No More Private Lives

3ff432767a926da1c4b53b41e0c30fce.1000x750x1There used to be a sharp divide between your public life and your private life. There were a few exceptions, of course, public officials who pronounced on the importance of propriety and the family or who represented people by common mandate could find themselves undermined by revelations about their private life, but otherwise the two were kept fairly separate. The exception was when facets or details about someone’s private life became ‘in the public interest’.

That didn’t mean simply that ‘the public find this interesting’, but rather that their lives, health, livelihoods or other important life-aspects were placed under threat. It wasn’t really in the public interest if Lord Whatshisname was gay, particularly (unless he was making rulings on gay marriage etc) but it would be relevant if he were being blackmailed over that by criminal or other interest groups.

Public interest, of course, became ‘prurient interest’ and those living in the public eyes (celebrities of all sorts) became the subject of gossip magazines, paparazzi houndings, wild speculation and more. Even the legal recourse of taking people to trial for libel and slander was little deterrent. Too expensive and too time consuming given the sheer volume of material.

Now most of us live, to some extent, in the public eye via social media and this is having a massive, erosive effect on the institution of having a private life. Increasingly businesses believe they have a right to monitor and hold us responsible for our conduct outside of business hours and, furthermore, people who disagree with our stances and politics in our private lives seek to censor us by threatening our jobs and opportunities.

If you’ve read Trigger Warning there’s some fine examples of this issue relating to football, wherein private – somewhat racist – cell phone and text message conversations were leaked, revealing a side to certain managers, staff and players that had been entirely opaque in their public lives. One has to ask then, if such was undetectable in their public conduct, why it would matter what they said to each other in private. Especially when it’s not entirely clear how much may have simply been non-PC banter and blowing off frustration.

Away from there, to pick one of many examples from people’s normal lives there’s the Clementine Ford/Michael Nolan incident. He called her a slut, in response to other responses to her provocative pseudo-trolling style of journalism.

Is calling a woman a slut a nice thing to do? Even a contrarian controversy-baiting hatemonger like Ford? No, obviously not.

Is it any of Meriton’s business (the company he worked for) what he does in his own time? No, obviously not.

Is it acceptable or proportionate to go after someone’s livelihood over an online disagreement, however vociferous? No, obviously not.

Yet this happens more and more. Social media occupies a strange place between private and public communication and straying more towards one or the other depending how you use it.

If your Twitter is locked and you only use it for conversation and to follow a couple of hundred people that’s much more akin to a private account than one that doubles as a business outlet and which has a few thousand mutual follows.

Your personal Facebook should not be considered the same as any product or business pages you happen to run on there as well.

I tend to use the analogy of the pub to explain what social media conversations can be like. You’re out in a public space, with your friends, having a conversation at your table and with many other conversations going on around you, but others can eavesdrop, join or leave the conversation and even argue with you. It’s neither a fully public nor a fully private space.

Something has to change and the reassertion of the private space may be a part of that. It may even require changes in the law, so that it would be unfair dismissal to fire someone for their lawful expression outside of work hours. This is also another aspect of private censorship that we need to worry about, along with the ‘public square’ now being in private hands and immune to the protections free expression is afforded by the government.

If we respond with a ‘so what?’ to people’s private expression, made public, if companies can say “We can’t fire him, it’s a privately held opinion unrelated to the business,” then maybe we can claw back some of our collective freedom. After all, someone thinking ‘jet fuel can’t melt steel beams’ has no effect on their ability to fold t-shirts at GAP.

Religion and Wars [WIP]

‘Uberfacts’ on Twitter quoted a somewhat dubious statistic that only 7% of wars have been religiously motivated throughout history and this has led many religious apologists to start crowing about a (somewhat strawman) of the atheist position that religion causes a lot of conflicts and deaths.

I believe the real point is that religion is a dangerous motivator for war and an extra source of conflict (over something that doesn’t even exist) and that it has led to or made worse some of the bloodiest conflicts in history.

Part of the problem hinges upon what you consider religion, and how much needs to be present for it to be causal. Is nationalism religious? I would consider it so, but I would consider most ideological extremism to share character with religion as well.

To take WWII and Nazi Germany as familiar examples, the belief in the Aryan race and its superiority was a supernaturalist belief and won that drove the nationalist and Germanic unification projects of the Reich as well as informing the Ahnerbe and their strange concepts around history, race and archeology. Anti-Semitism was also key to the Nazi ideology and also key to their blaming of the victors of WWI and the revenge philosophy behind that. Their Christianity alongside their superstitions and nationalism were also absolutely key to their opposition to ‘godless’ communism.

Combine all that and we can see that religion was a key motivation for the Nazis and integral to the war (not to mention the Holocaust), yet it is not commonly thought of as a religious war.

The book referenced apparently uses a 0-5 scale, with 0 being no religious involvement/motivation and 5 being an absolutely religious conflict. I’ve used the same.

I’ve sourced my list of conflicts from the link below.

I have selected the 20th century as it is the century with the least religious conflicts. If we include 21st century conflicts things will skew too heavily to making the atheist point, since so many current conflicts involve Islam. If we go much earlier than the 20th century we’ll also find a lot more religious motivations as well, as the world was a more religious place in that time.

If the least religious century (you could make an argument for the 19th whose conflicts were mostly nationalistic) turns out to have relgious involvement and motivation greater than 7%, then we can fairly safely consider the greater argument about religion not being a major factor in conflict debunked.

Source of Conflict List: http://www.war-memorial.net/wars_all.asp

So far I have processed the first 50 notable conflicts of the 20th century and have the following results:

Conflicts With Significant Religious Involvement (binary): 56%
Total Religious Motivation of All Conflicts: 25.6%

Frankly it seems unlikely that either of these measures could drop beneath 7% and so it may not be worth continuing.

