Above, one of David Low’s Colonel Blimp cartoons from the lead up to the Second World War. You can see and read more of the Colonel in this blog’s most popular post by far, from a few years back.
I would love to look back at Low’s satires of muddled thinking and be able to say how out of date they seem, but that’s far from being the case. David Low’s Blimp character was primarily a satire on right-wing little Englander pro-appeasement attitudes, but Low also took aim at similar views on the Left via his Pmilb character: Blimp backwards. Today’s Pmilbs and Blimps continue to muddle ideas of radical left and reactionary right, of liberalism and of bigotry.
A couple of prime examples from the past pages of this blog are Simon Jenkins, a modern-day little Englander who has found a comfortable berth at the supposedly liberal Guardian, and Judith Butler, a leading academic in feminist and gender theory who contrived to describe Hamas and Hezbollah, two violent, sectarian, antisemitic and misogyninist organisations, as “social movements that are progressive, that are on the Left, that are part of a global Left.”
Several more examples have been on parade in recent days, with a series of supposedly Left commentators eager not to distance their own beliefs from those of religiously bigoted anti-democratic fanatical murderers, but rather to point to how close in agreement they are, and to claim justification of motive (though not of course of action) for bloody public murder on a London street.
Take Rachel Shabi’s comments on the Woolwich murder, beginning with this tweet:
Just told Sky news #Woolwich a collective problem, we should not single out Muslims; need to look into Brit foreign policy elementThere is nothing that controversial here in my eyes. Radicalisation is a problem for the whole of society to deal with. To charge one group with responsibility for solving it in isolation would seem likely to be counterproductive. And UK foreign policy? What about it? That aspect could be taken in a number of directions.
— rachel shabi(@rachshabi) May 24, 2013
But then she clarified that her preferred response to the murder was “eliminating bad foreign policy as a recruitment device”.
.@nicholasblincoe it's not that madness can be cured. more about eliminating bad foreign policy as a recruitment deviceSo here Rachel Shabi sees UK foreign policy as bad and believes that as murderers of today and potential murderers of tomorrow agree with her, that policy should change. However when pressed by Rob Marchant on the question “Should foreign policy change as a result of these attacks,” she tries to split hairs:
— rachel shabi(@rachshabi) May 24, 2013
@rob_marchant @tomsp @tomharrismp UK foreign policy in Mid East should change cos it is hypocritical, counterproductive NOT cos of attacksRachel Shabi insists that “understanding is not justifying,” but though she doesn’t justify the act she does justify the motive, making clear that she sees anger over UK foreign policy, the only motive to which she gives any consideration, as “justifiable anger,” and again “justified anger”.
— rachel shabi(@rachshabi) May 25, 2013
Incredibly, having concluded that this anger over actions like the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan leads to radicalisation and acts of terror, she then does her little bit to encourage such anger with a wholly one-sided representation of today’s news story on prisoners held by the British Army in Afghanistan:
This is how UK 'liberates' #Afghanistan: with unlawful detentions in secret prison ind.pn/112ek85It’s an interesting story, though not so simple as Rachel Shabi would have you believe.
— rachel shabi(@rachshabi) May 29, 2013
If I found that any of my views were shared by such cutthroats I think I might want to consider whether I was somehow in error, but Rachel Shabi is not alone in finding affirmation in such an alignment. There are more happy to declare their, at least partial, agreement with the murderers...
Ian Leslie points to the stupidity of ex-mayor Ken Livingstone blaming the attack on the invasion of Iraq.
Our friend in Canada, Terry Glavin, adds Michael Moore and Glenn Greenwald (in the Guardian) to his list of moral illiterates weighing in on Woolwich. He writes:
Do note that it isn’t some imam in some dingy mosque carrying on like that, although now and then there will be one of those, too. Note as well that the overwhelming majority of Afghans, and the overwhelming majority of Afghan-Canadians, supported NATO’s intervention, and most of these people are, as it happens, Muslims.
Note well that these idiocies about blowback and retaliation do not generally come from the mosques at all. It’s the sort of rubbish that comes from out of the mouths of moral illiterates.
It should stop.
Norman Geras finds Greenwald’s failure of logic replicated in a Guardian article by Terry Eagleton, and lays out the mechanism to display its faults.
Jonathan Freedland doesn’t forget the Stop The War Coalition, who naturally take their own alignment with the declared motives of murderers as absolute vindication.
Nick Cohen, like Terry Glavin above, takes the time to point out some people most likely not in agreement with the murderers, namely victims of Islamist violence, mostly Muslim, not just in Afghanistan but also Pakistan, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia. The list is far from exhaustive.
Bizarrely Rachel Shabi refers to Nick Cohen’s article as “a cluster bomb of muscular liberal lunacy.” Whatever about lunacy, I think her metaphor of an indiscriminate weapon of mass slaughter to describe the article is perhaps an example of what they refer to in the mental health business as projection. (A more complex analysis here by blogger Unrepentant Jacobin.)
Funnier still is that after Livingstone, Moore, Greenwald, Eagleton and the Stop The War Coalition have all had their say, Rachel Shabi writes 950 words on how debate is being stifled, closed, sealed shut even. And all of her words are published by the Guardian.