:: Article

Shitstorm (excerpt)

By Fernando Sdrigotti.

Fifteen dead and sixty-five wounded.

The bomb went off in a packed carriage towards the front, in order to maximise the damage thanks to the inertia, according to a reporter who presents this hypothesis with enough conviction for it to catch on and be repeated by other less self-assured reporters. The bomb might have gone off earlier than expected, he adds, and this might have saved lives. Beyond this primordial speculation all the rest is (also) speculation.

The corpses are still warm when Brandon O’Neill uploads a lengthy Facebook post about this latest attack on Western Civilisation. This shouldn’t make us stop doing the things we love; Islamists hate our way of life and our fear is their gain; liberals and leftists should direct their outrage not against the President of the United States of America and his provocative words, but against the monsters — yes, these are monsters we are talking about, no need to see them in human terms, no humanity can explain their monstrosity — who actually carried out this deed, who live among us, and who want to see us dead, even if we welcomed them, opened our doors to them, respected them, treated them as equals, gave them a safe haven, a way out of their war-torn countries. Liberals and leftists have no answers, O’Neill goes on, and if they had them the answers would show their ideas as the incoherent ramblings they are, ergo their silence. And so on and on and on. The post is over 3,000 words long and he could have copy-pasted it from the thing he wrote after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, or the thing he wrote after Bataclan, or Manchester, or London Bridge. But nobody will realise this, because his words ring true to those who want them to ring true, and we all tend to forget words after a while. Words become background noise to these terrible events, that in due time we’ll forget as well.

In ten minutes the post is liked by three hundred and forty-three Facebook users and it’s shared by seventy-two. There seems to be a consensus in the comments section that O’Neill always has the angle that is likely to trigger liberals and leftists and champagne socialists and the politically correct and snowflakes and and and and, because he’s always asking the uncomfortable questions etc etc etc. There are a couple of negative comments, the unconverted to the Church of O’Neill, who bitterly point out how he always manipulates events to fit his agenda, how he always uses the same two or three argumentative lines to lay a few blows on the left, the same kind of people who routinely ask why he never seems to hound fascists (or what they consider to be fascists) in the same way. But these comments are negligible and soon vanish, deleted into oblivion, very likely by O’Neill himself.

And then, just to confirm to his faithful that their idol was right, Owen James pens a Twitter thread in which he begs the People of Great Britain not to take matters into our own hands, announcing his solidarity with anyone likely to suffer after this attack. We shouldn’t fall for the trap of letting the few become a stand-in for the many, we need to keep our communities together. Britain is a nation renowned for its tolerance — he doesn’t mention British colonialism and imperialism this time, although he has mentioned them before, on occasions that perhaps merited the mention less. But it’s a nice thread, even if it extends for over thirty seven tweets. Some find James’s words brave in their call for restraint. Others accuse him of being a hypocrite who cares about everyone but the actual victims, something on which he has built a career that involves not only churning out constantly shifting opinion to a deadline but also giving talks and lectures for well-wishing middle-class lefties. A minor shitstorm ensues around James’s twitter thread. He replies to some of the comments but then ends up disabling his account, as he does at least twice a month, when people bully him too much by publicly disagreeing with him.

You could say that factions start to form around these apparently opposing sides, declaring our allegiance to the usual ideas, and proscribing the usual analyses and solutions. And soon enough the death threats to both O’Neill and James roll in. Death threats generally from users without a profile picture, and who would probably issue death threats to their parents if their parents were on Twitter, just for the sake of it. Many of these eggs get quickly taken down by Twitter Support, accused of being Russian bots when in reality they’re just idiots living in cellars. Some celebrate their disappearance while others — particularly among the libertarian right — bemoan it as an act of censorship. Until at 10am, with the security services still clearing the area, and with all of us either sending prayers and thoughts, or saying that prayers and thoughts aren’t what is needed, while we’re accommodating around the atrocity in whichever way we find fitting, out of nowhere: an organisation under the name of Breivik Brigades claims authorship of the attack through a Twitter account with twenty-two followers that very soon gets suspended too. But not before their Pastebin communiqué is copied and shared away.

