white lands on the specious basis of generational responsibility (ie, blood libel).
So which is it to be? You know my position, which is nativist, for the reasons given above in my reply to Andrew. What’s yours?

Last edited 3 years ago by G Worker
Zach Thornton
Zach Thornton
3 years ago
Reply to  G Worker

I do not believe in race. It is a fictious concept created in order to justify imperialism and slavery. Any professor of human biology and evolution will tell you that there is only one species of human beings. My partner is not white and my children will be mixed. We are Britain. My country is not your hate filled pseudo-science racist vision.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago
Reply to  Zach Thornton

Leaving your personal circumstances to one side – good luck to you and yours – this is Marxist nonsense. Race is not “fictitious”, it is an observable fact of experience, denoting ancestry, siblinghood and the likely appearance of progeny. Whether it goes any further than that, who knows? The point is, it has and will inevitably have strong emotional power thanks to its intimate connection with identity. Nor was it “invented” with a view to “justifying” imperialism etc, for all societies – not just the imperial ones, like Turkey or China – have had a notion of “race” and do so to this day. Societies frequently split up on ethnic or ethno-cultural lines – witness Brazil. Conversely, broadly homogeneous societies – which Denmark is trying to remain – exhibit greater degrees of unity. This power of race was traditionally curbed; but today, there is an attempt to contradict it – but oddly enough, only among Europeans, thanks to the Marxist notion that Europeans invented the “fiction” and used it – which is no more than a conspiracy theory and a racist conspiracy theory at that. Until and unless we return to the former, tolerationist view, that – regardless of “biology”, race has emotional power, such that it must be held in check without being junked entirely; that therefore, societies can have minorities very securely but are less secure when fully multicultural, then the unity and contentment of the public will continue to decline.

Vijay Kant
Vijay Kant
3 years ago
Reply to  G Worker

How sad that Britain no longer runs any colonies and now feel that it itself is being colonised!

G Worker
G Worker
3 years ago
Reply to  Vijay Kant

The colonisation is a weapon employed by elites.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  G Worker

Why does ‘tolerating migration’ have to mean deprecating ‘native peoplehood’?
What is ‘the English life, the native British life, the white life’? Each one means a variety of things to different people. Almost all of of the White, British or English people I know would be horrified to think that any ‘defence’ of their ‘life’ would mean incorporating your racist ideas into their world view.
How do you think the ‘native peoplehoods’ got to the land in the first place if not through migration?
‘there is no moral balance between a native and migrant population’ – probably one of the most disturbing statements I’ve read in any mainstream media forum.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

Well, if you’re going to invoke the deep antiquity of original migrations – “how do you think the native peoples got the land in the first place?” – you should be warned that these were not peaceful processes. Is there not a danger that modern, so-called “liberal” opinion is so sold on the notion of “progress”; so convinced that humanity has moved beyond its primitive beginnings; so hostile to the opposite “evolutionary biological” or “Social Darwinist” approach, that it is badly underestimating the pain, the friction and the jeopardy involved in its high minded project? Don’t forget that dismissing cries of anger or dismay is the first step towards Utopian cruelty. Stalin – to take the extreme, far example, for illustrative and monitory purposes – thought the Ukrainians were starving themselves to death from spite. On a much lesser scale, the current elites of the west have no care for the sorrow occasioned by change among the elderly, rump populations of the countries they lead. They hold such sorrow in angry, impatient contempt. They align it with the worst crimes they can think of. And they thereby ignore the warnings of deep human nature and full human experience.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Not many wives and girlfriends strapping bombs on in Islam’s masculine “bedfellow” far right “terrorism”. A terrorism that seems mostly to exist in secret meetings and clubs, on the internet, and in the turgid political fantasies of the increasingly partisan “press”.

