On Wednesday, Drummer Lee Rigby of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, a man who had served Queen and country honorably in the hell of Helmand Province in Afghanistan, emerged from his barracks on Wellington Street, named after the Duke thereof, in southeast London. Minutes later, he was hacked to death in broad daylight and in full view of onlookers by two men with machetes who crowed “Allahu akbar!” as they dumped his carcass in the middle of the street like so much road kill.
As grotesque as this act of savagery was, the aftermath was even more unsettling. The perpetrators did not, as the Tsarnaev brothers did in Boston, attempt to escape. Instead, they held court in the street gloating over their trophy, and flagged down a London bus to demand the passengers record their triumph on film. As the crowd of bystanders swelled, the remarkably urbane savages posed for photographs with the remains of their victim while discoursing on the iniquities of Britain toward the Muslim world. Having killed Drummer Rigby, they were killing time: It took 20 minutes for the somnolent British constabulary to show up. And so television viewers were treated to the spectacle of a young man, speaking in the vowels of south London, chatting calmly with his “fellow Britons” about his geopolitical grievances and apologizing to the ladies present for any discomfort his beheading of Drummer Rigby might have caused them, all while drenched in blood and still wielding his cleaver.
If you’re thinking of getting steamed over all that, don’t. Simon Jenkins, the former editor of the Times
of London, cautioned against “mass hysteria” over “mundane acts of violence.”
That’s easy for him to say. Woolwich is an unfashionable part of town, and Sir Simon is unlikely to find himself there of an afternoon stroll. Drummer Rigby had less choice in the matter. Being jumped by barbarians with machetes is certainly “mundane” in Somalia and Sudan, but it’s the sort of thing that would once have been considered somewhat unusual on a sunny afternoon in south London — at least as unusual as, say, blowing up eight-year-old boys at the Boston Marathon. It was “mundane” only in the sense that, as at weddings and kindergarten concerts, the reflexive reaction of everybody present was to get out their cell phones and start filming.
Once, long ago, I was in an altercation where someone pulled a switchblade, and ever since have been mindful of Jimmy Hoffa’s observation that he’d rather jump a gun than a knife. Nevertheless, there is a disturbing passivity to this scene: a street full of able-bodied citizens being lectured to by blood-soaked murderers who have no fear that anyone will be minded to interrupt their diatribes. In fairness to the people of Boston, they were ordered to “shelter in place” by the governor of Massachusetts. In Woolwich, a large crowd of Londoners apparently volunteered to “shelter in place,” instinctively. Consider how that will play when these guys’ jihadist snuff video is being hawked around the bazaars of the Muslim world. Behold the infidels, content to be bystanders in their own fate.
This passivity set the tone for what followed. In London as in Boston, the politico-media class immediately lapsed into the pneumatic multiculti Tourette’s that seems to be a chronic side effect of excess diversity-celebrating: No Islam to see here, nothing to do with Islam, all these body parts in the street are a deplorable misinterpretation of Islam. The BBC’s Nick Robinson accidentally described the men as being “of Muslim appearance,” but quickly walked it back lest impressionable types get the idea that there’s anything “of Muslim appearance” about a guy waving a machete and saying “Allahu akbar.” A man is on TV dripping blood in front of a dead British soldier and swearing “by Almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you,” yet it’s the BBC reporter who’s apologizing for “causing offence.” To David Cameron, Drummer Rigby’s horrific end was “not just an attack on Britain and on the British way of life, it was also a betrayal of Islam. . . . There is nothing in Islam that justifies this truly dreadful act.”