The silence of the anti-fascists

October 19, 2020

 

“AND YET THE SELF-STYLED ANTI-FASCISTS OF THE EUROPEAN AND AMERICAN LEFT HAVE SAID BARELY A WORD”

[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach three comment articles on the reaction (or lack thereof) among many western “human rights” and “civil society” activists to the decapitation of French high school teacher Samuel Paty as he was leaving his school in Paris on Friday afternoon, by an 18-year-old Islamist assailant shouting “Allah Akbar”.

The French are particularly shocked by this brutal murder because the victim was a mild mannered middle-aged history and geography teacher simply doing his job.

French commentators noted that there was hope following other terror attacks in France (in which hundreds have died in recent years) that teachers could educate the next generation of school pupils to be tolerant, and this attack has shocked them more than some of the other terror attacks of recent years.

I attach extracts to these articles first, for those who don’t have time to read them in full.

 

EXTRACTS

“NO, JUST A PERFUNCTORY, PROBABLY BEGRUDGED TWEET ESSENTIALLY SAYING THE KILLING WAS A BIT SAD”

Brendan O’Neill (Spiked online):

Anti-fascists are incredibly quiet about the fascist in France who cut off a man’s head because he displayed some cartoons in a classroom. It is two days since the gruesome Islamist murder of schoolteacher Samuel Paty. And yet the self-styled anti-fascists of the European and American left have said barely a word. There have been no big protests outside of France, no angry rallies, no Twitterstorms, no knee-taking or fist-raising, no promises by ‘Antifa’ to face down these extremists who slaughter schoolteachers for talking about liberty. Their craven, cowardly silence is as revealing as it is depressing.

After every Islamist terror attack, we hear the same thing from significant sections of the Western left, including those who style themselves as anti-fascist. Their first concern is always, but always, that an Islamist terror attack might give rise to an ‘Islamophobic’ backlash. ... Imagine if, following an act of far-right violence carried out by a white man, someone said ‘Let’s not get too angry about this because we might alienate white people and put them at risk’. Imagine if, in the wake of the terrorist attacks by Anders Breivik in Norway or Brenton Tarrant in New Zealand, people’s first response was to wonder if white people would be okay, if white men were feeling safe. That is how crazy leftists sound when their Pavlovian response to the mass murder of children in Manchester or the slaughter of Bastille Day celebrants in Nice or the mowing down of Christmas shoppers in Berlin is to say: ‘I hope Muslims will be okay.’

… Consider the response of the National Education Union in the UK. When George Floyd was killed by cops in Minneapolis, the NEU issued a strongly worded, highly political statement, condemning ‘the systemic racism that caused his killing’. But in response to the murder of Paty, a teacher, the NEU put out a lame, half-hearted tweet which said this is a ‘sad day’ for France. No mention of Paty’s name, no mention of what was done to him, no mention of why it was done to him – because he was teaching his pupils to think critically. No, just a perfunctory, probably begrudged tweet essentially saying the killing was a bit sad…

This glaring disparity between the left’s fury over far-right violence and their snivelling silence in response to Islamist violence was painfully illustrated in August 2017. On 12 August, when a far-right activist used a car to plough into left-wing protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing one, there was global condemnation and agitation from the left. Fascism is back, they claimed, and we have to defeat it. Yet when, just five days later, an Islamist terrorist used a van to slaughter 13 people in Barcelona, there was silence. Let it fade from memory. And for many, it has. It seems unquestionable to me that among left-leaning millennials in particular, the memory of the events of Charlottesville is probably quite strong, whereas the slaughter in Barcelona will have been all but forgotten…

There is the censorious instinct – the urge, now institutionalised in the modern left, to protect Islam from any kind of criticism … so-called anti-fascists share in common with radical Islamists an impulse to censor public discussion and to condemn critics of Islam. The anti-fascists are largely silent on the murder of Mr Paty because they are genuinely not sure which side they are on in this existential battle between regressive Islamists and people who believe in freedom of speech. In short, because they are not anti-fascist at all.

 

“TERMING THE SYSTEMATIC MURDER OF AFRICAN-AMERICANS BY THE KKK AS “RANDOM” WOULD MISS THE NATURE OF THE TERROR CAMPAIGN BEING CONDUCTED”

Seth Frantzman (Jerusalem Post):

… The problem with this coverage is that it would be like telling the story of lynchings in the US South by the KKK as a series of “extremists” killing “random people.”

