ON THE PARIS ATTACKS AND THE BIGOT RESPONSE
I must admit that my first thought upon hearing news of the atrocities committed in Paris, after, of course my sorrow over any loss of life, was, ‘my God, the bigots have more ammunition.’
Of course, that’s the point. ISIS kills a bunch of people, the bigots start spewing their hate filed vitriol, not at the particular murderers involved, but at the whole of Islamic culture. ISIS then turns to the targets of this hatred and uses it as a recruiting tool. ISIS wins, because regressive organizations like that thrive on hatred and fear. They can’t wait until France and Russia step up their bombing, because for every bomb dropped, innocents are killed. Dead innocents, especially the young, become future Jihadis.
And the right wing will play predictably into their hands. Those who pander to hatred, anger and fear, whether they are Jihadis or on-line trolls, are cut from the same cloth. It’s a peculiar quality of the right wing imagination that transcends national and cultural boundaries. Those with such a mindset are not satisfied with particular, contextual explanations for worldly or social phenomena. That level of complexity is at odds with the tunnel vision quality of the right wing imagination. Rather, the right conflates the actions of a few as representative of, an innate character trait associated with, a generalized understanding of “the other.” Just as the right wing ideologues of ISIS target all those who do not share their twisted theology, be they Christian, Jew or Muslim, American, French or Syrian, so the right in the U.S. or France conflates the crimes of ISIS as a universal quality if Islam. At the same time, they are blind to crimes committed in America’s interests as being, perceptually, Christian terrorism. The right wing imagination does not allow for differences in point of view.
So these attacks may indiscriminantly target lives, intent on inspiring fear, or pressure on political leaders, but a prime strategic goal of terrorists is to energize the enemy’s reactionary right.
As thinking people, dedicated to the perpetuation of enlightenment thought, dare say ‘liberal’ thought, contend with mindless bigotry on a daily basis. It’s moments like these, however, that prove the challenge. Terrorism as a tactic is designed to instill fear. Scared people do not think, they react. Thus, the reactionaries take the forefront. The complementary reaction to fear is hatred. When we respond to tragedy out of fear, we react with hatred. Actual thinking shuts down and we will always go wrong. We find ourselves bogged down in military quagmires for which there is no extraction, and ISIS flies a higher banner.