Point number 4 especially important:
“To suggest that the Woolwich attack was not driven by political anger is not to deny that we should take the threat of Islamism seriously. But we should also understand what underlies ‘homegrown’ terrorism. There was something bizarre, indeed surreal, about seeing a young black man with a broad south London accent raging about British soldiers in ‘our lands’, and warning that ‘you people will never be safe’. It tells us less about his attachment to Islam than about his complete disengagement from British society. Islamism has become one expression of such disengagement and of such detachment from social norms.”
It was a mad, barbarous attack, more akin to a particularly savage form of street violence than to a politically motivated act. What was striking about the incident was not just its depravity but the desire of the murderers for that depravity to be captured on film. This was narcissistic horror, an attempt to create a spectacle, enact a performance, and generate media frenzy. In that it succeeded. We should not provide the act with greater legitimacy by rationalizing it in political or religious terms. Even to call it a terrorist act is to give it too much credibility.
Brutal nihilism and narcissistic hatred are central threads of contemporary jihadism. This is as true of 9/11 and 7/7 and the Boston bombing as it is true of the Woolwich murder. But while 9/11 and 7/7 were degenerate acts, the Woolwich attack shows how much more degenerate such…
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