Home front – an update

Wednesday, 24 December 2014 

We don’t blame the Pope for the IRA, and we don’t blame the Catholics living next door for the folly of some people, the folly and madness of some people who may claim a Christian motivation. And I think we need to be similarly carefully and cautious in these other areas.

T Abbott 17 December 2014

She might not even be Muslim or she could have just been warm!

Rachel Jacobs, instigator of #illridewithyou

If there was a sense that the political message went a bit adrift after the Martin Place siege, it was because the respective narratives both the left and the right were comfortably trotting along with over the last few months fell apart in the face of reality last week.

From the government’s side, against all the terrorist warnings of the last few months, there was a noticeable down-playing of the implications of the terrorist attack that actually occurred, with the NSW Police Commissioner keen to point that it was an isolated incident and the act of an individual and not the work of an organised terrorist organisation. Abbott too was emphasising that while questions would be asked how Monis was not under the watch of security forces, conceded that in reality, there was little that could be done to stop this type of individual action.

Yet this was precisely the type of home grown terrorism that they have been talking about all along and all the raids and anti-terrorism laws were supposed to be dealing with.

The problem is that for the last few months the government and the right have been talking about the terrorist threat being a foreign infiltration linked with the rise of ISIS in Iraq. In reality of course, the terrorist traffic has been mostly the other way. It has been Australians that have been going off to join ISIS and spread mayhem and terror in the Middle East.

The reasons for going vary, some were born Muslim, some, like Hicks did earlier, converted. Some are looking for nothing more than adventure, such as 17 year old Abdullah Elmir, with a love of theatre and looking for “more great performances”.

But it is precisely these rag-tag of recruits that ISIS’s social media campaign has been targeting all along. As a former terrorist expert for the CIA recently noted, security services now confront “a panoply of potential adversaries” rather than the highly organised networks of the past. It is to appeal to these which is why organisations like Al Qaeda and ISIS have such an infatuation with the media and publicity, whether it’s the focus on social media, targeting journalists or atrocities designed to grab media attention. Monis, with his furious attempts to contact the media during the siege was entirely in that mode.

The ultimate source of this terrorism is not ISIS but something back at home that ISIS has been tapping into. Yet all along the government has been presenting this as a foreign threat, even when it has acknowledged it is Australians that have been going overseas: reaching the absurd level of banning potential jihadists from leaving to go overseas – supposedly so they wouldn’t learn new skills from those sophisticated foreigners, but hardly reassuring when you think about it.

The problem with this home grown version of terrorism compared to the highly organised one for the government is that there is a lot less it can do about it. While the government has been looking busy passing new laws, many of them superfluous to what powers they already have, the reality is that it is much easier to utilise high level military counter-terrorism forces against highly organised networks than for the pin-point type of operations needed to deal with specific individuals. This is especially true given the haphazard way the state normally operates. It may be good at slapping on bureaucratic measures like requiring gun licencing, but can’t even tell the Prime Minister whether someone has such a licence on the rare occasion it is seriously needed.

It’s the reality of what home grown terrorism is really like, compared to how it has been presented by the government and the press over the last few months, that led to a toning down of expectations and an enquiry after such a terrorist event actually occurred. Where it has left us was summed up in the warning/non-warning given by Abbott yesterday, where “chatter” was going up but the security level was not and we were all left with the impression that the best protection from terrorism would come from the Magic of Christmas.

But if the government has had to shift and adjust to reality, it is nothing to the contortions that have been going on the left side of commentary.

There have been two assertions coming from the left, one is that what happened at Martin Place wasn’t terrorism, the second that it didn’t have anything to do with Islam. In both, they sort of mirror the response of the government, but take it to an even more bizarre conclusion.

The first, that it wasn’t really terrorism was summed up (or unintentionally parodied) by UK comedian Russell Brand, who from his bed accused Abbott of talking up the terrorism of the Martin Place siege by labelling Monis as a terrorist rather than just “dangerous mentally ill”. For Brand, it wasn’t terrorism because it didn’t have specific enough objectives and giving him agendas “gives a certain grandeur to nihilistic and violent actions”.

In fact what Brand’s done here is perfectly describe what terrorism is in the 21st century. If Brand’s definition of terrorism means Martin Place doesn’t qualify, then neither does 9/11. As for being mentally ill, Brand’s psychiatric training is as non-existing as this blogger’s, but it clearly wasn’t the view of the courts that let Monis out on bail.

Back in Australia, our own former comedian, Mark Latham, followed the same thread, managing to argue in the same article both that Monis was mentally ill but at the same time more likely to occur as a result of Abbott’s “futile military engagement in the Middle East”, so giving us a nonsensical combination of received wisdom and rad left posturing as only Latham can.

The other theme has been that Monis’s attack had nothing to do with Islam. This is obviously nonsense. It was as much as to do with Islam as it would if a gunman stormed the café brandishing a bible and dressed as a vicar would have to do with Christianity.

The point is, it just doesn’t mean very much. Christians would be no more obliged to feel responsibile for such a crazed Bible-toting gunman as Muslims should for Monis. As Abbott himself noted, even something as highly organised as the IRA is no more the responsibility of the Pope as Monis is for an Islamic religious leader.

But the problem was that Abbott said this after having spent the last few months putting pressure on Muslim religious leaders to do precisely that, to take responsibility and sign up to “Team Australia”. In reality, such call for responsibility tends to be fairly phoney, given that when the Australian Shia did point out that Monis was a fake sheikh a few years ago, it was ignored.

But it highlights the central confusion that is unsettling both the left and the right, namely what the events of last week means for the prism of multiculturalism through which everything is viewed.

