In the wake of yet another terror attack

Juan Cole has sensible ideas about what to do. You respond by strengthening the bonds within your nation in positive ways. Lashing out against your own citizens because they share a skin color or religion with the attackers is exactly what the terrorists want, while responding with empathy and bringing together targeted communities frustrates their goals. Terrorist organizations like ISIL thrive on alienation — it’s how they recruit.

You know what is a truly, deeply terrible idea?

The alt-right, under the banner of Pepe the Frog, are raising money to buy boats to intercept refugees fleeing Africa and the Middle East for Europe. They want to block a humanitarian mission — these are people who are desperate and likely to drown, and the Right says, let ’em drown.

We want to get a crew, equip a boat and set sail to the Mediterranean ocean to chase down the enemies of Europe.

I think the “enemies of Europe” are the people who want to let human beings die, and are unable to see that rescuing people and supporting them is a way to make friends, not enemies.

Meanwhile, in America, jingoistic buffoons are staging a pro-fascism rally in Portland. It seems the prerequisites to being a “star” of that movement are to be loud and inarticulate, and wear a goofy, attention-grabbing costume: “Based Trojan”, “Based Stick Man”, etc., where you can see that another prerequisite is to use 4chan-style memes. These people are my enemies, who are aiding terrorists. Who are terrorists themselves.


  1. weylguy says

    Let me get this straight. American, Britain and a lot of other developed countries need resources, land and a way to express their hubris, so they invest trillions of dollars building the armaments to invade and occupy impoverished third-world countries. When the citizens of those countries fight back the only way they can — though guerilla tactics and terrorism — they’re labeled as savages, worthy only of genocide.

    After years of fighting back, the American Indians acceded to the U.S. government’s demands, and look where they are today.

  2. says

    Right wingers claim that those attacks mean they are right and therefore they and their xenophobic racist parties should be in charge*. Tellingly, those attacks become more frequent during election campaigns. Tells you whom Daesh et. al. want to be in charge…

    *Theresa May keeps acting as if all of this has nothing to do with her and her politics despite having been Home Secretary for 5 (I think) years before having been PM for one year.

  3. Bernard Bumner says

    @weyguy #1,

    When the citizens of those countries fight back the only way they can — though guerilla tactics and terrorism — they’re labeled as savages, worthy only of genocide.

    Don’t pretend that you can draw a straight line between UK foreign policy and these terror attacks; it may contribute to the radicalisation of young people, and it may also help to create the failed states which allows extremist organisations like ISIS to seize power and resources. It doesn’t alone explain the types of terror attacks seen in Manchester and London recently, nor does it explain the wholesale slaughter of other Muslims and those belonging to religious minorities in other countries around the world.

    Massacring the innocent, unwary, and unsuspecting who are out to enjoy a night on the town is not ‘fighting back the only way they can’. Do you really think that this sort of terror attack is designed to change UK foreign policy? There will be no organised demands, no statement of aims. These attacks are not targeted towards the military, towards government, towards authority. Nor do the terrorists carefully choose their victims to ensure nationality or religion, other than by selecting on appearance and social context. These attacks are designed to cause terror and division, and in no small part are actually a moralistic reaction to other cultures and civilisations, just as their proponents do claim.

    As for the reaction of people in the UK – I live in Manchester and the local response (outside of the bottom half of the internet) to the recent suicide bombing has not generally been to call for retribution and wouldn’t be properly characterised as xenophobic or racist. It has been a response of sadness and proper outrage, but also one of unity and inclusive of all religious and national communities in the city. There have been sensible and nuanced discussions around UK foreign policy, around policing, de-radicalisation, about the roles of communities and individuals in preventing terror and making the world better.

    The extreme right wing voices remain fringe, and demonstrations by organisations like EDL in the UK have remained small and opposed by large and vocal majorities.

    It is a shame that the upcoming UK general election is very likely to be won by the Tories, and therefore that our foreign policy is unlikely to improve, but is unlikely to be a deliberate consequence. The election debate is still dominated by Brexit, the economy, and the domestic effects of austerity.