Jonathan Barker
Jonathan Barker
3 years ago

We dreadfully sane Westerners don’t do terror – or do we?
Who are the real terrorists? Who commit deliberate calculated (and indiscriminate) terror on a daily basis, and have been doing so since at least the beginning of the first Gulf war.
We dreadfully sane Westerners merely drop bombs from 30,000 feet of launch cruise missiles and drones from safe bunkers on the other side of the world. As far as I know drone killings have been standard practice almost every day for many years now.
During the second Gulf war we could even watch (as entertainment) the shock-and-awe invasion of Iraq, and the indiscriminate slaughter of its citizens in full color – night after night. An invasion which was justified using wall-to-wall lies. And for which two of the principal proponents of the coalition-of-the-killing were awarded “freedom” medals by the village idiot from Texas for services rendered. one of which was the Australian lying-rodent.
Of course the pilots of the B52’s and those that coordinate the cruise missiles never get to hear the screams of terror or see the blood and gore of the splattered and/or charred bodies of their victims. Nor did the dreadfully sane people who watched the shock-and-awe invasion.

CL van Beek
CL van Beek
3 years ago

“America dropped 26,171 bombs in 2016. What a bloody end to Obama’s reign”. If you drop this headline in Google search you will find the whole article. It follows: “According to new figures, the US dropped nearly three bombs every hour, 24 hours a day.”

Simon Burch
Simon Burch
3 years ago

Interesting point, but surely Terrorism is the use of violence or threats to intimidate or coerce a poulation. US, UK France and other Western nations conducting modern military operations are careful to use their weapons against ‘legitimate’ military or strategic targets. Unlike terrorists, they don’t set out specifically to target the population – to do so is a war crime. Rather, they are trying to impact upon the enemy’s ability to wage war. There is a big difference. Clearly, mistakes are made, but these are the exception and they are subject to investigation and sometimes legal action.

Last edited 3 years ago by Simon Burch
Zach Thornton
Zach Thornton
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Burch

Militaries all over the world use euphemistic language to hide the human cost of their actions. Furthermore, a modern military has the capability to target its actions more precisely. If you’re fighting an asymmetric war then you cannot fight in a conventional sense. Terrorists target civilians as a strategy. Western militaries accept civilian casualties as collateral damage. Ultimately, innocent people still have their lives snuffed out.

Last edited 3 years ago by Zach Thornton
M Harries
M Harries
3 years ago
Reply to  Zach Thornton

Terrorists target civilians as a strategy. Western militaries accept civilian casualties as collateral damage. Ultimately, innocent people still have their lives snuffed out.”
Yes, but unlike your implication, there is no moral equivalence between non-targeted collateral unintended killing of innocents (while targeting the opposing warring mechanism and those directly operating it) and targeted intended killing of innocents not bearing or supporting arms. In an effort to free continental Europeans, Allied ordinance killed many thousands of non-Nazi Continental Europeans, German and otherwise, but they had no Jihadi type intent.
Given everyone is an existent member of a society contributing to its viability and thus supporting it, simply by living in that society, and that society has a government with various policies, some considered morally bad by some … there could be a conversation over what constitutes one’s innocence? The Jihadist view is that there is no innocence of anyone who does not subscribe to their implementation of Islam. Every non-Muslim, or non-approved-Muslim perhaps, creates mischief merely by existing and is therefore a legitimate target for subjugation if not worse. ‘Proper’ Muslims killed on route go to heaven – so it’s all good anyway.

David Probert
David Probert
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Burch

“Use of violence or threats to intimidate or coerce a population” Hmmm …aren’t we getting a bit close to home with this definition?

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

Okay, so the West’s hands are not totally clean. But what came first – the drone strikes or the attacks on cafes, schools, and busses? If the Muslim world wishes to continue battling among its various factions, then I’m all for standing back and letting them figure it out. But for decades now, there have been groups that exported the violence to the West.

Zach Thornton
Zach Thornton
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Well, France and Britain carved up the corpse of the Ottoman Empire using neat lines to best serve the plunder of natural resources and ensure the oppression of local peoples. It was Britain that provoked tribal groups in Saudi Arabia to rise up, resulting in the House of Saud we know today. American agents toppled a democratic leader in Iran and installed a puppet dictator, we all know what happened next to the Iranian people. Who is the one that has really exported violence and oppression? Radical Islamists have at best been a tepid threat to the West. We have actively plundered and destroyed many Middle Eastern nations.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Zach Thornton

So, Muslims killing each other more than they kill anyone else is the fault of the West? We pitted Shia vs Sunni? We told Iran to accept the mullahs and the accompanying crackdowns?
I already said the West cannot claim innocence here, but good grief, let’s not act as if the entire Muslim world has been stripped of agency.