Multiculturalism is primarily a political response to immigration that especially has been useful in a country like Australia, where unlike the US, and even Britain, the broadening of the pool for immigration occurred more for political reasons than economic ones. As a result we have a rosy gloss on the type of segregation that comes from a lack of economic dynamism that means even in Sydney, where Muslims make up a tiny fraction of the population, we can talk of a “Muslim suburb” such as Lakemba like it’s a thing.

This view of Muslims as a “community” being responsible for what anyone supposedly in it does distorts reality especially here when we have someone like Monis who doesn’t look particularly responsible to anyone. It has meant that we have the unedifying sight of Australian Muslims having to apologise and distance themselves from everything done under the name of Islam, even when it’s happening on the other side of the planet, in a way that Christians don’t have to (the only similar type of link is a casual linking of Australian Jews to what Israel is doing in the Middle East, something especially a feature of the Australian left).

The flip side of this rosy view on segregation is a distinctly unrosy view on those outside of it. This “Cronulla riots” view of the Australian public distorts the issue of race, where it comes from and what it’s about. It leads, for example, to a constant mis-understanding of the electoral consequences of asylum seeker policy, that always thinks every politician bashing of asylum seekers will work wonders with the Australian voters, as it has done so well for this government and the last.

It is a miserabilist view of the electorate that has particularly found its home in the left since the 2001 election to explain their defeats, and is a prejudice that encompasses across the left spectrum from the “smart players” in Sussex St to the moralising campaigning left. And this also emerged even as the siege was going on.

It was all summed up by the Twitter campaign #illridewithyou that sprouted up during the siege. Let’s just suppose that we know there really was a Muslim woman (we don’t) and that someone did come up and comfort her (she didn’t) because there really was someone saying something unpleasant (there wasn’t). Comforting a Muslim woman under threat would have been a proper, human thing to do. But when it turned into a Twitter campaign it kind of became something else.

What we had was a campaign that started off by saying how lousy we all were that there would be a spate of bashings of Islamic women after the Martin Place siege, to a campaign that ended by saying how wonderful we all were that we had all signed up against it. But in the middle was confusion and something a little unpleasant that was missed by some. An example was Jason Wilson in the Guardian, who takes up the right’s attack on the hashtag campaign as a sign that the right aren’t aware of the racism of their own readership.

Actually, the main problem right-wing commentators in Australia have is grasping how unrepresentative they and their readership are, which is why they are still scratching their heads as to why the current Prime Minister gets so unpopular every time he repeats their views. But Wilson misses why the right went after the #illridewithyou campaign. It was because they need any opportunity to find when the left can sometimes be even more detached. Having a campaign against threats that had not happened at a time when the rest of the planet was more concerned for several people who actually had a gun held to their heads looks detached. Thinking that it would then lead to a wave of Islamophobia looks even more so.

Especially when that’s not actually what happened. If anything the response was a wish for an end to any tension, something picked up even by Abbott. Rather than a rise of Islamophobia imagined by the left rising up against a foreign terrorist threat imagined by the right, what we had were people seeming to react to what it was, a small, but disturbing sign of social fracturing. Understandably, the prevailing response was a tentative seeking out of a sense of collective coming together against the worst examples of that social erosion, something captured not by the posturing of the left or the right, or a two day Twitter campaign, but the placing of flowers in Martin Place, and a small suburban street in Cairns.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Wednesday, 24 December 2014.

Filed under Society, The Australian state


45 responses to “Home front – an update”

  1. Captain James Mission on 24th December 2014 9:04 am

    “threats that had not happened”

    “that’s not actually what happened”

    Clearly the person who wrote this contemptible rubbish lives in a bubble cut off from the real Australia. My local paper, a small suburban rag, reports attacks by whites, usually male but not always, on Asians and Muslims nearly every week. Yes, that’s every week. Six in the last 2 weeks. Good ole Aussie ‘stralia…as racist as they come, and getting worse.

  2. Nicholas on 24th December 2014 9:15 am

    For Brand, it wasn’t terrorism because it didn’t have specific enough objectives and giving him agendas “gives a certain grandeur to nihilistic and violent actions”.

    In fact what Brand’s done here is perfectly describe what terrorism is in the 21st century. If Brand’s definition of terrorism means Martin Place doesn’t qualify, then neither does 9/11.

    The 9/11 attackers were trained and deployed by an organization of sophisticated capabilities and well-defined political goals. At its peak, AQ was capable of blowing up a United States embassy, blasting a large gash in the side of a United States navy destroyer, and crashing commercial airliners into iconic buildings. Their political goals, to name just two of the most important, were to depose governments they deemed insufficiently pious with respect to Islam, and to remove United States troops from the Arabian peninsula.

    By contrast, Monis took a sawn off shotgun into a cafe and held a small group of people hostage and demanded a flag and a chat with the PM. Where was the method in his madness? Which cause did he articulate? What capabilities did he possess, and to which networks did he belong?

    Monis was not backed by an organization, homegrown or otherwise; he did not draw on the expertise and ideology of any network, homegrown or otherwise. He was shunned by Australian Muslims for his grandiose pretensions to being a sheik. He comes across as a deeply disturbed and narcissistic individual with a history of sex crimes and pathetic self-promotion. If there was a political component to what he did it was a minor one, overwhelmed by his personal pathologies and grievances.

    Monis was a common criminal.

  3. F on 24th December 2014 9:26 am

    I really don’t get the narrative that Australia is overwhelmingly racist; it certainly isn’t compared to other Anglo nations, from even my cursory experience of them.Seems to me as just another way to paint Australia as somehow exceptional. Sorry, but we aren’t. The above comment is just bizarre! Firstly, I really doubt those figures. Secondly, and what of it? There is interracial and racist violence in every multi-racial nation on Earth. And there probably will be for a long time. There is violence against women in Australia to, does that makes us a special case when compared to the rest of world? No, we aren’t special. Get over it. The best we can hope for is to mitigate such acts.

