Toulouse: tragedies are not provided to bolster our prejudices

March 25, 2012 at 9:22 pm (Anti-Racism, anti-semitism, assassination, France, imperialism, islamism, Jim D, multiculturalism, murder, Racism, relativism, terror)

Anders Behring Breivik

Above: Anders Breivik, who killed 77 at a Norwegian Social Democrat youth camp last year.

It’s always unwise and often downright irresponsible to jump to conclusions about the motives and political profile of terrorists. When 77 people were picked off at a social democratic youth camp in Norway last year, there was a widespread assumption that this was the work of Islamists. It turned out, of course, that Anders Behring Breivik was a far-right anti-Muslim, probably acting alone. Exactly the opposite mistake has now been made by mainstream and left-wing commentators on the tragic events in Toulouse. Fiachra Gibbons wrote a piece in the Guardian that managed to get just about everything not just wrong, but wrong by 180 degrees:

Police are a long way yet from catching, never mind understanding, what was going through the head of someone who could catch a little girl by the hair so he wouldn’t have to waste a second bullet on her. But some things are already becoming clear. He shouted no jihadist or anti-Semitic slogans, going about his grisly business in the cold, military manner oddly similar to Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian gunman who massacred 77 people at a social democrats summer camp last summer.

As with Breivik, politicians will be quick to the thesis of the lone madman. Another lone madman influenced by nothing but his own distorted mind, like the lone gang of neo-Nazis who had been quietly killing Turks and Greeks in Germany for years unbothered by the police, who preferred to put the murders down to feuds or honour killings.

What could be the link, they ask, between Jewish children and French military personnel? The link is they are both seen – and not just by a far-right fringe – as symbols of all that has sabotaged la France forte, to borrow Sarkozy’s election slogan. Confessional schools, be they Jewish or an informal weekend madrassa, are seen as actively undermining the secular Republic by activists of groups like the Bloc Identitaire and the Front National, as well as some members of Sarkozy’s UMP, and even some on the left.

Now, I have no idea who Mr Gibbons is, and he is certainly not the only commentator to get this incident badly wrong, but I’ll bet you that he is on the “multicultural”/liberal/”left” and so predisposed to assume that the killings were the work of the white European far-right. His easy dismissal of the possibility that the killer might have been an Islamist jihadist (“He shouted no jihadist or anti-Semitic slogans“) suggests a predetermined inability to even entertain such a possibility (the article was published on 20 March, one day before the identity of the killer became known).

And that possibility was always there and fairly obvious. Just because the killer had struck at Muslim servicemen did not make it impossible that he was himself a Muslim, as anyone who has studied the form should know. As Nick Cohen notes in today’s Observer:

Breivik’s [and, as it turns out, Mehrah’s – JD] mentality matched that of Parviz Khan, a bloodthirsty fanatic from Birmingham. At his trial in 2008, the police provided tapes of Khan saying that he would behead a British Muslim soldier like “you cut a pig”. Then he would “put it on a stick and say, this is to all Muslims, [you] want to join the kuffar army, this is what will happen to you”. In his study of the case, Shiraz Maher of King’s College London said that most terrorists spread fear indiscriminately. Khan and his fellow plotters were different. They aimed to terrify Muslims who choose to integrate, identify themselves as British and serve British institutions; to let them know that it was an act of “betrayal” to support their own country.

The first lesson from all of this is not to jump to conclusions before sufficient facts are known. The second is that it is not just unwise and distasteful, but also irresponsible, to seek to use tragedies like this to bolster your own political preconceptions. The third is that vulnerable minorities (Muslims in Europe, especially) are now at greater risk than ever, and we must all weigh our words carefully.

Just because it turns out that the killer was not a member of the far-right (actually, I’d argue that he was, but that’s another matter) does not make the nationalist racism of Sarkozy, as he attempts to steal votes from the fascist Front National, any less criminal. It just means that the simple cause-and-effect link to the killings that we on the left wanted to prove, has not been the case. That fact should not be a cause of pleasure or satisfaction to anyone, and it doesn’t invalidate our condemnations of Sarkozy. But, undoubtably the electoral gainers will be the Front National (who are, predicatably, cashing in already) and Sarkozy himself.

But we on the left – and, especially, that section of the left that was inclined to put the killings down to the “political context” – now have some explaining to do. As the simplistic “It is no coincidence that Sarkozy’s racism has been followed by one of the worst racist attacks in France in a generation”  explanation has been blown out of the water, we are now obliged to offer our more considered analysis and explanation, in the light of what we now know.