252 total 20th Century Conflicts.
Sample size 50.
Error Margin: 12.43%

1. Sino Russian War
Religious Involvement relating to Boxer Rebellion which had a large component of religiously motivated violence. Scale? 2
2. Boxer Rebelion
Religious involvement in terms of anti-Christian sentiment Scale? 4.
3. Second Boer War
No real religious involvement. Scale? 0.
4. Phillipine Insurrection
No real religious involvement. Scale? 0.
5. War of a Thousand Days
No real religious involvement. Scale? 0.
6. Illinden Uprising
No real religious involvement. Scale? 0.
7. Angolan Uprisings
Religious involvement limited in degree (anti Christian, anti-colonial sentiment). Scale? 1.
8. Second Yemen Rebellion
Zaidi sectarianism key. Scale? 4.
9. Uruguay Civil War
No significant religious involvement. Scale? 0.
10. Southwest African Revolt
Religion involved in that priests were omitted from rebel attacks and that dominionism played a role in the colonial conflict and prejudice. Scale? 1.
11. Russo Japanese War.
No significant religious involvement. Scale? 0.
12. Maji Maji Revolt
Rebels claimed to use magic and set traditional beliefs against religious colonialism. Key motivator/exacerbation. Scale? 3.
13. Russian Revolution
Muslim group involvement and Tsarist strong belief in ‘Divine Right of Kings’ make religion significant if not a key driver. Scale? 2.
14. Third Central American War
No significant religious involvement. Scale? 0.
15. Zulu Rebellion.
No significant religious involvement. Scale? 0.
16. Mahdist Revolt
Religion absolutely key. Scale? 5.
17. Dutch-Achinese War
Jihad by Muslim forces against the Dutch making this explicitly a religious war. Scale? 5.
18. Fourth Central American War
No significant religious involvement. Scale? 0.
19. Romanian Peasant Revolt
Anti-Semitism involved. Scale? 1.
20. Morroco Unrest
Insufficient Information. Assumed non-religious. Scale? 0.
21. Iranian Constitution War
Shariah Law and sectarianism contributed to conflict and issues around the war. Scale? 2.
22. Korean Guerilla War
No significant religious involvement. Scale? 0.
23. Ma’Al’s Insurgency
Islam vs Christianity a key component. Scale? 4.
24. Portuguese War Against Dembos
Insufficient Information. Assumed non-religious. Scale? 0.
25. The Second Rif War
Islam a background motivator and source of confluct. Scale? 2.
26. Conquest of Widai
Islam vs Christianity an important element. Scale? 2.
27. Asir-Yemen Revolt
Sectarianism as background. Scale? 1.
28. Chinese Revolution
No significant religious involvement. Scale? 0.
29. The Negro Rebellion
No significant religious involvement. Scale? 0.
30. Sino-Tibetan War
No significant religious involvement. Scale? 0.
31. Italo-Turish War
Islam vs Christianity as background. Scale? 1.
32. Paraguay Coups
No significant religious involvement. Scale? 0.
33. First Balkan War
Revolt against Islamic (Ottoman) rule a key background component. Scale? 2.
34. Moro Rebellion
Islam a key component. Scale? 3.
35. Second Nationalist War
Conflict between traditionalist and Communist groups played a minor role. Scale? 1.
36. Second Balkan War
Revolt against Islamic (Ottoman) rule a key background component. Scale? 2.
37. Bai-Lang Rebellion
Religio-ethnic background to aspects of the conflict. Scale? 1.
38. Russo-Turkistan War
Insufficient information, presume religion not involved. Scale? 0.
39. World War I
In many ways the ‘last gasp’ of the Divine Right of Kings, key to the old monarchic order. Scale? 2.
40. Southern China Revolt
No significant religious involvement. Scale? 0.
41. Second Sino-Tibetan War
No significant religious involvement. Scale? 0.
42. Finnish Civil War
Christian traditionalist Vs Communism. Scale? 2.
43. Third Anglo-Afghan War
Religious background. Scale? 1.
44. Sparticist Uprising
Socialist/Communist uprising vs Conservative, Christian elements. Scale? 2.
45. Hungarian/Romanian War
Socialist/Communist uprising vs Conservative, Christian elements. Scale? 2.
46. Dervish State Vs Ethiopia
Sectarian Conflict. Scale? 3.
47. Mexican Revolution
No significant religious involvement. Scale? 0.
48. Caco Revolt
No significant religious involvement. Scale? 0.
49. Latvian Liberation
Included Communist vs Conservative/religious elements. Scale? 1.
50. Estonian Liberation War
Included Communist vs Conservative/religious elements. Scale? 1.

Working

1-1-2(5)
2-2-6(10)
3-2-6(15)
4-2-6(20)
5-2-6(25)
6-2-6(30)
7-3-7(35)
8-4-11(40)
9-4-11(45)
10-5-12(50)
11-5-12(55)
12-6-15(60)
13-7-17(65)
14-7-17(70)
15-7-17(75)
16-6-22(80)
17-7-27(85)
18-7-27(90)
19-8-28(95)
20-8-28(100)
21-9-30(105)
22-9-30(110)
23-10-34(115)
24-10-34(120)
25-11-36(125)
26-12-38(130)
27-13-39(135)
28-14-39(140)
29-14-39(145)
30-14-39(150)
31-15-40(155)
32-15-40(160)
33-16-42(165)
34-17-45(170)
35-18-46(175)
36-19-48(180)
37-20-49(185)
38-20-49(190)
39-21-52(195)
40-21-52(200)
41-21-52(205)
42-22-54(210)
43-23-55(215)
44-24-57(220)
45-25-59(225)
46-26-62(230)
47-26-62(235)
48-26-62(240)
49-27-63(245)
50-28-64(250)

Religious Involvement: 56%
Religious Motivation: 25.6%

Regressive Left: Laurie Penny on Cologne

Laurie Penny wrote an article in the New Statesman which exemplifies many of the stark issues with the Regressive Left, particularly with regard to Cologne and the broader rape crisis across many European countries, made worse by what appear to be deliberate, politically motivated cover-ups and fear of PC backlash for investigating and prosecuting racial minorities.

I am absolutely bloody furious about the cover-ups, the moral and ethical cowardice of our nations in relation to these issues, and the fact that the febrile atmosphere the SJW cult has created has made it so hard to go after criminals in ‘protected’ groups. That probably comes across in this article.

Her article, titled “After Cologne, we Can’t let the Bigots Steal Feminism” is not only years too late to prevent that happening – the worst bigots I’ve ever encountered have been feminists and SJWs – but is precisely the kind of thing that is feeding the problems behind responses to Cologne (and other less famous incidents) and Rotherham, as well as demonstrating horrific levels of hypocrisy. It’s telling that even relatively ‘moderate’ (or at least less boat-rocking inclined) outlets like the Rubin Report and The David Packman Show have picked up on Penny’s comments – amongst others – and not just easily dismissed right wing or ‘manosphere’ sources.

Why can’t we always take sexual assault as seriously as we do when migrants and Muslims are involved as perpetrators?

This seems a peculiar question to ask, but you have to put it in context. Over the last few years there have been many flimsy accusations, several high profile false accusations and numerous dubious, or at least questionable, changes to various university policies and legal standards. With concepts like ‘stare rape’ being seriously bandied about and ‘manspreading’ being seriously warned against the situation iss the inverse, but no less laughable, than the Republican ‘real rape’ nonsense of a few years ago – indeed almost making that seem like a legitimate question.

In comparison to all that, the attacks in Cologne are what appears to have been a coordinated set of attacks on hundreds of women, not only sexual assault and rape, but theft and good old regular violence as well. Furthermore similar attacks seem to have been reported across Germany and other countries and similar stories of cover-ups – for fear of fuelling racism and right wing parties – have come out.