    Because, actually, my experience of what happened after the siege was similar to what Shrike describes: if anything it actually brought people together. It was the same in London after the 2005 bombings. The vast majority of people do not like it when the social fabric appears to be torn.

  4. Nicholas on 24th December 2014 9:49 am

    You say that the I’ll Ride With You twitter message was posturing, when in fact it was driven by a desire to bring out the best in people. You note that the response to the siege was a wish for an end to tension. Yep, and that’s precisely the wish expressed by the I’ll Ride With You message. You seem to be assuming that I’ll Ride With You was supported by people who wished for Islamophobia so that they could feel vindicated and smug afterwards. I saw a positive gesture which both reflected and amplified the comity you praise.

    There is a seductive appeal to mocking the goodwill of others and implying empty clicktivism. It gives an opportunity to jab the Left and jab the Right and claim the sensible common ground. But some gestures are genuine and helpful, like the laying of wreaths in Martin Place, and the I’ll Ride With You message.

  5. The Piping Shrike on 24th December 2014 10:17 am

    As Captain James Mission says, racist attacks in Australia happen. As Captain James Mission also says there’s no evidence that there’s been an upsurge of attacks since last Tuesday even from the potted events in his local newspaper. Experience in London after the 7/7 bombings was that there wasn’t there either. Racist attacks happen for more complicated reasons than someone picks up the paper and reads the news.

    I can’t really comment much on what was said on the illridewithyou campaign as it doesn’t really have much to do with what I said.

  6. Riccardo on 24th December 2014 10:28 am

    Yes, not the best of the TPS posts. Much of the theoretical groundwork is there, but some of the reading of the circumstances on the ground is off.

    The risk of attacks on people of Islamic background (or anyone who could be mistaken for that) is very real. Cronulla was very, very real. I doubt TPS would want to have been physically present in Cronulla wearing turban or hijab – very risky to life and limb.

    And I don’t doubt the motivations of the I’llridewithyou people.

    But what’s really missing is the link between Monis and genuine terrorism. It debases the word terrorism to imagine that a nutter with a flag and a few other grab-bags of tricks counts as terrorism – in our own lifetimes we have seen not just Islamist terrorism but every other sort – IRA blowing up whole buildings, LTTE suicide-bombing Prime Ministers, Entebbe airport, Munich, you name it. Real stuff. Not just nutters.

    It was apparent to me:

    a) he was facing life in jail anyway for acc/murder
    b) he was a bad man and had some real nasty stuff in his head
    c) he had no support from anyone – not a lone wolf
    d) he had betrayed both Shia and Sunni and not sure either camp would welcome him
    e) any political objectives he might have thought he had were lost in the sheer idiocy of trying to hold so many hostages

    You aren’t allowed to laugh at such a tragedy but you would if you thought the idea of him going to sleep in the middle of his own mischief. The IRA were renowned for bombs going off at the wrong time but that is nothing compared with this.

  7. The Piping Shrike on 24th December 2014 10:40 am

    I tried to make quite clear the differentiation between what was classed as terrorism in the past (IRA, PLO, ANC) and the terrorism of the 21st century. They are very different.

    I would characterise the current terrorism as much more nihilistic. And Al Qaeda I would class as part of that. A lot of the “objectives” of 9/11 were projected by the left onto them more than articulated by Al Qaeda themselves who tended to shape their demands on whatever was fashionable in the west at the time.

    Again for illridewithyou there seems to be arguing against something I’m not saying. I gave no comment on the motivations on those who joined it.

    As for terrorism, it is quite rightly a debasing word and is hard to debase any further. Which was why it was applied to the ANC by its enemies. In the 21st century, we really have it, with all the negative connotations it deserves.

  8. Nicholas on 24th December 2014 10:59 am

    The essence of terrorism is violence with a political objective. What was Monis’s political objective?

    To obtain a flag? To talk on the phone with the Prime Minister? What kind of political goal is that?

    Common criminality and personal pathologies do not a terrorist make. Calling Monis a terrorist drains the word of all analytic utility.

    A lone wolf terrorist plans and carries out an attack on their own, but they have a political goal and they draw on expertise and ideas from others. Monis couldn’t get anyone to give him the time of day. He was a self-declared sheik whom nobody recognized.

    He was furious about losing his High Court case about the letters he wrote to the bereaved relatives of veterans killed in war. He had been charged with about 40 counts of sex crimes in relation to allegations that he became a natural “healer” in order to gain access to victims. He had been charged as an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife. His legal and personal problems were insurmountable.

    In the absence of a stated political goal, it’s clear his motives were almost entirely personal. A man prone to violence had a melt-down. Framing it as terrorism not only fails to accord with the known facts. It creates panic when none is justified.

  9. The Piping Shrike on 24th December 2014 11:12 am

    There’s a saying that one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist and I’m getting the feeling here that the two are getting mixed up.

    Since when did it become necessary for a terrorist to have a clean criminal record? The clear political objectives of 9/11 terrorists? Or weren’t they terrorists? Taking to the Prime Minister a flag of a “country” he has ordered military action against sounds like a political act to me. The isolation and anti-social element is precisely what defines him as a terrorist, not disqualifies him, I would have thought.

    The essence of terrorism is not “violence with political objectives”. The ANC used violence (even against civilians) to achieve their political objectives. They were not terrorists.

    As for panic, I think the reaction didn’t show much of it. But I think it was widely regarded as terrorism, so I think people can handle it. We should know the nature of it though.