I am not the first to note that when a terrorist is a white neo-Nazi, the liberal-left will focus on his ideology, beliefs and any evidence of a supportive mainstream discourse. However if a terrorist is an Islamist, the same people focus exclusively on his grievances and deprivations. Here’s a particularly crass example, all the more unpleasant because it doesn’t even mention antisemitism as a factor in the equation. Note, also, that the (non) “explanation” given in this dreadful little piece of hackery and insult-to-the-intelligence, could have been wheeled out just as well, had the perpetrator been a member of the white far-right.

The problem with much of the “left”, when it comes to Islamist terrorism, is that they (the “left”) deny any autonomy to the perpetrators. Unlike white far-right terrorists, Islamists are not (it would seem) thinking individuals, autonomous actors, motivated by any coherent ideology. They’re merely victims who react to external forces – racism, “islamophobia,” alienation, poverty, imperialism, etc, etc. The “left” (or at least, a large part of it) effectively infantilises these people, denying them even the perverse dignity of being responsible for their own actions, and of having their own internally coherent political agenda.  And that is, ultimately, a form of racism in itself.

I’ll leave the last words to Nick Cohen, who in today’s Observer nailed down many of the points I was mulling over prior to posting this piece:

For conservatives, opposition to radical Islam and indulgence of the white far right allows them to ignore the persistence of racism, most notably in France. They want to comfort their voters by telling them that whatever charges their critics throw at them, they are not as misogynist, homophobic or anti-Semitic as their Islamist enemies are. For leftists, opposition to the white far right and indulgence of radical Islam allows them to hide the descent of their programme of identity politics into squalor and shame, most notably in Britain. As long as they have the British National Party and English Defence League to fight, leftists can forget about their failures to help liberal Muslims and ex-Muslims in their struggles against theocratic power.

Many on both sides will not admit that the motives and targets of totalitarian movements are often identical. After what Europe went through in the 20th century, their ignorance is beyond disgraceful. It is astonishing.


  1. Jimmy said,

    You were supposed to respond to Toulouse then the white supremacist fascist Breivik pops up. Breivik killed 77 the Islamic fascist killed 7. Maybe the Islamist nutter needed help from Breivik on how to do a better job. You did redeem yourself in the last sentence. How true.

  2. Jim Denham said,

    Jimmy: I don’t think the numbers are the crucial issue: its the intention and motivation that counts. After all, the perpetrators of 9/11 clearly hoped and intended to (and nearly succeeded in) kill(ing) tens of thousands. The fact that, as it turned out, they “only” killed three thousand is of no political consequence whatsoever.

  3. skidmarx said,

    I have no idea who Mr Gibbons is, and he is certainly not the only commentator to get this incident badly wrong, but I’ll bet you that he is on the “multicultural”/liberal/”left”
    Didn’t know you went so far as to lament the advent of multiculturalism.

  4. Jim Denham said,

    “Didn’t know you went so far as to lament the advent of multiculturalism”

    Learn to read. And think. Skidiot.

    I mean, you’ve been posting your banal comments here long enough to remember this (involving your co-“thinker” SteveH):

  5. skidmarx said,

    I don’t think it’s spelled “Kanan Malik”. Do all these funny names look the same to you? Sarah AB will never see her dream fulfilled of seeing him become prome minister if his name isn’t spelled right.Do you want him as PM too?
    [Actually while I’m on the subject, I noticed that Sarah AB linked to an Ursula Le Guin story on the Ken Livingstone post at HP. Are you supposed to do that to living authors, even anarchists?

  6. Flugmaschinen said,

    Of course German makes the usual error of evidence free reasoning, imploring the reader to believe that this is not an isolated hate crime, which it is, like most murders are.

    She makes no attempt to actually explain how SHE knows that this nutcase scumbag because of course she doesnt. Mindless windbaggery of the worst sort or worse, the most vile aplogist for antisemitic psychopathy.

    German also still sticks with the half witted fallacy of conflating racism with religion how many time have these imbeciles been told!!!

    And of course as was explained very patronising insofar as ignoring the fact that the gunman could have been acting as a free agent pursuing his own vile agenda then seeking ex post facto justifications (Palestine, hijab ban etc.) when he new his number was up.

    German never really found the plot so it is virtually impossible to suggest at this time that she has lost it

  7. modernity's ghost said,


    Scanning Dave Osler’s I see you’ve called Skidmarx “you horrible (and rather stupid) antisemite.”

