Saturday, June 30, 2007

Anarchy in the ...

What's with Hollywood? We saw Next yesterday, terrorists planning to nuke LA in what would be almost certainly a suicide action, and instead of being Jihadis, they are young blond French, German and Russian men and women who show no sign of being Muslim, and have no discernable agenda whatsoever.

Amar asked this the other day. And the question got me thinking.

We discussed Jihad International at length last year. We argued that, contra Syriana, Jihadis don’t seem to be motivated by material poverty. We also discussed Islamofascism and Islamosocialism, but didn’t draw any link between Jihad and anarchy.

Perhaps we should have. The idea is not new. This Economist article, from August 2005, draws parallels between the Jihadi violence and the anarchist ones that terrorised Europe in the late 19th century.

What did the anarchists want? Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, their first great intellectual and the scribbler of the graffiti ‘property is theft’, wanted to replace states with a society based on voluntary contracts. This appears to be the antithesis of what modern Jihadis want — Mullah Omar never seemed like a libertarian to me! The Economist notes this too, but argues that scratch the surface, and there are many similarities, not the least between the means used by the two groups. Both, for example, rely on spectacular acts of violence to highlight their ideas — hence this ditty: It will come, it will come,every bourgeois will have his bomb.

This is not a very elegant ditty. A much better one, quoted by Bertrand Russell to describe the rise of Western revolutionary ideologies, is this.

Ah Love! could thou and I with Fate conspire
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,

Would not we shatter it to bits--and then
Re-mould it nearer to the Heart's Desire!

Anarchists, fascists, Bolsheviks, Jihadis — revolutionaries of left and right are bound by this common thread, this urge to grasp, shatter and re-mould. Of course each heart desires very different things, but that’s another matter.

The legend has it that the old man of the mountain was a close friend of the poet‑mathematician who scribed this ditty. While Hassan and Omar may not have been friends, and Hassan may not have given us the word assassin, it is probably true that he wanted to shatter the state of things in his day, and led a series of asymmetric wars to achieve that end.

The world will watch in terror as the greatest city falls. Anarchy and chaos will spread...

Another message from Bin Laden or Zawahiri, both last seen alive in a mountain? No sir, this is R’as Al Ghul in Batman begins. Ghul wants to destroy Gotham …so that mankind will ravage itself, the species will be culled and the balance of nature restored. The planet will be saved for all species.

In the movie, Ghul is a white man whose sanctuary appears to be somewhere in the Himalayas. Of course the aficionados know that in the graphic novels, Ghul comes from North Africa. Perhaps an apocalyptic figure from that part of the world was too much for Hollywood to stomach.

Perhaps. But you should be relieved to know that the spooks are onto this:

Anti-US and anti-globalization sentiment is on the rise and fuelling other radical ideologies. This could prompt some leftist, nationalist, or separatist groups to adopt terrorist methods to attack US interests. The radicalization process is occurring more quickly, more widely, and more anonymously in the Internet age, raising the likelihood of surprise attacks by unknown groups whose members and supporters may be difficult to pinpoint.

Hat tip Daniel Drezner, who asks: Will the anarchists of the 21st century unite?

So, the anarchists who planned to nuke LA in the movie Amar saw were motivated by some radical ideology? Well, perhaps it was the lack of an ideology, the absence of a great cause, that motivated them? I haven’t actually seen the movie, so can’t comment. But wasn’t this the case for Tyler Durden? Didn’t he want ‘Project Mayhem’ to be the Great Depression and World War II of his generation?

Capitalism breeds alienation, argued Marx. And from alienation comes anger and violence — thus argued a Dutch philosophy teacher on board Eurostar from Paris to Amsterdam earlier this year. Thanks to my best friend and companion’s surname and religion, I’m often drawn into conversations about these matters. Most such conversations were worse than excruciating. Not this one — though a subsequent one involving the philosopher’s Fortuyn-admiring wife and a British linguist employed by the International Criminal Court on Saddam Hussein’s trial was.

Anyway, I digress. Does one need an ideology to be angry enough to blow up the outside world? Perhaps Amar should ask Amaninder.