An Illusory Unity? Individuals on the Far Left are insisting that our secular, humane, democracy is nothing more nor less than an evil machine for the exploitation and oppression of marginalised and despised minorities That everything that has brought us together since Friday, 15 March 2019; the love that piled the floral tributes higher and higher; the solidarity that drew 12,000 Wellingtonians to the Basin Reserve; is nothing but a sham and a lie.
‘PROPAGANDA OF THE DEED’ is a concept formulated, and made notorious, by the followers of nineteenth century anarchism. Mikhail Bakunin, the most famous anarchist of the era, wrote: “we must spread our principles, not with words but with deeds, for this is the most popular, the most potent, and the most irresistible form of propaganda.”
After the terrible events of the past week, few New Zealanders would disagree. Possessing infinitely more force than a rambling 73-page manifesto, the murderous message delivered by the lone-wolf terrorist attack on Christchurch’s Muslim community has, indeed, proved irresistible.
We’ve been overwhelmed, principally, because the meaning of the terrorist’s message is so very hard for ordinary, decent people to fathom. What method could there possibly be in an act of such indescribable madness and horror?
That is the key question. But, to unlock the answer it is necessary to go deep and dark.
The evocation of abject terror and horror is not the sole purpose of the terrorist. His overriding objective is to completely eliminate his audience’s capacity for rational thought. The use of the word “audience” in this context is deliberate. Above all else, terrorism is a form of dreadful theatre. Staged by the terrorist “playwright” to ensure that our responses are formulated whilst in the grip of the most disorienting emotional agitation.
Bluntly, what the terrorist is trying to do is rob us of our free will. After the deed, he is counting on us doing exactly what the awfulness of his actions prompts us to do. He wants our reaction to be driven not by what we think, but by how we feel.
And, it’s working.
For the past week, New Zealand is been in the grip of the most profound emotions. We have recoiled in shock and disbelief. We have been overwhelmed by pity and compassion. We have reached out to the Muslim community with love. We have stood with them in solidarity.
Our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has embodied and expressed these emotions with a dignity and grace that has not only made a deep impression on her own people, but also on the peoples of the entire world.
Surely then, you will say, the purposes of the terrorist have been thwarted? Light has driven out darkness; love has overwhelmed hate. And, if our leaders are able to hold the ship of state to this present course, then New Zealand will, indeed, emerge from this deadly storm a stronger, more decent, and more loving nation.
The terrorist will, however, be confident that holding to their present course of love and decency will likely prove beyond our leaders’ powers. Human psychology being what it is, anger, recrimination and the desire to punish will sooner, rather than later, overwhelm what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature”.
Wreaking vengeance on the single perpetrator of the Christchurch Mosque Shootings will not be enough for those who refuse to see him as a lone-wolf terrorist, but rather as a symptom of New Zealand society’s deeper ills. The temptation, especially on the Cultural Left, will be to hold conservatives and conservatism individually and severally liable. Not, of course, for the deed, but for creating the ideological climate out of which the deed emerged.
Those even further to the left (among whom we must now include an alarming number of Greens) will go even further. They will tell New Zealanders that all this horror is, really, their fault. That they must simply accept that, be it the United States, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, the sins of the colonial fathers will out. That Pakeha New Zealanders must, accordingly, surrender their “White Privilege”.
Only then will they see the truth: that our secular, humane, democracy is nothing more nor less than an evil machine for the exploitation and oppression of marginalised and despised minorities That everything that has brought us together since Friday, 15 March 2019; the love that piled the floral tributes higher and higher; the solidarity that drew 12,000 Wellingtonians to the Basin Reserve; is nothing but a sham and a lie.
That’s the moment when the embedded propaganda message of the terrorist’s dreadful deed will stand revealed. Our fellow citizens cannot be trusted. They are not worthy of our love. They are not us.
And then we will know he has won.
This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 22 March 2019.