It is not easy to avoid Waleed Aly. See him holding forth with that blonde and those boys on The Project and the urge to switch channels is immediate and irresistible. But no, it doesn’t work. There he is again, whack-a-mole style on the ABC! Twist the nob to “off” and still it does no good, for Ubiquitous Aly pops up again in the Fairfax Press. If the ACCC wishes to set aside its quest to make consumers pay more for petrol, it might find a fruitful topic for investigation in Aly’s apparent monopoly of the media spots available to contextualisers of Muslim misbehaviour. It is a booming industry, yet few other representatives of the Religion of Peace seem to get a look-in.
To be fair, Aly is in such high demand because he has no peer. The Chief Imam is a such a proud exponent of multi-culturalism that he has not bothered to learn English and Hizbee honcho Uthman Badar might launch into a rave about honour killings or the inevitability of sharia, so he and his ardent ilk are appropriate only during the dull, relaxed interregnums between Islamist assaults. Q&A tried out convicted criminal Zaky Malah as a spokesman for Muslim youth, but that little exercise backfired badly, obliging the ABC to pay friend-of-the ABC Ray Martin a presumably large, but undisclosed, consultancy fee to give his former ABC colleagues the once-over. Certification that all hands are clean and everything sanitary at the national broadcaster is expected any day now.
Ubiquitous Aly would have been a much safer proposition. So quiet, so reasonable and so measured, he is once again the toast of those who reckon a massacre in Paris, the latest one, needs to be taken in our ho-hum stride, as doing more than sporting flowers and expressions of mournful forbearance will play into the hands of ISIS. It is a perspective aired but by no means coherently explained in Aly’s newly famous TV editorial, said to have become one of the hottest draws on YouTube. Again, it is easy to understand why that might be so. Watch below and see the magic of the man. There is, first of all, his definite talent for timing and theatrical certainty, for the light and shade of pace and emphasis. But most appealing of all is his salesman’s gift for dressing shallow slogans as penetrating insight.
It seems there is no cliché nor vapid truism that cannot be buffed into a faux profundity at a touch of those oh-so-reasonable, un-accented lips. Nor do they recoil from insinuation. Who is the “them” of which he speaks, that same “them” being just as bad by implication as his own creed’s fundamentalist firebrands? A less gifted rationaliser could not have dared to make such a smooth, slick case for relativism and moral equivalence, not with the shocking footage from Paris still vivid in the public mind. It seems Western politicians (including an un-named “has-been” wink wink) critical of Islam are infected with much the same moral leprosy as those with the Kalashnikovs and body bombs. By the beard of the Prophet the man is slick! If Olympic judges were to rate the daring, degree of difficulty and execution of such a glib dive into obfuscation’s bottomless pool, a gold medal would dangle from Aly’s neck. For the moment, however, he must content himself with a Local Hero nomination, a Walkley, a mantelpiece of other awards and a bank account fattened by talk-show bookers’ constant need to have grim reality reassuringly framed by hardly-anything-to-see-here sophistries.
Given Aly’s daily – or is it hourly? – turns before the camera, it is quite remarkable that no interlocutor seems available to argue the toss. Were he in Britain, the BBC’s Andrew Neil, who heads the Spectator and is no fool, might take him to task from time to time. Given that the ABC has not a single conservative host on its incestuous payroll, the closest Australia can come to an inquisitor is its Richard Glover, who might not be a fool but certainly knew to play the compliant dupe when Aly last week brought his schtick to the host’s microphone. Aly’s celebrated video works where all videos do, on the frontal lobe, where image and impression nudge aside the yen for coherent argument. It is a human failing: we like what we see dancing lightly across the screen, so we nod or doze without really listening; thereby do we accept the facile premise without question. TV’s late-night peddlers of three-easy-payment kitchen wonders have known as much for years, and the cheap knives of the umah’s nastier elements get the full bait-and-switch benefit in Aly’s telegenic presentation of the case that ISIS is weak, barely worth worrying about or reporting on, and that “unity” – whatever that means – is the answer. For those who persist in finding solace in multiculturalism’s alleged amity, not to mention the hollow banalities of its careerist hacks and advocates, Aly delivers in spades.
Radio is different, however. There is no visual distraction; it is the words themselves, and those words alone, that are to be analysed and judged. In this regard, Glover’s capering produced a very informative response. The audio of that encounter is here. Before reading any further, give it a listen. It is 14 minutes and 8 seconds of life you will never get back, but given Aly’s stock and standard response to Islamist assaults on the West (no worse than “an irritation”), the investment of a little endurance may well bring dividends. The next time some well-paid dissembling is underway – one that involves, almost inevitably, yet another of Aly’s CabCharge dockets to this studio or that one — you will know what is coming and be quick to turn off the spiel before the gorge has fully risen.
The audio clip starts with Glover’s pantomime emphasis and heavy handed sarcasm, complete with the assertion by sneer that if Tony Abbott thinks ISIS is a threat, that its reach is expanding and its evil more dangerous and disruptive than ever, such observations must be wrong by virtue of the man making them. This was an ABC show for an ABC audience, don’t forget, so the smuggery of terminally fashionable doltism is not merely acceptable but de rigeur. Still, even by the school-yard standards of dog-buggering levity Mark Scott deems acceptable, Glover’s scoffing plumbs a new low. Were Scott to re-write The Merchant of Venice, one gathers he would charge the play’s comically senile Gobbo with conducting Shylock’s cross-examination, rather than the acute Portia. After an introductory minute of Glover’s mugging and self-pleasuring piffle, Aly takes the crease to expand upon the sentiments of his video. This is where it gets interesting.
First, comes the assertion that ISIS is “weak”, followed by a fraudulent comparison: as ISIS lacks the planes, tanks and troops of a more conventional entity, only a dill such as Abbott would claim to be genuinely troubled by its activities. “If you were to put the military of ISIS up against, well, even a moderately strong nation state, like one of the European states, there is simply no contest whatsoever,” he intoned.
At this point, Glover might have wondered at the observation’s relevance. ISIS is not likely, nor ever has been, to declare and wage open, conventional warfare on, say, Finland or Spain. Executing hipsters, Jews, and random strangers is its style, and that, er, “irritation” has been enough to throw Paris into bloody chaos and for rumours of further actions to see Belgium officials lock down Brussels through an anxious weekend of sirens, raids and calls to report all suspicious activity. A mere handful of bearded attackers can achieve all this and worse, yet Aly swears ISIS is “weak”. Being the message it wanted to hear – nothing to get really, seriously worried about here, folks — the moron demographic, starting with Glover, lapped it up. Of course they did. To the rattling accompaniment of empty heads nodding furiously, Aly subsequently implied that the media is almost as culpable for reporting massacres beneath its sensationalist, 100-point headlines (“The way the media reports terrorism has long been part of the central problem of terrorism.”) as is ISIS for implementing them. ISIS wants attention and look (roll of the eyes), they are given it! One guesses Aly will not embrace the same yearning for restraint and silence when the next alleged incident of hijab-tugging is reported as further evidence of endemic Islamophobia.
“If ISIS were subjected to conventional warfare,” continues Aly, “it would last maybe a week.” This echoed his video statement that ISIS “don’t want you know they would quickly be crushed if they faced a real enemy on a real battlefield.” It is all scam and sham, he lectured Glover, much as one might address a cat without hope of critical response. His video mentions the Monis siege in Martin Place and dismisses any connection with ISIS. Unmentioned was the murderous lunatic’s demand that police provide him with an ISIS flag. Attacks in Canada and New York were more of the same, Aly went on, drawing a distinction between operatives such as the Paris filth, who received direct instructions, and that kid in Parramatta who appears merely to have picked on the terrorists’ general message and meme. If a local Mini Mo’ lacks a direct hotline to the ISIS HQ, then he is not acting for ISIS. So says an academic at one of our leading universities.
There can be no disputing ISIS would fold like a concertina if subjected to a serious military assault. Saddam Hussein’s army was the world’s fourth-largest and it ran up the white flag in mere days during Gulf Wars I and II. So why doesn’t Aly urge the West to assemble its crusaders and smite the Weird Beards in their lair, even allowing for his assertion that many of the acts committed at their urging are not, technically, at their specific command? Given that Aly details ISIS’s strategy as being to polarise the world into the Islamist camp and everyone else — to do away with “the loving middle”, as Glover puts it in his hilariously twee ABC way – wouldn’t that be a kindness? Parisian spouses, children and parents of the most recently slain are suffering, but those living directly under the ISIS heel suffer more, says Aly, who rambles at one point into an obscene digression that it is not the number of victims so much as the way they are killed that gives terrorism its dreadful impact. Surely those unfortunates in ISIS-occupied territory deserve to liberated, if only to enjoy the freedom of returning to the lower-key tribalism and sectarian hatreds that are the region’s norm? Possibly, but not quite. Here is Ubiquitous Aly, in a letter to Quarterly Essay, addressing talk of stepped-up military action
…The human cost will be catastrophic. But the world has shown impeccable form when it comes to ignoring such catastrophes. Assad has been banking on it for years.
I’d like to avoid that. So, in my helplessness, I’m open to being convinced on military intervention. To be sure, we’ve shown we’re not terribly good at it in the Middle East. But there is at least the logical possibility that we’ll do it well the next time. For that, though, we’ll need every question answered. We’ll need to show not merely that a desperate situation exists – that we have to do something – but also that we’re on top of the politics, and that the cure we’re offering won’t end up worse than the disease.
If William Wilberforce had displayed a similar and nuanced perspective – detesting slavery while chin-stroking at the thought of maybe, possibly, sending the Royal Navy to eliminate slavers – that peculiar institution would have endured far longer and inflicted much more suffering and harm. Actually, apologies to Wilberforce for being mentioned in the same sentence as Aly, who is at peace with doing not much at all — “We’ll need to show not merely that a desperate situation exists” — while women and girls are traded for sexual pleasure and their menfolk slaughtered or dragooned. We can guess how Wilberforce would have reacted to that situation. Sadly, Aly’s response is hailed, if only by the dim-bulb likes of Glover, as the essential wisdom our leaders must absorb.
So what is it about Aly’s video sermon that has, as of the weekend, earned it some 27 million YouTube page views (not, mind you, the “hundreds of millions”of eyeballs Glover claims). The simple answer, like doing nothing but sticking with the West’s meandering course in Iraq and Syria, is that his “solution” is so bloody easy: do nothing, but do it with flowers.
What ISIS wants, he says, is to turn the West’s traditional residents against their new Muslim neighbours. Here is the subtext, the real lesson as gushed from the many Aly pulpits. Please, no loose talk about veiling young girls and women from the pleasure of sun upon modestly exposed flesh. And if you are opposed to societal restrictions on homosexuals, please confine your barbs and lawfare to Catholic bishops. Only a bigot, surely, would mention that imams are at least as passionate in their disapproval of sodomy, at least in public, so best not mention that doctrinal affinity.
And please, whatever else you might ask about Islam, don’t give voice to the suspicion that a religion which advocates the emulation of its founder, the perfect man, might have had a bent from the beginning for cutting throats, conquest and bedding girls of tender years by force if they won’t comply without a fuss. Rail against the purported “rape culture” of the West, ye Daily Life harpies, but say nary a word about the very much more evident Islamist inclination to oppress and molest.
And for Allah’s sake, don’t ask why a creed whose mouthpieces proclaim it part and parcel of our rich multiculturalism insists on dressing its adherents in costumes that can only emphasis their otherness. Mrs Aly, a Muslim convert who tented-up upon embracing Aly, would be a good person to quiz about the need to adopt the specific dress code of seventh-century misogynists, rather than more practical and less confronting Western garb that would still and adequately honour the Koran’s admonitions to modesty. Then again, better sit on that question – her hubby would have another opportunity to orate from that permanent fog of fudge and vapour which surrounds his near-every word.
It was said of Trotsky that, had he never existed, Stalin would have had to invent him, useful as he was at focusing a pliable population’s hatred on an elusive enemy. Things work differently in our modern age. These days, faced with the implacable evil and expansive ambitions of Islamist assaults, we invent a character to diminish and dismiss our society’s will and capacity to respond to bloody provocation.
As always, Ubiquitous Aly is ready for his close-up.
Roger Franklin is the editor of Quadrant Online