  10. The Piping Shrike on 24th December 2014 11:52 am

    It’s ironic that after years when those like Thatcher and the apartheid regime called the ANC terrorists to deny their social base and delegitimise their political violence, here we have illegitimate violent political acts representing no one and people want to deny they’re terrorists!

  11. Nicholas on 24th December 2014 1:55 pm

    Here are some experts who do not regard the attack on the Lindt café as a terrorist act.

    Monis simply didn’t have the standard hallmarks of a terrorist, says James Brown, Military Fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy.

    “I just think he was a mentally disturbed individual who reached out for a cause closest to him,” he said.

    Criminologist Mark Lauchs from Queensland’s University of Technology
    “Terrorism per se is to cause fear in order to extort a political outcome. It is a significant thing from the point of view of what we class as terrorism. He [Man Haron Monis] was after a personal outcome, not a political outcome… He actually has an ego-driven rather than a politically driven agenda.”

    Security analyst Neil Fergus said in the Sydney Morning Herald that classifying the attack as terrorism “would only be feeding the propaganda machine” of Islamic State and other terrorist groups.

    The problem with applying the terrorism label to a violent personal breakdown over legal and psychological troubles is that it obscures solutions. A terrorism frame has little utility for describing, explaining, or preventing this kind of attack. Terrorism is a political problem requiring political solutions; social isolation and severe mental illness and / or personality disorders need a combination of social services and therapeutic interventions. In the case of Monis, there was long history of grandiose delusions coupled with violent behaviour. Changes to law enforcement screening protocols and to bail procedures may also need to be part of the solution. Israel/Palestine, the wars in Syria and Iraq, American alliances with oil producing Arab states, Sunni-Shia divisions – no political matters of that kind related to what Monis did. If there was any political agenda in that deeply troubled mind of his, it was overwhelmed by personal and legal woes.

    If violence with a political objective is not the essence of terrorism, what is?

    The ANC had terrorist elements. The fact that they were part of a victorious movement does not change the nature of their acts. Irgun and the Stern Gang were terrorist groups too – that reality does not get washed away by the creation of Israel. Nor does it discredit all of the peaceful politicking for the creation of Israel.

    Delayed in moderation because of the links.

  12. D.G. on 24th December 2014 10:05 pm

    This attempt to label Monis as something other than a terrorist is a fine display of the Left’s belief in its own weakness. Like they don’t think they could possibly win any debate where the Right has fear of terrorism on its side. Which I suppose also has a lot to do with believing that the average person is a racist sheep waiting for some demagogue to tell them what to do.

  13. Dianne on 25th December 2014 4:40 am

    Happy Christmas one and all. I have been awake since 1 pm waiting for Santa Claus.

    Shrike I don’t know why Monis can’t be both mad and a terrorist. Binary oppositions leave me confused.

    I think the right/left divide which emerged over the ‘I’ll ride with you’ hashtag and the classification of Monis’ motives, is not helpful. In the same manner that same division has made meaningful debate about climate change well nigh impossible in this country.

  14. Dianne on 25th December 2014 7:16 am

    1 am. I am not that excited!

  15. The Piping Shrike on 25th December 2014 2:13 pm

    The links on what experts say is interesting (if somewhat selective, since the third piece also had experts who said Monis was a terrorist) and of course there was the quote noted by the CIA advisor above that implied he was, so there is a debate going on.

    I think the core of that debate is that what we are facing is a new type of terrorism. Some context here.

    When the ANC was branded as a terrorist organisation it was to delegitimise them. Essentially that rested on claiming that they didn’t represent a social base with legitimate demands. They were branded as criminals in some quarters for the same reason. There was a similar, if much more contentious, debate going on around the IRA.

    It was much clearer, say, with Baader-Meinhof, which only claimed to represent a base in an indirect way and did not have community roots in the same way as the ANC or IRA. In that case what we’re looking at are highly organised cells that carry out acts with clear goals in mind.

    But what we’re looking at here is something different. The whole modus operandi of ISIS with its emphasis on social media and media focussed atrocities is to attract people to either join ISIS or commit acts on their behalf. Given the vagueness of the demands and the lack of any real relations with society, it is unsurprisingly attracting in cases isolated people for a variety of reasons.

    One thing not talked about here is of course those who have gone to fight for ISIS in Iraq. Again it’s for a variety of reasons that would not be categorised as simply a result of “radicalisation”, oppression or even a clear need to fight against western presence in Iraq (which ISIS aren’t given their intent to destroy the Kurds, one of the West’s biggest opponents in the region).

    In my view this relies on a degree of social breakdown, which is what makes the call to community leaders pointless. And it’s only a matter of time before someone picks up the message of ISIS and carries out those acts at home as well. That’s the context I see for Monis.

    Finally, the quotes of those who say calling him a terrorist has dangerous consequences for anti-Muslim feeling etc. is rubbish. For a start, what is happening is happening and should be stated irrespective of the consequences. And those “consequences” only come, as noted above, from the left’s weakness to show reality is not a comment on Islam or those who follow it, but a much broader social problem.

  16. Riccardo on 26th December 2014 6:26 am

    I’m biased, i think this country is going to Hell in a handbasket, and that means portraying the right-leaning third of the population (and some of the centre third) as potential fascists and Nazis then so be it. Germany was not different nor special when it went to Hell, nor even South Africa.

    I’m not sure what value it adds to say ANC were called terrorists. Most opponents of such groups, whether a full blown insugency, narco-warfare central american style, opposition movements like HK umbrella movement, get called terrorists. It resonates well with the pro government supporters, alienates opposition supporters and is ineffectual with the rest. Didn’t Sophie Mirabella describe her own party members as terrorists at one point?

    That the label is debased is not a reason to throw it away it can be recovered, correctly applied.

