FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Mirror of Inflexibility

The terrorist imaginary necessarily requires mutual enforcement. It begins with the idea of a red under the bed, or the monster in the woods. The work for such a monster is essentially done by the fantasist victim, the individual who fears what he or she might become. For those anticipating the next terrorist attack, praise and aggrandisement of the perpetrator’s potential is exactly what is sought. Call them vicious, call them ambitious, and they have notched a few more points on the ideological scoreboard.

No one has been doing this better in terms of “western” countries than Tony Abbott of Australia. The Prime Minister has made it a primary object of his time in office to raise the threat of the Islamic State to the level of Satan’s wily battles with God.

In an address to the UN Security Council in September last year, Abbott insisted that ISIS had “declared war on the world” by emphasising its caliphate building credentials. But it was important for Abbott to globalise local incidents by connecting them with events in Syria. The enemy, in other words, was formidable, seductive and powerful. “Last week, an Australian operative in Syria instructed his local network to conduct demonstration killings and this week an Australian terror suspect savagely attacked two policemen.”

A “terror suspect” is a handy creation of the addled security complex, operating neatly to patch over inadequate arguments and deficiencies in evidence. In that sense, the public relations ballast ISIS obtains in distant Australia is vastly disproportionate with that it can actually do. Terrifying as it is for residents in Syria, Iraq and immediate environs, the impression that a caliphate is about to spring up in Lakemka, Sydney or the Dandenong’s in Victoria are farfetched notions of lunacy. Nor is it entirely convincing that bad boys in the Middle East will continue to be rebels in Australian suburbia.

This has merely spurred Abbott on. Bereft of ideas in keeping the peace, he is intent on forging the ground for domestic conflict. In his latest speech on the subject in what is fast becoming a conference junket of “violent extremism summits,” Abbott explained how the Islamic State represented “terrorism with global ambitions”. The message stemming from the group, which Abbott now insists on calling Daesh, was “Submit or die”.

With a puerile reflex, Abbott could only see an enemy incapable of negotiations and discussion. (This fashionable nonsense is typical of the righteous – in truth, deals are always done, irrespective of how an enemy is rhetorically fashioned.) This is the mirror logic of the inflexible and dogmatic, a phenomenon Abbott knows rather well. “You can’t negotiate with an entity like this, you can only fight it.” This has been his own recipe in domestic politics for years.

Such an approach also reveals a persistent strategy. It is the theme of relevance in the face of irrelevance; huge distances overcome by appropriate proximity to the dangers posed by certain ideas. The land down under, one suitable for the US Marines and signals intelligence, but not really significant to militants keen on redrawing the Middle Eastern map, has become ripe for conquest.

Yearning for his invitation to the boardroom of historical merit, Abbott insists that Australia has been swept up in the current of terroristic fascination, one which has affected a list of countries, including France, Belgium, Canada, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Nigeria, Jordan, Denmark, Kenya and the United States. “The tentacles of the death cult have extended even here as we discovered with the Martin Place siege last December.” For those vaguely acquainted with the colourfully distressed past of the man in question, Man Haron Monis, Islamic fundamentalism was merely a prop, a crutch of reassurance. All in all, he was merely an ideological drag act, keen to dress up for a fashion when needed.

Feeding such threats adds fuel to the suggestive fire that revolutions only succeed because the government of the day is happy to do four fifths of the work of the threat in question. As Abdul-Rehman Malik, programs manager at the Muslim outreach group Radical Middle Way opined, “to call [Islamic State] a death cult, as the Australian Prime Minister does, is a complete misnomer and it actually feeds in to IS propaganda.”

Instead of focusing on feasible education programs involving community individuals of merit, the statement of innate cultural superiority has been raised on the parapets. We are good, you are bad; what we do is fabulous, and what you do reflects the innately primitive and barbaric.

