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21 December 2016

Why is the right so keen to explain away the crimes of extremists?

When the left makes these arguments, they're attacked, and rightly so. 

By Stephen Bush

The manhunt is still ongoing for the perpetrator of Monday’s attack on Berlin, for which Islamic State have declared responsibility.

“Berlin manhunt as killer escapes” is the Telegraph’s splash, “International manhunt for Berlin’s mass killer” is the Times’, while the Guardian opts for “Hunt for truck attacker continues as far right puts blame on Merkel”.

The Pakistani man, named as Naveed B in the German press, who was originally arrested, has been released after police conceded that they had arrested the wrong man. A continent-wide manhunt is under way for a Tunisian man who entered the country a little over a year ago. 

We know for certain that the culprit is armed and that their first victim was the Polish driver of the truck they used to attack the Christmas market. It’s that driver, Lukasz Urban, who is the focus of the Metro’s splash this morning: “He fought to the end” is their headline.

Elsewhere, the focus is on the likelihood of similar attacks here in Britain. The Mail splashes on a picture of heavily-armed police outside a Christmas market here in Britain and the message “So much for peace and goodwill to all men”. The Sun reports that the attack was linked to an Islamic State cell here in the UK: “Brit I.S. cell ‘linked to truck horror” is their splash.

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Parts of the British right are all but salivating at the prospect that the attack may have been carried out by someone who entered Germany as a result of Angela Merkel’s decision to allow one million refugees to come to Germany. Today’s Telegraph declares in their leader that “if any reminder was needed about why Britain was correct to regain control of its borders, look to Germany”.

It’s worth noting a few things. The first, of course, is that we still don’t know who the culprit was. That there are British cells of IS would, you’d hope, give pause to those who think that the reason these attacks are happening in Germany is because of that country’s decision to welcome refugees in 2015. The second is that Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, who used a truck to murder people in Nice, was a Tunisian who moved to France on a work permit in 2005. The third is that all of the perpetrators of terrorist violence in Britain in the last half-decade – the killers of Lee Rigby, the far-right assassin who murdered Jo Cox – were British-born. The fourth is that the current suspect entered Germany in June 2015  – before Angela Merkel allowed one million refugees to come to Germany. 

But the fifth and most important is that the right is quick off the mark to attack the left when they’ve suggested that terror attacks in Britain are the result of British foreign adventures. What they say in those instances, rightly, is that the underlying cause is a violent and intolerant ideology that spreads both online and offline. Why is the nativist tendency so keen to blame the West in this instance, I wonder?

Could it be because one of the jihadists’ messages is that only they will stand with the people against the autocrats, a message that Vladimir Putin, the hero of much of the nativist right, has only strengthened thanks to his actions in Syria? Could it be because another jihadist message is that we are experiencing a clash of irreconcilable civilisations, a message that many of them are all too happy to parrot?

And perhaps it’s because they know that if governments took more seriously the perils of Islamist radicalisation on the Internet, they might also take a tougher look at some of the corners of the Web that have been the loudest champions of the President-Elect in the United States and his shabby tribute band here in the UK.