by Timothy Lane 7/11/14
This is a copy of my review of Wild Justice by Wilbur Smith in FOSFAX 210 (2004), where it formed part of a triple sequence of reviews with heavy political implications (the third review was for The Road to Damascus, included here earlier). I find that it can be repeated today and would be (with a few trivial exceptions) just as accurate as it was then. I provided the article with an epigraph by Sam Rayburn: “Any jackass can kick a door down, but it takes a carpenter to build it.” So here’s the review, as originally written:
One can easily understand why this book was released last year by noticing that the major topic is terrorism. (Of course, it also helps for the author to be a popular one.) To be sure, the terrorism problem in 1979 was mostly left-wing, sponsored by Communist countries; jihadist terrorism, for the most part, was still a decade away. But nihilists are nihilists, whatever their professed motives.
This starts with the hijacking of a British Airways flight from the Seychelles, full of doctors who had attended a convention in an exotic location. Unfortunately, it’s also well supplied with a cadre of leftist terrorists who hate their charges for their middle-class life and celebrate destruction, valuing it as most people value creation. Especially important here is the leader, who masks her black, empty soul under a sexy appearance.
The nihilists take the plane to South Africa, there to demand that a list of political prisoners by released and compensated or else they’ll start murdering their charges. But nemesis may be on the way: there is a special team of anti-terrorists, commanded by the protagonist, Peter Stride. Unfortunately, it turns out that the terrorists seem to be aware of Stride’s group, and thus may also know the tactics likely to be used against them.
Eventually, after the first set of hostage murders (including a girl who reminds Stride of his daughter), Stride sees a moment of opportunity and takes out the terrorists with a surprise attack. Most of them are captured, including the leader, who eagerly anticipates the media coverage she’ll receive when they’re brought to London (as Stride has been ordered to do). Stride realizes that this is true, and makes sure that the leader will receive no such benefits.
And all that is just the beginning. Soon Stride finds himself put in a wider world, dedicated to fighting the person code-named CALIPH who apparently gave the terrorists their information (and presumably ordered the attack). Finding CALIPH will be difficult, and there will be many wrong turns. Nor is that all, because the ultimate discovery goes beyond merely the existence of CALIPH. It concerns how modern society can be protected, and the possible necessity of extra help, even if illegal by normal standards.
This leads to some interesting questions. Can a Western society, with its highly desirable freedoms and civil liberty protections, actually deal successfully with terrorism? Ultimately, society has kept leftist terrorism at a reasonable level so far, though Smith may have thought otherwise in 1979 and it certainly continues to be a significant problem today. The jury is still out on whether or not well be able to stop jihadist terrorism (short of exterminating Islam, which has its own problems even as a concept).
But I found an even more interesting question in Stride’s confrontation with the sexy, soulless, nihilistic terror leader. As Stride well knew, she was quite correct in her guess as to how the news media of that day (and today as well) would treat her. Of course, by doing so they act (whether intentionally or not) as accomplices to those terrorists. So this got me to thinking about those who assist terrorism, be it left-wing, right-wing, or jihadist.
All of these, to some degree, exist. Right-wing terrorists in recent decades include a spate of abortionist-killings in the 1990s, the likes of Timothy McVeigh and a lesser crowd of lunatic fringe rightists located mostly in the Rocky Mountain states, and hate-criminals such as the killers of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd. how does the mainstream of the right respond to such miscreants? They condemn such acts routinely. Even staunch anti-abortionists denounced the killings of abortionists. They make no attempt to justify such crimes. Only on the lunatic fringe itself can they find support. Notice that many of the killers mentioned here )including Paul Hill and McVeigh) were executed, and others are under sentence of death. Many of the trials were held in strongly conservative communities, but they provided no support for the thugs.
Leftist crimes of that period have been numerous, particularly the continuing terrorism of ALF and ELF (the largest domestic terrorism threat). There’s also a long-standing, mostly low-level problem with union violence (the worst hotel fire in US history was perpetrated by union thugs in a labor dispute), as well as occasional riots such as the Los Angeles 1992 riot, and black hate crimes such as Colin Ferguson’s rampage. Overall, the leftist toll may be higher than the rightist one, particularly in recent years, despite the large number McVeigh killed in Oklahoma City.
Why might that be? Well, one reason is that much of the liberal establishment is always willing to excuse such criminals. Al Sharpton is an active, willing inciter of violence how has sparked several such acts, and no one condemns him as everyone condemns David Duke (a vile man, but not tied to any such crimes). Unlike Hill and McVeigh, the leftist hate criminals often escape convictions due to jury nullification (e.g., the murderer of Yankel Rosenbaum). As happened in the 1992 LA riots, liberals are quite eager to explain how the real villain is really unfavorable social conditions, and thus to excuse such acts in a way no one would excuse McVeigh. Labor violence is often exempt from legal repercussions. So why should it surprise us that leftist violence continues steadily?
Note that this assistance happens throughout the liberal establishment. If the nihilists at the beginning of Wild Justice had turned up today, the news media would have fawned over them (as Stride knew) – but so would many others. Liberal lawyers would compete to handle the case for free. while liberal “philanthropists” would put up any money they needed. Liberal activist groups would support them by a number of means (much as PETA supports the ALF, Greenpeace supports the ELF, and Sinn Fein backs the IRA), including rallies held to generate public support by fellow liberals. Liberal celebrities would be eager to appear at those rallies. We know all this because they’ve all happened on a number of occasions.
In short, liberalism as a political movement is actively on the side of leftist terrorism, even though few probably think of themselves that way. Meanwhile, ordinary people who happen to be liberals support the activists, get their information from the accomplice media, and in other ways assist the accomplices. not all of them, but many; and in doing so, they become indirect accomplices.
The situation is more complex with jihadism. Obviously, there is a great deal of support for them among Islamic elites (particularly in a small number of nations located in the Evil Crescent); but much of this is actually appeasement. In any case, ordinary people in Islamic countries have no choice on whether or not to support their rulers. But elsewhere, large numbers do support jihadism in all its actions. What’s peculiar is that the liberal elite also often support them – at least, when the jihadists ar acting in opposition to a leftist political target. We see this today in Iraq (on occasion explicitly, more often implicitly or even unintentionally). With a Republican in power, the jihadists and the Left are loosely aligned.
Why do leftists support political violence much more readily than conservatives do? I think there are several reasons. In the first place, one must realize that situational ethics makes it a lost easier, particularly when combined with a ruthless partisanship heavily based on Hate, as is the case with the Left today. One might also note that most conservatives believe in the primacy of the individual (at least in the US they do); by contrast, most leftists think only of groups, and have little concern for individuals as such. All of these factors help explain why there’s so much leftist violence, why the liberal elites often act as accomplices to it, and why this will probably continue as long as leftism exists in its present, virulent form.
Incidentally, all these aspects also explain other aspects of modern liberalism, most notably its political ruthlessness and the related lack of ethical behavior. This includes unethical methods of argument and a general reliance on character assassination of anyone who gets in their way politically. They take their positions far more seriously than conservatives do; consider Isaac Asimov’s refusal to tolerate Al Capp when the latter satirized Phony Joanie instead of General Bullmoose. Fanaticism, of not always intentional, is a liberal norm.
Timothy Lane writes from Louisville, Kentucky and publishes the FOSFAX fanzine.
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