The 2015 attack on the kosher market in Paris was described by US president Barack Obama as “a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.”

But it wasn’t random. [The Islamist murderer was boasting on live-feed body camera that he wanted to kill Jews as he found Jews to kill, and praising Allah as he did so.]

Terming the systematic murder of African-Americans by the KKK as “random” would miss the nature of the terror campaign being conducted. The KKK sought out specific targets to spread fear, not just random people. The same methodology tends to underpin killings like the murder of the teacher.

This leads to questions about whether calling the KKK “violent extremists” would be better than reporting more narrowly on its white supremacist motivations. “Religious supremacist” is a term rarely, if ever, used to describe the terror attacks in places like France, but at the root of beheadings is a form of far-right, religious, supremacist attacks.

Re-focusing the attacks on the outcome, such as police shooting the perpetrator, tends to move the focus to the perpetrator rather than the victim and leave behind questions of motive and worldview.

… The New York Times [online] headline describing the incident [the murder of Paty] was originally “French police shoot and kill man after a fatal knife attack on the street.”

Many online took screenshots of the headline on Friday and asserted that it focused more on the police shooting the perpetrator than on the brutal attack.

The headline was a reminder of biased reporting against Israel over the years where murders have often been sanitized in headlines, or focus changed to Israeli security forces killing terrorists. These discussions raise several questions about how media frame stories about terrorism.

… In 2016, a priest in France was also beheaded in a church by two ISIS supporters. To ignore the obvious connection between numerous beheadings, or the targets of their attacks, is to ignore what they are trying to do: impose their extremist religious beliefs on a country.

 

Tom Gross adds:

I have written about this subject on several occasion over the years.

See for example: The BBC discovers ‘terrorism,’ briefly.

http://www.tomgrossmedia.com/BBCDiscoversTerrorism.html

In that article I note that “On July 7, 2005, Britain suffered its first suicide bomb attacks. 52 people were killed on London’s transport system, and all of a sudden, the BBC used the word “terrorism” and “terrorist.”

“But not for long. The following day the BBC subtly and retroactively started to alter the text of stories on its website in order to remove the word “terrorist” to describe those behind the London bombings.”

 

“THE BEHEADING OF MR PATY WAS A MILITARISED EXPRESSION OF CANCEL CULTURE”

Brendan O’Neill (Spiked online) (in an earlier piece I posted on Facebook at the time it was published):

“Every Islamic extremist attack over the past five years has been shocking and disturbing. In France alone, around 250 people have been massacred by radical Islamists since 2015. But there is something especially horrific about the premeditated targeting of a teacher for doing his job – that is, encouraging his pupils to think critically. Parents of his pupils say he was a kind, enthusiastic teacher who always encouraged children to think about issues in depth...

“The beheading of Mr Paty was a militarised expression of cancel culture. That killer was the armed wing of political correctness, a self-styled enforcer of the now mainstream idea that it is ‘phobic’ (that is, evil) to criticise Islam. Indeed, the interplay between the mainstream chilling of discussion about Islam and the extremist attacks on individuals who ‘blaspheme’ against Islam can be seen in the fact that Mr Paty was the subject of complaints from parents before he became the target of a murderous terrorist. Indeed, it seems he only came to the attention of his executioner because of a social-media fuss over his lessons on freedom of speech. The everyday instinct for cancelling problematic people feeds the monster of extremist violent censorship...”

(Both Brendan O’Neill and Seth Frantzman are subscribers to this dispatch list.)

 

PARIS MOSQUE APOLOGIZES FOR SHARING ‘FATWA’ VIDEO PRIOR TO ISLAMIC BEHEADING ATTACK

A mosque in Paris has apologized for sharing a video from a parent who called for a “action” against Samuel Paty, the teacher who was beheaded shortly afterwards.

The leader of the Pantin mosque in Paris, M’hammed Henniche, has admitted to sharing a video, which detailed Samuel Paty’s identity and address. Following the dissemination of the video, Paty was beheaded in an Islamist attack.

