It seems everyone who’s ever been to Melbourne met and loved the victim of Friday’s terrorist attack.

Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar owner Sisto Malaspina died after being stabbed by a man whose name won’t be repeated here.

He deserves no more publicity; his name should not be mentioned again.

It is also apparent that he doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as Sisto Malaspina.

Victoria Premier Dan Andrews has offered Malaspina’s family a state funeral.

Universal opinion is that Australia lost a great character. The type of person who brings colour to life and highlights the cultural benefits of a well-thought immigration program that shares the opportunity of a country like Australia with anyone who wants to have a crack at life. He certainly did that.

But that was last week and Australia has moved on.

Being a terrorist attack, it justified a political response.

The responses also justify responses.

Politics invades Bourke Street

Prime Minister Scott Morrison made a strong statement that directly linked radical and extremist Islam to the attack.

There is a strong case that the attack was terrorism. The murderer had been the target of ASIO investigations.

The Prime Minister grabbed this issue hard. We haven’t heard someone speak so clearly about terrorism in Australia since at least 2007.

Of course, this outraged the usual whiners and apologists.

Make no mistake, Bandt is playing politics. They are both appealing to their base.

Morrison’s statement makes it very clear that there is a persistent challenge in the Muslim community to ensure that those susceptible to radicalisation don’t become radicalised.

The point of what Morrison is saying is all too easily missed.

Islam is still an island in Australia 

Islam is a welcoming religion. What else could you say about a religion that’s welcomed Sinead O’Connor.

Christians everywhere had one response: NO RETURNS!

She’s all yours.

Although she might want to remove the tattoo on her chest. Just saying:

If you know any tattoo removalists, contact Sinead.

Like most new immigrant communities, Muslims tend to congregate together. This has been the case in the past with the Greeks, the Italians and the Vietnamese. Safety in numbers is certainly a reason, but in the long term it creates enclaves which excludes the community from engagement beyond itself.

This reduces the need to learn English and further removes the community from mainstream Australian life.

It also means that when something is ‘not quite right’ with someone in their community, such as speaking sympathetically about terrorism or violence, only the community can make that observation and only they can alert the proper authorities. Which can be seen as an ‘enemy’, reinforcing the insularity of the community.

For Muslim Australia there is undeniably integration to a degree and support for efforts to reduce terrorism (most tips come from within the community), but when one member falls through the cracks of law enforcement, resources are spread too thin. The blame will naturally fall onto the community for not stopping the attack.

Nothing the Prime Minister said was ever going to wash with Dr Anne Aly.

Anne Aly in classic bait and switch

Dr Anne Aly is the Member for Cowan in Western Australia.

She first rose to prominence as an expert on anti-terrorism programs and as the founder of People Against Violent Extremism.

She was an Associate Professor and a Research Fellow at Curtin University, and an Adjunct Professor at Edith Cowan University.

She has also been the media liaison officer at the Islamic Council of Victoria.

This is quite the breeding ground.

Waleed Aly used to be the head of public affairs at the Islamic Council of Victoria.

It’s a difficult job, but The Daily Breakdown has obtained the Council’s induction kit:

Day one: commence work for the Islamic Council of Victoria.

Day two: “Tonight on Q&A from the Islamic Council of Victoria …”

 First, Dr Aly had a crack at the Prime Minister.

 But this was never going to be enough. The PM made good points, so Dr Aly had to change the field of play, so she broadened her front:

By making the debate ‘academic’ (ie, irrelevant yet complicated), she is attempting to move it beyond you and ‘non-academics’.

She is complicating you out of the discussion.

What she’s really saying is: You don’t understand terrorism because you haven’t studied it and you don’t have a PhD. You see Muslims killing people. But it’s more complicated than that blah blah blah.

When you look with your eyes and see what is irrefutable, the problem is very clear. That’s a problem. Apparently you need an academic to show you what you’re seeing and explain why you’re not seeing it right.

Academic flim-flammery

Just how much obfuscation is there? Try this on for size.

This is from her 2014 paper Symbolic Attack Sites and the Performance of Terrorism, Counter Terrorism and Memory. This is the entire abstract:

This paper reports on a project that explores how terrorist attack sites become communicative platforms within which three kinds of enactment- the terrorist attack, counter measures by the state and affective public responses- construct narratives and counter narratives about terrorism. This approach is applied in research project that explores the range of meanings that emerge around the site of the 2002 Bali Bombings in Kuta, the political nature of commemoration and the ways in which victims voices become part of the narrative/counter narrative of violent extremism. The conceptual framework applied in this research incorporates performance theory and notions of the audience (government and publics) as narrators in a discourse of contested meanings that are also enacted through the symbolic imagery of the attack site. The findings reported here demonstrate how attack sites become dynamic spaces for the interpretation and reinterpretation of meanings about terrorism embodied in the narratives generated by the performance roles of various actors. These meanings challenge the performative power of the terrorist attacks but also construct counter narratives to official responses to terrorism.