    But you let him post here, and have defended your decision to do so.

    Not much opposition to racism, if you let them post as they want, freely.

  8. Tall Laban said,

    Ban them, ban them all, especially the pikeys – they be antisemites and no mistake.

    Who you gonna call?

  9. Jim Denham said,

    Mod-ghost: I know this is a matter you feel strongly about, and I respect your opinion, but simply don’t agree. I am not, as a matter of principle, in favour of “no platforming” racists – as opposed to fascists. We’ve had this discussion before and I think we both know exactly where the other stands.

    The problem, as I’ve explained to you before, is that antisemitism is so widespread and deep-rooted on the Brit “left” (largely, but not just, thanks to Tony Cliff) that a refusal to engage with “left” antisemites would mean we had virtually no-one on the far-“left”, at least, we could speak to. I think that would be counterproductive.
    We do ban the likes of Skidmarx and SteveH from time to time, but not because of a “no platform for antisemites” policy but because they’re pains in the arse.

    The sad fact is that antisemitism is so engrained in the Brit-“left” that a lot of people think calling for the destruction (or demise) of Israel, referring to “rich” Jews, etc etc, is not an aberration, but part-and-parcel of being “left-wing”. I know this blog has only limited influence, but I also know that by engaging with misguided people, we have convinced one or two. Certainly, the AWL has.

    Meanwhile, it has to be admitted that one “Dr Paul”, commenting at Dave’s Part, has a point:

    Jim D: ‘I don’t respond to antisemites.’

    Well, that doesn’t leave poor Jim many people to whom he can respond, seeing that his group considers that anyone calling for a single-state solution (however democratic) to Palestine and Israel is promoting an anti-Semitic standpoint; indeed, I have personally been accused of that by Sean Matgamna himself.

    • modernity's ghost said,


      You are basically putting four arguments here (and please correct me if I summarise them wrong):

      1. That antisemitism is widespread and deep-rooted on the British Left.
      2. That antisemitism is ubiquitous on the British Far Left.
      3. Therefore, if you were to ignore or avoid interacting with people that you consider to be Left antisemites then you would have no one to interact with, given its so prevalent.
      4. That you put up with Left antisemites because you wish to interact with others on the British Left, in particular the Far Left.

      Is that it? A fair representation of your views?

      Please, re-read and let me know if they tally with your beliefs, but do re-read them carefully.

      • skidmarx said,

        Pathetic self-important loser

      • Faster Pussycat Miaow Miaow Miaow! said,

        Pathetic self-important loser

        Morality-Bore provides a rare moment of Trot-unity. Bicker amongst ourselves as we do, that’s one thing on which we all agree.

      • modernity's ghost said,

        My point was for Jim to justified his reasoning.

        I happen to disagree with him on this, but I wondered if he or the AWL could defend their position outside of their organisation, in an open debate.

        I know Trots don’t like being told they are wrong (probably explains why there are so many *ex*-trots), but if you believe something sincerely and with vigour then you should be able to justify it rationally.

        I fully appreciate that doesn’t happen very much in politics, but surely those who argue against superstition, the mundane, the beliefs of yesteryear and for rationality, should be able to defend their views with logic and reason?

  10. SteveH said,

    From the very beginning I knew this was an attack by someone reacting to the mass killing fields the West have produced in the Middle East. The only surprise is that we don’t see more of this kind of thing,

    I think this may have something to do with the upbringing of Muslims, who tend to value education and good behaviour higher than our ‘secular culture’ does.

  11. Boleyn Ali said,

    “I think this may have something to do with the upbringing of Muslims, who tend to value education and good behaviour higher than our ‘secular culture’ does.”

    Just what the fuck is this supposed to mean, really anyone with the slightest clue?

    • Monsuer Jelly est Formidable said,

      i think it means that the dipshit is quite a mentalist thick cuernt.

      • Boleyn Ali said,

        Thank you that would explain it

  12. Jim Denham said,

    When are you going to convert, MrH?

    • Jimmy said,

      Not many Catholics convert except for shoe bombers.

      • Monsuer Jelly est Formidable said,

        fuck off glesgggarHHHHHH

  13. Faster Pussycat Miaow Miaow Miaow! said,

    From the beginning SteveHash knew the murder of Maghrebis, Blacks and Jews had a ‘righteous’ motive. Too stupid for words.

    SteveHash follows muslims around Tesco with a mad grin on his face, while they’re desperately trying to make eye-contact with the security guard to come and rescue them from the weird creepy fucker.

