Stochastic isn’t a word that trips off people’s tongues all that easily. Until relatively recently its use was restricted to oncologists studying the seemingly random side effects of various cancer treatments. Because that’s what stochastic means: randomness, probability. In any given set of conditions there will be a set of possible consequences, the precise nature and timing of which cannot be predicted with any precision. In the simplest language: actions produce reactions, but predicting exactly where, when and by whom, is tricky.
All very academic, until someone invades a mosque and starts shooting.
According to left-wing theorists, Brenton Tarrant was the product of ‘stochastic terrorism’, inspired by the words and behaviour of Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik. Radicalised online by far-right Islamophobes and, significantly, by his own historical research into the Crusades, Tarrant planned and executed the Christchurch mosque massacres. His was a classic ‘lone wolf’ operation.
Carefully prepared in secret, Tarrant’s attack was predictable, but only in the stochastic sense. In a world where, ever since 9/11, anti-Muslim feeling had been growing steadily stronger, the probability of such an assault was also growing. Unfortunately, identifying the perpetrator before the fact was practically impossible – a reality acknowledged by the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch Mosque Massacres. Security services around the world may have been pretty sure that an attack was going to happen: they just didn’t know where, when or exactly who would do it.
This inability to identify terrorists in advance of their actions infuriated Islam-affirming leftists. They were only too aware of the rise and rise of Islamophobia across the West. As Bob Dylan so rightly put it: “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” Their comrades in the Muslim communities of Western states (we’ll come back to them) testified with growing urgency to the abuse heaped upon them online – and in the street. Burqa- and hijab-wearing Muslim women were particularly vulnerable to attack – up to and including physical assault.
In New Zealand, Muslim women devoted considerable time and effort to informing the responsible authorities about this rising level of abuse. Their calls for official intervention went unheeded. Officials from the national security apparatus listened sympathetically – and did nothing.
But, what could they do? Especially when reality was every bit as effective a ‘stochastic terrorist’ as Breivik and his keyboard-tapping admirers. In 2013, the BBC assembled the stats on who was perpetrating terrorist acts – and upon whom. The results did not make comfortable reading for Western Muslims and their left-wing allies.
Between 2012 and 2013 the number of deaths from terrorism had increased by 61 per cent. In 10,000 terrorist attacks 17,958 people had been killed. According to the BBC: “Five countries – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria – accounted for 80 per cent of the deaths from terrorism in 2013. More than 6,000 people died in Iraq alone.” Just four terrorist groups were responsible for the deaths of two-thirds of 2013’s nearly 18,000 terrorist victims: Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Boko Haram and the self-styled Islamic State. The Global Terrorism Index reported: “All four groups used ‘religious ideologies based on extreme interpretations of Wahhabi Islam’.”
The Isis-inspired attacks against the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, in January 2015, and the brutal Bataclan theatre massacre 10 months later, in which Muslim terrorists opened fire on a crowd of young Parisians attending a rock concert, only upped the ante of global antagonism towards Islamo-fascism.
The defensive strategy adopted by Muslim communities around the world targeted the West’s legal and cultural protections of the freedom of expression. Only by classifying anti-Islamic communication as ‘hate speech’, and outlawing it, could the stochastic terrorist potential of reality and its consequences be suppressed. In New Zealand, Tarrant’s attacks of 15 March 2019 super-charged this argument to the point of elevating the prohibition of ‘hate speech’ to the forefront of the Royal Commission’s and the Labour-led Government’s responses to the mosque massacres.
Ignoring the public outrage at the massacres – the tens-of-thousands New Zealanders who turned out to show their solidarity with New Zealand’s stricken Muslim community – elements of the New Zealand left chose the following days to denounce the white supremacy allegedly embedded in the Pakeha nation by its racist colonial heritage. Ignoring completely the fact that Tarrant was an Australian and that he’d opted to stage his attack in New Zealand precisely because it was an unusually peaceful and tolerant society, the radical left did all within its power to pin the blame for the Christchurch attacks on the country’s miniscule and pathetically ineffectual far right.
On display was the New Zealand left’s decisive shift towards authoritarianism. Formerly the strongest defenders of free speech, a clear majority of the left now ranged itself alongside those who argued that words could, indeed, inflict real harm on vulnerable communities. ‘Hate speeches’ had a chilling effect on the willingness of the weak to speak up in their own defence. Fear of falling foul of the shouters and haters, both online and on the streets, declared the left, would silence those who had most need of free expression. The state, they said, had a moral obligation to deploy its coercive power against those who would terrify the weak into abandoning the political and cultural stage.
What was it that prompted this extraordinary break with the left’s own past? What was it about the Muslim community that made the left so willing to silence its enemies? The answer, sadly, was the far-left’s long-standing identification with the Muslim world’s struggle against the State of Israel.
For a lengthy period of the post-war era, the Western left identified strongly with the State of Israel. The progressive agenda of the Israeli Labour Party, and the radical communitarianism of the kibbutz, was widely admired. It had even prompted New Zealand Labour Prime Minister Norman Kirk to set up the kibbutz-inspired Ohu scheme. By the 1980s, however, a strong anti-colonialist ideology had taken firm control of the Western left’s political imagination. Backed by the Western ‘imperialists’, Israel was now the enemy, and the enemies of Israel had become the left’s best friends.
It is fitting, somehow, that the Coronial Inquiry into the Christchurch Mosque Massacres is taking place at the same time as the Hamas-Israel War. The memories kindled, and the passions aroused, by these events have thrown into sharp relief the seemingly irreconcilable and increasingly dangerous ideological issues bundled up inside them. Long-suppressed by the lingering effects of the mosque massacres, the butchery of Hamas has reawakened memories of Isis and Al Qaeda. Worse still, the virulent antisemitism inspired by Hamas’s brutality and Israel’s condign retribution has reacquainted the world with what happens when religious-ethnic fanaticism is mixed with a thwarted and embittered brand of socialism.
Islam’s almost infinite capacity for aggrieved victimhood has melded with a Western left dangerously obsessed with perfecting its own cult of the victim to produce the mass demonstrations of antisemitic extremism that have so disfigured the world’s capitals. Here, seething beneath uncountable Palestinian flags, is a stochastic terrorism obscenely pregnant with the next Brenton Tarrant.
If the SIS and the GCSB are not closely monitoring the fast-growing pro-Palestine movement that is weekly drawing tens-of-thousands onto the streets of New Zealand – each demonstration angrier and more antisemitic than the last – then they will be answerable for what ensues.
Free speech advocates are often asked, ‘What kind of speech is worthy of suppression?’ The careless answer, from the carefree past, was: ‘If someone were to stand in front of an antisemitic mob and urge them to burn down the nearest synagogue. That speech would be worthy of suppression.’
New Zealand is perilously close to hearing such words spoken.
We cannot know exactly which member of the crowd will fling the Molotov cocktail, but if matters do not improve, we can be absolutely certain that someone will.