“In hindsight, given what happened we regret having published it. We are now exploring how in the future we can take a step back before getting carried away with things like that,” the mosque leader said per FranceTVInfo.

Henniche claimed that the video was widely shared through Muslim circles in the city, telling the French newspaper Libération: “At least ten people sent it to me. It circulated a lot, especially through WhatsApp groups.”

 

QATARI SOCIOLOGIST: PATY’S DEATH MAY HAVE BEEN CARRIED OUT BY THE WEST, LIKE 9/11

Video:

https://twitter.com/MEMRIReports/status/1318528547804336135


FULL ARTICLES

THE BEHEADING OF A TEACHER IN FRANCE IS THE BARBARIC LOGICAL CONCLUSION TO CANCEL CULTURE

Je suis Samuel
The beheading of a teacher in France is the barbaric logical conclusion to cancel culture.
By Brendan O’Neill
Spiked online
October 17, 2020

https://www.spiked-online.com/2020/10/17/je-suis-samuel/

Yesterday, cancel culture turned murderous. It became positively medieval. On a suburban street on the outskirts of Paris a schoolteacher was beheaded in broad daylight for the supposed crime of showing caricatures of Muhammad to his pupils during a classroom discussion about freedom of speech. Decapitated for dissing the prophet, in France, in the 21st century. In essence, the teacher was cancelled, in the most thorough and depraved way imaginable. Enough is enough – everyone must now stand against all snivelling apologists for censorship and cancellation and defend unfettered freedom of speech as the cornerstone of civilised society.

The news from France was truly grim. Samuel Paty, a 47-year-old teacher of geography and history at a middle school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, was murdered and beheaded by an 18-year-old Chechen Islamic extremist. The murderous censor was heard yelling out ‘Allahu Akbar’. Then we discovered why Mr Paty was slaughtered in such a deranged, premodern fashion: because he dared to show some of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons of Muhammad to his pupils during a lesson on why the liberties of thought and speech are so essential to the French Republic. That he reportedly offered his Muslim pupils the opportunity to leave the classroom while the Muhammad caricatures were being discussed wasn’t enough to protect him from the 7th-century fury of his executioner, who no doubt felt ‘offended’ by Mr Paty’s behaviour.

Every Islamic extremist attack over the past five years has been shocking and disturbing. In France alone, around 250 people have been massacred by radical Islamists since 2015. But there is something especially horrific about the premeditated targeting of a teacher for doing his job – that is, encouraging his pupils to think critically. Parents of his pupils say he was a kind, enthusiastic teacher who always encouraged children to think about issues in depth. Sophie Vénétitay of the SNES-FSU teachers’ union was right to say that he was murdered for doing what good teachers are meant to do – ‘teach critical thought’. This attack targeted one man, but its aim was to terrorise an entire republic; to send a dire, Middle Ages-style warning to public servants that they will put themselves in danger if they dare, in the terrorist’s own words, to ‘belittle Muhammad’.

So Mr Paty was beheaded for the crime of blasphemy. He was the victim of a barbaric one-man inquisition. Yet even as we balk at the depravity of this act of terror, we also have to confront the fact that it did not take place in a vacuum. Nor did the massacre at Charlie Hebdo’s offices five years ago, or the barely discussed attack with a meat cleaver carried out by a Pakistani man at the site of Charlie Hebdo’s old offices just three weeks ago, in which two people were wounded. No, all of these attacks, all of these explicit acts of vengeance for the supposed speechcrime of ‘blaspheming’ against Muhammad, took place in an era in which criticism of Islam is described as ‘Islamophobia’ and in which offending Muslims is apparently one of the worst things you can do. There’s a context to these barbaric attacks – it’s the context of the cult of cancellation and the ridiculous, regressive idea that people have a right not to be offended.

These attacks are an expression of two of the most worrying trends in Western European societies right now: Islamic extremism and cancel culture. Strikingly, open, frank discussion of these two problems is constantly discouraged by the political and cultural elites. After Islamic-extremist attacks we are implored not to look back in anger, to forget about it, essentially, and move on. Dwell for too long on something like the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017 or the Nice truck attack on Bastille Day in 2016 and you run the risk of being branded ‘Islamophobic’, that catch-all term of demonisation that is designed to chill debate about radical Islam, the crisis of integration, and the social and cultural divisions fostered by the ideology of multiculturalism. As for cancel culture, it doesn’t exist, the chattering classes tell us; it’s the concoction of right-wing culture warriors who just don’t like being ‘called out’.

