Thursday, July 28, 2011

Calling the right's bluff

The idea that "western civilisation" is facing an "existential threat" from Islam has been a growing meme on the right, spread by warmongering US NeoCons and the racist European far-right, and is popular down in the sewer in New Zealand. But as Lew on KiwiPolitico points out, the actions of the Norwegian terrorist has called their bluff on this. They're desperate to avoid being ideologically linked to him, but if they want to do that, they need to either abandon the idea that Islam is an existential threat, or explain why that threat does not justify violence:

They’ve been squawking about the existential threat posed by “others”, much as Breivik has, but he has gone one better and actually done something about it. And so they must pick a side: either “Muslims” (or “Māori”, “socialists”, “teacher unions” or the “cultural elite” or whoever “Western civilisation” is at war with this week) actually are the existential threat the wingnuts claim they are, or they are not. If the former case is true, by their own logic the wingnuts would not only be justified in taking up arms in defence of their civilisation, they would be practically required to do so, as Breivik did. If the existential threat is real, they must hail Breivik as a hero. If they don’t, we can assume there is no existential threat, and that they’ve merely been spouting melodramatic masturbatory fantasy this whole time.
As an intellectual position, this is clearly correct. You can't hold the position that Islam is an existential threat while decrying the consequences of that belief, and you can't decry the consequences while holding that position - not if you want to be consistent anyway. At the same time, I'm not sure its such a good idea to double dog dare (with a side order of "you haven't got the balls for it") people to praise Breivik, or emulate him and start killing people. Because while most (hell, almost all) won't - it being both a repulsive position to take, and one which flies in the face of the democratic ideals these people purport to want to defend - there's a danger, however slight, that some wingnut will go "you're right" and follow through. Consistency is great, but as sins go, I'll take inconsistency over murder any day.