Social Media’s Che T-Shirt
by Navi Singh
After an Islamist terrorist atrocity has occurred, it is becoming increasingly popular for people – throughout political commentary in the UK – to counter the presumed ‘mainstream’ narrative usually by doing one of three things: engaging in whataboutery, highlighting perceived media double-standards, or essentially rationalising the perpetrator’s actions as constituting “resistance” or “retaliation” against a far greater evil: Western governments.
Why are these attitudes so popular, particularly among the younger generation? You could guess that these individuals are embittered (“spoilt” would be my preferred choice of word) and perceive their governments in a negative light because of comparatively trivial domestic shortcomings or minor maladministration. Consequently, unrestrained hatred directed towards the Conservative Party over their failure to adequately reprimand gargantuan corporations or punish avaricious bankers, for instance, often clouds their overall world-view. This is disastrously short-term egocentric thinking.
Yes, I’m not particularly fond of Mr Cameron, his party, their Thatcherist antecedents or unrestrained capitalism (whatever that means). But I hate theocratic totalitarianism more – because theocracies have an inherently supremacist nature. Theocracies are effectively analogous to systematically racist societies, because it stratifies society through religion in the same way Nazi Germany, for instance, subjugated ethnic minorities on the basis that they were degenerate sub-humans. Anathematising entire peoples as being inferior (whether that is biologically or religiously) is dangerous territory indeed, because it dehumanises. Dehumanisation is often a precursor to genocide or any other form of methodical persecution. Notwithstanding any physical repercussions, supremacist ideologies do not cultivate a particularly conducive environment for pluralistic ideals to flourish.
Moreover, theocracies are decidedly irreconcilable with the libertarian values that we cherish. As the constitution and legislature is derived from a (usually puritanical) interpretation of scripture, free-exchange of ideas and open discussion are necessarily obliterated because blasphemy injunctions prevail. That is the problem.
Denying Western “propaganda” and actively endeavouring to undermine the government’s official standing on these matters, by rejecting the fact that the terrorists are malevolent and the victims are innocent, becomes an expression of recalcitrance. It’s cool. You’re anti-establishment, dude! Long live the revolution! It is social-media’s equivalent to wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt in public. Does attention-seeking and a desire to be different and outrageous, also come into it? It probably does. Prominent celebrity Russell Brand – who has reinvented himself as a social-commentator – is testament to this. Brand – who dismissed attempts to commemorate the victims of the recent Tunisia beach massacre as “total bullshit” – has garnered a reputation somewhat for courting controversy. The same man, incidentally, referred to the perpetrators of the Charlie–Hebdo attacks in Paris as “young”, “bewildered” and “pitiable”. Correspondingly, references to the European colonisation of North-Africa and Western interventionism throughout the Middle East swiftly followed the Tunisian revelations, as they did when news broke about the Charlie–Hebdo shootings. Twitter became an incendiary firestorm as young, disillusioned revolutionaries began to type away, fulminating relentlessly about the hypocrisy of their own Western imperialist governments in their collective condemnation of this attack, carried out by oppressed brown people. “#WhitePrivilege,” they exclaimed. “Foreign-policy,” they shrieked.
Now imagine, for a second, if the situation was reversed. I mentioned earlier how Russell Brand described the murderers of Charlie-Hebdo’s staff with a triumvirate of flowery, borderline sympathetic adjectives. The question is: would he have produced similar language when discussing the character of Dylann Roof? Absolutely not. If anyone had used the words “young”, “bewildered” and “pitiable” in the same sentence as ‘Dylann Roof’, they would have faced instant and ubiquitous vilification, understandably so – because it’s decidedly unconscionable to talk about a mass-murderer in this way. It’s even more inappropriate to draw up extenuating circumstances for the murderers by attempting to justify their grievances, because ultimately, nothing can vindicate the gratuitous slaughter of innocent churchgoers, tourists and cartoonists. Nothing. Yes, I said it. Nothing.
Subsequently, consistency in our application of moral judgements is of paramount importance in examining world affairs. We should not allocate different standards to mass-murderers because of their nationality, their culture, or their personal background. Such an approach is invidious and partially symptomatic of the ‘soft-bigotry of low-expectations’ psyche that afflicts so many of the modern Left. Dylann Roof was instantaneously regarded as the epitome of unadulterated evil by almost everybody I encountered on social media. It’s a shame the Tunisia situation couldn’t have been straightforwardly encapsulated in a similar manner. To paraphrase Sam Harris: “Innocent tourists have been killed. End of moral analysis”.