  4. FossilFishy (NOBODY, and proud of it!) says

    There is a fundamental principle in conflict: find out what your enemy desires and deny it to them. With ISIS they’re even been so obliging as to state it outright. They want a world with no grey areas. They want Muslims in the west to be so badly treated that joining ISIS becomes their best hope. These terror attacks are a means to that end. This is no secret. And yet we have people clambering to do just what ISIS wants, to oppress and demean all Muslims. Fuck me, the stupidity of it boggles the mind.

  5. jrkrideau says

    @ 3 Bernard Bummer
    Do you really think that this sort of terror attack is designed to change UK foreign policy?

    No, of course not. It is intended to change domestic policy to increase the isolation and radicalization of people in the UK.

    And if you have a look at Theresa May’s facebook it’s working well.

    We need to work with allied, democratic governments to reach international agreements that regulate cyberspace to prevent the spread of extremism and terrorist planning.”

    “. While we have made significant progress in recent years, there is – to be frank – far too much tolerance of extremism in our country.”

    Oh goody, let’s have a lot more censorship and a bit more harassment of British citizens who are not white and nominally Anglican.

    “And if we need to increase the length of custodial sentences for terrorism-related offences, even apparently less serious offences, that is what we will do.”

    Oh that’s scary! Some one who is willing to run around stabbing people and be killed by the police is really going to be scared by the thought of a longer prison sentence? Right.

    “we need to review Britain’s counter-terrorism strategy to make sure the police and security services have all the powers they need.”

    Nothing like a police state to make one feel more secure though come to think of it, as long as you keep your head down and mouth shut live in

    And then there’s the standard trope “It is an ideology that claims our Western values of freedom, democracy and human rights are incompatible with the religion of Islam. It is an ideology that is a perversion of Islam and a perversion of the truth.”

    I agree that ISIS, etc., seem to have a very perverted vision of Islam, as perverted as Mike Pence or Betsy DeVos’ version of Christianity. Who knows what vision if any those mouth-breathing bits of scum with the boats have if any other than “I hate everyone who is not exactly like me”. They may burn incense before a bust of Hitler, one of the world’s great failures.

    However May’s statement does not show any desire to analyze the root causes of this vile attack. The classic “They hate our freedoms” which is what that above statement is saying is total crap.

    I suspect much of the problem is that the people now in ISIS hate having Western countries exploit their countries, prop up vicious corrupt dictatorships like Saddam Hussein or Mubarak and now El Sisi or rabid religious nut-jobs like the Al Saud dynasty.

    Blast it, fo
    May’s response is a perfect Pavlovian reaction. Ivan would be proud.

    Blast it, FossilFishy beat me to it.

  6. Rich Woods says

    these are people who are desperate and likely to drown

    They’re not likely to drown: the current death rate is about 2%. That’s 2% too high, of course, but not all the migrant boats are dependent upon help to make it safely to shore. However the several coastguards and NGOs are struggling already and do need your support. Having a bunch of neo-nazis doing their best to stop help getting where it’s most needed is the last thing anyone wants to see — unless you’re a murderous prick.

  7. rietpluim says

    When we build our freedoms on expense of theirs, of course they hate our freedoms.

    About 100 years of Western short-sighted, self-centered foreign policy are bearing fruit. And our stupid, ignorant politicians keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

    This is never going to stop.

  8. Ed Seedhouse says

    The only thing that ever ended hate is love.

    And no, it’s not a certain cure, and the love as well as the hate can come in many forms, but I still think it holds true.

  9. richardemmanuel says

    I think JC will win, coming 2nd. Although Theresa gets to play the unconvincing Thunderbird puppet, and say ‘COBRA’ and other exciting things, Nuttall is going to have to go all in on this. He may as well stray into illegal, and get arrested, as he’s not going to have much to do after next thursday. I think he’ll take a few off May. Can’t wait for his ‘speech’. How stupid do you think it’s going to be? I think he’ll turn it up to 11.

  10. Zmidponk says

    Bernard Bumner:

    It is a shame that the upcoming UK general election is very likely to be won by the Tories, and therefore that our foreign policy is unlikely to improve, but is unlikely to be a deliberate consequence.