So why is this taken seriously? Because it’s actually serious and because it is so serious and undeniable it has brought up a lot of problems and revealed issues around the fears of racism accusations or feeding the right wing, which overrode the duty of care governments and police have to the people. There’s even reports of victims not wanting to come forward or report attacks because they were similarly afraid or didn’t want to feed the narrative.

The end result? The stories broke anyway and the far right has made far more hay of it than the otherwise might have because of the cover ups and because in many cases they’re still the ones admitting there is a problem and offering (bad) solutions

In a perverse sort of way, it’s progress. After months of dog-whistle xenophobia, European authorities have finally started to treat migrants as they would treat any other citizen. They have achieved this by choosing not to make a fuss when migrants are accused of raping and assaulting women.

Well, no. That’s not progress. Rather than being treated like anyone else these presumed migrants, immigrants and refugees – sharing a cultural attitude and religion but not necessarily much else – have been extended the benefits of gunshy legal authorities, cover-ups and protections – even media reticence – that stand in stark contrast to, for example, the overzealous willingness to accept and go after those implicated in the Rolling Stone/UVA scandal or the attacks on unconvicted, alleged offender James Deen. With reports and prosecutions up and sex offences down, along with the public pillorying of anyone even accused of rape it’s very hard to characterise Western societies as ‘rape cultures’, especially in contrast to the cultures implicated in these events.

The police and the press were initially slow to react, and the Mayor of Cologne reacted to eventual protests by suggesting that women should adopt a code of conduct in public and keep an ‘arm’s length’ distance between themselves and strange men. 

It should be noted that this was the progressive mayor of Cologne, the one stabbed for being so welcoming to refugees prior. It should also be noted that this kind of hypocritical apologism is not limited to them. Numerous supposedly progressive newspaper and magazines have engaged in similar behaviour, excusing the behaviour of the attackers. It seems ‘cultural differences’ is the acceptable version of ‘she was wearing a short skirt’.

It is the first time in recent history that the right-wing press has not joined in the condemnation of these wanton strumpets who dare to think they might be able to have a good time without worrying what ‘invitation’ they’re sending to men. Instead, the right wing blames… liberals. Who apparently caused all this by daring to suggest that refugees should be able to come to Europe in safety. 

It’s not just the right wing raising concerns. The liberal left, the genuine liberal left, has been raising concerns about these issues as well for just as long – if not longer – than the right has. Anyone genuinely progressive voice that has spoken up with concerns over cultural clashes, Islamic beliefs and their consequences, has been shouted down as, ridiculously, an ‘Islamophobe’ or even more ridiculously as ‘racist’.

The right wing is, to an extent, correct to blame the Regressive Left (or however you want to term them) as they have made reasonable, measured discussion on these topics impossible. One need only review the encounter between Sam Harris and Ben Affleck on Bill Maher’s show to see this in action. Calm, measured, evidenced, rational discussion met with wild and spurious accusations that subvert and prevent a decent debate being had.

It isn’t that what caused this was suggesting that refugees should be able to come to Europe, it’s that this febrile and ‘J’accuse!’ way of going about the debate has led to fear and unease, even bringing up reasonable concerns and issues is to invite reputational damage and ‘greenwalding’ that can be impossible to put to rest.

It’d be great if we could take rape, sexual assault and structural misogyny as seriously every day as we do when migrants and Muslims are involved as perpetrators.The attacks in Cologne were horrific. The responses – both by officials and by the armies of Islamophobes and xenophobes who have jumped at the chance to condemn Muslim and migrant men as savages – have also been horrific. Cologne has already seen violent protests by the far-right anti-migrant organisation Pegida, a group not previously noted for its dedication to progressive feminism.

It’s absurd to pretend our societies in the West don’t don’t these seriously. Indeed the contrast in feminist reactions to these attacks and their day-to-day screeds and sermons couldn’t be more stark. Faced with a genuine case of an actual patriarchy and rape culture, an actual case of a culture with structural misogyny – that actually exists – the cowardice of the previously strident feminist lobby has been breathtaking.

What word would you use other than ‘savage’ to describe what has occurred and why are there not slutwalks, op-eds decrying the attacks, redoubled efforts to bring feminism to Islamic cultures (where it’s actually needed) and so on? Why instead are we seeing these screeds trying to shout down the people and groups – not all far right by any means – who are condemning what happened and are demanding solutions are simply being decried, wholesale as racist.

The far right is cleaning up, because they’re listening and offering those (terrible and broadbrush) solutions, while the Regressive Left, such as Ms Penny, seem far more concerned with making excuses and refusing to offer solutions or to wholeheartedly and unreservedly condemn the attacks.

This is what worries me. Because we cannot have this conversation and because elements of the Regressive Left are more fixated on preserving their narrative and ‘being right’ than admitting reality or doing what is right, the right wing are then free to dominate the discussion and to pass off their conspiracy theories and racist nonsense as truth, relatively unchallenged because other sources have lost trust.

It’s a miracle! Finally, the right wing cares about rape culture! Finally, all over the world, from Fox News to 4chan, a great conversion has taken place and men who previously spent their time shaming, stalking and harassing women are suddenly concerned about our rights! And all it took was a good excuse to bash migrants and Muslims and tell feminists they don’t know what’s good for them. 

This is a classic misdiagnosis. People have always been concerned by rape culture, where it actually exists, not where it does not. The accusation has not been taken seriously as it applies to Western culture because it’s patently ridiculous. Accusations of stalking, harassment etc have been gendered when they’re not, and have been wildly overblown. That’s the objection, not that these things aren’t bad – the outrage at Cologne etc is real – but that these issues are being trivialised and conflated with ‘trivial bullshit’ and hyperbole.

Personally, I just love it when random men on the internet tell me what my feminism should like, because gosh, you know, this whole resisting oppression thing is really hard sometimes and it’s great to have people who know what they’re talking about take over for me so I can get on with the ironing. These people have repeatedly demanded that I ‘condemn’ the attacks in Cologne, which is a lazy way of implying that somebody doesn’t really care about an issue.

And this article is a strenuous way of demonstrating you care less about this issue than a few mean words over Twitter that can’t possibly hurt you, but which somehow demand meetings at the UN while Saudi Arabia gets to sit on the Human Rights Council. You can’t simultaneously try to claim Feminism is Egalitarianism, and that it’s good for men too, while denying men the right to speak and argue. Anyone can read a definition, observe actions and notice a disparity between the two. Criticism is how ideas are tested and hardened.

So let me be clear: sexual violence is never, ever acceptable. Not for cultural reasons. Not for religious reasons. Not because the perpetrators are really angry and disenfranchised. There can be no quarter for systemic misogyny. And if we’re serious about that, there’s not a country or culture on earth that won’t have to take a long, hard look at itself.