But these things do exist. Islamic extremism is a genuine problem in 21st-century Europe and the trend for cancelling people deemed guilty of wrongthink – whether it’s feminists who question aspects of transgenderism or people concerned about mass immigration – is a real and growing phenomenon. Indeed, cancel culture is applied with particular vigour against anyone who criticises Islam. They will be branded ‘phobic’ or racist. People have lost their jobs and even been dragged to court in European countries for ‘blaspheming’ against Muhammad. And who can forget the reluctance of significant sections of the cultural establishment – including columnists and novelists – to stand by Charlie Hebdo following the massacre of so many of its cartoonists and writers in 2015? Sure, no one should have been killed, they said, but that magazine is ‘Islamophobic’; it ‘punches down’, whatever the hell that means.

All these spineless excuse-makers for religious censorship, all these people who failed time and again to stand with people who were being chastised, censured or even physically attacked for questioning or making fun of Islam, ought to be taking a long, hard look in the mirror this morning. For they have contributed to this climate in which extremists take it upon themselves to punish ‘blasphemers’. The elites’ mainstreaming of the idea of ‘Islamophobia’, their treatment of criticism of Islam as a racist scourge that must be cancelled, gives a green light to Islamists to take even more punishing action against anyone who dares to disrespect their religion. The terrible truth is this: the No Platforming of people for being critical of Islam and the murder of people for being critical of Islam differ only by degree, only by severity. In both cases, the exact same warped ideology is being applied: that it is legitimate to punish ‘offensive’ speech, especially if it is offensive to some Muslims.

The beheading of Mr Paty was a militarised expression of cancel culture. That killer was the armed wing of political correctness, a self-styled enforcer of the now mainstream idea that it is ‘phobic’ (that is, evil) to criticise Islam. Indeed, the interplay between the mainstream chilling of discussion about Islam and the extremist attacks on individuals who ‘blaspheme’ against Islam can be seen in the fact that Mr Paty was the subject of complaints from parents before he became the target of a murderous terrorist. Indeed, it seems he only came to the attention of his executioner because of a social-media fuss over his lessons on freedom of speech. The everyday instinct for cancelling problematic people feeds the monster of extremist violent censorship.

‘Freedom of speech has consequences’ – that is the cri de coeur of the censorious woke left and the illiberal cultural elites. Well, guess what? It will have been the cri de coeur of the piece of shit who murdered Mr Paty, too. That oh-so-common cry that free speech has consequences is one of the most chilling ideas of our time. It doesn’t mean that freedom of speech has the consequence of disagreement and debate and ridicule, of people using their speech to challenge your speech – this is something all of us accept and actively welcome. No, it means that if you express certain ideas, you will suffer. Make no mistake: it is a threat. Speak your mind and you will suffer the consequences – job loss, banishment from campus, public shaming, even hounding in the streets, as we have seen in recent furious confrontations between correct-thinking mobs and people who dare to hold different opinions. All that radical Islamists do is add a further ‘consequence’ to freedom of speech – extrajudicial execution.

Enough is enough. If the slaying of Samuel Paty doesn’t act as a wake-up call to the censorious elites, then we really are in serious trouble. Teaching unions across Europe should absolutely condemn his murder and defend the right of teachers and professors to challenge their pupils and students, including with caricatures of Muhammad. Campuses must cease all their regressive No Platforming and speech-policing policies. Cancel culture needs to be cancelled. And we need to normalise criticism of Islam – alongside criticism of Christianity and every other religion – in order to send a clear message to everyone: that no god, prophet, faith or fad is beyond questioning in our free societies. Let’s all say ‘Je suis Samuel’ and confront the apologists who created this world in which people fantasise that they have a right not to be offended.

 

FRENCH TEACHER’S MURDER BRINGS MEDIA TERMINOLOGY INTO SPOTLIGHT

French teacher’s murder brings media terminology into spotlight

The murder has led to controversy online about how the killing was covered, particularly with the wording used in headlines that appeared to focus attention on the murderer rather than the victim.

