Pulling Punches on Naomi Klein

This is a guest post by Quizblorg (@shmarxism)

Following the murder of Jo Cox, right-wing sources like Breitbart have been rightfully derided for trying to deny the relevance of far-right nationalist ideology in general, and certain neo-Nazi groups in particular, to this horrific attack.

Unfortunately, many of those doing the deriding have only a few days ago tried to deny, or at least minimize, the relevance of Islamist ideology in general, and ISIS in particular, to the Orlando massacre, in a similarly preposterous fashion.

With the quick succession of these two atrocities, and the resulting mirror image reactions on both side of the political spectrum, it’s almost as if the world spirit decided to stage a particularly cruel Lehrstück on hypocrisy.

Some have gone further in assigning blame for the murder, and – like today’s Guardian editorial with the title “The Guardian view on Jo Cox: an attack on humanity, idealism and democracy”– have put part of it on Farage’s Brexit campaigning. Distasteful as the latter may have been, particularly lately, there’s no indication so far that it had any influence on Jo Cox’s murderer.

Someone who appeared to be very impressed with the Guardian’s take is Naomi Klein, who tweeted a link to the article with the words

“Very tough @guardian editorial on the heinous murder of #JoCox. No punches pulled. Must read.”

In spite of her imperative to read, it seems that she herself only skipped the beginning. Otherwise the following sentence might have given her pause:

“Two [other MPs], Nigel Jones and Stephen Timms, have been grievously wounded, the latter by a woman citing jihadi inspiration and rage about the Iraq war.”

Naomi Klein was, of course, a prominent and vociferous critic of the Iraq war. In 2004, for example, she wrote an article – in the Guardian – that was sympathetic to the supporters of al-Sadr and his brutal “resistance” group the Mahdi Army, and highly critical of US operations against it that were taking place in the city of Najaf at the time. While the main body of the piece indicates that its inflammatory title and last sentence – “It’s time to bring Najaf back home/to New York” – only refer to peaceful demonstrations (“We also need to hear specific demands to end the disastrous siege on Najaf”), the words retain an ambiguity that allows for a more literal reading of bringing the violence itself home, which, even if unintended, seems quite irresponsible.

The article also included sentences like “every day children are killed in their homes as US soldiers inflict collective punishment on the holy city”. Doesn’t complicity in the killing of children as part of collective punishment on a holy city sound like something that may justify, if not demand, violent retribution?

To me, it doesn’t seem to require a bigger leap to go from Klein’s words to the actions of Roshonara Choudhry than it takes to go from Farage’s words to the actions of Tommy Mair.

And yet, I don’t think there were many editorials putting blame on Naomi Klein or other influential and passionate Iraq war critics in the wake of the attack on Timms. I’m pretty sure there was none in the Guardian. And if Naomi Klein issued a mea culpa, pulling no punches on herself, I must have missed it.

Of course Naomi Klein just functions as a pars pro toto here. Undoubtedly there are many among those now placing responsibility on Farage, or even on the “Leave” campaign as a whole, who can’t hear the words “Tony Blair” without launching into a colourful tirade on the blood of Iraqi children on his hands (you know, the usual spirited political debate), yet whose conscience wasn’t troubled for one second by the very nearly fatal attack on Stephen Timms.