Which sounds great, until the last sentence. If you want to try and remotely equate genuine patriarchal and abusive structures in the Middle East with possibly having less seat room or blocking a troll, then you’re out of your mind. Also while you might – finally – have come around to saying that, others in the Guardian, Independent and elsewhere have made myriad excuses and your first instinct was to condemn anyone who was concerned or who pointed – rightly – to cultural issues as a racist. That has to change and trying to water down what happened with disingenuous comparisons won’t get you off the hook.

The sensible thing to do in response to the Cologne attacks would be to call, as many German feminists are doing, for a far more rigorous attitude to rape and sexual assault across Europe. Instead, the solution on the table seems to be to clamp down on migration.

We already have rape laws and a rigorous attitude towards it. In social terms possibly too rigorous since a mere accusation means ruination, a fact which should perhaps lead us to consider anonymity for the accused in such cases. What would be sensible would be to simply hold these groups to the same standard, rather than granting them special status – perhaps with deportation and barring from entry as an additional threat to motivate them.

If there ever was a case where ‘Teach men not to rape’ wasn’t a purely insulting load of old nonsense, it might be in the case of immigration from Middle Eastern and North African cultures coming to much more permissive European and Nordic/Scandinavian cultures. Indeed these are already happening in Norway.

Instead of dealing with the actual problem, people like Ms Penny seem to react to perfectly valid concerns about immigration from particular cultures by bemoaning it as racism, only to turn around and blame all men, nearly 50% of the global population, as being the problem. If bemoaning a particular culture is bigotry, then how much worse is bigotry on an even broader basis?

I actually can’t believe I’m having to explain this right now. I thought we covered this in kindergarten. Those of us who have moved beyond that level can, if we really try hard, understand that it’s not either ‘sexism is exclusively practised by Muslim men’ and ‘sexism is exactly the same everywhere.’ This is what we call a ‘false dichotomy’ when we get to big-kid school. 

Here’s the actual difference.

Our nations in the west are liberal democracies in which egalitarian law and permissive social attitudes have been in place for over half a century. Our genuine sexists are limited in scope and power, despite being imagined to be everywhere. We have full legal equality of the sexes – indeed a cogent argument can be made to say the pendulum has swung the other way in the battle of the sexes. On race too, we have full legal equality though issues of class/wealth often get dressed up as racial issues. When it comes to LGBT issues we still have a ways to go, but the fact that we are not stoning homosexuals to death or hurling them off buildings speaks volumes to our progress and relative pursuit of human happiness. We have broken the back of religious influence on most of our nations (a handful excepted) and we are now secular, be it explicitly or implicitly so. Despite protestations to the contrary, we are not systematically sexist, racist and homophobic as a culture.

The same cannot, broadly, be said of the cultures from which these people are arriving. They are still mired in prejudices we haven’t had at such a vicious level since before germs were discovered. Homosexuals are regularly killed across these cultures or forced to undergo gender reassignment surgery – at best. Women are not only constricted by ‘voluntary’ obedience to religious mores, but their inferiority is codified into law, implicitly or explicitly influenced by the Koran and enforced by vigilantes, the populace, religious police and/or the regular police. These are places where a girl of fourteen can be whipped to death for the crime of being raped.

There is no comparison to be made. These are genuinely male-oriented, patriarchal, theologically dominated, sexist rape cultures. Everything that Feminism claims to be against and projects onto our – not just relatively – but genuinely benign culture.

Yet there’s this paralysis in addressing it, examining it or dealing with it. We must – somehow – be as bad, culpable, we must find excuses for them it seems. It’s good that Ms Penny finally came out against it and decried the excuse-making of her fellow Regressive Left members, but these false equivalences and demands that our culture be considered just as bad will not wash.

It’s not a matter of our sexism ‘being different’, it’s like comparing morphine with homoeopathy.

The oppression of women is a global phenomenon because patriarchy is a global phenomenon. It’s embedded in the economic and social structures of almost every nation and community on earth. Sexism and misogyny, however, look different across boundaries of culture and religion, as well as across divides of race and class and between generations.

Bullshit conspiracy theory, false equivalence and delusion.

The UK, for example, enacted this.

In Saudi Arabia on the other hand (and note how government is involved in these) the situation is this.

For all that these people claim to hate ‘Islamic’ sexual violence, it seems to fascinate them. In the past three years, I’ve lost count of the white men – and it is almost always white men- who have emailed, tweeted and sent me doctored pictures sharing their graphic fantasies in which feminist harpies like me are stoned to death, fucked to death, genitally mutilated, whipped, burned and gang-raped – not by them of course. By those awful Muslims.

I condemn it, but I think I know why. They’re trying to get you to acknowledge and see what actual rape culture looks like. What an actual patriarchy looks like. That our culture is not even slightly, remotely, one scintilla as bad and that the groups you’ve been excusing and defending are everything you claim to be against, while concentrating your ire on art, commentary and mean tweets. It’s a crude, horrible way of saying “Maybe you should give a shit about this?” as well as the death of patience for being treated as though they were acting like these people.

I’ll be blunt. I think some people out there are very excited by their conception of ‘Islamic’ violence against women. It allows them to enjoy the spectacle of women being brutalised and savaged whilst convincing themselves that it’s only foreign, savage men who do these things.

If I’ve learned something valuable over the last two years it’s to try not to project my own biases and interpretations on what people are telling me from my political opposition. Most of the time they’re sincere, they just have a different ‘read’ or set of ideas about the nature of what is going on.

I put it to you that people are not excited by Islamic violence against women simply because it is brutal and horrifying and goes against our culture of equality, liberation and tolerance. They hate it when women are genuinely abused and harmed and this might also be why they treat ‘trivial bullshit’ with contempt as it devalues and undermines genuinely horrific events.

The point is that misogyny knows no colour or creed, and perhaps it’s time we did something about that. We’re used to a society where a basic level of everyday sexism, sexual violence and assault is accepted. So if you’re saying this act of violence isn’t entirely different from all of those, and if you’re saying that refugees should be treated the same as European citizens, you must be saying that everyone should get a free pass to treat women like walking meatbags, right?

Genuine, actual misogyny might not – but it is a term that has been worn gossamer thing by inappropriate overuse. However it’s certainly more common amongst particular creeds, embedded within them and that needs to be addressed. We’re not used to a society with a basic level of everyday sexism and that’s why we’re outraged by this. What people are saying is that this is not acceptable and that yes, they should be treated like European citizens, like everyone else, held accountable for their actions, prosecuted and punished. Not let off or covered for because they happen to pray to Mecca or be browner than the average Swede.