By Seth Frantzman
Jerusalem Post
October 18, 2020

https://www.jpost.com/international/french-teachers-murder-brings-media-terminology-into-spotlight-analysis-646095

French teacher Samuel Paty was murdered in Paris on Friday in a brutal killing by a religious extremist who targeted him after hearing rumors he had shown images that he considered to be blasphemous, in his classroom.

The killing was one of many in France in recent years where newspapers, religious figures and others have been targeted by Islamist-inspired extremists. The murder has led to controversy online about how the killing was covered, particularly with the wording used in headlines that appeared to focus attention on the murderer, rather than the victim.

According to France24, Paty was teaching his class on freedom of expression, and provided an example of the Charlie Hebdo cartoon controversy where images of the Islamic Prophet Mohammed were shown. A father of one of the students then began a social media campaign against the teacher.

An eighteen-year-old who was granted asylum in France from Chechnya more than a decade ago then traveled to the school and hunted down the teacher. The suspect, named as ‘Abdullakh A.’ was later shot and killed by police.

The New York Times [online] headline describing the incident was originally “French police shoot and kill man after a fatal knife attack on the street.”

Many online took screenshots of the headline and asserted that it focused more on the police shooting the perpetrator than on the brutal attack. Others pointed out that while the online headline focused on the police shooting, the print edition was headlined “man kills teacher in Paris suburb, decapitating him.”

There was focus on how the headline was a reminder of biased reporting against Israel over the years where murders have often been sanitized in headlines, or focus changed to Israeli security forces killing terrorists. These discussions raise several questions about how media frame stories about terrorism.

Firstly, there are terms such as “militants” that are used to obscure what are generally brutal murderers. Then there is terminology such as “terrorist” or “violent extremist” used to describe certain attacks.

There are questions about how victims and attacks are framed, such as criticism that purposeful attacks are described as “blasts” that “bomb buses” as opposed to naming the individuals responsible. These questions are important because the media often use different terms when describing other types of attacks.

For instance, the ramming attack in Charlottesville in 2017 was described as a “white nationalist who killed a woman by ramming his car into a crowd” and headlines describe him as a “white supremacist.”

In September 2020, a man was killed by police in a shootout in California. The headline said: “White supremacist killed in shootout.”

There are also questions of religious and political motivations. A recent report in June by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) found that “violence by far-right groups and individuals has emerged as one of the most dangerous terrorist threats faced by US law enforcement.”

The bifurcation of the terms “jihadist and right-wing extremists” is sometimes used by major media to create groups of extremists that use violence, without much thought or explanation given as to why “jihadists” are not defined as “far-right.”

In another instance a New York Times opinion piece in February 2017 argued that “saying ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ isn’t enough.”

The author, Richard Stengel, who advocated using more general terms such as “violent extremism,” noted that for years in the Obama administration, officials purposely avoided words that might link attacks to religion.

Different countries use different terms; different media do the same. This leads to questions about how the media reports may downplay the severity of crimes or sanitize attacks. This sanitization works both ways. Some countries use the term “neutralized” to describe killing alleged “terrorists.” Some countries use terms such as “jihadist” and “Islamist” and others do not.

There is often not much reporting on the actual statements of the murderers themselves. For instance, the use of beheading to kill the teacher in Paris is linked to many other beheadings which are the method used by religious extremists to kill people they term as the “kuffar” or infidels, who they view as sub-human. That means that the method of – in their view – “execution” is tied to the nature of what they see as a “crime” of blasphemy.

In 2016, a priest in France was also beheaded in a church by two ISIS supporters. To ignore the obvious connection between numerous beheadings, or the targets of their attacks, is to ignore what they are trying to do: impose their extremist religious beliefs on a country. This is also why a Jewish school was targeted in Toulouse in 2012 and a kosher supermarket was targeted in 2015 by the same group that attacked Charlie Hebdo.

It’s not a coincidence that Jews were targeted, because hatred of Jews is part of the worldview of hatred of “kuffar” as well as support for ISIS and the intolerance preached by the extremists who motivate the killers. That narrative is not widely dealt with in the media, which prefer the simpler story of a man who was radicalized, killed someone and was then shot by police – end of story.