  17. Riccardo on 26th December 2014 6:37 am

    I think the left should be tougher on islam, provided we agree what the ‘left’ and ‘islam’ actually mean.

    The left as this blog correcfly points out, could mean anything from Mar’n Ferguson to Bob Brown.

    And Islam could be anything from Isis to the quiet religious obsevance of your average Turk or Javanese. Or your Hazara refugee who fled Afghan to get away from other people’s Islam.

    Islam itself is a religious abstract that only has meaning that its adherents draw from it, or use as a figleaf for what they were going to do anyway. It does not differ from other religions in this respect. It is no different from Thais deriving violence out of Buddhism, a seeming impossibility. Thailand should be the home of serenity, but is not. Equally, Sikhism is explicitly militaristic, but isn’t used as such.

    Somewhere Islam either by design or by use harms the rights of others, it should be called for it, in the same way Christianity should. And the formal mechanisms the left established, like religious freedom, discrimination laws etc used for this purpose.

  18. Riccardo on 26th December 2014 6:57 am

    As for Australia being ‘tolerant’ i look forward to the day a Hadley or a Jones can countenance the idea of having a majority or very large minority of people migrants from a country of different religion and culture to the host group, disregarding local sensitivites on these things. You would never hear the right shut up if the possibility was raised.

    It is only what the UAE and Malaysia manage daily.

  19. F on 26th December 2014 7:41 am

    Hadley and Jones are irrelevancies. They don’t represent anything. They are inventions to rile people like you up. They live of shock. Can’t you see that?

    As for the rest of what you wrote, I don’t think Australia has anything to gain from following the Malaysian or UAE way of racial ‘harmony’, whatever the hell that would look like. That’s not my impression of those places. What are you basing this on?

    I’m shocked you think Australia is going to “hell in a hand-basket”; it presumes it is coming from something better? What perspective are you drawing this from? If anything, Australia is more inclusive of ‘minorities’ then it ever was. That’s my personal experience, and is one borne out from observing the lives of those around me.

  20. Andrew on 26th December 2014 11:09 am

    I’ve been a long-time reader of TPS. Sadly, this is the worst piece I’ve seen. The argument that Monis was a terrorist is pathetically thin.

    As for DG’s “This attempt to label Monis as something other than a terrorist is a fine display of the Left’s belief in its own weakness.” This is standard fare on blogs of all sorts – ‘label’ the ‘left’ as bleeding hearts, latte-sippers, do-gooders, what have you. In turn, the so-called ‘right’ will be labelled ‘racists’ and ‘fascists’. Let’s drop the fake left v. right dichotomy, shall we, and concentrate on the man’s shonky character.

    The salient characteristic of Monis seems to have been his fakery – the man was a fraud, in Iran and Australia. Motivated more by money, fame, sex, and power, an inveterate self-deluder and con man, even his ‘terrorist’ last act was a fraud. He couldn’t even organise himself a proper IS flag before setting out for what was most likely his intended destination – the channel 7 studios, where he no doubt imagined he could set up a live broadcast of himself. His eventual destination – an innocuous cafe – was an accident; from there he made it up as he went along.

    The self-declared connection with IS was another fraud – a cover and a perverse rationalisation. Something to give even the most obscure and futile protest a semblance of meaning in a twisted mind.

  21. The Piping Shrike on 26th December 2014 9:51 pm

    I really find this discussion about his character or professionalism bizarre. What were the characters of those who committed 9/11? What level of professionalism is needed to be a terrorist? What was the character and professionalism of the guy who stormed the Parliament in Ottawa? Or doesn’t he qualify either? Maybe there should have been a discussion about the state of mind of Timothy McVeigh before he killed 160 people in Oklahoma City to see whether that was terrorism, although he certainly seemed professional about it.

    This was hardly Monis’s first political act. He had been charged for sending letters to the families of dead servicemen and chained himself to the railings of Downing Centre Local court five years ago protesting against the war in Afghanistan.

    As I say, it seems odd that a term that used to be used to denigrate political violence now seems to be some standard to be achieved. It was amateurish for sure, but holding people hostage for the purposes of publicising a political cause is what terrorists have done before and I never saw discussions on their state of mind or how well they carried it out to determine whether it was terrorism.

    By the way, this is not just a left thing. As I say in the post, Abbott and the NSW Police Commissioner were also keen to down play this as an act of terrorism, which is why I brought it up. So it’s not a “left v right” thing. It’s just the left are taking it to a bizarre conclusion by being so doctrinal about it, so they can counterpose to right-wing commentators using this terrorism to carry on their culture war against Islam.

  22. fredn on 27th December 2014 6:21 pm

    I see #illridewithyou as a very clear statement that a lot of people are sick of the crap. To claim it doesn’t exist is an indication you don’t listen to the Sydney right wing shock jocks; which is to your credit.

  23. Andrew on 27th December 2014 8:09 pm

    Monis may have done the odd ‘political’ act in the past, but he seems to have committed more purely ‘criminal’ acts (some alleged), not that the two are mutually exclusive or can’t co-exist in the one disturbed mind.

    If this report in the SMH is to be believed – http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/sydney-siege-gunman-man-haron-monis-and-his-obsession-with-sunrise-20141226-12dyhb.html – Monis was most likely attempting to get into the Channel 7 studios and appears to have had a strong beef with the Sunrise program’s ‘instructing terrorism’. I maintain that the whole IS thing was an afterthought cobbled together once his anti-Sunrise/channel 7 plans went awry.

    “As I say, it seems odd that a term that used to be used to denigrate political violence now seems to be some standard to be achieved.”

    You’re stretching it; those who are arguing against Monis’s being a terrorist are just as likely fed up with the gross over-use of the word for political framing reasons. After all, what do people think of when some nincompoop Prime Minister or other tells the nation to quietly get on with its business because they really have nothing to fear from terrorism? It’s be alert but not alarmed all over again; Howard intended the opposite effect.