Men and boys of every faith and none must learn that they are neither entitled to women’s bodies nor owed to our energy and attention, that it is not okay, ever, to rape, to assault, to abuse and attack women, not even if your ideology says it’s okay. That goes for the men’s rights activists, the anti-feminists and fanatical right-wingers much as it does for religious bigots. 

Here’s the thing. They already know. It has taken cultural indoctrination for men to think otherwise and outside those cultures this is not a remotely widespread attitude. No MHRA I have ever met is pro-rape, no anti-feminist I have ever met is pro-rape. Not even the most fanatical right-wingers I’ve ever met – and I consider rhetorically beating up ‘white genocide’ nuts a hobby, has ever expressed any pro-rape views. This passage says much more about you Ms Penny, than anyone else.

If we want to hold up Europe as a beacon of women’s rights, that’s fantastic. Let’s make it happen.

It already is. You can’t legislate mind control or censor people’s opinions and a minority of people with the ‘wrong’ opinions, powerless and marginalised are all that’s left. So much so that more and more reasonable and moderate ideas are being attacked and nonsensical things are being rebranded as misogyny and sexism from sexy computer games to sitting with your legs apart. You’re living on another planet if you can’t acknowledge the gulf of difference at work here, but you can never seem to celebrate what we have and what we’ve achieved, only spread these masochistic fantasies to try and make us seem as bad as the worst the world has to offer. It won’t wash and you’ll only alienate people with this unreasonable outlook and outrageous demands for authoritarian control.

It’s easier to pin misogyny on cultural outsiders than it is to accept that men everywhere must do better – but any other attitude is rank hypocrisy.

It’s easier to point to actual, genuine misogyny and rape culture where it actually exists, than to manufacture it where it doesn’t.

It’s also, apparently, easier to hurl spurious accusations of racism and to avoid the real issues, than to discuss them. That’s where the far right will step in, bolstered by conspiracy theories about media censorship, and where they’ll gain purchase.

That too, will be your fault.

There is an appalling moral and ethical failing on the Regressive Left to tackle this issue and it may well be too late to be able to offer a more balanced approach, or even one brave enough to admit that a society and culture that condemns and punishes rape and sexual violence is objectively a better society and culture than one which explicitly permits and even demands it.

Instead, even trying to field this will result in accusations and distractions.

What can we do? Better screenings. Cultural education. Deportation of criminals. No more cover-ups. Open discussion and debate on the problem interpretations and effects of Islam.

Why Nazis Weren’t Socialist – And What Socialism Is

Panel-09There’s a persistent attempt to distance from Nazism and Fascism on the right wing of politics, by seeking to associate fascism – and particularly Nazism – with the left. Specifically Socialism. This despite the fact that in virtually every regard Fascism and particularly Nazism are diametrically opposed to everything Socialism and Communism stand for.

It’s important to start from a base of understanding what these terms mean. Many people don’t.

Socialism

Just to be difficult, Socialism has two definitions. One within the context of Marxism, one as its own ideology.

Marxian Socialism: A transitional stage between Capitalism and Communism where the means of production are taken into the control of the state as a steward for social ownership until Communism can be enacted

Standalone Socialism: A political outlook centred around the principles of equal opportunity, egalitarianism, equality before the law, equality in rights, the state in a limited role of administrator and guarantor of equality and the elimination of systems of control (such as inherited power, corporate monopoly etc).

Communism

A social and economic structure in which no particular person owns significantly more than any other and in which everything is held in the common weal. Communism eliminates the state, with everything being held in common ownership and via cooperation. From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

Fascism

Fascism is notoriously hard to categorise having common themes but no common doctrine. Features include:

  • Nationalism.
  • Hostility to democracy, egalitarianism and enlightenment values (logic, reason, evidence, free expression and enquiry).
  • The cult of the leader.
  • Strong identity and identarian symbols.
  • Tendency for violence.

Nazism

A form of fascism presented as a nationalist answer to international socialism. Nazism centred around German nationalism, racism, the definition of an Aryan elite, expansionist violence, lack of division between the state and the personal, corporatism, hostility to the labour movement in all its forms and conspiracy theories about Jews.

So, is Nazism Socialist?

Despite having the term in its name, no. Consider the traits of fascism and Nazism and compare them to the trait of socialism.

Egalitarianism? The Nazis stratified people by allegiance to the party and by Aryan bloodlines. There was no equality for slavs, Jews, Gypsies, gays or many other people with whom they found themselves at odds.

Limited state? The Nazis saw no separation between the state and the individual, or the nation. All were one. The state was unlimited and absolute and was not the guarantor of equality, but inequality and favoured parties.

Eliminating systems of control? While the Nazis did somewhat move against the old established order in Germany they set up new systems of control. Their embrace of Corporatism saw vested interests and big players controlling Germany. They brought in vicious secret police organisations and set up Aryan and Party elites.

The only respect in which the Nazis could remotely be considered Socialist was in their provision of a strong welfare state but ideologically this was because they saw the nation is one entity, not because of a sense of fairness and egalitarianism.

Anyone calling the Nazis a Socialist party, just doesn’t know what words mean, furthermore, you can also see that supposed ‘Communist’ governments were anything but.

Cologne, Lunatic Fringes & The Discussions Not Had

I’m not going to talk so much about Cologne itself or the implications, there’s plenty of discussion about that already going on and I can’t contribute a huge amount to that (Refugees, immigrants and migrants aren’t the same thing. Even a thousand young men behaving abominably doesn’t mean everyone’s a problem. This is a bad combination of deprivation, culture clash, grievance, opportunism, religion and ideology. In short, it’s complicated).

What I do feel I can contribute to and bring up is the surrounding problem of discussion and some of the opportunism and hypocrisy we’ve seen around this. I also want to point out that this problem is not confined to Cologne but has been reported in other cities, Germany has a long-standing problem with Islamic-culture immigration especially in the relatively impoverished former East Germany, and that similar attacks and issues have become shockingly common across Northern Europe.

This situation is now a conversation we are forced to have, because up until now we have not been able to have it. The taboos around racism and islamophobia have meant that some hideous wrongs have occurred that could have been prevented. The biggest and worst of these examples is, of course, Rotherham but it’s far from the only one. There’s some evidence and suggestion that assaults and rapes in Germany and elsewhere have been kept hush-hush (I wouldn’t go as far as to say covered up, yet) in order to avoid feeding into a climate of fear, racism and islamophobia.

The problem is that this has happened anyway, and by keeping the Overton Window so small, the entire conversation on the problems of large numbers of dispossessed people from a different culture, antithetical in many ways to western liberal values, has been entirely ceded to far right racists, the ‘white genocide’ lunatic fringe. Most dangerous of all, it almost makes their pathetic ideas seem credible if things are being ‘kept quiet’.

If reasonable, rational people can’t have conversations about race, immigration, culture and other issues, then the lunatics will and when people’s experiences on the ground aren’t listened to, or see them condemned as racists and islamophobes, then they’ll turn to the people who will listen to them.