  14. blerehgc ocmaomnetareyr said,

    MoraLLty BKLRKLEGGGHYH sez ‘if you believe something sincerely and with vigour then you should be able to justify it rationally.’ wOt Moraltity BlerereggvcJHJV means here is ‘I demand U jUMMP thro all of my hoops until U geT bored or exacerbated eNUFF at my STooPID as FcuK interogatION trOLLING and Give up – tHEN i deCLARE myseLF the winneR’. WElL DONe fuCKwIT, haVE a COOKieE.

  15. modernity's ghost said,


    A question, do you or AWL supporters think your notion of “antisemitism is so widespread and deep-rooted on the Brit “left” “ is intellectually and evidentially defensibly?

    I ask because it seems rather simplistic and fails to provide any insights into the matter.

  16. skidmarx said,

    Is that deluded fuckwit still here? You might have thought he’d be interested in actual anti-Semitism, like this:

    Today 09:16 AM
    It’s the end of the line for the Miliband nutters. Britain’s not going to take orders from yankee fascists or Zionist madmen up Labour’s Back Passage any longer.

    We are taking Britain back.

    But that was in the Telegraph, not a left publication, so it’s not really important to the anti-anti-zionists, and it is increasingly clear that “genuinely concerned about anti-Semitism” actually means for mo’bullshit pretending that the left’s anti-Zionism is antisemitism.

    • modernity's ghost said,

      Let me make this clear, for those pampered Oxbridge illiterates who can’t understand the basics:

      I do not believe that anti-Zionism is equal to antisemitism.

      However, in my experience many non-Jewish anti-Zionists have an unfortunate habit of:

      1) being purblind to anti-Jewish racism
      2) will ignore and downplay violence against Jews
      3) will push sites which contain anti-Jewish racism
      4) will push individuals who advance anti-Jewish racism (Atzmon ring any bells)
      5) will never admit they’re wrong
      6) will use inflammatory language that makes them sound like racists
      etc etc

      That’s not an exhaustive list, but astute readers will see the problem.

      I differ from Jim and the AWL (as best as I can understand their arguments, and I wish they would put them more clearly and more directly), in that I do not believe that the British Left is full of antisemites.

      As far as I can see the evidence doesn’t indicate a preponderance of active Jew haters, which is why certain individuals stick out, the David Ellis’s of the world, SteveH, John Wight and Skidmarx, when you examine their postings with a critical eye.

      They stick out from the rest of the Left because of their obsessions, because of their rantings and their blindness to anti-Jewish racism.

      In that they are very similar to other types of racists, those who whenever a particular topic comes up mounts their hobbyhorse and starts ranting on about “immigrants”, “foreigners” and “blacks”, etc

      The behaviour is very similar they become excessively animated when the animus of their hate appears or comes up in discussion.

      That’s why they stand out and why their racism is so noticeable, it has the traits and characterisation of other forms of racism, be the target of that racism, Jews, Afro-Caribbeans, the Roma, the Irish, etc.

      Finally, for petty bourgeois illiterates, I do not believe that anti-Zionism is the same as antisemitism, to believe so is to ignore 1) mountains of historical evidence 2) the political discourse within the Jewish diaspora and 3) seek simplistic answers to complex political phenomena 4) not to engage with the historiography or theoretical works, etc

    • modernity's ghost said,

      I should add this is one of the problems, an inability to discuss these topics with any connection to the available evidence or historical discourse.

  17. skidmarx said,

    Ooh, “discourse”, very po-mo.

    As far as I can see the evidence doesn’t indicate a preponderance of active Jew haters, which is why certain individuals stick out, the David Ellis’s of the world, SteveH, John Wight and Skidmarx, when you examine their postings with a critical eye.
    So you are saying that we are “active Jew haters”, so you can point to examples of my employment of anti-Semitic hate speech? No? Then fuck off, you lying little shit, and don’t bother peddling this bollocks ever again.

  18. modernity's ghost said,

    I am saying that, the David Ellis’s of the world, SteveH, John Wight and Skidmarx are peculiar.

    Their animosity towards Jews varies in intensity, they will often mask their aggressive language towards Jews using euphemisms such as “Zionists”, etc

    Now anyone familiar with the activities of the Far Right will see the linguistic seepage there.

    Further, despite making the point that they are antiracists, they rarely ever see any anti-Jewish racism.

    No matter how stark it is, no matter how patiently it is explained.