    “I never saw discussions on their state of mind or how well they carried it out to determine whether it was terrorism.”

    Well, there was certainly quite a bit of discussion – let’s call it innuendo, at least – about whether the young man with a knife shot dead by police in south-eastern Melbourne was a terrorist or not, or attempting a terrorist act. The whole question is so corrupted that many people still think leaky boats coming from Indonesia carry terrorists despite there being absolutely no evidence of it. The term, and even the language used to discuss it, has become debased.

    “So it’s not a “left v right” thing. It’s just the left are taking it to a bizarre conclusion by being so doctrinal about it, so they can counterpose to right-wing commentators using this terrorism to carry on their culture war against Islam.”

    I’d agree with that, as I said in my earlier comment. But I’d add that the ‘right-wing commentators’ are so far to the right that the ‘left’ are fighting the ‘culture war’ from the virtual middle of the political spectrum; it’s all relative.

    I myself have always railed against ‘multiculturalism’ and what I consider ancient religious and cultural mumbo-jumbo, as well as the tendency to label people as racists or turn every tricky or trendy cultural/religious/sexual situation into a ‘phobia’ of some kind. One might say I am very impatient with Muslims. I certainly don’t argue from the position of those who say “calling him a terrorist has dangerous consequences for anti-Muslim feeling”. However, I’m bloody sick and tired of the politicians, shock jocks and MSM creating fear, a mass hysteria even, out of a word the real meaning of which hardly anyone even seems to have contemplated beyond very crude associations with Muslims from the Middle East. Just think, a goodly proportion of Australia’s women live in in actual terror of their husbands, children of their parents.

  24. Paul of Berwick on 27th December 2014 8:59 pm

    For me, Martin Coutoure Rouleau (Canadian lone wolf) and Man Haron Monis should be viewed through the prism of mental health.

    Others with similar issues may take it out through domestic violence, self-harm, etc. These men focused their reactions upon political objects.


  25. The Piping Shrike on 27th December 2014 10:58 pm

    If the issue is whether home grown terrorism is a significant threat, then that’s a reasonable discussion to be had. Along with why Australia appears to have the largest contingent per head fighting for ISIS of any developed country when it doesn’t have anywhere near the largest percentage of Muslim population.

    But such discussions are impossible if some don’t even think there is terrorism in the first place and we have definition games that it can’t be terrorism because he’s mad, only thought of it at the last minute, or of “shonky” character (unlike those sound chaps who slammed into the Twin Towers). All for the sake of getting into culture wars with the right, which doesn’t take you to the “middle of the political spectrum” but just looks detached.

  26. Michael on 28th December 2014 9:29 am

    I’m with the Shrike. If Monis had been a white, anti-Muslim bigot we wouldn’t be having this arid debate about whether or not he was a terrorist. Indeed, I suspect that many of those who are now putting all sorts of faux-doctrinal reasons to avoid pinning that label on him would be falling over themselves to do so.

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  28. Riccardo on 29th December 2014 10:35 am

    Michael that is also false equivalence. You have no idea whether I or anyone else who posted would regard your white anti-muslim bigot as a terrorist, unless we also knew the circumstances that led to this call.

    I would say all sorts of things about Cronulla for example, some of them not fit for print. But I would not call it terrorism.

    Misdiagnosing terrorism means wrong prescription of response to it.

    TPS has gone down the wrong path on this (a rarity I might add) and misunderstood the cure for the debasement of the term ‘terrorism’ is not more debasement.

    A man holds up some people in a cafe. Like a bank robber. No manifesto. Waves a flag which, from what we understand, was not connected to any political movement he was likely to be a part of.

    We feel anguish for the hostages. Hope someone will ‘take him out’. Regret that he is on bail for other matters, or that he had access to a gun.

    But where is the clear link between this event and a political objective. Which land does he want free of occupation? Which prisoners does he want released from jail? I got the impression the only person he wanted free from jail was his own impending incarceration for accessory to murder.

    And you should avoid any attempt to put the cart before the horse in respect of thinking the mainstream white population of Australia incapable of sin, and therefore any labelling of them must be wrong.

    If a group like illridewithyou preemptively anticipate white racism and seek to put it down before it starts, it is only a justifiable reaction to what has gone before – Habib, Haneef, Cronulla, Tampa, well documented instances of racism across the board.

    Australia is not different or special in any respect. A typical small country, disguised as a larger one by the size of the landmass it occupies.

    The significance of local events is overblown by local media and in this case people are trying to link a nutter looking for a cause with actual terrorism, or freedom fighting if that is your perspective. This is no 9-11. No Oklahoma. No King David Hotel. No Omagh. No Munich.

  29. Riccardo on 29th December 2014 10:46 am

    TPS – I’ll give you credit for one thing – you obviously believe this stuff because you keep defending it rather than backing down.

    I think the logical weakness is to equate the irrelevancy of the ‘Left’ [which is plausible] with the Monis case and specifically the #illridewithyou which was definitely the wrong call.

    I have no doubt that after years of ignoring a Left economic agenda, what passes for the Left in Australia has to cling to trivialities to appear relevant.

    And I certainly don’t think any thinking leftist would want to be defined by their response to this case. I would like to see a more muscular left, one that I think both Latham and Rudd would have seen if they themselves had not been such flawed characters. This muscular left would have called out the evil of 9-11 but also of those militarists and fascists would use such an event for irrelevant adventurism.

    But let’s keep things in perspective. If you want to influence events in Iraq and Syria, being in those countries is a good place to start. I’m sure the mix of ISIS fighters includes genuine Islamo-fascists and miscellaneous thrill seekers and nutters, but one thing they have in common is trying to prosecute their agenda over there, rather than in a Sydney cafe.

