The Manchester Massacre: More Fuel for Nationalism

In the immediate aftermath of the massacre of kids at Manchester Arena, when did British PM Theresa May utter the words, “Islamic terrorism?” If those two words came from May’s lips together, they came incidentally. We heard the word “terror” plenty from the prime minister, as if there’s a generic menace stalking the globe. An all-purpose Hollywood terror, it is.

Will May pick up the epithet, “losers,” that President Trump attached to Islamic terrorists? Not likely. She’s very deep establishment. But an election is pending in Great Britain, so May, who leads the Conservative Party, may somehow recalibrate -- temporarily.

Over half of Brits voted to Brexit. In Manchester’s wake, May’s advisors should be cautioning her to tread lightly with “Britain First” constituencies. Alienating a big bloc of voters with nationalist impulses won’t help Conservatives, who covet a big majority in the House of Commons.

What should really worry May and her compatriots throughout the West isn’t the impact of a one-off terror event, however tragic. What needs to concern the jihad-denying establishment is that Manchester is more affirmation -- in a recent series of affirmations -- that reality is dangerously at odds with establishment interpretation. It’s that increasing dissonance that could swell nationalist ranks in the ensuing months and near-years.

Manchester is another vividly bloody attack in a string of vivid, bloody attacks occurring in a compacted timeframe that are building a penetrating counternarrative.

Islamic terror attacks in just the last handful of years in Western Europe and the U.S. are creating that counternarrative. The keys: growing frequency, tactical shift, and compressed timeframe. It challenges the reality-denying establishment narrative that’s dominated since shortly after 9/11. Jihadists are disrupting the establishment narrative. The enemy’s actions are rudely trespassing, degrading Western establishments’ credibility.

The changing dynamic has less to do with persuasion by Westerners who grasp the reality of jihad. Facts on the ground are doing the persuading. Jihadists are unwittingly serving as recruiters for Western nationalist movements.

Kate Hopkins, a columnist for London’s Daily Mail, frets that it’s too late for Great Britain. Hopkins despairs that the British establishment’s denial of reality is too far gone. Its stranglehold on government and culture is too great. She might have added that growing Muslim populations there change political equations, too. She attributes the denial of reality to cowardice.

From Hopkins’ column:

And you [Andy Burnham, the new mayor of Greater Manchester] say it is business as usual [after the massacre]? The dead never get to carry on as normal.

This is not usual, Andy. This is not 'part and parcel' of city life, Sadiq [Kahn, London’s mayor].

This country is not usual. It is absurd. Disgusting. Forlorn. Broken.

And we will have a full day of this, this standard response to terror. A narrative so drilled into the minds of the terrified that they cling on to it for fear of drowning in the horror. Like a bit of flotsam in the sea long after the boat has sunk, and all you feel is numb.

Hopkins’ argument is unintentionally bolstered by George Monbiot, a writer for the leftist Guardian.

In a post-Manchester column, Monbiot identifies Islamic terrorists as “psychopathic murderers.” Jihad is a mental illness. As was made abundantly clear in the 20th Century, psychopathic killers were all-in for revolutions, wars, causes, and ideologies that slaughtered tens upon tens of millions. They made up some of the combatant/killers, but most weren’t psychopaths. They were true believers, fervent and willing to kill and die for a cause. Or hard men with self-interests that they hitched to causes.    

Monbiot had this to say about the pathology of terrorism:

This is why terrorism happens: those who perpetrate it know that an attack on one is an attack on all. People are killed or injured in order to maximise the distress suffered by a far greater number -- and to induce us, blinded by outrage, to forget our humanity and to lash out. This then cultivates a political environment in which terrorists prosper: a nation dominated by fear, a cycle of revenge, and the escalation of conflict.   

The passage reads like Monbiot is channeling inner-city Detroit afflicted with gang fights. It reeks of Great Society sociology adapted to rationalize jihad.

Monbiot’s prescriptions reflect the British establishment sensibilities that Hopkins decries. Candlelight vigils, marches for peace, hugs, “getting on with it,” and the like substitute for recognizing war for war, albeit an unconventional one. Pacifism and therapy are the remedies for jihad. Weren’t those approaches tried just before Churchill?

Wars require securing the homeland. In this war, that’s aggressively expelling suspected jihadists, supporters, and sympathizers. Deporting radical Muslim clerics. Shuttering mosques that are hotbeds for militants. Ending the import of Muslims. And taking the fight to the enemy. That’s not just fighting conventionally militarily, but asymmetrically, to destroy the ideo-religious underpinnings that animate jihad.        

Let’s grant that fear of Islamic terror is driving denial and a head-in-the-sand reaction. Among establishments, fear and denial aren’t disassociated from ideology and worldview. What may be rattling Western establishments – and giving traction to Monbiot’s limp prescription – is that jihadists’ assaults on flesh and blood innocents are assaulting establishment worldviews. They can’t handle the truth, so they rationalize and shrink. 

Jihadists are waging war at a time of great vulnerability in the West. Europe’s bloody “civil wars” and mass fratricides in the 20th Century destroyed the old order, and with it, confidence in Western Civilization and its supremacy. The elites who have arisen in the past century are infected by isms. Statism and relativism, chiefly. Statism is a repeated failure and relativism makes for unreality. Elites have grown increasingly insular and inbred. Many loath their societies. They suffer conceits.  

Many millions of people throughout the West aren’t blinkered. Many already are “Nation First.” They welcome alliances with kindred spirits across borders to defeat a common enemy. They see jihad as is: an ambition to impose Islam on the West -- indeed, the world. Militant Muslims are being true to their religion’s tenets. Mohammed conquered with sword and blood, and so shall they. Western realists accept the challenge and urge the fight.

Millions more are going to awaken to the reality of jihad. It won’t be an “aha” moment. It’ll come through the compilation of attacks in compressed time. Come from increased frequency. Come through the changed nature of the attacks, going from the spectacular to intrusions on the ordinary. The ordinary -- sitting at a café only to be shot in the head; boarding a train only to be axed. Kids being butchered at a concert or run over at school crossings (to come).

But for these millions, fear won’t cause them to shrink. It’ll lead them to identify with Nation First movements wherever they live. That’s sure to lead to domestic conflicts, as ascendant nationalist movements vie with establishments and their constituencies for primacy. The outcomes of those clashes across Western Europe are uncertain. Brexit should give Hopkins some hope. Trump’s election and U.S. history gives hope here.

Yet Hopkins’ worry can’t be dismissed. Is it too late? Have the unreality and decadence of Western establishment worldviews so deeply infected institutions and polluted cultures that seachanges are unachievable? Is Western Europe’s future full of landscapes dotted with minarets? Will Call to Morning Prayer be pervasive? Will “Turning Turk” be commonplace?

Well, let’s hope those very real fears never come to pass.