The Management of Savagery: Part II

The likeness of those who take protectors other than Allah is like that of the spider, who takes unto itself a house; but truly the frailest of all houses is the spider’s house Al Ankabut 29th Sura, The Koran

The dedicated proponents of the anti -Zionist cause in Palestine, Lebanon and across the Middle East have over the last two decades carefully exploited mainstream media outlets such as Sky News, the BBC and CNN, those media organs’ studied neutrality, and the fear of being labelled “Islamophobic”. As  Abu Bakr Naji’s definitive guide to the management of savagery maintained, the Islamist cause  must never overlook the importance of ‘political work’ while also understanding the West’s ‘political game’.[1] The spider’s house of the West is fragile and can fragment. The Management of Savagery thus distinguishes between military strategy and media strategy while planning for the effects of these strategies, as in the wake of a successful attack like the recent barbarous assault on Israel. In particular, the Islamist agenda exploits the West’s open borders, sympathetic media and multicultural tolerance to advance, pro-Palestine and pro-Islamist causes. Sympathetic fifth columnists infiltrate the army, police, civil institutions and, in particular, the media and secondary and tertiary educational institutions. The media and higher education’s woke embrace of the non-Western ‘other’ render them particularly congenial to pro-Palestinian and antisemitic manipulation.

Thus as events in Israel and Gaza unfold, an all too predictable narrative begins to take shape on what Bernard Henri Levy termed the “zombie Left”. Almost as soon as news of the operation occurred, BBC World News trotted out an expert from Chatham House who deplored the Islamist attack but nevertheless contended Israel’s treatment of Palestine and the desperation of its inhabitants apparently left them with little alternative but ‘resistance’. The BBC, of course, eschews the use of the pejorative ‘terror’ to describe the savagery Hamas unleashed. In the ensuing days it became something of a trope in the West’s mainstream media and eleemosynary institutions to opt for moral equivocation and a specious relativism. The attack, soi-disant experts opined, had little to do with ideology; rather, it demonstrated, perhaps too brutally, a necessary reaction to Israeli oppression which the West had for too long duplicitously condoned. Demonstrators immediately appeared outside the Israeli embassy in London chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’. The Scottish National Party refused to raise an Israeli flag outside the Scottish Assembly in Edinburgh. In Sydney a gathering outside the Opera House chanted ‘Gas the Jews’. Meanwhile across the Pacific, more than 30 student organizations at Harvard University endorsed a letter shamelessly blaming Israel for the attacks.

We should recall that before critical race theory there was critical terror theory — a perverse form of deconstruction that found the West, its colonialism, orientalism and Islamophobia responsible for all the problems in the post-Cold War order. This particular species of Western self-loathing first came to the fore in the aftermath of 9/11, but assumed prominence following the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Over two decades it has undermined any objective study of terrorism on Western campuses from Aberystwyth in Wales to Queensland in Australia, taking in Harvard on the way. Sedulously promoted across the Anglosphere as a fashionably progressive take on terror that empathises with the misunderstood resistance of the non-West, critical terror theory now permeates not only academe but the mainstream media journalists trained in its discipline over the past twenty years.

Thus from its first appearance in April 2008, the journal Critical Studies on Terrorism announced its intention to reverse the conventional perception of terrorism and the methodology of terrorism research. As the editors, who went on to dominate the field of terror research in the UK and Australia over the next decade, put it

acts of clandestine non-state terrorism are committed by a tiny number of individuals and result in between a few hundred and a few thousand casualties per year over the entire world (original emphasis).

Accordingly, the US and its allies’ preoccupation with terrorism must be disproportionate to its effects.[1] At the same time, the more pervasive and repressive terror attributed to the West and the US in particular has been “silenced from public and . . . academic discourse”.[2] The complicity of conventional studies of terror and political violence with the allegedly authoritarian demands of Western state practice, together with the moral and political blindness of established historical analysis to this relationship forms the critical theorists’ overriding assumption and one that its core proponents who now dominate this field of pseudo-academic endeavour repeated ad nauseam over the next decade.

Since 2008 successive generations of undergraduates taking courses in terrorism and political violence have been inculcated in morally deracinating ethical relativism posturing as emancipation. As as one of its leading advocates explained:

…the gap between those who hate terrorism and those who carry it out, those who seek to delegitimize the acts of terrorists and those who incite them, and those who abjure terror and those who glorify it—is not as great as is implied or asserted by orthodox terrorism experts, the discourse of governments, or the popular press.