The problem with this coverage is that it would be like telling the story of lynchings in the US South by the KKK as a series of “extremists” killing “random people.”

For instance, the 2015 attack on the kosher market in Paris was described by US president Barack Obama as “a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.”

But it wasn’t random. Terming the systematic murder of African-Americans by the KKK as “random” would miss the nature of the terror campaign being conducted. The KKK sought out specific targets to spread fear, not just random people. The same methodology tends to underpin killings like the murder of the teacher.

This leads to questions about whether calling the KKK “violent extremists” would be better than reporting more narrowly on its white supremacist motivations. “Religious supremacist” is a term rarely, if ever, used to describe the terror attacks in places like France, but at the root of beheadings is a form of far-right, religious, supremacist attacks.

Re-focusing the attacks on the outcome, such as police shooting the perpetrator, tends to move the focus to the perpetrator rather than the victim and leave behind questions of motive and worldview.

Twenty years after the US declared a global war on terror, governments and the media still struggle with how to define these kinds of attacks.

 

WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE OVER THE MEDIEVAL MURDER OF SAMUEL PATY?

The silence of the anti-fascists
By Brendan O’Neill
Spiked online
October 18, 2020

https://www.spiked-online.com/2020/10/18/the-silence-of-the-anti-fascists/

Anti-fascists are incredibly quiet about the fascist in France who cut off a man’s head because he displayed some cartoons in a classroom. It is two days since the gruesome Islamist murder of schoolteacher Samuel Paty for the supposed crime of showing caricatures of Muhammad to his pupils during a classroom discussion about freedom of speech. And yet the self-styled anti-fascists of the European and American left have said barely a word. There have been no big protests outside of France, no angry rallies, no Twitterstorms, no knee-taking or fist-raising, no promises by ‘Antifa’ to face down these extremists who slaughter schoolteachers for talking about liberty. Their craven, cowardly silence is as revealing as it is depressing.

After every Islamist terror attack, we hear the same thing from significant sections of the Western left, including those who style themselves as anti-fascist. Their first concern is always, but always, that an Islamist terror attack might give rise to an ‘Islamophobic’ backlash. We have to be careful about how we talk about Islamist terrorism, they say, or we might help to make Muslim communities into targets for racist violence. This is such a morally warped response to the extremist violence of radical Islamists. Imagine if, following an act of far-right violence carried out by a white man, someone said ‘Let’s not get too angry about this because we might alienate white people and put them at risk’. Imagine if, in the wake of the terrorist attacks by Anders Breivik in Norway or Brenton Tarrant in New Zealand, people’s first response was to wonder if white people would be okay, if white men were feeling safe. That is how crazy leftists sound when their Pavlovian response to the mass murder of children in Manchester or the slaughter of Bastille Day celebrants in Nice or the mowing down of Christmas shoppers in Berlin is to say: ‘I hope Muslims will be okay.’

Their instinct is always to hush and chill discussion of radical Islam. They have developed numerous strategies for doing this. The first, as described above, is to imply that there could be violence against Muslims if we get too angry or heated about an Islamist attack – a form of moral blackmail designed to stymie frank discussion of Islamist violence. Another is to promiscuously deploy the insult of ‘Islamophobe’ against anybody who raises awkward questions about the frequency and bloodiness of Islamist attacks in Europe, or who even uses that i-word at all (Islamist) to describe these acts of violence.

Indeed, in mainstream institutions there have been efforts to expunge words like ‘Islamist’ from the discussion about Islamist terrorism. Police forces in the UK have seriously considered replacing terms like ‘Islamist terrorism’ and ‘jihadis’ with ‘faith-claimed terrorism’ and ‘terrorists abusing religious motivations’. This warped impulse to deny that these acts are motivated by Islamism is designed to disorientate the public response to terrorism and ensure there is no deep or focused discussion about its causes and ideologies. The left continually parrot this institutionalised cowardice by obsessively policing the language that people use and the emotions we express in the wake of Islamist attacks. ‘Don’t say “Islamic violence” because this has nothing to do with Islam’, they say. And of course, ‘Don’t look back in anger’. Cry, change your social-media picture for a week or two, and then move on. Nothing to see here.