Don’t worry, it’s not meant to make sense.

Thankfully, we have a translator. Waleed Aly is a fan of the ‘terrorism as theatre’ narrative.

Waleed Aly translates

The terrorism as theatre narrative is an old one. Even the economist Tyler Cowen, he of the Marginal Revolution blog, has used that metaphor as far back as 2006.

This is how Waleed Aly used the theatre metaphor after the Boston bombing in 2013:

Terrorism is a grotesque form of theatre. It doesn’t exist without its audience, which is why it is always public. The show is for us. The most futile terrorist attack is the one we fail to notice. So it is designed to seize our emotions; to make us incapable of ignoring it. Thus is terrorism’s paradox: it succeeds only because we make it. We ultimately decide whether or not it is effective. And generally we react wildly, thereby rewarding the terrorists who have sought to provoke us.

Terrorism as theatre, or terrorism as Tinkerbell?

Of course, Aly’s argument is absurd.

Stabbing a man to death on a street in Melbourne will always gain a degree of attention. To say “We ultimately decide whether or not it is effective” is to put the onus on us. Does that mean that if we ignore it, we win?

If a man is stabbed in a Melbourne street and no one notices is he really dead?

The obvious absurdity is that if one stabbed man doesn’t gain attention, would two? Would five? How far would the act need to escalate before it is worthy of our gaze (to use a phrase to beloved of apologists)?

Academic language is designed to exclude

Anne Aly’s introduction of esoteric academic arguments is intended to move the PM, and anyone who disagrees with her, onto the academic front where she is an ‘expert’ and away from the reality of a dead man on a Melbourne street.

There she ‘wins’ the debate with extraneous and irrelevant arguments.

It’s also where there is enormous scope for wishy-washy definitions and ‘nuanced’ explanation. Nuance is another way of drawing in topics unrelated to the problem.

It’s a line she has been running for a while now.

As she told David Speers in eerily similar words in May 2017:

… so they [violent Islamist extremists] weren’t what we would say ‘cognitively radicalised’, they were ‘behaviourally radicalised’ to violence first and then come to the religion to justify their violence, secondly.

Her argument is that today’s extremists are violent first and then seeks religious justification for the violence.

What she’s really saying is that terrorism is not an ‘Islam problem’, it’s a ‘men problem’.

Nuance also means addressing anything other than the elephant in the room: Islam.

Don’t like that argument? That’s OK. Aly morphs it into another: domestic violence.

Broadening the definition of ‘violence’

Introducing domestic violence as an issue is the natural evolution of the argument because it aligns with the violence and men narrative. It avoids Islam.

What Aly does here is very clever on three fronts:

First, she moves the violent Islam argument to be one of violence generally. That means …

Second, she can bring domestic violence into the discussions and she can say that more people are at risk of violence from domestic violence. Don’t fear terrorism – fear the man sleeping next to you. This is changing the topic because the main topic – Islamic terrorism – doesn’t suit her, but …

Third, by making it about domestic violence, she is making it about men. All men. Not just Muslim men. And in this area, she has some experience.

In her 2018 biography [excerpt here], she detailed the violence of her first husband. Also, the way he tried to use religion to keep her from divorcing him. So tackle her on this issue at your peril.

This is a giant con. And incredibly cynical.

As a woman, Dr Aly knows that drawing domestic violence into the debate brings her a level of political protection from feminists, and by elevating domestic violence she will be supported by a range of campaigners who want the same level of action against domestic violence as there is against terrorism.

And it is hard to argue against because domestic violence is a problem, although massive efforts have been made to support women in violent situations. As with Islamic terrorism, there is an expectation that those closest to the perpetrator will take steps to resolve the issue.

Cynical barely begins to explain what she is doing, despite what she has experienced personally.

But it can bring us back to Islam

It is curious that she raises the spectre of domestic violence.

There is not one religious text which encourages violence against women, or tells its adherents how they should control their wives.

Actually, there is.

Let Kayser Trad, former spokesfolk for the Grand Mufti of Australia, explain:

That’s not convenient at all, if you’re trying to make Dr Aly’s case that is.

But that’s an argument she doesn’t want. The faster she can move discussion away from Islam the better.

The problem for Dr Aly is that Islam is front and centre in this discussion. That the Prime Minister has highlighted that fact has created another opportunity for mature discussion. And Islam’s apologists to rehash their aguments.