  30. The Piping Shrike on 29th December 2014 8:17 pm

    I think most of the planet would regard the Martin Place siege as a terrorist attack. It’s not just my insistence. Just as they would regard the July 2005 bombings in London as terrorism, the guy who tried to blow up a plane with his sneakers over the Atlantic, the ramming of Glasgow Airport – none of them having anymore clear stated political demands than Monis.

    On 9/11, it’s been clearly forgotten that no one claimed responsibility for the attacks, let alone set political demands. Al Qaeda didn’t accept responsibility until three years later. So I guess people would have been saying in 2001 that that wasn’t a terrorist attack either.

    I’d like to say that this stringent definition of terrorism that would apply to pretty well none of the clearly terrorist attacks of the last decade is because people are living in the 1970s when the likes of the PLO did make specific demands. But I suspect that’s not the real problem here.

  31. Paul of Berwick on 30th December 2014 12:13 pm

    Well, just because most of the planet call it terrorism doesn’t mean to say it is. What is the context for which they say it is? What is their agenda & what point are they trying to prove?

    For example, doesn’t fear sell news? Well, that angle has kept Murdoch rich for years!

    So, back to first principles. A definition of terrorism (United States Department of Defense): “the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.”

    Yes, Monis & Roleau used unlawful violence. But for what objective? Wasn’t Monis bucking against a criminal conviction? And wasn’t Rouleau just wanting to be a martyr for his faith?

    How have these two individual intimidated governments or societies? How have we been coerced against our will?

  32. Riccardo on 31st December 2014 9:29 am

    I think this is leading to a dead end. Saying nobody claimed responsibility for 9/11 means Bush’s link to Saddam is plausible, or for that matter, the CIA etc did it because without a claim of responsibility anyone could have done it. It was al Qaeda if only because Bin Laden, as acknowledged leadership figure in the movement appeared to show prior knowledge of it and approval of it, albeit the Al Qaeda structure was apparently decentralised and self-organising which limited his direct role.

    The perpetrators who were detected easily, on the passenger lists of the planes, were impressionable young men of Saudi and Moroccan origin who fitted a fairly broad but identifiable profile for would-be-terrorists.

    Enthusiastic for a cause, and prepared to die for it, the enemy being concrete in identity but nebulous in how they are chosen as the enemy.

    I think you are more interesting when you argue stuff that doesn’t get into the semantics of a particular word. There is ample evidence of a Left and Right both adrift in a modern political world without calling on how one word becomes a “it means what I wish it to mean”.

    The word has become fatigued if only because people have been using it to mean one crazy man wanting to die in glory; Apartheid fascists describing their resistance opponents; or for the founders of the state of Israel, and that is too much for one word.

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  34. Leroy Lynch on 1st January 2015 10:09 pm

    I think it was both a terrorist attack (he wanted it that way, so that’s what it was) and something more personal, revenge driven, and half arsed. It was different from a more methodical, planned terrorist act, even a “lone wolf” one, but we can’t dismiss any factor in this case. This article sheds some on the topic. The ending is gratuitous, but its worth a read…


    “The lone wolf is the new nightmare, dramatized and amplified this week by the hostage-taking attack in Sydney. But there are two kinds of lone wolves — the crazy and the evil — and the distinction is important.”

    Here is another article, its another part of the picture, but its not either/or as far as motivation.


    “Domestic Violence Is Violence. Mass killers often start by stalking or assaulting women.”

  35. Dr_Tad on 2nd January 2015 6:24 am

    The Slate article is bizarre. Mass killers (those who are clearly political and those who aren’t — although the author seems to have problems differentiating, as well as differentiating between “mass” killings and smaller acts of murder … we don’t even yet know for sure if Monis killed anyone at all!) also “often” don’t have a history of misogyny or violence against women. Many don’t even have a recorded history of violent private behaviour. Picking on a few anecdotal examples and lumping together wildly different cases like this proves little except that the author wants to generalise where such generalities are hard to draw out of the available evidence.

  36. F on 5th January 2015 10:07 am

    “Well, just because most of the planet call it terrorism doesn’t mean to say it is.”

    Well, actually, if most of the planet agrees that this was terrorism, then yes, it is terrorism. That’s how terminology works: most people agreeing.

    Geez, I know we exist in a post-post-modern world, but really? Words still have meaning, even if that meaning is as relatively vague and amorphous as the word terrorism. If most folks agree that this was a terrorist act, then guess what? It was a terrorist act.

    I think those trying to make out that it wasn’t terrorism are just allowing a lazy and morally bankrupt political class to get way with not making tough and far-reaching (and probably unpopular) decisions.

  37. Andrew on 5th January 2015 3:34 pm

    F, you haven’t added a jot to the feeble case made that Monis should be described as a terrorist.

    “Well, actually, if most of the planet agrees that this was terrorism, then yes, it is terrorism. That’s how terminology works: most people agreeing.”

    Let’s see. Most of the planet, at least the well-fed privileged part, receives passively a completely mediated version of events which becomes the ‘conventional wisdom’ or orthodoxy in about 5 minutes, yes, 5 minutes. Muslim man, member of ISIS with black ‘Islamic’ flag, takes hostages in chocolate company’s cafe and shoots two people before being shot by armed police. That is it, complete with untrue or dubious aspects – who was it who shot the two innocents, really? Yet unknown. Most people agreeing? I wouldn’t even be sure of that, actually, but what does that amount to, a definitive, inviolable, incontestable fact?

    And what do most of the planet think ‘post-modern’ means?

