Denial of Islamic causality

Ortelio writes:

Here, by Paul Cornish, head of Chatham House, the heart of the British establishment—indeed, its security establishment—is the ultimate in denial of Islam’s causality in terrorism. The BBC’s headline is “Celebrity terror: Gunmen without a cause—eager for limelight,” and the cut-line is “These individuals indulge in terrorism simply because they can, while their audience concocts a rationale on their behalf.” Since it would be impossible to deny that only Muslims did it, the author and his BBC publicists take the only way out: (1) denial that there was any causal influence other than self-regard, with (2) pre-emptive denial of any alternative rationality as mere “concoction.” In the possible parallels entertained by the author, the two American school massacres being particularly fanciful, the vile Islamic massacre at Beslan school is conspicuous by its absence.

LA replies:

Fantastic. This is perhaps the ultimate example of a non-Islam theory of Islamic extremism, in which Westerners explain away Islamic terrorism by looking at it through their own preferred, and often highly specialized, Western lens. Paul Cornish’s non-Islam theory of Islamic extremism is that the terrorists are committing mass murder the sake of celebrity!

But, though he states it in terms of celebrity, that’s not his real NITOIE. His real NITOIE is that the terrorists did it as part of a post-modern game. They did it to demonstrate the utter purposelessness of existence and of human action, and to demonstrate humans’ silly need to keep making up some purpose or meaning behind human action, including the most extreme and diabolical human action, when there really isn’t any.

And, by the way, does he offer a smidgen of evidence for his theory? Usually the non-Islam theorists have some evidence; I don’t see any for Cornish’s. It seems like pure speculation on his part.

Here is the key and concluding section of the article:

Was this suicide for martyrdom—as in New York and Washington in 2001, and London in 2005—or suicide for celebrity, as in Columbine in 1999 and Virginia Tech in 2007?

And perhaps so little is known of the terrorists’ cause, because they simply did not feel the need to have one.

The attack in Mumbai was obviously planned—but “military-style planning” (whatever that means) is probably not necessary for the mass murder of unarmed and unsuspecting civilians going about their business in crowded railway stations and restaurants.

This could also have been a plan which had a large gap where mission, cause or vision statement ought to have been.

But no matter. The terrorists might have assumed, quite correctly as it happens, that the world’s media and the terrorism analysis industry would very quickly fill in any gaps for them.

Writing the narrative

The character of modern terrorism is widely understood to have been shaped by a mid-19th-Century idea known as the “propaganda of the deed”—a strategy for political change in which the message or cause is contained within, and expressed by the violent act.

In a novel twist, the Mumbai terrorists might have embarked on propaganda of the deed without the propaganda in the confident expectation that the rationalisation for the attack—the narrative—would be provided by politicians, the media and terrorism analysts.

If so, then Mumbai could represent something rather different in the history of terrorism, and possibly something far more disturbing even than global jihad.

Perhaps we have come to the point where casually self-radicalised, sociopathic individuals can form a loose organisation, acquire sufficient weapons and equipment for a few thousand dollars, make a basic plan of action and indulge in a violent expression of their generalised disaffection and anomie.

These individuals indulge in terrorism simply because they can, while their audience concocts a rationale on their behalf.

Welcome to the age of celebrity terrorism.

Ortelio replies:

Yes. And look where this post-modernist comes from (his summary on the Chatham House website, Director’s page):

1983-1989 British Army Officer, Royal Tank Regiment

1989-1991 PhD research, University of Cambridge

1991-1993 Arms Control Analyst, UK Foreign Office

1993-1996 Senior Research Fellow, Chatham House

1996-1997 Visiting Fellow, University of Cambridge

1997-1998 Lecturer, Joint Staff College

1998-2002 Lecturer, University of Cambridge

2002-2005 Director, Centre for Defence Studies, King’s College London

Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 30, 2008 01:38 PM | Send

Email entry

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):