This spineless unwillingness to be honest about the ideological motivation behind Islamist violence, or to confront the fact that it has become an increasingly widespread form of violence that has caused the deaths of hundreds of people in Europe in recent years, has been on full display following the beheading of Samuel Paty. Consider the response of the National Education Union in the UK. When George Floyd was killed by cops in Minneapolis, the NEU issued a strongly worded, highly political statement, condemning ‘the systemic racism that caused his killing’. But in response to the murder of Paty, a teacher, the NEU put out a lame, half-hearted tweet which said this is a ‘sad day’ for France. No mention of Paty’s name, no mention of what was done to him, no mention of why it was done to him – because he was teaching his pupils to think critically. No, just a perfunctory, probably begrudged tweet essentially saying the killing was a bit sad. This sums up the moral cowardice of sections of the left when it comes to Islamist violence. They just don’t want to talk about it. They want things to be forgotten as quickly as possible.

And, alarmingly, this is already happening in relation to the killing of Mr Paty. It is falling down the news schedules. It is fading from social media. People aren’t really talking about it. This might change later today, temporarily, given that a rally for Mr Paty is due to take place in Paris later on. Perhaps the sight of the good people of France taking to the streets in defiance of the censorious executioners of radical Islam will shame hitherto silent anti-fascists into saying something. But generally, it feels like the killing of Samuel Paty is already drifting from public consciousness. The post-terrorism strategy of playing things down, or flat-out igorning them, or saying that talking too much about this act of violence will itself cause violence, is proving successful once again. Another victory for intellectual cowardice.

The reluctance of self-styled anti-fascists to say anything coherent or principled about Islamist terrorism stands in stark contrast to their response to acts of far-right violence. Whether it was the mosque massacres in New Zealand or the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh, so-called Antifa leftists always strongly condemn attacks by white nationalists and try to galvanise people in opposition to the ideology that fuelled them. In these cases they do want to talk about the ideological engine to the violence. They don’t condemn people for saying ‘fascist’ in the way they condemn people who say ‘Islamist’ after Islamist attacks. They don’t say ‘Let’s not get angry’ – they say ‘Let’s get really angry’.

This glaring disparity between the left’s fury over far-right violence and their snivelling silence in response to Islamist violence was painfully illustrated in August 2017. On 12 August, when a far-right activist used a car to plough into left-wing protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing one, there was global condemnation and agitation from the left. Fascism is back, they claimed, and we have to defeat it. Yet when, just five days later, an Islamist terrorist used a van to slaughter 13 people in Barcelona, there was silence. They stared at their feet. Don’t dwell on it. Don’t focus on it. Let it fade from memory. And for many, it has. It seems unquestionable to me that among left-leaning millennials in particular, the memory of the events of Charlottesville is probably quite strong, whereas the slaughter in Barcelona will have been all but forgotten.

What’s this about, this silence of the anti-fascists in response to certain forms of neo-fascism? There is a mix of regressive fears and ideas in the left’s stark hypocrisy over extremist violence. There is an element of racial paternalism, where the left feels it must protect Muslim communities from open, frank debate about radical Islam, lest they feel offended. There is the influence of identity politics, too, which dictates that white people are privileged (ie, bad) and brown people are oppressed (ie, good), and the radical Islamist problem just muddies this identitarian narrative too much. There is a calculated cowardice to it too, where the left is reluctant to dig down into the role of institutional multiculturalism in fostering the ethnic and religious tensions in Western countries that have helped to nurture Islamist violence.

And then there is the censorious instinct – the urge, now institutionalised in the modern left, to protect Islam from any kind of criticism or ridicule. This is where we get to the darkest reason why the murder of Samuel Paty hasn’t caused the fury that it ought to have – because there are many people in mainstream political and cultural circles who actually agree that it is wicked to criticise Islam. No, they don’t support the killing of people who criticise Islam, but they do support their punishment, whether that be in the form of No Platforming, or sackings, or expulsion from polite society. This is the problem: so-called anti-fascists share in common with radical Islamists an impulse to censor public discussion and to condemn critics of Islam. The anti-fascists are largely silent on the murder of Mr Paty because they are genuinely not sure which side they are on in this existential battle between regressive Islamists and people who believe in freedom of speech and the right to offend. In short, because they are not anti-fascist at all.

 

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