As expected it’s a rather deranged text but on this occasion suspiciously well written and punctuated, with no visible grammatical errors and not much abuse of uppercase. The communiqué claims that the deed was undertaken to bring attention to White Genocide and the decimation of the British indigenous population through uncontrolled immigration and Cultural Marxism. It doesn’t explain how this might be happening but it’s clear as to why the Eurostar was targeted: because it’s an icon of the Metropolitan Elite and their fetish for European cheese and miscegenation (it uses the word miscegenation). It also claims that Bankers and the Mainstream Media are now in control of the government, that they are the Master Puppeteers (uppercase in original). And it ends with a call to arms, God is on our side, Victory is already ours.
Needless to say, this development takes everyone by surprise, even if some of the motifs have been favourites of both right and left for many years.

Yet in a matter of minutes the BBC scrambles a panel of experts. Mid morning and several professors, dressed in hues of beige, discuss the inevitability of right-wing extremism turning violent. Is this a development you were expecting? asks the presenter. This isn’t, really, a new development but a return to old and not so old modi operandi, answers Professor John Derbyshire, from LSE, reminding the audience about the Bologna bombing, back in 1980, however different the recent attack might be, in magnitude and intention. Professor Jeremy Simpson from Royal Holloway doesn’t agree, suggesting that the Italian authorities never really got to the bottom of the Bologna attack, that it could very well have been the Red Brigades or some of the other extreme left-wing organisations operating in Italy at the time, that it’s rather preposterous to try to connect these two events — separated almost by 40 years! — when the situation here is much murkier than anyone would like to accept. Professor Derbyshire insists with his line of reasoning, saying that although there are antecedents of political violence from the right, just look at the name of this organisation, if not! The attacks in Norway were the product of a deluded individual — he acted alone, replies Professor Simpson. He had a very long and rather articulate manifesto — not that different in tone from the communiqué we’ve just heard, especially in its paranoia — which indicates that he was anything but hopelessly deluded and that he acted alone does not rule out his was a clearly political act, and an act of terrorism, replies Professor Derbyshire. And a polite argument between the scholars ensues, a televised version of their frequent discussions in conferences attended by ten or twenty scholars, in which occasionally both end up in the same panel. Meanwhile the presenter moves his head up and down and to the sides to show that he understands the complexity of what’s being discussed, although he doesn’t. But the director seems to love the nodding, as we all do, and between shots of the scholars we get a lot of the presenter’s face, his grave expression, his pristine hair, which makes good live television.

And suddenly more developments.

At 10:53, while the academics are still busy agreeing, ISIS also claims responsibility for the attack. The presenter interrupts a Professor Stanley, from University of Westminster, to inform the audience of this new twist, as they cut to the usual video shot with a potato, where a guy with dusty army boots, wearing a balaclava, and brandishing a rusty AK47 that he probably can’t shoot very well, rants about something in a language he very likely speaks with an European accent. The subtitles translate for the audience the usual platitudes and received stupidities disguised as threats and radical ideas. The usual words are read and heard. The usual commonplaces are arrived at. And then the blurry video cuts to the usual epic music and images of IEDs and martyrs and snipers, and things blowing up in the air, and other things that are golden and others silvery, until the image disappears abruptly and the BBC presenter is left staring in panic towards the back of the studio. He stares somewhere past the camera, waiting for the producer to feed him a wrapper, but this doesn’t happen. So he finally gathers the mental energy to improvise and ask the panellists what they think about this sudden development. There seems to be certain agreement among the formerly private now momentarily public intellectuals gathered for the occasion, that this is a very interesting development — they all nod in agreement, yes, it’s a very interesting development. And the presenter nods too, yes, very interesting, very unexpected, very — he nods. There is some silent nodding among everyone on the studio, and too much nodding going on, for too long, there can be such a thing as too much nodding, so they get taken off the air by the shrewd director concerned about ratings, to give way to a live transmission from St Pancras International, and everybody is happy now, everybody in the set can relax and stop playing their parts. It’s already 11:07am and the police are still working and the emergency services are still picking up pieces of flesh, bones, and bloodied items of clothing, and putting them in bags. We can’t see them picking up pieces of flesh, bones and items of clothing and putting them in bags but we can imagine it, because the reporter on the site — with her immaculate hair and a perfect fake tan matching her accent — details this for us.

Fernando Sdrigotti

Fernando Sdrigotti was born in Rosario, Argentina, in 1977. His writing in English and Spanish has been widely published in print and online. He lives in London. Shitstorm is published by Open Pen and is available for pre-order here.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Sunday, November 4th, 2018.