    I think you just might be surprised. Leaving aside the blatant hypocrisy of Theresa May refusing to even discuss a second Scottich independence referendum at all because of the ‘disruption’ it would cause, then, almost in the next breath, declaring a General Election, as if that would not be ‘disruptive’, she also called the election when she did as a fairly blatant power grab – at the time, there was no real opposition to the Tories, as Labour were (and really still are) snarled up in a situation where a fairly large chunk of the upper echelon of the party don’t like their own leader, but have failed to oust him as the rank-and-file members do like him, so Labour are fighting amongst themselves whilst trying to be an opposition to the Tories, and the other parties don’t really come close to being any kind of opposition for the Westminster Parliament. This means that, shortly after the election was announced, various political pundits thought it was only a question of how high the Tory working majority could go from the 17 it is now – some were saying it could go into the triple digits. As such, anything less than not just a win, but a very large win, would actually be seen a bad result for the Tories, and call into question Theresa May’s competence as leader, even amongst the Tories.

    However, the Tory lead in the polls has actually been dropping and dropping and dropping, and there have now been a few polls showing that a hung parliament is now a realistic possibility – which would be a total disaster for the Tories, and Theresa May in particular.

  11. Bernard Bumner says


    Yes, I’m following the polling, which is all over the place. The pollsters have changed their methods since 2015, so it remains to be seen how robust those new methods are.

    Much will depend on the turnout of the 18-34 demographic.

    I’m being very cautious, although of course I live in hope…

  12. Ed Seedhouse says

    There is also the matter of what gets covered and how it gets covered. On May 29 there was a terrorist bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan that killed and injured far more people but got nowhere near the coverage of the two incidents in Britain that bookended it.

    I guess lives in far away places with funny names mostly populated by darker hued people with funny names just aren’t as important.

    Doesn’t seem right to me.

  13. richardemmanuel says

    @ Bernard Bumner – I’ll give you a poll – I know three true-blue Maggie-loving notremotelyshy Tories – openly ghastly, failed humans, who hate JC, and think Nuttal tellsithowitis etc etc who are voting Labour for their triple-lock, their winter fuel allowance, and their hang onto their hoard no dementia tax. Not a very large poll, but quite a switch. These are reliably selfish people, and the country is full of them. This archetype seems to go:- money first, then racism, then foreigners, then libraries or whatever as an afterthought. I’d like to buy whoever got that dementia/inheritance tax in a drink. Spectacular fluff with her natural constituency.

  14. Bernard Bumner says

    @Zmidponk & richardemmanuel,

    Yes, I’m following the polling, which is all over the place. The pollsters have changed their methods since 2015, so it remains to be seen how robust those new methods are. Much will depend on the turnout of the 18-34 demographic.

    I also know of many people prepared to hold their nose, as it were, to vote against Conservative candidates who would otherwise be their natural choice.

    I’m just being very cautious, although of course I live in hope… I wouldn’t be too upset if, instead of the traditional shy Tories who skew polls, we ended up with shy Labour voters wrecking May’s aspirations. I’m a leftist but not a big fan of Corbyn, but he is at least not an authoritarian, economically self-interested, warmonger.

  15. cartomancer says

    Hang on… initials are JC… suspiciously similar name… based in London… resists stifling authoritarian rule… fashion sense stuck in the 70s… is it just me who thinks Jeremy Corbyn might be one of the many incarnations of Michael Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius?

  16. richardemmanuel says

    He’s got all sorts of quirks, but the manifesto is very different from how he would have written it. No-one seriously believes he wants to renew Trident for instance. So his more interesting ideas are not going to be ‘unleashed’. Looks like the Libdems are not being forgiven yet. Now all JC has to do is mumble some anti-terror platitudes with his serious face, and let Nuttall do his dirty work for him, with the ‘this is all May’s fault/cutthecops/let them in/was homesecretary’ open goal. Only a one hour TV special with Diane Abbott can mess it up.

  17. emergence says

    How in the flying fuck is what these shitsuckers doing legal?! They’re actively trying to block people from saving drowning refugees, and they’re presumably going to chase after and attack boats carrying refugees. If anything the far right has done or is planning to do warrants arresting them and throwing their asses in jail, it’s this. It’s probably wise for the people rescuing refugees to alert the authorities about this.