It has also been absolutely breathtaking to see the… well, hypocrisy doesn’t even seem to be the right word here, it’s not strong enough. The… squirming discomfort, doublethink and apologetics about all this coming from the regressive left. Especially media feminism. When the air conditioning is too cold or some poor schlub makes himself comfortable by sitting with his knees apart there’s hell to pay, but when hundreds of women are molested and raped… then there seems to be relative silence.

Over the past couple of days a few things have emerged, but it has largely been this apologia I describe. Attempts to broaden the blame to men, as a gender as opposed to men of a particular culture, religion or ethnicity (this strikes me as being even more bigoted as it’s broadbrushing 50% of the population), attempts to shame people from talking about it via accusations of racism or islamophobia and worse. It seems that when it comes to feminism at least, patriarchal oppression is fine provided you have brown skin and originate from an impoverished or war torn country.

No.

We need to have conversations about these issues and the rational left, the compassionate and measured voices need to be a part of that debate. Not cowering in fear of being branded with a scarlet letter from their insane, radical fringes. The same goes for the right, who need to be able to enter the conversation on a level-headed basis without being branded by their insane, racist fringes and the ‘white genocide’ conspiracy loons.

Be brave, have the conversation, give the lunatics on both sides the finger and let’s work towards a calm, compassionate, rational solution.

 

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Apologia from The Guardian

Mack, Cytheria, Stoya, Deen & Rape Culture

I’m often met with a blank, disbelieving stare or outright hostility (and subtweeting) when I tell someone that I don’t believe that ‘The West’ has a rape culture. There’s a variety of reasons for this but several of them can be illustrated by three relatively recent events, all relating to people working in pornography. The main thrust of this article is about the Stoya/Deen situation, but I wanted to place it into context with my reasoning on the rape culture issue, and these two other incidents as this all interrelates.

Christy Mack was beaten, raped and abused by her former boyfriend, an MMA wrestler going by the monicker ‘War Machine’. She was hurt so badly she had to have a bunch of surgeries and the trial for that assault and rape is now in progress. Unbelievably, part of ‘War Machine’s’ defence amounts to the idea that ‘you can’t rape a porn star’ (though put in more legalistic terms than that). The reaction to this has been near universal scorn, derision and horror that someone could even say such a thing. At least in the court of public opinion and the media – our culture – that’s not going to fly and it seems unlikely to fly with the judge either.

Mack’s case received reasonable media coverage, sadly – mostly – due to the involvement of an MMA fighter.

Cytheria suffered a home invasion and sexual assault by three men, who have been subsequently arrested. While Cytheria’s assault received little coverage, despite heroic efforts by fellow adult film star Mercedes Carrera, the authorities at least took it seriously and the trial is – last I heard – in progress.

Cytheria’s case received little publicity and assistance via crowdfunding etc to help her get past her problems and back on her feet. Aid only came via unconventional sources such as Gamergate and support from people like Mercedes, rather than from women’s groups. Her plight was little spread on social media.

Which brings us to Stoya versus James Deen. Over the weekend Stoya – an adult star and former girlfriend of James – tweeted out a two tweet accusation against Deen that he had raped her. In the wake of this Deen lost several positions in several organisations, work on podcasts and websites and fairly instantly became persona non-grata. Since then, others have come out to accuse him, others to support him, others simply to ask for calm, distance and for it to be taken to due process – innocent until proven guilty.

In this case we have nothing to go on but a couple of tweets. The issue may or may not end up in court either as a prosecution for rape, or as a prosecution for libel. Meantime it’s trial by social media.

Now, what’s interesting in each of these cases is that they have all been taken seriously, in Mack’s case by the authorities, media and the public. In Cytherea’s case by the authorities and in Stoya’s case, by the media and the public. This despite each case being different, one an assault within a relationship, one a stranger assault and the last being a social media accusation of a rape within a relationship.

Unlike the other two, there’s little or nothing to back up the claim when it comes to Stoya’s accusation. Just her word, which while it may be good enough for her friends – and I know some people who are her friends, which makes this awkward – is very likely not enough for a court case, or to establish that he really did do what he’s accused of.

There’s something strange going on though. Those who aren’t immediately ‘listening and believing’ what she said, who are entering notes of caution and that people should be considered innocent until proven guilty are being vilified and attacked as though they were calling Stoya a liar or taking James’ side (as some have). While there have been a few people who have claimed she’s lying – something they can’t possibly know either – asking for due process and presumption of innocence is something different.

For those who know Stoya, her word might be enough to believe her – friendship brings trust, but that shouldn’t be enough for anyone else and it shouldn’t be enough for the kinds of consequences we’re seeing. When two tweets essentially ruin a man’s career on the basis of the mere suggestion that he has done something like this, we have a problem – and we don’t have a rape culture (one that excuses and even condones rape) if a mere accusation has such enormous consequences (loss of career, loss of income) then the pendulum may have swung too far the other way.

Arguing for due process and for the maintenance of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ as the standard should not be a controversial position, whether it’s a sex crime or any other sort of crime. We hold to it on the sound basis that we do not wish to punish anyone who is innocent and because of logical principles that also guide our work in science and many other arenas. We should not believe things until such time as we have true reason to believe them – solid evidence, and we should not punish people until we’re reasonably sure (beyond reasonable doubt) that they’ve done wrong.

Trial by social media, demanding that people ‘listen and believe’ when they have nothing to go on, ruining someone’s life before you’ve established their guilt. We’ve seen where that takes us with recent, high profile cases that didn’t turn out to be true (as per the Rolling Stone scandal). We don’t know what’s what in this case, I’m not suggesting it’s fake, nor that it’s true. I’m just pointing out the dangers and the lasting damage caused by hounding and ruining people on a basis that may not turn out to be correct.

And harassing someone to ‘confess’, doesn’t do any good either.

Step back, take a breath, leave it for the court and, otherwise, reserve judgement. It’s no bad thing and it’s not something to insult, harm or claim someone is a ‘rape apologist’ over.

Postscript

It’s also worth mentioning that the Stoya situation has been jumped upon by political opportunists in order to attack sex work, adult film work and BDSM. This has no bearing on the case, but it is worth noting that BDSM and film work have much stronger consent culture than the norm – including contracts in the case of film work. That someone works in, or prefers ‘hard’ sex scenes has no discernible bearing on them being more likely to be rapists than anyone else. The idea, seen repeated around social media some, that actual rape may be taking place on screen, is breathtakingly disgusting and opportunistic.

The Problem is Islam, so now what?

Fair question, if not asked sincerely.

