The Talented (and Even-handed) Mr Hildebrand


Joe Hildebrand is one of those generally sensible guys who, whenever he criticises some madness on the left, feels obliged to balance it with a swipe at the right, lest readers think he is some sort of a crazy conservative himself (which he’s not, crazy or otherwise, but with the madness of the left becoming more difficult to distinguish from an “Onion”- style satire by the day, it does not take much to sound like a conservative nowadays). Hildebrand’s right bashing usually seems pretty forced, perhaps because his heart is not in it, perhaps because it’s often difficult to make a mountain out of a molehill, perhaps because this obligatory even-handedness can be at times quite tiresome a requirement.

Today’s example comes from an opinion piece about the Finsbury Park Mosque attack, which Hildebrand opens with an observation that “It says everything about the vacuousness of modern debate that an atrocity in which innocent people were mown down on a London footpath descended into outrage about semantics before the final body count was even known.”

He then spends most of the piece exploring the outrage of the Muslim and the progressive social media about the alleged reluctance (in comparison with other similar attacks) by the authorities and the mainstream media to straight away brand the deadly van rampage as a terror attack. Hildebrand demonstrates this is simply untrue. I witnessed this phenomenon yesterday on Twitter, once again feeling like I’m living in a parallel reality where the usual progressive types are complaining about the double standards (“you Islamophobes don’t care because Muslims were the target”) where anyone with a pair of eyes and a functioning brain could see “the incident” was written up as a terrorist attack right from the very beginning, both by the London police and by the media reporting the story.

It’s only towards the end of his piece that Hildebrand tacks in his swipe at right-wing semantic misdeeds:

Likewise the dumb rantings of the extreme-right cheer squad that this was a “revenge attack” or somehow justified or understandable in the aftermath of earlier atrocities plays directly into Islamic State’s false mythology that they are engaged in a legitimate war instead of wholesale homicide.

But even that’s not the worst part. Because you’d expect such idiocy from a bunch of unreconstructed skinheads. You wouldn’t expect it from the so-called intelligentsia who are the self-appointed moral and intellectual guardians of our community.

Yet they too feed the ISIS narrative when they rave about Islamophobia pervading Western institutions, as many rushed to do after this incident only to have their conspiracy theories disintegrate in the wake of the media, government and police response.

Hildebrand doesn’t mention any names or cite any examples, so I don’t know which members of the “extreme-right” “so-called intelligencia” were writing up the Finsbury Park Mosque atrocity as a “revenge attack”. I’m not aware of any instances myself, but I’m more than happy to be enlightened and corrected. “Revenge attack” is pretty much what Darren Osborne would have called his actions (“This is for the London Bridge!”), which is a point that some people might have made in social and mainstream media, without in any way themselves agreeing with this reasoning. To explain what motivates others is not to excuse.

There has certainly been a lot of talk on the right (or “extreme-right”) that an attack like this was (sadly) almost inevitable – again, without justifying it (and just like explaining, expecting something is not excusing it either) – since, and I’m paraphrasing, people watch the news week after week and an Islamist terror attack after an Islamist terror attack, and eventually some dickhead will snap and lash out at innocent people he associates with terrorism by virtue of their shared religion. What is surprising, to me at least, is that this sort of “revenge attack” was perpetrated by a seemingly random and apolitical person, rather than genuine “far right” extremists, like neo-Nazis and skinheads, who tend to be more motivated, better organised, and more familiar and comfortable with violence as a political tool.

If you think this sort of discussion and analysis is somehow Islamophobic, or justifies and excuses Osborne’s actions, and therefore feeds into the “ISIS narrative”, you are part of the problem here. This is not directed at Joe, who I’m sure can tell the difference, but at countless others who would gladly shut down any debate of Islam, terrorism, immigration, and multiculturalism out of conviction that they are right and those who disagree with them are evil, and that any free debate will inevitably embolden the bigots and hurt “the other”. The more you censor the debate, the more you create an atmosphere where more and more people will feel so disenfranchised and powerless they will feel that lashing out and violence feels like the only statement that can be made and the only way to vent frustrations. I hope and pray that this won’t be the case, and – again – to expect something is not to excuse or approve it. But if you think that I am as much part of the problem as Darren Osborne it’s no wonder the world is going to hell in a white rental van.