How ‘Islamic State’ Got The Wrong End Of The Stick

Terror has targeted an Ariana Grande (pictured) concert in Manchester and now struck pedestrians on London Bridge


Nothing expresses more the dangers of superficiality than the new terrorism.  The picture that is emerging from terrorism in modern European cities is that the perpetrators really hate people enjoying themselves, be it at a music concert or interacting in shopping districts.  What seems to unite the manifold forms of the new terror – be it ‘Islamic’ or ‘right-wing and white’ – is a massive hatred of Western-style consumerism.  The hatred of consumerism however is not confined to reacting terrorists.  It permeates society in forms such as environmentalism and left-wing redistributionism.  It is there in conservative-traditionalist railings against mass society, particularly when the working class are told they are irresponsible for wanting bigger televisions.  The obsession with ‘consumer choice’ is also there in libertarian critiques of the reactionaries – all they do is endorse as ‘free’ what the reactionaries ‘hate.’  Hence, the only debate in society we seem to be seeing is about ‘celebrating our way of life’ versus ‘hating our way of life,’ where our ‘way of life’ is only defined in relation to consumption.  This narrow debate is likely to prolong the existence of the new terror despite obviously the majority feeling rightly angered about it.


In order to transcend the parameters of the narrow debate, and hopefully unite humanity in a more progressive positive direction rather than this all-round barbarism, it is necessary to understand that consumption is relatively unproblematic.  It is true that the law of value holds sway over all consumer transactions – to that extent, commodity exchange is not *entirely* free, i.e. volition doesn’t rule.  Nevertheless, consumption is pretty much the only civilising aspect of market society.  Through consumption, points of contact are made between otherwise atomised individuals.  The mediation of the commodity is simply the way in which society is glued together – and it is just about the only way society is glued together nowadays.  So, it is wrong to hate consumption – it is the best thing about capitalism, and the only way in which society prevents itself from deteriorating into a kind of ‘Mad Max’ scenario.  At the same time, it is wrong to celebrate consumption as the only mark of ‘freedom,’ because it is essentially a passive rather than active thing: it doesn’t concern the way we act, just the way we enjoy society’s bounty after we have acted.


So, the focus of concern really needs to shift onto the realm of production.  If all the reactionaries railing against consumption (or celebrating it) would only look at the realm of production, it would shake things up immensely, and cure the malaise that is now giving rise to the horror of the new terror.  It is in the sphere of production that people truly aren’t free – from the negative experience of the alarm clock in the morning to the iron discipline deployed by managers at work, doing things you hate for a boss you despise, the sheer lack of creativity, initiative and ingenuity in the office or factory – it is really these things that cause people to loathe the society in which they live.  But because of the dogma of ‘there is no alternative,’ the sphere of production remains relatively uncontested, and thus disappears from view.  Consequently, the alienation in society which has its root in the estranged and unfree sphere of production reappears as a criticism (or celebration, depending which side of the fence one is on) of consumption.  It is thoroughly misguided and becoming downright dangerous, yet it can be understood as what happens when everyone agrees that the capitalist mode of production is not itself up for discussion.  The law of value should belong only to the sphere of consumption (for the time being), not the sphere of production.  When value relations determine the way we produce, i.e. the way we live, then it becomes far too coercive to enjoy life.  Workers have to fight for the option of being in full control of the workplace so they govern what gets done, how it is done, and according to whatever timescale.  This self-emancipation of labour will make humanity far happier and thus erode the basis for irrationalism in all its forms, including the terrorist form.


French Train Terror: Reason Goes Off The Rails

Even accounting for terrorism, train travel has never been safer. So why the fear?
Even accounting for terrorism, train travel has never been safer. So why the fear?


After the 22nd August’s foiled Islamist attack on a train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris, it is proven that ballsy citizens are the best way to combat terrorism, not panic-prone government policy.  French-American academic Mark Moogalian, 51, tried to apprehend Moroccan-born Ayoub El-Khazzani, 25, when he emerged from a toilet armed with an AK-47 assault rifle.  Moogalian was shot in the back with El-Khazzini’s concealed pistol, but three other travelling Americans, Spencer Stone, Aleksander Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler, and Briton Chris Norman eventually subdued El-Khazzani.  Stone treated Moogalian’s wound, probably saving his life.  They have all been awarded France’s highest honour, the Legion D’Honneur by President Francois Hollande in recognition of their bravery.

Sadly the fact that this terror attack was subdued by gutsy civilians is being overwhelmed by nervous security policy that will just make people more fearful rather than genuinely empowered like heroes Moogalian, Stone, Skarlatos, Sadler, and Norman.  Nine EU countries are implementing baggage scans, identity checks, and more armed guards for all train journeys that will increase, not decrease, the level of fear experienced by passengers, undermining their confidence in tackling a terrorist nutter when they (very rarely) do appear.  Short of having airport-style body scanners in all of the EU’s train stations (logisitically impossible), there is no way of guaranteeing someone hasn’t sneaked aboard a weapon.  Scaremongering by militarising the railway therefore makes little sense, unless of course Euro elites want us to be constantly afraid.

Western leaders have been lavishing praise on the five heroes in the hope of syphoning off some of society’s admiration for themselves.  After Ice Cube, one of the founding members of hip-hop group ‘Niggers With Attitude’, recognised Sadler in a Paris restaurant, Sadler was invited to the French premiere of movie ‘Straight Outta Compton’, joining stars on the red carpet.  “I feel like I’m in a dream, it’s unreal,” the Sacramento State University student said as he attended the prestigious event. “It’s pretty crazy.” The fawning over the heroes does indeed have a dream-like quality, because in the waking world security officials do not deserve to be basking in the glow of such courage – their policy response rather indicates a great deal of merde in their underwear.

Prior to 22/8, the last terror attack on France’s railway network was on December 3, 1996, and claimed two lives in a powerful explosion.  Before that, there was an attack on the Saint-Michel station on the Paris Metro in July 1995 that killed eight and wounded 80.  These attacks were more severe, yet did not lead to increased policing of everyday travel in a country at the heart of Europe.  Back then, there were high-level meetings of officials, and paramilitary security sweeps of North African neighbourhoods that ring-fenced many French cities and ID checks.  But the whole of the EU was not put on alert, nor were the majority of train travellers inconvenienced by intrusive security scans that could compromise the efficiency and smooth running of the network.

We should remember that terrorist incidents on trains are exceptionally rare.  In France, there are over a billion passengers per year using the network.  Yet with the exceptional years of 1995-6 when Algerians were a bit peeved at French post-colonial policy, there have been no deaths from terrorist incidents.  President Hollande should not feed people’s fears, he should assuage them with reason.  He should state the truth that if the past 20 years are anything to go by, one’s chances of dying in a terror attack on the railway are 10 billion to one.  One is more likely to die from a train accident, falling out of the door, or choking on a croissant on the advanced French railway than one is likely to be a victim of terrorism.

EU policy makers therefore need to get some perspective and be more concerned about the messages they are sending out.  For if a lone-wolf from Morocco can seem to induce paranoia on the railway, surely policy makers are inviting more of the same by over-reacting in this way.  Indeed French security officials have said there’s no way to monitor each passenger and bag without choking the continental train system, which Europeans rely upon heavily.  So it would still be possible for an El-Khazzani to sneak aboard, but now in the full knowledge he can terrorise an entire continent.  We would be better off recalling the words of George Orwell who, amidst fascist violence, said “the thing that I saw in your face no power can disinherit, no bomb that ever burst shatters the crystal spirit.”  That was the spirit of the heroes on 22/8, let’s not ‘dishonneur’ their attitude.