Islam isn’t the only problem of course, but it is a huge problem and it’s irrational denialism to pretend it doesn’t have an effect. While statistics differ – many have been manipulated – the NCTC reported in 2012 that around 70% of all terrorist murders worldwide and 95% of suicide bombings were traced to Islam (specifically Sunni Islam).

It’s important to note, even though it’s obvious, that not all Muslims are terrorists and not all terrorists are Muslim, but it’s also important to acknowledge that Islam has a particular and unique problem (in the modern age) with terrorism, and to try and work out why – as well as finding ways to address it.

It’s also important to address the typical arguments that are made about foreign policy, colonialism in the past, American, Russian and European intervention in the Middle East and so on. These are all contributory factors certainly, however unfair it is to hold people today accountable for the actions of their ancestors.

The wars have been illegal and destructive, but differ ethically from terrorism considerably. Military action, at least in limited wars, does not target the civilian populace – even if it inevitably fails to avoid collateral damage – while firing hundreds of rounds into innocent civilians at a concert is a deliberate, vicious not an accident or byproduct. Whether you believe the claimed motivation or not, intervention in civil wars etc can also be interpreted as peacekeeping or an attempt to limit harm or blunt extremism – not a bad thing and something which has, albeit rarely, been somewhat successful (the former Yugoslavia being, perhaps, the best test case).

The situational aspects are not unique to the Middle East, they are found in other areas of the world and contribute to wars, civil disruption and even terrorism there – but not to the extent found in relation to the Islamic world and much more rarely reaching civilian populations in the west or outside the zone of contention.

Terrorism and grievances are not unique to Islam, but the extent and viciousness of it, the ubiquity of it, is.

So why? What is it about Islam that’s so unique and different? Why does it have a particular problem?

Literalism

Biblical literalists are a fringe of radicals when it comes to Christianity. Judaism has long traditions of secularism, liberal interpretations and ‘hedges’ around the rules set down in its holy text. Islam, by comparison, is incredibly literalist and prescriptive. While it contains many contradictions – as all the major religious texts do – it is much less ambiguous when it does give its orders, especially when you take the Hadith into account. The Koran is Islam, Islam is the Koran and if you’re raised to believe it is the absolute truth and it tells you to do something (or you’re told by a scholar that it does), what choice do you have if you call yourself a Muslim?

Extremism is the Norm

When we, in the west, talk of ‘Moderate Muslims’ we’re not actually talking about moderates. We’re talking about the extreme, radical, liberal left of Islam. They sound moderate, reasonable and centrist to us, but in the context of Islam they’re radically liberal. The Pew survey on Muslim attitudes provides a snapshot that really brings home that degree of extremism to us.

The percentage in favour of Sharia Law varies from 8-99%.

Even within (southern) Europe, you’ll find nearly 20% approval for this brutally medievalist religio-legal code, and there, 36% believe that code should be applied to non-Muslims. A minority, but a very significant one.

In every area a large majority are against prostitution, homosexuality, suicide, sex before marriage, drinking, abortion and euthanasia. It’s like stepping back into the 1950s – or more, and it’s multigenerational with succeeding generations of immigrants going one of two ways – westernising, or backlashing against it to a position more extreme than their parents.

Even in Europe 12% believe the veil should be enforced and nearly half believe a woman must be subservient to men.

20% of British Muslims sympathised with the 7/7 bombers and 27% with violence against cartoonists.

There’s a risk of labouring the point, but the statistics are out there. The point is simply that extreme viewpoints are relatively common and even the ‘moderate’ space is often anti-semitic, homophobic, misogynistic and authoritarian – enforcing these through cultural and religious license – and exhortation – for violence.

Dar Al-Islam

‘Christendom’ was an identity that used to carry currency and many nations used to have a common identity as Christian, specifically Catholic. Losing that was a great boon to western civilisation and a big boost to freedom and progress, but common identity does bring power and unity. Islam still has this identity, despite its sectarianism and internal schisms and rivalries between governments, there’s a common identity and unity. An attack or affront to one Muslim state or group is often taken as an attack on all – at least on the level of the individual, with the exception of Shia and other sects, who are regarded by groups like ISIS as just another enemy.

The point being that there’s a ‘greater’ identity at work than nation, race or even humanity which enables stark identification of in and out groups and dehumanisation of the other.

Theocracy

Islam has no central authority per se, rather competing ‘scholars’ and interpretations, but it does have the Koran. Virtually every sect and ‘scholar’ will point to the Koran first and the Koran is a starkly inhuman, genuinely misogynistic (the word has been overused and lost its power to shock) and violent.

Sources abound on the violent verses, the legal frameworks, the commands. Islam is not just a religion, it is a system of governance and law, a societal blueprint. This is something many western amateur analysts and apologists fail to understand. Islam ‘isn’t like other girls’, it plays out differently and it is set dead against the very idea or concept of separation of church and state, of secularism.

Religion comes first, always.

Non-Rational Actors

Religious actors are not rational actors. America has its own problem with the faithful, but they are still largely limited to the extremes, a minority of loons – whatever the pantomime politicians may put on. Religion is even less of an issue in Europe, to the point where it was considered shocking that Tony Blair was religious, and publicly so.

We live in nations where religion takes a back seat, is a private matter. Even ideological faith, for all the problem fascism and communism have caused in the past and for all the problems pseudo-progressivism and radical racist and sexist ideas are causing in culture and education, is still not in control. Most people are still rational actors. The Cold War would have been armageddon without rational actors and ideological extremism was fortunately blunted by more pragmatic bureaucracy by the dawn of the ICBM. Even China is simply another ordered bureaucracy, whatever its ideological trimmings.

There are very few non-rational actors in international politics these days and they’re very hard for rationally acting states to deal with. North Korea is one, Islam is another. You see this on a geo-political level, ISIS is a nation-scale suicide bomb placing ideology and faith over all practical concerns and you see this on a personal level with many terrorists being second or third generation immigrants to the west, who have enjoyed all the trappings of technological, consumer, liberal culture and have rejected it for guns, bombs and a return to medieval values.

Lack of Reform

Islam is – in religious terms – relatively new, at about six centuries of age. While the Koran has changed (at least three times) despite protestations in the religion to the contrary, it has remained broadly the same. It remains a brutal, medievalist text and proud of it, held up as perfect despite its inevitable flaws. Considered to be the last revelation.

The Old Testament was blunted by the more peaceful New Testament. Judaism was blunted by centuries of persecution, genocide and diaspora. Most religions have been blunted from their extremism by the march of progress. Secularism, scientific advancement, the relentlessly, objectively more human-friendly concepts of The Enlightenment.

Islam has no such reform and thus far every attempt to instil a kinder, gentler Islam has met with disaster. It’s still desperately needed, but the ideas that might form such a reformed, peaceful, tolerant and accepting Islam are limited to the deep past (before the influence of Imam Al-Ghazali) or to the fringes of western, liberalised Muslims who will not be listened to.