The gap “between us/them is a slippery slope, not an unbridgeable political and ethical chasm”. Thus, while “terrorist actions” might be in some sense ‘wrong’ they nevertheless “might be contingently excusable”. [3] From this ultimately demented perspective, gang-raping a defenceless woman or beheading a baby is wrong, it would seem, but potentially excusable.

Critical theory, then, embraces relativism not only toward language but also toward social action. Relativism and the bizarre ethics it engenders in its attempt to empathise with ‘the other’ can only lead to the moral confusion on display nightly on the mainstream news channels’ coverage of Palestine. As Leo Strauss classically inquired of this relativist tendency in the social sciences, “is such an understanding dependent upon our own commitment or independent of it?” As Strauss explains, the value-neutral expert goes through the process of empathetic understanding in order to reach clarity about commitment, ‘for only a part of me is engaged in my empathetic understanding’. This means, however, that “such understanding is not serious or genuine but histrionic.”

This histrionic viewpoint wonderfully suits the needs of those who wish to weaken secular democracy  and support those like Hamas or various Islamic front organisations that adapt it to the purpose of  managing savagery. Given its progressive attachments, the Western liberal media and a self-loathing academe proved eminently amenable to this latest ideological endeavour to make ‘lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind’.[4] The mainstream media, allied to the wider progressive concern, has proven particularly helpful in disseminating this relativist perspective on the recent atrocity in Israel.

By endorsing such moral relativism, the purportedly neutral media failed to discriminate between a democratic opinion and a totalitarian practice. More worrying still, it is often only the apologists for politically motivated violence that are permitted a voice in the ethically responsible, progressive Western press.

As it evolved after 2003, a progressive academic, media and political orthodoxy came to absolve jihadists — Hamas most recently — of responsibility for their actions, blaming instead contingent factors like colonialism, racism, poverty or, after a series of lone actor attacks across Europe between 2015-17, madness generated by the anomie the perpetrator/ victim experienced in his Western isolation. In this manner, the progressive mind came rationally to explain the murderous action, whilst at the same time empathising with it. In the process, it chose to ignore the somewhat inconvenient fact that most terrorists did not turn to violence because of poverty, but out of choice and for politically religious reasons. Self-censorship, allied to an anti-secular relativism, reinforces religious and cultural taboos, making it increasingly impossible to offer any criticism of a minority identity (except, of course, Christians, Jews or white males) that could give offence and might even be considered ‘hate speech’.

In this increasingly polarised environment, where to criticise Palestine or support Israel evokes the very real possibility of violence, secular liberal multiculturalists should perhaps attend to the thinking of a philosopher who understood the necessary conditions for maintaining an open society against its enemies. Karl Popper, a refugee from the Third Reich death cult, identified the liberal paradox that, ‘unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance’. In fact, he argued, that

If we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.

Popper further contended that we need not ‘suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion’. Yet as Popper foresaw, ‘it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument’, but begin, as do Islamists and their woke sympathisers, by denouncing all argument. They may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument because it is ‘deceptive’, and teach them instead to answer arguments with violence. In this context, Popper would advise that a pluralist democracy must claim ‘in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant’.[5] Indeed, a political democracy characterised by deep pluralism that does not comprehend this paradox cannot long survive.

Living in Morocco in 1952, American novelist Paul Bowles wrote

I don’t think we’re likely to get to know the Moslems very well, and I suspect that if we should, we’d find them less sympathetic than we do at present. And I suspect the same applies to their getting to know us.

Bowles’ prescient insight is on display daily in West London and Western Sydney.


[1] Abu Bakr Naji (trans William McCant) The Management of Savagery: The Most Critical Stage Through Which the Umma Will Pass  Harvard, Harvard University Press, 2006

[2] The editors   (2008) Critical Studies on Terrorism 1,1  p.1

[3] Ken Booth   ‘The Human  face of Terror’, Critical Studies on Terrorism, 1, 1, p.66

[4] George Orwell, ‘Politics and the English Language’, in Essays, London, Penguin 2000 p.137.

[5] See Karl Popper, The Open Society and its Enemies vol. 2. London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 2 vols. 1962, p.302.

