After the van attack on Las Ramblas in Barcelona, which left 13 dead and scores more injured, someone out there on the Muslim-hating right noticed that this story, and the discussion around it, had now supplanted the Charlottesville march by white supremacists, and its aftermath. As the someone was Brendan O’Neill, editor of Spiked, so titled because it should have been long ago, a false equivalence would not be far behind.
So it has come to pass, as O’Neill makes the bogus assertion “It’s clear now: the left only hates certain kinds of neo-fascism”. It’s all, predictably, the left’s fault. “If the extremists are white and fond of the swastika, they’ll be roundly condemned, organised against, transformed into a focal point for the activities of a flagging left” he starts.
Then comes the switch. “But if they’re Muslims, if it’s a misogynistic, homophobic caliphate they want to build, if their targets are ‘kuffars’ rather than pinkos or black people, they will be frowned upon, of course, but never raged against. Never organised against. They will be treated more forgivingly, and explicitly so”. Hence the five dead attackers, eh?
And, of course, the demand that we look over there. “Even before the barbarism in Barcelona, even before that Islamist terrorist mowed down scores of people, killing 13, the discussion about Charlottesville had become unhinged. What was in truth a nasty but small demonstration by white-power losers was transformed into the second coming of the Third Reich”. It was nasty, but it certainly wasn’t small.
Against this allegedly teensy group, O’Neill pits his real target. “Yes, there are extremists in the West who have declared war on our fellow citizens, our liberties and our democracy. But they aren’t American hillbillies who once tried to read Mein Kampf - they’re Islamists, Muslims who subscribe to an extraordinarily intolerant interpretation of their religion and who increasingly think little of slaughtering anybody whose values run counter to theirs”.
Following that, he has a Prison Planet moment: “Islamists, if we add Barcelona, have killed more than 460 people in Europe in the past three years. Four-hundred-and-sixty. Let that sink in”. Oklahoma City 158 dead, Iran Air 655 290 dead, and the point is? Why don’t we throw in all the hundreds of thousands slaughtered in the series of interventions by the supposedly civilised West in the Middle East in the recent past?
Hell, even if we only go back to the US-UK backed Iranian coup of 1953, that takes in the Iran-Iraq war where the West was egging on Saddam Hussain, and the 2003 war whose legitimacy is highly questionable. If we include all the interventions in Afghanistan, then the body count really starts to rack up. And here’s O’Neill getting all righteous.
That’s without the mildly inconvenient fact that Charlottesville is symptomatic of a deeper racial problem in the USA - along with the current President’s inability to address it. It bears no similarity to what is being done in the name of Islam by the easily led acting on behalf of ISIS. But O’Neill only wants “an honest discussion about the Islamist problem”.
Not the Muslim Problem, then: by this much has he moved on from Trevor Kavanagh’s viciously racist attack last week. If Brendan O’Neill wants an honest debate, he could start by cutting the hyperbole and false equivalence. He will not. Far better for the refugees from the RCP to demonise in accordance with the press’ dictates. It makes more money.