Summary

Islam is a brutal, extreme, medievalist, literalist doctrine whose only central authority is the Koran itself which cannot be persuaded to change its mind. There is no figure like a Pope who might be persuaded to liberalise and who would be followed in so doing. There has been no reformation, no theological uprising or liberalisation of the likes of Martin Luther – there being nobody to rebel against. The faith has a strong, unifying identity and is not just a religion but a sociopolitical and economic system that extends its tendrils into every aspect of life.

So what is to be done?

Dealing with Islam seems insurmountable, but if we are to blunt extremism and decrease terrorism, if this ‘clash of civilisations’ is to come to an end before the oil does it is Islam that needs to be dealt with as much, if not more than the geopolitical situation. Not least of all because we live amongst and alongside people of the faith.

So how have we dealt with these problems in the past? What has worked to blunt and moderate religions in the past?

Wealth & Comfort

It can seem strange, but religious belief is often strongest amongst people in the worst conditions. People who are on or below the poverty line are proportionally more religious than those in the middle and upper classes. It seems that poverty and hardship lead to people turning to religion as a comfort, even though – presumably – god put them in that position in the first place. Improved living standards tend to blunt religious fervour and soften religious devotion and views. A rising tide lifts all ships, and sinks all gods, you might say.

This doesn’t seem to be so true of Islam. A large number of terrorists have been raised in the comfort and relative ease of Western civilisation and have turned their back on it. Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised, we find the same in plenty of college students turning to ideologies of rejection and the rise in ‘white guilt’ and self-blaming and flagellating in western nations, but reading Marx and having a sit-in in a library and blowing yourself up outside a football stadium are still radically different degrees of extremity. Wealth and comfort may play a role, but a less effective one. It is true that the situation for many, even in very wealthy Islamic nations, is not one of comfort and security under kleptocratic regimes and then there’s those in states of civil war and disruption. Encouraging liberalisation and secularism may help, but the Arab Spring has come to little and has empowered and emboldened religious radicals, not disarmed them.

Education, Science & Reason

The spread of education and literacy played an enormous role in the west in the liberation of theology from the church and the undermining and subdivision of that religion (Christianity). Science and the power of reason have, similarly, undermined and – in many nations – all but destroyed religious ideas by proving the central contentions of those religions wrong. Even in Catholicism they have – belatedly – forced a more liberal interpretation and the acceptance of scientific reality. You will still find creationists, but in much of the world – bar America – they have the same sort of intellectual status as flat earthers, people to be scorned and pitied. They have virtually no societal currency or legitimacy.

In Islam these sorts of ideas still have social currency. Even into the 90s there were Imams declaring the Earth to be flat and that belief in a spherical Earth was a form of atheism and apostasy! Islamic apologists who try to claim the Koran as scientific and truthful, such as the unaccountably popular Zakir Naik, are found everywhere and creationism seems to be a much more mainstream idea with a hold over the general populace of the religion.

Again, as with the wealth and comfort issue, these things don’t seem to have so much of an effect when it comes to Islam. Many suicide bombers and terrorists have been educated people like doctors and engineers. Not school drop outs or the kind of unintelligent people you would think would involve themselves in such an unsophisticated or brutal theology. There may be some effect, but it doesn’t seem like it would necessarily be as strong when it comes to Islam. Then again, Christianity has its examples – such as presidential candidate Ben Carson – of otherwise proficient, educated and intelligent people who still harbour bonkers beliefs.

Secularism

Secularism, the separation of Church and State, has been a massively progressive achievement in the West and elsewhere. It has allowed people of different faiths and cultures to live alongside by separating the role of the state from the enforcement and advocacy of religion or cultural values (logical, pragmatic and scientific values transcend culture, they work no matter what you believe). Even in cultures which still ostensibly have state religions – such as Britain – secularism has been the practical and realistic default through centuries of reform of the power of the Church and its representative – the Monarchy.

Secularism has had some success when it comes to Islam. Turkey’s secularisation made it a site of hope for the rest of the Islamic world to follow suit, but that secularism has been eroded, Turkey has slipped back towards authoritarianism and towards dogmatic religious behaviour.

While secularism can help, it cannot succeed if it is imposed on an unwilling populace. Islam is not ‘just’ a religion, as has been mentioned before, and it specifically demands a theocratic state and legal system. It is against the religion itself to accept authority other than god and the Koran. This being a given, it’s unlikely that secularist movements can gain too much purchase on Islamic nations (there are exceptions) and given that even Stalin’s ruthless methods couldn’t eliminate Orthodox Christianity and he had to come to an accord with it, there’s little chance of forcing secularism even if we wanted to.

Bomb them into Submission

This never works, short of absolute genocide (which, hopefully, nobody is advocating. Furthermore this is what ISIS and their ilk want. They want an apocalypse. They want the end of the world. They want to fight and to die to fulfil prophecy and even ignoring the religious angle, visiting atrocities on the Arab world will only bring them more recruits.

No matter how careful you are, there is always collateral damage. Smart bombs and missiles are only so smart. Intelligence data can be wrong and no matter what you do, drone strikes and assassinations – while more civilised and cleaner than firing AK47s into crowds of teenagers – will always be spun as worse, even by those ordering them.

This is a non starter and only an idiot would advocate it in anything more than the very short term.

Conclusion

There’s no easy solution to the problem of Islam. While the things that have historically worked to liberalise and moderate religious fervour in the past may have some effect it is blunted by the unique nature of Islam as a religion, yet we ignore the religious aspect at our peril. It is a major driving force behind the terrorism and the violence, so much as people want to ignore that and to blame western governments and actions for it. Even were we to pull out of everywhere right now and cease interference and involvement, the same would not be true of the Chinese or the Russians and we would still be targeted in any case, not to mention that the ongoing conflicts and insurrections would become immeasurably worse.

The only solution will be a liberal vision and version of Islam emerging from within Islam itself but, given the literalist nature of the faith and its violent prescriptions against blasphemy and apostasy, any such effort has a huge uphill climb to make. One of the very few things we might be able to do here in the west is to encourage more integration and less ghettoisation. To make people part of our communities and to discourage insular communities such as have emerged in Leeds, Bradford and parts of London here in the UK. This would mean distributing refugees and asylum seekers more equitably around our nations and creating a broader range of affordable housing – something which would benefit ‘natives’ as well.

Realistically I don’t see any of these measures being employed. The cynic in me suggests that once the oil runs out and the Middle East loses its geopolitical relevance, things will calm down. Provided nobody has nuked anyone by then. I want to believe that we can turn things around non-violently, before then, but the odds seem to stacked against it. Between the innate fanaticism and extremism of Islam and the absence of cultural confidence and will in the west (to do anything, let alone the right thing) the possibility seems remote.