Obviously the human tragedy of the death of Jo Cox, a mother of young children, is rightly uppermost in our mind after today’s appalling murder. There has been much random killing lately that appears broadly “terrorist” in nature, including in Orlando and Tel Aviv, and the human stories are always tragic; every violent death carries a dreadful freight of grief and loss.
But the Jo Cox death has caused immediate and fierce debate as to whether it was “terrorism” or not. This follows closely a similar and interesting debate over the Orlando killings. The questions raised over whether Omar Mateen, who undoubtedly had mental health issues, and was himself perhaps gay, complicated the question of his motivation, beyond his own declaration of loyalty to ISIS. It is to the credit of the US political establishment that their reaction reflected this complexity, Trump aside.
There is however a stark contrast in the UK. On the one hand we have the treatment of the Leyton tube knife attack and of the murder of Lee Rigby, both of which were unequivocally presented as Islamic terrorist incidents despite the obvious mental health problems of the perpetrators. On the other we have the media treatment of the Jo Cox murder, which there is a reluctance to call out as right wing terrorism. That the man is reported as yelling “Britain First” is apparently much less relevant to terrorism than if he had shouted “Allahu Akbar”.
The investigation is not being led by the counter-terrorism police. Simply put, if Tommy Mair were a Muslim, it would be.
Similarly, when Gregoire Murtaux was arrested ten days ago returning from Ukraine to France for Euro 2016 armed with five Kalashnikovs, two anti-tank grenade launchers, 5,000 rounds of ammunition, 100 detonators, and twelve kilos of high explosive, the media storm would still not have abated today if he had been a Muslim. There was more publicity for the Muslim who owned some fertiliser in a garage, or the Islamic “liquid bomb” plot which owned no detonators, explosives or suspicious liquids, or the Islamic “ricin plot” which owned no ricin.
It is a fact that the only terrorist arrested in Britain in this century who actually possessed a viable bomb and intended to use it was named Ryan McGee. He was a soldier, had a swastika on his wall and intended to kill Muslims. He was convicted – but not of terrorism with which, not being a Muslim, he was never charged. Many Muslims on the other hand have been jailed for terrorism for internet fantasy or boasting which had nowhere near reached the stage of preparation McGee had attained.
Terrorism has not officially been redefined as a crime of violence committed by a Muslim, but it might as well be. Just as the “Prevent strategy” has not officially been redefined as the control of Muslims not fully signed up to neo-liberalism, but might as well be.
Nobody has more consistently opposed than me the appalling use of racism to divert the attention of ordinary people from the cause of their poverty, which simply put is the vast wealth gap to the burgeoning stinking rich. I abhor UKIP, I abhor right wing politics.
I hold that the fashionable slogan “it is not racist to be concerned about immigration” is a lie.
Yet I do not accept in the least the argument put forward by Alex Massie in the Spectator that it is the rhetoric of Johnson, Hannan and Farage that caused the climate in which Jo Cox was murdered. Massie’s article is being much applauded by the Remain camp across political parties. Yet the only place where emotions have been whipped into a frenzy by the referendum campaign is precisely in the right wing Conservative milieu that Massie inhabits. Indeed Massie’s article is precisely proof of that very fact; it is a vicious and underhand blow in the bitter internecine battle within the Tory party. However much I dislike Johnson, Gove et al, to claim they inspired the murder of Jo Cox is wrong. They couldn’t inspire a souffle to rise, let alone the masses. The referendum campaign is more likely to induce a catatonic state than rage. What Massie is doing is giving vent to the vile hatred of Conservatives for each other that is rending the Tory Party apart.
It should be applauded because it is good to see Tories tearing each other apart, but not because Massie is right.
In a move that shows the fuddy-duddies of the Spectator haven’t actually quite understood the internet yet, they have taken down Massie’s initial article and replaced it with a version in which the names of all the Tories he accuses are removed and the new article blames only Farage. The link I give above is to the original captured by archive.org.
It is sad that Jo Cox’s tragic death becomes discussed by everybody – myself included – in political terms so quickly. That does not mean that I, or even Mr Massie or the many mainstream media journalists involved, do not genuinely feel for her family. It seems to me very probable that Tommy Mair was motivated by hatred of immigrants when he reportedly shouted “Britain First” and killed Jo Cox. But that hatred of immigrants has been fostered over many years by the right wing in the UK – including virtually the entire Conservative Party, not just the Brexiteers. Stoking of racist emotion has been a deliberate long term ploy to provide a focus of blame for the victims in society of the consequences of neo-liberalism.
As I have argued so often, terrorism is unfortunately easy. Even a misfit like Thomas Mair can carry out a successful terrorist attack if they really want to do it. Almost everybody reading this blog could kill somebody tomorrow if they really wanted and were careless of their own life. That is why I have never believed the official nonsense about the thousands of totally unproductive Islamic terrorists we are harbouring, and the scores of plots the security services have brilliantly and secretly foiled. There is not more political death because fortunately the impulse to such killing is an extremely rare pathology.
Horrible things happen in a complicated and unfair world. Unless we see a truly revolutionary social change which fundamentally addresses the distribution of work, reward and wealth and the ownership of enterprises, societal coherence is going to continue to deteriorate. One brand of Tory versus another and Brexiteer versus Remainer are fluff, and not relevant to the current tragedy.