FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Value of False Expectations: Islamic State, Lone Wolf Attacks, and Australia

Australia’s distance from various centres of power has been called a tyranny. But flip that tyranny over, and you have an assortment of benefits for local development, the mighty laboratory that bred a middle class experiment supposedly egalitarian and oiled by principles of social justice.

These days, such distance is said to have been overcome, the effects of instant communication, rapid travel, and transport. People still think Australia might be somewhere in Europe, but that mistake does not get away from assumptions that a wandering finger on a globe would be able to land safely on Sydney or Melbourne.

Those imaginative creatures scribbling for Rumiyah, an Islamic State publication that combines wishful thinking with equally wishful views of the world, decided to shine a spotlight on Australia. Well done indeed. “Light the ground beneath them aflame and scorch them with terror.”

This agitated language had been motivated, in part, by the death of Ezzit Raad, an Australian jailed in connection with the 2005 plot to blow up the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Raad left Australia with brother Majed in 2013, months after his release. Islamic State subsequently announced that Raad was killed in July in the Syrian city of Manbij or, as Rumiyah preferred, when “a piece of shrapnel struck him and tore his chest open.”

Childish exhortations to target “a land cloaked in darkness and corrupted by kufr, fornication and all forms of vice” follow in the heated note. “Kill them on the streets of Brunswick, Broadmeadows, Bankstown and Bondi. Kill them at the MCG, the SCG, the Opera House, and even in their backyards.” Like many ideologues steering the wheel, the authors mistake hyperbolic desperation for substance. “Stab them, shoot them, poison them, and run them down with your vehicles.”

Such a piece might well have been dismissed as the fantastic meanderings of a mind not only addled but lazy. Islamic State is getting a battering in a territorial sense, losing ground in Syria and northern Iraq.

Much of this is pure non sequitur stuff – Islamic State is merely a manifestation of circumstance. Here today, replaced tomorrow by something similar. The entire hot-house of Middle Eastern politics needs to be disassembled before any genuine work can be done.

Incapable of creating and organising military units on a global scale, the frazzled ideologues have opted for recruitment on the cheap: words, words, words. Messages relayed globally to incite, to enrage, to even titillate. Draw them out of the rooms; turn couch potatoes into assault rifle bearing, virgin seeking converts.

In so doing, the security services of various countries are put in a bind. Ignore the rant, or hunker down for the inevitable rise of the crazies? The obvious equation of idiocy is that it takes one to know one, and the State apparatus is always going to supply credence where none should be given. To play the terrorist game, the line between mere reaction and becoming reactionary is a fine one indeed.

Australia’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, deemed the message worthy of extensive public comment. Speaking in Laos, Turnbull’s prognostication was grim. “As Daesh comes under more and more pressure on the battlefield in Syria and in Iraq – as it is rolled back, as its territory is being taken back – it will resort to terrorist activities outside of the Middle East” (ABC News, Sep 7).

The gold dust here lay in the solitary attacker, that convenient confection of security studies. Australians, urged Turnbull, “have to be very alert to the actions of these lone actors – individuals who, as I’ve described in the national security statement last week, for a variety of reasons, may be radicalised.”

Others did not see that same urgency, let alone gravity. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews made little fuss about it, despite taking “every threat… very seriously.” The Victorian Police Chief Commissioner, Graham Ashton, noted that “the only new content is essentially a poem making reference to a number of Australian locations.” It had also been released in other languages (German, French, Indonesian) with threatened targets accordingly adjusted. What to make of it? Propaganda, he calmly, suggested.

Other outlets were similarly lukewarm about any impending calamity. The Sydney Morning Herald did not feel an increased sense of urgency, noting that “there has not been any chatter by counter-terrorism authorities.” Nor did staff at the Sydney Opera House.

The Turnbull government has already demonstrated that speculation is a far better milch cow in the making of security policy than evident threat. It promises police state measures, extensive detention periods for those convicted of terrorist charges (even the flimsier ones).

Assessing intelligence generally demands dull, hallucinatory free sobriety; the reactionary posture, all the hallucinatory visions needed. All it takes these days is a threatening word to change the world, to command attention. Forget the actual value of the evidence, the value, in other words, of action.

More articles by:

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

Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
Robert Koehler
Playing War in Syria
Tamara Pearson
US Shootings: Gun Industry Killing More People Overseas
John Feffer
Trump’s Trade War is About Trump Not China
Morris Pearl
Why the Census Shouldn’t Ask About Citizenship
Ralph Nader
Bill Curry on the Move against Public Corruption
Josh Hoxie
Five Tax Myths Debunked
Leslie Mullin
Democratic Space in Adverse Times: Milestone at Haiti’s University of the Aristide Foundation
Louis Proyect
Syria and Neo-McCarthyism
Dean Baker
Finance 202 Meets Economics 101
Abel Cohen
Forget Gun Control, Try Bullet Control
Robert Fantina
“Damascus Time:” An Iranian Movie
David Yearsley
Bach and Taxes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail