Some Perspective

Maybe we can start looking at things differently now.
Maybe we can start looking at things differently now.
Normally, I devote Sundays to scientific topics. However the events of this week, and the varied responses to them, caused me to put aside my personal fun for a day and do something I rarely do; take a look at the events that are actually in the news. It’s not that there’s any editorial decree which states I should avoid hard news, it’s just that those topics are usually well covered and tossing another voice in the choir doesn’t change anything. But two days ago Anders Behring Breivik killed, at least, 90 people and yesterday Amy Winehouse died. Both were described as “shocking.” However, only one really was. How we deal with tragedies says a lot about us and, based on the responses to each item listed here, what is said about us is not very good.

Once it was discovered that Breivik was a blond haired, blue eyed, Christian, many media outlets stopped calling him a “terrorist” and switched to the term “madman.” To be fair and balanced the usual suspect for that kind of revisionism, FOX News, wasn’t among them, clinging to the term terrorist throughout their coverage. How their commentators will deal with it is probably another story, but at least the editorial tenor has been set and set correctly.

Breivik had a political and religious goal and used violence to make his point. That is the purest definition of terrorist that I can think of. “Agree or die” has been the credo of terrorists for time immemorial. In case you weren’t clear as to why he did this, he left a 1,518 page manifesto for you to peruse.

–The writer describes himself as “Justiciar Knight Commander for Knights Templar Europe and one of several leaders of the National and pan-European Patriotic Resistance Movement.”

–He anticipates a European civil war taking place in three stages, ending in 2083 with the execution of cultural Marxists and the deportation of Muslims.

–The first stage runs through 2030 and includes “open source warfare, military shock attacks by clandestine cell systems (and) further consolidation of conservative forces.”

–Between 2030 and 2070, the author predicts “more advanced forms of resistance groups (and the) preparation for pan-European coup d’etats.”

–The final stage — when the author anticipates Europe being 30%-50% Muslim by country — features the “execution of cultural Marxist/multiculturalist … traitors,” deportation of Muslims and “implementation of a Cultural Conservative political agenda” following the overthrow of existing governments across the continent.

He also lists multiple examples of violence inflicted on white people by Muslims in Norway but, as of this writing, police can’t seem to confirm any of them.

The change from terrorist to madman made me wonder how Muslims would view that obvious slant, all terrorists are from the Middle East and everyone else is just insane, so I went up to Al Jazeera to see what they had to say and found this fascinating look at the whole affair.

A few years ago, the respected Cambridge scholar T J Winter, also known by his Muslim name of Abdal Hakim Murad, gave a fascinating lecture to Humanities staff and students at the University of Leicester. The title was “Islam and the threat of the West”, turning on its head the more usual – then and now – “Islam and the threat to the West”.

It was a novel approach which, in a nutshell, illustrated that, historically, aggression has been directed more from Europe to the Muslim world than the other way round. His evidence for such a view was impeccably sourced.

I thought about Abdal Hakim’s talk this morning as I read the reports coming in of the dreadful bombing and shooting in Norway wherein, of course, there was speculation that these two events were “Islamic-terror related”. No doubt we will learn more over the coming days, but the early signs are, in fact, that the perpetrator was a “blond, blue-eyed Norwegian” with “political traits towards the right, and anti-Muslim views”. Not surprisingly, the man’s intentions were neither linked to these “traits”, nor to his postings on “websites with Christian fundamentalist tendencies”. Any influence “remains to be seen”; echoes of Oklahoma 1995.

Interestingly, this criminal is described by one unnamed Norwegian official as a “madman”. He may well be, but this is one way that the motivations for heinous crimes can be airbrushed out of the story before they have the chance to take hold in the popular imagination.

In 1969, for example, Denis Michael Rohan, an Australian Christian who set fire to Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, was dismissed as a “madman” and sent for psychiatric treatment; end of story. The right-wing fundamentalists plotting to destroy the mosque, and the nearby Dome of the Rock, lived to fight another day. I suspect that that is what will happen with the Norwegian bomber/shooter; his right-wing links and Christian fundamentalist contacts will be dismissed as irrelevant. This, we will be told, was the work of a “deranged” person “acting independently”. Ergo, the only organised “terror threats” to civilisation are still “Islamic-related” and the focus of anti-terror legislation and efforts must remain in the Muslim world and on Muslim communities in Europe and the USA.

If we allow this to happen, we will be doing the world a great disservice, not least because the new right is on the rise across the West – and Oklahoma was proof that its followers are capable of immense destruction.

Neo-Nazi immigrants from Eastern Europe have even been active in Israel where the government, while deploring such far-right activity in its midst is actually edging ever more to the far-right on a daily basis. Ministers advocate the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in order to purify Israel as a “Jewish state”; precious human rights for which the world has struggled are overridden in the name of “state security”; criminals in uniform are allowed to get away, quite literally, with murder.

All of this takes place with the collusion of Western governments which are themselves showing right-wing tendencies towards double-speak on matters of respect and tolerance for minorities. If you are even remotely “different” in Europe today, especially if you are a Muslim, you are eyed with suspicion and must go out of your way to “prove” your loyalty to a state which, if the truth was made known, would get rid of you if only it had the guts to pass the necessary legislation to do so. In some cases, such legislation is virtually in place in the guise of “anti-terror” measures.

All of this is backed by a vociferous and influential right-wing media which supports Israel right or wrong – and a pro-Israel lobby which acts as if it is untouchable. Given the political context across the West, it probably is.

For the most part the shift in coverage of these murders switched from “act of terror” to “tragedy” so fast it made my head snap. As though we were just talking about a tree that fell on a car and killed a little old lady and not innocent people being gunned down mercilessly. It also went from a top of the hour news story to something that got mentioned later in each broadcast. Maybe after the cute piece about puppies and where to go swimming.

After all, the importance of the fact that there is a growing number of blond haired, blue eyed, people who want to kill you and anyone else who disagrees with them pales in comparison to the fact that Amy Winehouse died.

Winehouse had a long history of abuse, both drug and alcohol, as well as a tremendous amount of talent. Much has been made of the fact that she became the newest member of the 27 Club and that her life was “cut short.” In fact so much was made of this event that I was forced to turn off my Twitter and Facebook pages because there were over 100 posts in a row expressing sorrow and wishing her well in heaven and so on that it became nauseating. Not that I’m a callous man, having beat my battles with drugs I am sorry she lost hers, but this should be a mention not the most important thing in everyone’s life.

I know there are people for whom this story didn’t make their radar, but they are the minority. Unfortunately.

ABC’s World News made her death their lead story and dedicated over two minutes of air time to her death, that’s a lot by news standards, and then re-ran an earlier segment from Good Morning America about her problems in Serbia. In case that wasn’t enough they also added a web page, written by Lara Salahi, with a complete story.

Singer Amy Winehouse, who died inexpectedly in her London home Saturday found many of her career success overshadowed by her drug and alcohol addiction.

While Winehouse publicly acknowledged her drug and alcohol abuse, some addiction experts said, like many addicts, Winehouse may not have grasped the severity of her addiction.

“I think she minimized the extext to which her life was impacted by drugs and alcohol,” said Dr. David Sack, CEO of Promises Treatment Center in Los Angeles, Calif. “She was denying the extent to which it affected her.”

In one of her hit songs, “Rehab,” Winehouse sings that she will not go to rehab, even though her father encouraged her to go.

“It’s not just my pride, it’s just ’til these tears have dried,” Winehouse sings.

Winehouse admitted in several interviews during the album’s release that she suffered from depression, had an eating disorder and engaged in self-injury.

“I do drink a lot. I think it’s symptomatic of my depression,” Winehouse said in an interview on the British TV show, “The Album Chart Show.” “I’m manic depressive, I’m not an alcoholic, which sounds like an alcoholic in denial.”

The song “Rehab” cited a real plea by her friends and father to seek treatment, she said.

“I just felt, no. Do they have a gym there? Who’s going to feed my cats?” Winehouse said. “Alcoholism is a horrible thing, but if you can’t remember the practical issues, that’s when you know you’ve got a real problem.”

Winehouse enrolled in rehab a few times, but left early from each program.

Sack said the anticipation of phsyical withdrawal, and the likelihood that the addict would lose his or her relationship with those that hinder their sobriety, keep many from accepting treatment.

“Most who are drug dependent are afraid to seek treatment,” said Sack. “Winehouse did better than many others by trying.”

Winehouse’s environment may have fostered her drug dependency, he said.

“Drugs get glamorized in the creative community,” said Sack. “There’s a lifestyle situation that creates an environment where it’s acceptable.”

Winehouse’s father Mitch Winehouse, publicly cited multiple family problems that he said may have spiraled Winehouse into depression and addiction.

Mitch Winehouse told the British paper, the Daily Mail, that he had a public decade-long affair with his coworker that started when Winehouse was 2 years old.

“It was difficult,” Mitch Winehouse told the Daily Mail in 2008.

Besides the chemical addition to drugs and alcohol, many addicts have previously suffered from a traumatic event or even a psychological disorder such as depression.

“There are many children of bad marriages that don’t go into addiction,” said Sack. “But it does raise the risk of the child to get involved in drugs and alcohol.”

Winehouse had reconciled with her father since then, but that did not seem to help her to stay sober.

Mitch Winehouse, an aspiring singer himself, said he knew his daughter’s career and the publicity surrounding her personal life helped his chances at a music career.

“It [the relationship between father and daughter] was complicated,” said Ian Drew, senior music editor of US Weekly magazine. “She loved her father, but he also fed off of her.”

“He couldn’t rein her in as much as he loved her,”said Drew.

Although family members are primary motivators for addicts to seek treatment, the ultimate decision to follow through lies with an addict, said Sack.

While Winehouse was not seeking formal treatment, she was looking to continue her career. Winehouse was reportedly working on another album.

“It is clear that she was hopeful she’d be well enough to make another album,” said Sack. “She was looking to do better.”

“She wanted more than she was getting in her life,” said Sack.

To be fair, their main page has several other stories about the events in Norway, and they do seem to be trying to make sense of it all, but they, like many others, run with the “madman” slant and try to downplay any larger issues.

So, in summation, Amy Winehouse dies and we get in depth looks at the problems of addiction as well as a historical retrospective on same. A terrorist guns down over 90 people, blows up a government building and we get told not to worry, it’s just one guy. It’s not like there’s lots of crazy white people who know how to make bombs and are willing to kill anyone who disagrees with them, is it?

Are there Mr. McVeigh?

How about you Mr. Rudolph, do you have anything to add?

What about you Mr. Stack, do you have any thoughts?

I guess with only a few more than 250 examples over the last 20 years, it’s nothing we should be concerned about. After all, it’s just “one guy.”

Yeah, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll worry more about the bombers and their ilk than I will about the sad life of a lost soul.


Listen to Bill McCormick on WBIG AM 1280, every Thursday morning around 9:10!

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