The brutal murder of a man in Woolwich, set upon by two men wielding knives and machetes, inevitably led to a lot of heated responses, not least from the hundreds of closet bigots coming out of the woodwork on social media networks, eager to denounce Islam and calling for all Muslims to be thrown out of the country, or worse. Certainly, the reported scenario – Islamic extremists attack serving British soldier who was wearing a ‘Help for Heroes’ t-shirt in broad daylight – is about as shocking and sensational as you can get, guaranteed to inflame racial tensions in a country where years of terrorism and immigration propaganda has worked to instill a culture of fear and separation throughout the population.
Some of the comments on Facebook on the evening of the murder left me under the impression that the ghost of Enoch Powell had somehow merged with the internet, possessing people with a relentless, savage desire for rivers of Muslim blood cascading through the streets of Britain. It is as if many Britons believe that only violent retribution is the answer to, well, another form of extremist, violent retribution. They say that cooler heads will prevail, but the only cool heads I witnessed were shaking solemnly before their monitors in a mixture of shame and disgust as they culled their “friends” list.
The impression that the deeply enshrined racism of 70s Britain is making a resurgence is troubling, to say the least. It is a reflection of the cultural and political similarities between now and then, when economic hardships and a steady flow of immigrants were used as ideological battering rams, sowing division throughout the country. Already this year the government – and their slavish media mouthpieces – have gone to great lengths to demonize the unemployed as “lazy scroungers” and attack the sick and disabled, with Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith coming under fire for manipulating the data in order to bolster the case for the government’s ideological program of austerity. The political pigs at the trough demand a £20,000 annual pay rise – their reward for siphoning public money into private pockets while driving the most vulnerable people in society towards destitution and suicide – and any distraction from their continuing plunder, be it racial or religious tensions, is most welcome.
The Tories were quick to make political capital from the Woolwich murder, using the attack to revive the Communications Data Bill (known to some as the snoopers’ charter), which Nick Clegg had previously ruled out on the grounds that it displayed a “disregard for our personal lives,” much to the chagrin of Home Secretary Theresa May (who seems to model her policies on the East German Stasi). Never mind the fact that the two attackers were already known to MI5, who are allegeed to have offered one of the attackers a job a few months ago – the real objective is the nation-wide surveillance state, so such details are irrelevant.
Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the attack in a speech which summed up how empty rhetoric and condolences conceal bare-faced hypocrisy: while denouncing the actions of extremists on the streets of London, behind the scenes he continues his push towards arming the Syrian “rebels”, many of whom are barbaric extremists themselves who have tortured and murdered women and children, factions of which have openly pledged their allegiance to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. These are “our extremists”, so when footage emerges showing a young boy decapitating a Syrian soldier or a militant eating someone’s heart, instead of shock and outrage the public emit an apathetic grunt, failing to grasp that perhaps our country’s role in such atrocities are what instigates reciprocal violence on our streets.
Other domestic extremists were equally swift to capitalise on the attack – within hours, the English Defence League had mobilised on the streets of Woolwich and carried out a number of attacks against people who had absolutely nothing to do with the murder. Watching footage of these men in their balaclavas going on a rampage and you wonder if they appreciate the irony of how similar they act and appear in comparison to the Islamic jihadists in Syria. After attacking mosques, they turned their anger towards the police attempting to quell the unrest. Given the police’s questionable track record of dealing with racism within the ranks, perhaps this could be viewed as a “friendly fire” incident.
Fortunately, there have been rational and peaceful responses to counterbalance the braying fascistic mob: another EDL – the English Disco Lovers – organised a Disco-Counter-Demo in London; an anti-fascist dance-off to counter the racist chants. More people, too, are beginning to question what motivates such attacks, a process which leads to inevitable questions about the nature of British foreign policy and our fostering of extremists and dictators abroad; reckless geopolitical brinkmanship with potentially dreadful consequences.
Who knows? Maybe cooler heads will prevail and the swelling racial tensions will dissipate before the summer, depriving the government of the opportunity to try out their new water cannons on the disgruntled “great unwashed”. If we can understand the wider cycle of violence and oppression perpetrated in the name of greed and power, perhaps a united peace movement could emerge which brings the cycle to a close, where all humanity is seen as equally worthy of compassion and our differences are cherished rather than feared.