  18. Cartimandua says

    We have seen the impact of toxic masculinity in the Skeptic ‘movement’

    Europe is now witnessing the consequences of ‘toxic westernism’.

  19. gijoel says

    We want to get a crew, equip a boat and set sail to the Mediterranean ocean to chase down the enemies of Europe.

    How long before this devolves into piracy?

  20. cartomancer says

    It also says something when these people call it the Mediterranean “Ocean”. It has never been considered an ocean, not in ancient times, not today. One would think that such rabidly “pro-European” people might have some idea how Europeans actually talk…

  21. dhabecker says

    20,000 children injured by guns every year, and 30 some thousand people killed in traffic accidents with roughly 20% of that number due to texting or other necessary fucking around with a device while driving, and we’re supposed to be terrified of who?

  22. dhabecker says

    Trump terrifies a hell of a lot more than some dude in a raft out in the Mediterranean.
    Know your enemy.

  23. KG says

    FossilFishy@4 and jrkrideau@5 have it partly right, I think, as regards the ISIS’s motivations. But the work of social psychologists – particularly an extpert on terrorism whose name escapes me – indicates that small-group psychology is key to the motivation of actual bombers. They are often marginalised or socially insecure individuals (petty criminals or young men without a career path) who seek approval and validation from others in a similar position. So the “zero hours” economy, discrimination against minorities in education and employment, etc., are contributory factors.

  24. cartomancer says

    Also, fostering empathy and cultural understanding between groups in our own countries is a good first step. But it will not stop these international terrorist attacks on their own. What we really need to do is actually listen to the grievances of people in the Middle East and realise that the root of their discontent is the way European and American powers have interfered with their region so shamelessly for a century and more. The only lasting solution will be a radical change in foreign policy that convinces the people of the Middle East that we’re not out to exploit and ruin them.

    Which won’t be at all easy given how deep we are in defecit when it comes to good will in the region. Though several obvious positive steps present themselves – stop supporting Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, stop cooperating with the Saudis, stop the bombings and drone strikes altogether, send massive amounts of humanitarian aid and take Climate Change seriously.

    The whole conversation needs to change. Yes, terrorism is unforgivable, but we should be talking about what we’ve done to provoke it and recognising the sordid history of imperialistic oppression that has led us to this point. Because it’s not a problem everyone has. We’ve seen attacks in Paris, in New York, in Manchester and in London. We have not seen them in Tokyo or Rio or Moscow or Shanghai.

  25. Siobhan says


    Or Canada, strangely, even though we provide logistics support and intelligence for all the above disasters.

  26. Bill Buckner says

    When the citizens of those countries fight back the only way they can — though guerilla tactics and terrorism — they’re labeled as savages,

    If they use these tactics against military, financial, industrial, infrastructure, or political targets, including, personnel, you could argue that they are freedom fighters. If they get in a van and mow down pedestrians including children, they are indeed savages. (And yes, no side has a monopoly on savagery.)

  27. Dunc says

    emergence @17 & gijoel @19: It’s definitely not legal, and it can’t devolve into piracy, because it is piracy, as defined by Article 101 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS):

    Piracy consists of any of the following acts:

    (a) any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed:

    (i) on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft;

    (ii) against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State;

    (b) any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or of an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft;

    (c) any act of inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act described in subparagraph (a) or (b).

    Oh, and piracy is governed by “universal jurisdiction”: anybody can (and indeed, everybody is obligated to) pursue and prosecute pirates, and pirates are generally regarded in international law as enemies of humanity.

    Additionally, Article 98 (1) of UNCLOS requires all masters of vessels sailing under the flags of signatory states to render assistance to those in distress at sea.

  28. unclefrogy says

    exactly, I did not know actual definition nor United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea but it sure seemed like that is what they were advocating with the proposal.
    It just amazes me that the people who harbor such feelings of hate and fear, who think they are under threat by these “hordes of others” can propose and engage actions of this sort and not realize how outside of the law and order of civilized society that they claim is under threat they are.
    uncle frogy