    As with Skidmarx, Bob from Brockly originally believed he could demonstrate the nature of anti-Jewish racism to him.

    Eventually, I think Bob concluded that nothing would enlighten Skidmarx to anti-Jewish racism, he details it here:

    “In this blog, I have detailed dozens, possibly hundreds, of examples of prejudice and discrimination characterising anti-Israeli campaigning. This is not to say that all, or even most, anti-Israel campaigning is racist.

    But the examples of the slippage between Jewish lobby and Israel lobby, Weir’s blood libel, Atzmon and Shamir’s Holocaust revisionism, the support and defence for the likes of Weir and Shamir from all sorts of anti-Zionists, mutterings about the Lehman Brothers in UCU meetings, the circulation of David Duke material by anti-Zionists and any number of others constitute a very substantial body of evidence for the infection of anti-Israel campaigning by antisemitism.

    This body of evidence cannot be refuted because all of the anti-Israel campaigners you’ve come across are nice, smart people. That is analogous to Brian of London in that other thread saying “I’ve met the EDL and they are very nice and not fascist at all”.

    When evidence of prejudice from people’s own experience is presented (as in Falastin’s account of leftist racial prejudice),

    Skid dismisses it as not evidence, but somehow his own experience of not hearing any antisemitism is taken to show that it doesn’t exist.

    Falastin, as a Muslim woman, might be taken as a more reliable guide to whether there is prejudice about Muslim women in the left than a white male – this is connected to the MacPherson issue we discussed before, about valuing victims’ experiences of racism over the experiences of the “I’m not racist but” and “Some of my best friends are” types.

    So, again, we see the persistence of the refusal to take racism seriously, and a refusal to see the facts. Again, when this happens once or twice we could see it as missing the point or ignorance. Its repetition over and over again in the face of refutation becomes complicity with racism. ”

    I will leave it to readers to consult Bob’s site and make up their own minds, but people like Skidmarx are an exception, in my experience, which is where I differ from Jim & the AWL’s position (as I understand it)

  19. skidmarx said,

    So still you have nothing. Bob misquoting me is the best you can do ? Nothing I’ve actually said? Go fuck yourself, you lying little shit.

  20. modernity's ghost said,

    Bob explains it better:


    On Weir, I see no flaw in Adam Holland’s posts whose urls Miles provided.

    Skid, however, writes: ‘I don’t find Adam Holland convincing.

    He claims that she is making allegations of ritual murder, she’s not as far as I can see.

    And when he says: “Jewish opposition to the blood libel” or “dismissing them as merely the result of a Jewish conspiracy of silence”, he seems to dishonestly claim his views as those of all Jews.’

    Weir’s August 2009 Counterpunch article denied the obvious truth that the allegation that Jews use Christian blood for ritual purposes is a libel; to do so she lied in several large and small ways; and Adam Holland’s first post shows this beyond any reasonable doubt whatsoever.

    Denying this seems perverse to me (altho Moddy would provide a compelling alternative explanation, which is, I think, what motivates his no platform question).

    Even more perverse is Skid’s claim that Holland ‘dishonestly’ claims his views are those of all Jews, simply because he uses words like “Jewish opposition”, as if that means “the opposition by every single Jew”, a palpably absurd reading.

    Note that when Holland uses that phrase, in his second post, he is talking about Weir’s source Israel Shamir, by whom Skid claims to be not impressed. The charges we’re talking about are that Mendel Beilis and Dreyfus were guilty; Jewish opposition to those claims long pre-dates Holland’s existence. ” [My emphasis]

    • skidmarx said,

      Still the bullshit comes. Still not about my views, just that I’m insufficiently condemnatory of others. And as I showed on the Assad thread here, I went on to say something like “Every time I read the Alison Weir piece it looks worse.”
      And I’m not impressed by Israel Shamir!

      You’ve found nothing that I’ve said that is anti-Semitic. Fuck off, you lying little shit.

  21. modernity's ghost said,

    So let’s work this out, Adam Holland pointed out Weir’s racism.

    But Skidmarx was not convinced.

    Once an ally, Mark Elf, explains it Skidmarx makes a political retreat (not an antiracist one), however can’t resist saying:

    “Again I think I said before that the allegations about Israelis in Haiti seemed like nonsense, but that other cases (such as with the KLA) seemed more plausible.

    So to Skidmarx, the idea of Israelis going to other countries to harvest the organs of the dead, dying and others seemed “more plausible”.


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