When the Boston marathon bombers were apprehended and the news kept broadcasting crowds of Americans chanting ‘USA! USA!’ on a loop, I quite foolishly lapsed into a moment of national pride. You wouldn’t get that in Britain! We’re too sensible, too reserved. It was a pretty dumb thought at the time but now it’s almost heart-breaking. Because this is all pretty grim, isn’t it? As with the English riots two years ago, an awful, violent and dramatic act on the streets of London has scratched the surface of our famed ‘tolerance’ and exposed the ugliness underneath. It’s been absolutely terrifying how easily and quickly so many have slid into the language of the far-right, complaining about ‘Muslims’, berating ‘Islam’, furiously condemning people who ‘come to this country’ to commit violent acts. It’s amazing how a mention of Allah and Western imperialism make so many instant experts. Indeed, the ‘new atheists’ were out in force as well, smugly (and idiotically) observing that ‘religion’ was to blame. You see, any mention of Islam (and of course brown skin) instantly trumps all other factors. The IRA (responsible for far more terrorist acts than any Muslims have been in the UK) had a political grievance. Dale Cregan murdered (at least) four people because he was a thug. The many victims of knife crime in London and beyond are gang things, obviously.
The incredible thing is that many ‘intelligent’ people don’t see any racism in this. They don’t see any racism in it even when they resort to the trite ‘oh we’re meant to tip-toe around them because they’re black’ arguments. They don’t see it as racism when they’re explaining why all those other violent murders differ from this one. They don’t see it as racism when they’re dismissing claims that these murderers were on drugs or the possibility that they were mentally ill. They don’t see it as racism when they’re dismissing the fundamentally political message of their claimed motive and instead insisting that their religion was the issue. They don’t see it as racism when they dismiss out of hand actual evidence that Muslims are no more violent than anyone else or even MI5’s (not exactly renowned for its nice treatment of Muslims) report saying (amongst many other things) that “a well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalisation.”
They have zero interest in the countless terrorist acts, wars and deaths which have nothing to do with Muslims. (As an aside here, the ostentatious atheists have a unique ability to attribute any and all wars which have any religious aspect whatsoever to the cause of ‘religion’ and dismiss any comment that certain genocidal maniacs were atheist as juvenile. Read some books, for fuck’s sake.) They have a seeming inability to observe the difference in how mass shootings or bombings are treated when the perpetrator(s) are white as opposed to when they are not – even when the white people have explicitly political aims with their violence (which makes it terrorism, folks). Conversely acts of violence committed by people who ‘look a bit Muslim’ seem to quickly have the religious aspect brought in, even when there is little/no evidence for it – something I wrote about previously with regards to ‘homophobia’ in East London. Statistics were deliberately skewed in order to present a narrative of marauding Muslims attacking people. More so, this was viewed in complete isolation from attacks on others which were happening in the same areas (overwhelmingly high crime areas). I’ve mentioned it before but I’ll always remember asking a self-identified ‘gay activist’ why he was ranting about a gay man being stabbed in Shoreditch and not a black kid who was stabbed metres away a few weeks beforehand. “That’s got nothing to do with us”, was his incredible response.
Of course the EDL tried to capitalise on the East London Muslim scaremongering with an ‘East London Pride’ march. They are capitalising on yesterday’s murder too, with their Facebook page apparently attracting thousands of new people and their members encouraging violent reprisals against Muslims. What’s again remarkable is that many who have been so quick to rush into the ‘evil Muslims did this’ narrative seem to see absolutely zero connection between their ignorant, intemperate words and the ability of the far-right to exploit these situations. It’s like the EDL and their ilk are some kind of gauge of real racism – hey, if I’m not actually attacking mosques myself, I can spout any old claptrap about Muslims cobbled together from the tabloids and it’s fine! A nice liberal paper like The Guardian can print its deliberately inflammatory front page and it means nothing, because it’s not as if it’s aimed at racists is it?!
The unthinking response to both the riots and this murder remind me of Alone in Berlin and how it made me think about how evil creeps up on us. We think we’re decent and as long as there are more extreme people out there committing evil, we can point and them and say “that’s not us!” Yet evil takes root in mundane ways – not least the unthinking and reactionary Facebook status following a violent outrage in London. More than ever the urge is to ignore these things – social media is almost entirely based around self-validation and group think and unpleasant accusations of ignorance and racism don’t really fit into that. Yet we must speak up, we must try and fight these attitudes in whatever ways we can. As I wrote in the Alone in Berlin post, as a society we are encouraged to dehumanise our ‘enemies’ and turn a blind eye to our own evils. We rightly are outraged by brutal murders such as happened yesterday yet we have nothing to say about the torture, mass murder and hatred endemic in our own society. If the kids being torn apart by drones are all the way over in Yemen, who cares? They were probably terrorists anyway. The CIA coined the term ‘blowback’ which is now widely used to refer to the unintended negative consequences of Western imperialism – consequences which we have been continually warned of with regards to our activities in the Middle East – and it seems to me that any serious response to violence in our society must look at the state-sponsored violence which occurs on a daily basis. Where’s the outrage over this? Decency comes cheap.
Inevitably such thoughts lead to accusations of ‘sympathising’ with murderers. Indeed it already happened to me last night. No matter – I don’t feel a need to write frothing-at-the-mouth statuses to prove that I don’t condone murder. The only way to stay sane amongst the grimness of yesterday is to use our voice to speak against lazy bigotry and reactionary hatred perpetrated by ‘decent’ people.