Thursday, August 11, 2011

London and Norway

So soon after the world has recoiled in horror from the bombing and slaughter in Norway we are confronted by the images of rioting youths in London, and later other UK cities.

I put the two together because there are some significant similarities - despite the fact that one is a mass movement and the other an apparent lone individual.

The similarities I wish to explore relate to the role of global media, the existence of a "manifesto", the exercise in "blaming" and finally the wider context of terror.

Global Media

The events in Norway and the UK aren't, in reality, extra-ordinary. Similar things have happened before in other places. However they feel more real and pressing because of the coverage they are able to receive. The Paris riots of 1968 came to us in news reports that were read to us or that we read in a newspaper. The London riots come to us as repeated footage of real people in real streets with real fires. The damage and spread looks far more extensive because of the way it is shown.

Don't get me wrong - this is a good thing. We can only benefit from having a greater appreciation of what is happening.

but as an audience we aren't yet trained to recognise the distinction between the scale of coverage of an event and the scale of an event itself. Earthquakes and tsunamis in developed countries look more devastating because we see more pictures.

The manifesto

Norways's mass murderer had a "manifesto" that was not explicitly racist but decried muliculturalism. However he had a specific dislike for what he called "cultural Marxists".

Off the back of London we
are warned by Merv Bendle about the influence on the rioters of a particular revolutionary tract called The Coming Insurrection. (It is online as a blog and a pdf).

Bendle is better known to me through his rants in Quadrant about the proper place in our history for the (valiant men)/(poor misguided fools) who fought for Australia in World War I. (Bendle is, of course, one of those who thinks only the former should be used and can't contemplate that both can apply). It is no surprise that for him the cause of insurrection is left-wing trouble makers, not something real like disadvantage or entirely social, the kind of thing that will happen occasionally in otherwise stable systems.

My point is that the manifesto is an attribute of the underlying issue not a motivation.


When bad things happen, someone or something has to be responsible...right? well that's what the commentators think.

Keith Windshuttle catalogued the claims that Breivik "represented the armed wing of hysterical Right commentary." citing sources such as Aaron Paul for the claim. This is really the counterpoint to the Bendle claim that London is the consequence of leftwing writing. Good to see such diversity of views among the Quadrant set.

It is interesting to note that since many of the rioters are clearly non Anglo (but not all) the cause has not mostly been blamed on multiculturalism - that surprisingly has been reserved for Norway.

More practically Paul Sheehan argues that "widespread policy failures" have bred a "feral" underclass. But Sheehan's cure is less welfare. Good diagnosis but poor cure.

Guradian columnist Zoe Williams opined;

There seems to be another aspect to the impunity - that the people rioting aren't taking seriously the idea it could rebound on them. .... This could go back to the idea that people just don't believe they'll go to prison any more, at least not for something as petty as a pair of trainers.

This perhaps comes closer to the mark. But the issue isn't really about whether incarceration is a real threat or not. The kids rioting have no fear not because they don't see the risk of incarceration, just that doing gaol time won't ruin their lives. They see themselves as having no future to look forward to.


Norway and London though are both examples of terror. Not necessarily terror as an organised centralised act by an agent like Al Quaeda or the Bolsheviks, or terror by the state as in Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia or the French Revolution.

But it is terror as a political act. And we need to understand terror and its attraction.

Terror is a strategy that makes the powerless powerful. Here we get into the real bowels of discussing a democratic parliamentary democracy - it is meant to be one where no one is subject to the arbitrary exercise of power by another.

But that isn't true of modern "Western" society. Galbraith identified the power of the corporation. More recently we see in Australia the naked exercise of corporate power in ads on policy from tobacco, mining and gambling industries. But ultimately Rob Burgess writing for Business Spectator nailed it, corporations are marketing affluence to the poor.

Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est

1 comment:

Vic N said...

One of your best commentaries yet.