It is an ominous sign for Australians when their leader insists that they are of sufficient importance to be conquered by a “death cult”. In an oddly convergent way, Monis and Abbott share one fundamental principle – a yearning for infamous relevance, and a fear of being inconsequential to the bricks and mortar of history. Being mere minutiae terrifies them.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

April 25, 2019
Michael Slager
“Where’s Your Plan?” Legalized Bribery and Climate Change
Jesse Jackson
Trump Plunges the US Deeper Into Forgotten Wars
George Wuerthner
BLM Grazing Decision Will Damage the Owyhee Canyonlands Wilderness
April 24, 2019
Susan Babbitt
Disdain and Dignity: An Old (Anti-Imperialist) Story
Adam Jonas Horowitz
Letter to the Emperor
Lawrence Davidson
A Decisive Struggle For Our Future
John Steppling
The Mandate for Israel: Keep the Arabs Down
Victor Grossman
Many Feet
Cira Pascual Marquina
The Commune is the Supreme Expression of Participatory Democracy: a Conversation with Anacaona Marin of El Panal Commune
Binoy Kampmark
Failed States and Militias: General Khalifa Haftar Moves on Tripoli
Dean Baker
Payments to Hospitals Aren’t Going to Hospital Buildings
Alvaro Huerta
Top Ten List in Defense of MEChA
Colin Todhunter
As the 2019 Indian General Election Takes Place, Are the Nation’s Farmers Being Dealt a Knock-Out Blow?
Charlie Gers
Trump’s Transgender Troops Ban is un-American and Inhumane
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Just Another Spring in Progress?
Thomas Knapp
On Obstruction, the Mueller Report is Clintonesque
Elliot Sperber
Every Truck’s a Garbage Truck
April 23, 2019
Peter Bolton
The Monroe Doctrine is Back, and as the Latest US Attack on Cuba Shows, Its Purpose is to Serve the Neoliberal Order
David Schultz
The Mueller Report: Trump Too Inept to Obstruct Justice
Geoff Beckman
Crazy Uncle Joe and the Can’t We All Just Get Along Democrats
Medea Benjamin
Activists Protect DC Venezuelan Embassy from US-supported Coup
Patrick Cockburn
What Revolutionaries in the Middle East Have Learned Since the Arab Spring
Jim Goodman
Don’t Fall for the Hype of Free Trade Agreements
Lance Olsen
Climate and Forests: Land Managers Must Adapt, and Conservationists, Too
William Minter
The Coming Ebola Epidemic
Tony McKenna
Stephen King’s IT: a 2019 Retrospective
David Swanson
Pentagon Claims 1,100 High Schools Bar Recruiters; Peace Activists Offer $1,000 Award If Any Such School Can Be Found
Gary Olson
A Few Comments on the recent PBS Series: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War
April 22, 2019
Melvin Goodman
The NYTs Tries to Rehabilitate Bloody Gina Haspel
Robert Fisk
After ISIS, a Divided Iraq, Wounded and Grief-Stricken
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange as Neuroses
John Laforge
Chernobyl’s Deadly Effects Estimates Vary
Kenneth Surin
Mueller Time? Not for Now
Cesar Chelala
Yemen: The Triumph of Barbarism
Kerron Ó Luain
What the “White Irish Slaves” Meme Tells Us About Identity Politics
Andy Piascik
Grocery Store Workers Take on Billion Dollar Multinational
Seiji Yamada – Gregory G. Maskarinec
Health as a Human Right: No Migrants Need Apply
Howard Lisnoff
Loose Bullets and Loose Cannons
Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada
Dreaming in Miami
Graham Peebles
Consuming Stuff: The Polluting World of Fashion
Robert Dodge
Earth Day: Our Planet in Peril
Weekend Edition
April 19, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What Will It Take For Trump to Get His Due?
Roy Eidelson
Is the American Psychological Association Addicted to Militarism and War?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Time is Blind, Man is Stupid
Joshua Frank
Top 20 Mueller Report “Findings”
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail