By Daniel Margrain
It is my contention that it is wrong that Thomas Mair, who allegedly killed MP Jo Cox, be charged under terrorism legislation on the basis that such a determination is bound up with all kinds of ideological connotations. The argument of many of those commentators on the political left of the spectrum who take the contrary position and believe that it is appropriate to describe the violent actions committed against the Labour MP, as well as other far right-wing inspired attacks such as the Orlando massacre, as acts of terrorism, seem to have arrived at that conclusion based solely on the question of media’s lack of consistency when describing other similarly planned attacks – albeit motivated by the other end of the political or ideological spectrum.
While on the surface, the ‘lack of consistency’ observation is arguably an accurate one – as evidenced, for example, by the media’s hypocritical response to the case of Ryan McGee who built a nail bomb to attack Muslims – I will attempt to show, however, that it is not a necessarily commendable position to take. Over the last 15 years, the killing of individuals or groups in Western societies have to a greater extent involved a political subtext as a result of the media’s response to them, particularly within a context in which Western-instigated wars waged against Muslim countries have resulted in their ruination and destabilization.
Given that there is no universally accepted definition of terrorism, it follows that the political-inspired violence of individuals or groups, either in support of wars of aggression enacted by the state against its official adversaries, or in what is often perceived to be in opposition to them, illustrates the limitations of this narrow conceptual framework. Specifically, this can be seen, firstly, in terms of the difficulties involved in ascertaining what constitutes a terrorist act and, secondly, relates to the question as to who determines the conceptual framework by which those who are accused of terrorism are legally bound?
The widely used definition of terrorism which pertains to “
It’s my argument that from an activists point of view, it’s important that the media make a distinction between illegal wars undertaken by state actors and the non-state politically-inspired violence of individuals and groups irrespective of whether the latter emanate from the left or right of the political spectrum. By charging some individuals or groups with terrorism offences predicated on politically-inspired violent actions but not others, potentially lends itself to accusations of double-standards and propaganda by the state. Those who doubt the veracity regarding the intention of the state to selectively invoke terrorism legislation need to look no further than the case of Pavlo Lapshyn – who murdered a Muslim and bombed mosques. This case represents the tip of a very large ice berg. As Craig Murray put it:
“Mair, McGee and Lapshyn would all, beyond any possible shadow of a doubt, have been charged with terrorism if they were Muslims. The decision is made by the Crown Prosecution Service, which has also recently decided that Tony Blair, Jack Straw, John Scarlett, Mark Allen et all will not stand trial for extraordinary rendition and complicity in torture, despite overwhelming evidence presented by the Metropolitan Police, including my own. There is a dark cloud of Islamophobia hanging over the Crown Prosecution Service. Given the totality of these decisions, there has to be.”
UK terrorism legislation which built up following the events on 9/11 and 7/7, is clearly intended as an ideological weapon whose purpose is to perpetuate this propaganda offensive in a highly selective and discriminatory way. This explains why the media resisted all attempts to describe the likes of the alleged far-right fascist killer of Jo Cox and the ultra-Zionist who hospitalized MP George Galloway as terrorists, but nevertheless regularly use the terrorist epithet to describe Islamist-inspired violence. The reality of the situation is that all charges of terrorism are legally unnecessary.
Instead, the appropriate course of action for the state to take is to invoke perfectly adequate murder and conspiracy to murder charges. Rather than running with the notion that Mair was a murderer who was almost certainly inspired by far-right politics, the line of the right-wing Daily Mail preferred the suggestion that the killer of Jo Cox allegedly targeted the MP due to a history of mental health problems. The implication is that these alleged mental health issues – in isolation – led to the attack on the Labour MP as though being mentally ill somehow makes one immune, as opposed to being sensitive, to the world which is the reality. The reality is that the mentally ill have no more propensity to violence than anybody else. As one commentator put it:
“The mentally ill are not other. They live in this world. They see the same media. And when the media tries to whip people into a frenzy, it is no surprise that some are whipped into a literal frenzy.”
The truth is that the right-wing media are using the issue of mental illness as a scapegoat for the crimes committed by a far-right politically-motivated murderer. As somebody who is currently diagnosed with anxiety and depression, the notion that some of the media are attempting to attribute the cause of the murder of Jo Cox to similar symptoms, is deeply offensive. This is not an attempt to absolve the murderer of any mental illness he may be suffering with, but merely to highlight that on its own it would have been highly unlikely to have been the cause.
It’s about time the media became unequivocal in emphasizing that, for the most part, wars are illegal state-sanctioned forms of collective violence, on the one hand, while on the other hand, they need to attribute lone killings – whatever their ideological motivations – as murders. In turn, the state needs to stop charging these murderers under terrorist legislation.