18 thoughts on “The Management of Savagery: Part II

  • Paul.Harrison says:

    I remember from a time long ago when I was innocent, and I’m talking here about pre-1973 before Comrade Whitlam started the slide into defeat, there was a story or fable or legend, or something of the sort, concerning the time when Israel was under attack by every country we could name. Accuracy is not essential here to make my point. The Israelite’s were defending, again, and the other rabble were besieging Tel Aviv. Hhmm, a pause: Can the other rabble ever conduct business without screaming. The King of the Rabble screamed at the Israelite’s thus: If you lay down your arms and surrender I will spare the city. If you surrender your women to me now I will kill the men mercifully. If you destroy your war machines I will spare your children. If you pass over your food and wine I will spare 50 of your archers. With that, the King of the Rabble retired to his tent, assuming that his threats would be obeyed. Time passed, and an orderly appeared before the King, bearing a note. The King of the Rabble unfolded the paper and thereupon it was one word, writ large, “IF?” Israel is like that……they speak softly, they carry a big stick and they are not afraid to use it. Israel has earned in blood the holy right ‘not to tolerate the intolerant.’ NEVER AGAIN.

  • Katzenjammer says:

    “I don’t think we’re likely to get to know the Moslems very well ”

    The phrase “not since the Holocaust” repeated in news reports impressed on many the level of devastation. But the comparison with the peak of Jewish Ashkanazi antisemitic history is misplaced. Mizrachi Jews of the Middle East have previous experienced of this style of slaughter accompanied with contemptuous malice. Nazis were clinical. Hamas acts within an Islamic tradition where an overt demonstration of utter contempt of their victim is required as reinforcement of their certainty that “Our God is the Greatest”.

    It won’t matter whether Hamas still exists into next year or not, they have gained their place in Islamic history as the successors to Saladin. They will be lauded as the Palestinians who restored the honour of Islam after the disgraces of 1948, 1967 and 1973.

    “I don’t think we’re likely to get to know the Moslems very well ”
    Paul Bowles would probably understand the place of these events in Islam.

  • Jack Brown says:

    The author notes that in the West the formal study of terrorism pretty quickly took the view that terrorists were victims striking out at injustices. Perhaps one reason for this is that those appointed to teach in these courses were Muslims, based on the assumption presumably that Muslim’s knew more about terror than anyone else. Waleed Aly in Melbourne and Anne Aly in Perth are two local examples, both from Egypt. Sly Wal’s head of department at Monash (now at Deakin) was Greg Barton and back in the early days when he had become a go to for TV interviews on terrorism in one interview in his office I spotted what looked awfully like a rolled up Islamic prayer rug on top of a bunch of books in the background.

  • Brian Boru says:

    Capitulation is always easiest in the short term, especially if you are not directly affected.
    If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
    Or being hated, don’t give way to hating.
    We have to distinguish the difference between our aspirations (mores) and theirs and stick to ours.

  • DougD says:

    A few years ago I was in the UK when South Lancashire conducted a training exercise based on a suicide bomber attack at an airport. The bomber-actor shouted Allahu Akbar as he pretended to detonate his bomb. There was an immediate pile-on to the police for stereotyping the fake bomber as Muslim. The Chief Constable quickly made a grovelling apology. Has anyone heard of a suicide bomber shouting Christ is King or Buddha is Lord before blowing themselves up?

  • rosross says:

    Since all religions have demonstrated savagery over thousands of years, can we truly understand this human capacity and tendency without looking at all of it?

    How can there be balance if Islamic violence is the only one in focus and there is no context or relevance of circumstance? Surely it is only with balance and context that we mere mortals can do anything to limit savagery in our societies.

    If a case can be made that Islam is prone to greater savagery than other religions, across the thousands of years of existence, it would be impossible to make such a case without forensically studying all savagery in all religions. We would then need to look at the circumstances in which savagery arises to understand the human triggers for such violence. How much of it pertains to the religion, how much to the culture of the society, how much to the level of development of the society and how much to circumstance.

    And how does savagery which has a religious source compare with savagery for other reasons and agendas? The savagery of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, Stalin’s purges or Pol Pot’s Cambodia was not based in religion.

    Just as something like domestic violence will never be resolved by simply blaming men and deeming women to be innocent victims, despite their actions, so violence in general will never be resolved by blaming one side and ignoring the provocations of the other.

    Evil exists in all humans and we need to understand what creates greater savagery. If we do not understand we can change nothing.

    • pmprociv says:

      It all depends on how you define “religion”, rosross, The ideologies driving Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were certainly irrational, irrefutable belief systems overseen by genocidal, narcissistic, paranoid psychopaths –which come pretty close to some traditionally-practised, institutionalised religions (some would go as far as claiming Marxism is a religion, with its own holy trinity, at least back in the USSR: Marx, Engels and Lenin). Christianity in the Third Millenium, even earlier, has moved on a little since the bad old days, and toned itself down — pity that Islam is more inert. It’s hard to accept that its beliefs fit with modern existence; certainly, what today’s terrorists get up to accords with a literal reading of the Quran.

      • rosross says:

        Yes it does depend on how religion is defined but generally it would be taken to describe a system/organisation which is predicated on a belief in a God. And it would have a spiritual aspect.

        I don’t disagree that there are ‘religious’ aspects to many movements, Climate Change, Vaccines and Veganism being three in this age, all of which display religious/cult like qualities. But they are not religions and neither was Marxism. However if the Marxists/Communists had succeeded and endured they may well have become religions.

        I agree with you that Islam has failed to evolve but then it is also 600 years younger so Christianity and Judaism have had a head start. And predominantly Muslim countries are more often Third World and less developed, the Iranians being something of an exception. As indeed was Iraq before it was destroyed even with a somewhat maniacal leader. Women in Iraq had the most rights of any Muslim women. That died with Saddam Hussein.

        I have no doubt the circumstances make a big difference. Christianity has evolved more than any other religion and no doubt because it was a powerful force in more developed cultures.

        While they have their radical elements, the most moderate Muslims are Indonesians and that may well be because they have not experienced the invasions, occupations and suffering others have done in recent history. The Saudis are who and what they are because of their wealth and are hardly in the realm of the Western developed world. Then again, the Western world seems to have been going backward in recent times and civilizations debased increasingly because of it.

        From my reading I find much commonality in fanatical beliefs in all religions. Misogynistic, tribal, backward, violent and often irrational.

        One thing is certain, whatever can be done to remove any injustice which becomes grist to the fanatical mill, can help dilute radicalism.

  • Daffy says:

    Before we blame religions per se, we need to place them in their sociopolitical context. For example, Christianity was subordinated to political ends once the power brokers saw their main chance. We have lived with this ever since Constantine. During the Reformation, and more particularly the Counter-Reformation political actors once again saw an opportunity to manipulate Christianity for political ends that quickly transmuted into military activity. That was hardly ‘Christian’ in all but the arch use of language.
    One must look at the books. Killing one’s enemies is inconsistent with Christian practice per se (while the sword is in the hands of the state: Paul’s letter to the Christians at Rome 13:4). Yet Islam’s basic documents extol the virtue of killing Jews and other non-believers or enslaving them. Communism the same. I think that Buddhism has suffered a similar fate to Christianity in this respect; although one has to suspect a religion founded by a man who deserted his family to sit under a tree.

    • rosross says:

      Context matters. Islam is 600 years younger than Christianity and it shows. It is also most common in less developed countries and that shows.

      The Old Testament most certainly does call for killing one’s enemies. It was and is the New Testament which was unique for a religion in the times. Interestingly much of the teachings of Jesus have been found in the ancient Egyptian religion of Isis.

      And if we spent time with fundamentalist Americans and then with British Anglicans we might wonder if it was the same religion.

      If we factored in circumstance and context for Islamic violence it might look quite different. It is certainly not Christian nor civilized to blame all followers of a religion and the religion itself for the actions of some fanatics.

      We can all cherry-pick some truly barbaric teachings in all religions, including Buddhism which might surprise some.

  • Gordon Cheyne says:

    The religious wars are still going on.
    Muslims know it, as they are there perpetrators.
    Jews know it, as they are the immediate victims.
    Christians are too busy forgiving everybody, to be aware if it.
    The War on the West continues: there are people who hate us, because we do not submit to their ideals. They already live amongst us.
    Once they eliminate Judaism, they will move on.
    Wake up!

  • Mike says:

    Albanese you have a problem.
    You say, “Australia will not tolerate Anti-semitism.

    Meanwhile in the Quran :
    * Jews are monkeys and pigs.
    Quran 2.65, 5:60 & 7:166
    * Jews are the worst of creatures, who will abide in the fire of hell.
    Quran 98.6

    • rosross says:


      You do know similar things can be found in Judaic teachings in regard to Goyim?

      Any religion can be cherry-picked for barbarisms, particularly from the ancient past.

      It is unfair to judge any religion on the worst of its teachings.

  • vickisanderson says:

    David Martin Jones has chosen a powerful image to illustrate the exceptional savagery of the Islamic “jihads” of the past few years. And that is its relevance – we are not talking about hundreds or thousands of years ago when cultural imperatives and the brutality of everyday life generated such acts off barbarity.

    Oh yes – we are supposed to agree that the unspeakable cruelty illustrated in the photo above and the barbarous acts that have been uncovered from the rampage of 7 October, are really common to many religions. They have been. Yes. And today? Are the Islamic apologists really trying to argue that such atrocities are committed in the name of religion today?

    The argument defines the man – or the woman, as th case may be.

  • Katzenjammer says:

    Whatever happened to the one comment from each contributor? Do you really need to host that rubbish.

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