Brendan O’Neill, in Weekend Australian, 27 April 2019, with this title “Hierarchy of Victimhood: The slaughter of Christians elicits grief not outrage “
Where is the anger over the apocalyptic barbarism visited upon Christians in Sri Lanka? Where is the fury? Where are the tweets and blog posts and viral videos offering solidarity to Christians and slamming the bombers as a members of a global fascistic movement? Such wrath has been notable by its absence, or at least its rarity, in the aftermath of the extremist slaughter that killed at least 253 people, the majority of them Christians marking the resurrection of Christ at Easter Sunday services.
Yes, there has been sorrow. And there has been some very strong media coverage. People want to know the stories of those who were killed, and feel the pain of the those they left behind. But rage? There has been very little.
A woman is overcome with grief during a funeral for a victim of the Easter Sunday attack on St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka. Picture: Getty Images
In disturbing contrast to the aftermath of the mosque massacres in Christchurch last month, the response to the horrors in Sri Lanka has been muted, cagey, sheepish even.
The Christchurch atrocity provoked an angry and distinctly political response. We must stand as a human family against this vile Islamophobia, world leaders and commentators insisted.
The Sri Lanka atrocity has generated no such sense of global resolve. And this shocking disparity needs to be explained.
To get a sense of the depth of the double standard, consider this: US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Twittersphere’s favourite socialist, tweeted about the Christchurch massacre 14 times; she tweeted about the Sri Lanka atrocity not once.
She isn’t alone. Tweeters have compared and contrasted well-known liberals’ and leftists’ response to Christchurch and their response to Sri Lanka. They found that these people tweeted and posted and condemned far less after Sri Lanka than they did after Christchurch.
Those who have seen fit to comment on the extinguishing of 253 souls have used strikingly different language to the language they used after Christchurch. British Prime Minister Theresa May correctly described the slaughter in Christchurch as a “horrifying terrorist attack”. But she couldn’t bring herself to use the T-word in relation to the Sri Lanka bombings. She called them “acts of violence”. She didn’t say “Christian” either, which is perverse, considering this was clearly an act of mass hateful violence against Christians.
This was “violence against churches and hotels”, said May. No, it wasn’t. The aim was not to damage buildings. It was to kill the human beings inside those buildings. Otherwise known as Christians. As some observers have pointed out, some of those who were slaughtered inside the hotels were also Christians, gathering in cities for Easter celebrations.
After Christchurch, Barack Obama said he was grieving with “the Muslim family”. In contrast, the former US president described the terrorism in Sri Lanka as an attack on “tourists and Easter worshippers”. As many tweeters said in response: “It’s okay to say ‘Christian’.”
Only it seems it isn’t.
Hillary Clinton also used the term “Easter worshippers”. European Commission president Jean Claude-Juncker talked about people “who had gathered to worship peacefully”. French President Emmanuel Macron didn’t say Christian either.
This warped avoidance of describing the victims, of using the religious name that led to their being targeted in the first place, was matched by a reluctance to name the ideology of the attackers.
After Christchurch, Obama said we must stand against “hatred”. Clinton went further. “My heart breaks” for the “global Muslim community” which has been attacked by “white supremacist terrorists”, she said. Such terrorists must now be “condemned by leaders everywhere” and their “murderous hatred” stopped, she added.
She was absolutely correct. White supremacist terrorism and racist violence must always be fought against.
But why didn’t she say something similar after Sri Lanka? Why did she not condemn Islamic supremacist terrorists? After all, as The Jerusalem Post points out, one of the imams suspected of inspiring the Sri Lanka slaughter — Zahran Hashim — has a “history of racism and Islamic superiority”.
Radical Islam is a supremacist movement. It executes acts of murderous hatred. It is racist, prejudiced, fascistic.
And yet where Clinton was happy to say those things about the Christchurch killer, she held back from saying them about the anti-Christian extremists of Sri Lanka. And again that question arises, hanging darkly over the entire aftermath of the Sri Lanka attacks: Why? Why this difference?
Across the Western Left, the tone after Sri Lanka was markedly different to the tone after Christchurch.
Following that racist slaughter of 50 Muslims at prayer, leftists talked about the return of fascism, the scourge of white supremacy, the need to resist far-right hatred.
After Sri Lanka there has been none of that.
Is it not fascism when Islamist extremists slaughter civilians? Is it not hateful supremacy to believe that people of a different religion to yours deserve to be massacred? Is it not far-right to hold the kinds of views that Islamic State-linked groups hold — that women are inferior to men, gay people deserve to be executed, non-believers must occasionally be mown down?
The Left seems to believe only white men can be fascistic. Which is in itself a kind of racism. As if non-white people are too childish to be truly evil. As if they lack the capacity for wickedness that white people enjoy.
Here’s the perverse thing in all of this: in terms of loss of human life, the Sri Lanka attacks were five times as awful as the Christchurch massacre. And yet they elicited far less fury, and gave rise to far less moral resolve, than Christchurch did.
This is not about having a competition of victims. On the contrary. It is about raising a simple but pressing question: Why do many in the West mourn Muslim victims of white supremacist terror more determinedly than they mourn Christian victims of Islamo-supremacist terror? Why are they choosy rather than humanistic in how they respond to terror attacks?
What we are witnessing is the internationalisation of the politics of identity.
For years now, this divisive and destructive politics has categorised people according to their race, their sexuality, their gender.
In right-thinking Western circles, it is now de rigueur to think of people not as individuals but as representatives of a racial or ethnic or sexual group.
Their every statement is preceded by a declaration of inherent, immutable identity. “As a black man”, “As a white man”, “As a cis person”. And they openly judge people according to race and other inherited traits.
Where 50 years ago it was considered decent to judge people by their character rather than their colour — to use Martin Luther King Jr’s words — now the hip, PC thing to do is to view everyone as a racial or biological entity.
The chattering classes warn against the sin of “cultural appropriation”, which is when someone from one race dares to borrow or enjoy the culture of someone from another race.
They slam “white men” as the cause of every grief. They myopically police films and books to see if they contain the correct number of female, queer and non-white characters.
But perhaps the worst thing the politics of identity has done is create a hierarchy of victimhood.
It categorises people as oppressed or privileged. You’re either a victim, and therefore deserving of sympathy and social support, or you’re a member of “the privileged”, and therefore deserving of ridicule and censorship.
And in this hierarchy, Muslims are oppressed and Christians are privileged.
Muslims are the victims of hate, Islamophobia, horrible media coverage, “micro-aggressions”, and so on. Christians, on the other hand, are apparently dominant, comfortable, privileged, and probably prejudiced too.
Muslims good, Christians bad. Black people good, white people bad. Trans people good, cis people bad.
This is why a cartoon mocking Mohammed will be raged against by the censorious identitarian lobby while a crucifix in a bottle of piss will be celebrated as wonderful art.
Now we are witnessing the exporting of this identitarian hierarchy into global affairs.
To PC observers in the West, Muslims are victims and therefore can never really be evil, and Christians are oppressors and therefore can never really be victims. At least not uncomplicated victims.
And so we arrive at the utterly perverse situation where, following the barbarism in Sri Lanka, the Islamist terrorists cannot be strongly condemned while the Christian victims cannot be strongly sympathised with.
Identitarianism is the enemy of humanism. It reduces human beings to cultural creatures and marks some as good and others as bad. What we need now is a rejection of the cult of identity and a genuinely humanistic response to the problems facing the world. One that views Muslims and Christians as equally human, and their slaughter by extremists as equally grotesque.
Brendan O’Neill is the editor of Spiked.