Sunday, May 31, 2009

Blood and Rage: A Cultural History of Terrorism by Michael Burleigh

The stated aim of this impressive history is "to demystify and deglamorise terrorist operations". Michael Burleigh sets out to belittle terrorists as "morally insane", attention-seeking, resentful nobodies (Osama bin Laden, for instance, is "a millionaire loser harbouring delusions of victimhood"). His compelling account of various strands of terrorism - from Russian nihilists to the Red Brigades and the Baader-Meinhof gang - ends with the emergence of al-Qaida. Here, Burleigh really warms to his theme, lashing out at asylum seekers, Britain's lax judicial system, credulous left-liberals, multiculturalism, human rights lawyers and the London School of Economics. The conclusion he would like us to draw is that modern Britain is a ticking time bomb. There is undoubtedly an unsavoury Daily Mailishness about many of Burleigh's asides (he describes himself as a "conservative realist"), yet while analysing the mindset of the terrorist over the past 100 years, Burleigh has also exposed the mindset of Middle England today.

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