    “I think those trying to make out that it wasn’t terrorism are just allowing a lazy and morally bankrupt political class to get way with not making tough and far-reaching (and probably unpopular) decisions.”

    Here we go. And what are those ‘tough’ decisions? The lazy and morally bankrupt are actually those who rely on passive reception of propaganda, and those who prefer to produce it for cynical political reasons rather than examine an event for all its nuances and complexities of human motivation.

    As Guy Rundle points out in today’s Crikey: “Rather than being austere and one-sided violence (a la the London 7/7 attacks) Monis’ attack was provoked by a failed case before the Australian High Court. Having sought recognition from the Australian state, he then got it from the tabloid media, who were happy to do his propaganda for him.”

    And as one of Guy’s readers points out: “…there should be some attention paid to the implications of the narrow failure of Monis’s case. Three High Court judges agreed with his lawyers. Arguably, if four had, there would have been no seige.”

  38. F on 5th January 2015 9:47 pm

    I can see Andrew, that you have found a deeper truth. A truth that has escaped many others. How do I know this? Because you just told me. Over and over….and over, again.

    Lets just put to one side your overwhelmingly patronizing sermon…actually, lets not.

    “Most of the planet, at least the well-fed privileged part, receives passively a completely mediated version of events which becomes the ‘conventional wisdom’ or orthodoxy in about 5 minutes, yes, 5 minutes.”

    Yes, lets rail against conventional wisdom by claiming almost the entire developed world has no critical faculties. Because, in an argument decrying over-simplification and under appreciation of emotional nuances, such a ‘bold’ statement isn’t at all hypocritical.

    “That is it, complete with untrue or dubious aspects – who was it who shot the two innocents, really?”

    Now you are resorting to conspiracy theorizing, essentially creating your own ‘truth’. How post-modern.

    You don’t have to ignore the “nuances and complexities” of human emotion to class an act as terrorism. Why do you think terrorism is so simple? That’s not my impression of it. Monis certainly made claims to be committing an identifiable act of terrorism, claims that were broadcast on foreign media. Strange, that the “propaganda” prone Australian media failed to air Monis’ claims, don’t you think? Like they were censored…..Almost as if those awful Australian authorities wanted to play down the terrorist angle….

    I will agree with you on one thing though: that Monis’ case highlights a terrible failure of the criminal justice system. That doesn’t mean his acts can’t be described as terrorism.

  39. The Piping Shrike on 7th January 2015 8:22 am

    I mentioned that it was generally recognised as terrorism as it was suggested that it was some peculiar insistence of mine. It’s not. I’m open to why it isn’t but every reason given means excluding other acts that are also generally accepted as terrorism.

    I was told it couldn’t have been terrorism because it didn’t have clear (enough) political demands. After reminding that 9/11 didn’t even have anyone for years claiming responsibility to make political demands, we then switched on to something else, no organisation, too amateurish etc etc. which would have excluded the Oklahoma bombings, the Glasgow airport attack and so on. Then I had the argument that the guy was not of sound character, unlike the pukkah chaps you usually get bombing and maiming innocents. There’s also been an attempt to pretend he wasn’t political, which wouldn’t hold up if you looked at the fairly extensive political activity he’s had.

    Most of the examples relate to the sort of terrorism of thirty years ago. Fair enough, but then you’re going to have to think of another name for the sort of attacks like this we’ve seen in France, Britain, Canada and Spain over the last decade, many of which were amateurish, unclear on their goals, and with little organisation behind it. Whatever name someone wants to give it, that’s what Martin Place was.

  40. Riccardo on 7th January 2015 10:41 am

    How was Oklahoma too ‘amateurish’? If he meant to maim and kill large numbers, he succeeded. Amateurish is as gets the job done.

    What was deficient about the Glasgow incident – may have failed in its execution but provided sufficient ‘terror’ to make the definition in my book.

    Why would the Prov IRA not have been ‘of sound mind?’ I did not agree with their methods, but intimidating the British out of Northern Ireland at least appeared to have consistency of purpose and appropriate scale of action, if nothing else. It drove Britain and Irish Republic to negotiating table, which was what they wanted.

    I am always reminded of the quote attributable to Phoolan Devi of “Kill ten people, they will hunt you down, kill one thousand people, they will ask for a ceasefire”

    This is a disgusting subject to be talking about, it is not a restaurant review.

    If words are to have any meaning, and that one in particular, they need to stick as close as possible to agreed definitions. Politically motivated violence with an objective of achieving political change, and implicitly that the perp is of sound mind.

  41. Riccardo on 7th January 2015 10:52 am

    This comment by F: worries me

    “I think those trying to make out that it wasn’t terrorism are just allowing a lazy and morally bankrupt political class to get way with not making tough and far-reaching (and probably unpopular) decisions.”

    I’m sure Hitler couldn’t have put it better himself.

  42. F on 7th January 2015 12:49 pm

    Godwin’s Law has just been invoked: burn this thread down to ground, its over.

  43. The Piping Shrike on 7th January 2015 6:10 pm

    Yep. Think we’re there.

  44. Riccardo on 8th January 2015 9:25 pm

    Godwin has just about disowned his ‘law’ as a result of it being fetished. He had no problem with people discussing Nazis in internet sites if it was appropriate, as it is in my post. F wanting to make ‘tough, far reaching and unpopular decisions’ regarding ethnic or religious minorities sounds very much like something a Fascist might say.

  45. F on 8th January 2015 9:35 pm

    I really don’t know whether to continue with this…but maybe the decisions I was referring to were leaving Iraq? No longer supporting American interventions in the Middle East?

    Whatever they were, they have to be different to what is going on now, unless we are all hunky dory with the occasional ‘random’ political mass shooting,

    But don’t let that get in the way of your frothy fascist fetishising.

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