Zach Thornton
Zach Thornton
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

It was a rebuttal of your ‘the Muslims struck first’ argument.

Derek M
Derek M
3 years ago
Reply to  Zach Thornton

well it depends how far you go back, doesn’t it

Tom Krehbiel
Tom Krehbiel
3 years ago
Reply to  Zach Thornton

The Muslims did strike first historically, with their constant attacks on the Christian Byzantine Empire. And those started over 400 years before the First Crusade that Western Christendom launched.

Zach Thornton
Zach Thornton
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Krehbiel

I’m interested in what is relevant today. You lot are merely interested in backing up your anti-Muslim bigotry. That’s fine but stop pretending that the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire explains more about our world than Western inspired coups 30-40 years ago and the post-colonial nation-state system that persists to this day.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago
Reply to  Zach Thornton

Ibn Taymiyyah whose theologyinspires many muslin terrorists died in 1328.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago
Reply to  Zach Thornton

The Sherif of Mecca rose up against the Ottomans in about 1915 to free themselves. Noone knew about oil in Arabia to the 1930s if not 1940s. Until oil was discovered there was no plunder.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago

Much of what you say is fact-after a fashion, but, Trump dialed back or ended much of what you speak about, and you didn’t much like him either…did you? Also, as an aside: it’s past time to leave off of the “village idiot from Texas” taunt about Bush-you don’t have to agree with many of his decisions, but he is not a stupid man.

David Barry
David Barry
3 years ago

I supported the first Gulf War. Its cause and objectives were clear and regime change was not involved. I did not support the second, or the invasion of Afghanistan.
When it is virtually impossible to discuss Islamic terrorism without the inevitable caveat that not all Muslims are terrorists, I object to your generalisation “we” in this context.
In spite of this, placing a bomb in a country where you have been granted assistance involves a certain mindset. It’s a mindset that doesn’t seem to balk at indiscriminate killing in other countries that have not bombed the Middle East from 30,000ft and do not even have the means to do so.

Last edited 3 years ago by David Barry
Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  David Barry

I can see the objection to the second Iraq war, but should 9/11 have resulted in nothing more than a strongly worded memo? ANY president of that time would have done something. The extent of that something is fodder for debate; we should have pulled up stakes from there long ago.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Thumbs way up.

David Brown
David Brown
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Do something, yes, but invade Irag?
We knew the perpetrators of 11/9 were Islamists, and we knew that the Ba’athist regime of Saddam Hussein was a secular Muslim one: the two had almost nothing in common beyond a mutual loathing.

Michael Whittock
Michael Whittock
3 years ago

Thankyou for this clear exposition of thoughts many have had for a long time. I imagine, in the current climate, that it will take courage for a social scientist to express such views however well supported by data. Bring on the “ tough measures” the government are introducing to help universities freedom of speech and thought on their campuses.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago

Thumbs up.

Simon J Hassell
Simon J Hassell
3 years ago

In a saner time, I suspect we would hesitate to call a 16-year-old who has not actually committed any acts of political violence a terrorist at all

Slightly off topic but associated – there’s a campaign in the UK for the vote to be given to 16 year olds. If at that age they can vote, what does that mean for our view on criminal responsibility at the same age?

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago

One way to bring the US terror home to the public and to bring a real reaction in the world would be for news teams to stop showing people and children covered in blood and gore but instead to show dogs and other animals affected in the same way.

Last edited 3 years ago by Chris Wheatley
George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Great idea Chris, but it would only appeal to a rather small section of the world’s population.

Let’s face quite a few million like to ‘tuck in’ on dog, bats, pangolins etc.

Additionally how many nations have a memorial to Animals in War as we have in Park Lane?
Most think us mad!

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  George Lake

If we ever get around to a Covid Dead Memorial we can put a bat on it.

