RogerBW's Blog

Election, Terrorism, Revolutionary Communism 08 June 2017

I can't help noticing an obvious historical parallel which I haven't heard people talking about.

The traditional strategy of the revolutionary communist movement was (and may still be if there's any of it left):

  • we commit some outrage
  • the authorities clamp down
  • this makes life nastier for the proletariat, who become more inclined to join us and start the revolution

And I can't help but notice a similarity to what's currently being done by "Islamic extremists":

  • we commit some outrage
  • the tabloids scream about Evil Muslims
  • politicians pander to them and try to restrict Evil Muslims
  • this makes life nastier for all muslims, who are less likely to be able to get anywhere with their lives, and are therefore more ready to do something frightful themselves

The way to counter this is very simple: don't fall for the paranoid hate-thy-neighbour destruction of society that the tabloids are pushing and at least one of the major parties is actively encouraging.

And the more you say "this is a uniquely terrible thing" and have one-minute silences and so on, the more shocking the next one will be, and there will be a next one.

I'm old enough to remember the IRA bombings in England. We didn't have official silences, we didn't panic, we didn't phone all our friends to say "oh no are you all right", we just said "some bad people have done a bad thing" just as we did about bank robberies. A bunch of men stabbing people in a market isn't terrorism, it's street crime. You don't need a copy of everything everybody does on-line to catch people doing that; you need policemen. Ideally you need a police structure that isn't an intimidating presence to everyone who isn't white. Step one: stop importing policemen and policing techniques from the USA. They are worse at it than we are and have nothing to teach us except how to be an occupying army in your own country.

In Birmingham last weekend there were bag searches on the way in to the NEC. That is, if you didn't walk in just behind someone else with a bag, your bag might get searched. For values of "searched" equal to "open the main body of the bag, look at what's on top". I could do a better bag search than that, and I've never even been trained in it; it was pure theatre, meant to make people feel Protected. And theatre on the cheap at that; the poor buggers doing the searches weren't even being paid overtime, they'd been "invited" to give up their weekends.

Meanwhile over in the election: well, I haven't started believing the promises politicians make. But I can't help notice that party A is promising things that are clearly a terrible idea: "no safe places for bad people on the Internet" is exactly the same as "no privacy for anyone on the Internet". And we've seen "we will stamp out extremists" before (and it hasn't worked over the last fifty years): "extremists" have already been redefined as "anyone who doesn't agree with government policy".

Meanwhile party B is promising things that it obviously won't deliver, but would at least potentially make life better rather than worse if they did happen. Party C is the one that's trying to be a voice of sanity, and is clearly going to do terribly as a result.

  1. Posted by Dr Bob at 11:34am on 08 June 2017

    Oh yeah. I heard on the news that we had troops on the streets and went WTF? Have I fallen into some parallel universe?

    The other thing no-one seems to be talking about is that we've all been told we're special and we all deserve our 15 minutes of fame - and the ravening beast which is 24 hour rolling news coverage must be fed.

    It's a vicious circle. Every time the media goes nuts over a Hungerford or Columbine or 'terror attack', it validates killing people in public as a method of giving your life meaning and/or becoming instantly famous.

  2. Posted by Michael Cule at 11:40am on 08 June 2017

    Well, yes.

    I thought you gave up on politics and news and things in the interests of a quiet, healthy life?

    Tell you what, let's go up to Oxford this evening just like we planned to anyway and play board games as per usual. Nothing with an election theme though...

  3. Posted by Owen Smith at 02:56pm on 08 June 2017

    I also remember the IRA bombings from the mid 1970s onwards. We just ignored them and got on with life, even if we were going to Manchester (nice job of urban clearance the IRA did for us there, saved us a shed load of money). People paid more attention to not going out alone at night due to the Yorkshire Ripper (if they were female).

    I was in Egypt on holiday with my parents and aunt at the time of the attack at the Temple of Queen Hatchepsut, we'd been at that very temple a couple of days earlier. We were evacuated one week into a two week holiday, very annoyingly. My dad asked if we could stay and argued we were just as safe after the attack as we were before it so why create chaos (and a juicy target with us all packed into the airport) and send us all home? We were told we had no choice, we had to go home, and anyway all the archeological sites would be shut so there would be nothing to see.

  4. Posted by John Dallman at 08:37pm on 08 June 2017

    Indeed, the strategy as outlined was what Al-Queda were trying in 2001. They planned to provoke a US intervention in the Middle East (success) and like most revolutionaries, vastly overestimated the number of people who would come to the same conclusions as them. If it hadn't been for the utter clumsiness of the US occupations, the whole thing would have been a failure.

  5. Posted by Nick Marsh at 11:15pm on 17 June 2017

    Absolutely agree - and it turns out your predictions were correct. I know 24 hour news has been around for a while but it seems to have reached new heights of mining a story for every tiny nugget of emotion/misery until we all feel thoroughly depressed. In the case of terrorism, this is exactly what they want us to do. What sort of strategy is it to give the enemy what they want?

    Keep calm and carry on: it became a soundbite, and then a meme, but it seems no-one actually paid attention to the meaning.

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