Milos Bingles
Milos Bingles
3 years ago
Last edited 3 years ago by Milos Bingles
Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago
Reply to  Milos Bingles

Effectively an IQ test. But doesn’t the Guardian regard IQ and the various tests designed to measure it with aggressive contempt? Or is this merely a ruse designed to keep the “comprehensive revolution” in place? Either way, like many socialists, they would appear to have yet another double standard in place: IQ defines us, the “woke”, once we are past school age; but schools attempting to use it in order to facilitate the most appropriate curriculum are “reactionary”. I recall Solzhenitsyn discussing the “ideological acrobatics” of communism.

Saul D
Saul D
3 years ago
Reply to  Milos Bingles

The original paper is based on layers upon layers of statistical analysis, but only 334 MTurk participants (in this round) with relatively weak statistical outcomes at that. Certainly not enough to justify the hard-and-fast categorical “actually have” of the journalist write up. For “actually have” they’d need a lot better and bigger sample and more direct measurement instead of layers of inference.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago
Reply to  Milos Bingles

Listent to Prof S Hicks on Nazism.
Stephen Hicks – Nietzsche, the Nazis, and National Socialism (Documentary) – YouTube
Two Nobel prize winning physicists, plus one for literature, Heidegger, and Spengler supported Hitler. 14% of the SD, The SS Intelligence Branch had doctorates in law.
Bernard shaw supported Communism and visited the USSR, the Dean of Canterburry likened Stalin to Jesus Christ – read Orwell and Muggeridge.Sartre supported Mao.
The least susceptible to Nazism and Communism are tough practical patriotic down to earth decent chapel going British working class.
Dogma drives absolutism. A highly trained mind can be more dogmatic than an untrained one.

Peter KE
Peter KE
3 years ago

The left see anything as acceptable and a little hot headed. The reality is ISIS, Islamic radicals, XR, BLM are all terrorist groups and willing to kill and disrupt our democratic society.

Tom Hawk
Tom Hawk
3 years ago

I also notice a degree of double standards. Andrim Choudry was described as radicalising young muslims by a correspontoon the Today program last Tuesday.She then went on to descroine right wing organisations as white supremacists preaching hatred.

In reality there is no difference between Choudry advocating islamic ascendancy and so called white supremacists. Both are preaching hatred of the “other”.

Yet only one is called out whilst the other is actually responsible for thousands of deaths through suicide bombings.

GEORGE DAVIDOVICI
GEORGE DAVIDOVICI
3 years ago

The West still needs to talk about terrorism while the Islamic fascism willingly invited into Europe speaks less, acts more.

Last edited 3 years ago by GEORGE DAVIDOVICI
Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago

Terrorism is too broad a subject; one needs to be specific. The situation we find ourself today is that most of modern life is influenced by Cultural Marxism and with regard to terrorism Thirds Worldism. Hence I am keen to hear more from the author about the influence of Frantz Fanon. Has Fanon made acceptance of terrorism more acceptable?

Martin Harries
Martin Harries
3 years ago

Wow, what a fabulous article lucidly constructing the problem.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago

…were given a mostly fair and lenient hearing. The consensus was that the girls — the youngest of whom, Shamima Begum, was 15 — were victims who had been “groomed” by manipulative male online recruiters and bewitched by dangerously seductive ISIS propaganda.
Fair and lenient hearing? At least the 16 year old boy referenced in the article was given a trial. Begum was refused that right and had her citizenship of UK removed for crimes she was never tried for.
This piece repeatedly refers to ‘liberal-left’ without defining clearly what or who is meant (other than this political tribe is now ascendant in elite institutions in America and parts of Europe) and many of the references to sources are to pay walled articles or podcasts or to sources where it is difficult to understand the connection to the author’s statements.
Expected more from an academic in criminology.

Toby Josh
Toby Josh
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

A dubious degree subject, and not a particularly good university. I tempered my expectation accordingly.

Peter Dunn
Peter Dunn
3 years ago

Reportorial?

The writer has extended what has already been written about a thousand times about terrorism, into a tedious unreadable essay.

Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Dunn

I found it perfectly readable. And the author’s points showing up the ludicrous and unjustifiable double standards on display are eminently worth making.