A quick comment regarding the continuing row about the Danish cartoon depictions of Mohammed. No collective response to an incident becomes this big or carries on this long without some kind of coordination and organization. While the whole situation is clearly based on a great deal of legitimate anger, it is nonetheless sentiment that is being excited and manipulated. That’s not to imply that some kind of global conspiracy is at work, but simply to say that I don’t accept that these protests are spontaneous or free of manipulation. Given their destructive nature, I think it will be instructive to eventually determine what forces have been trying to exploit this issue, through what means, and to what level of success.
As I was discussing with Tristan earlier today, the symbolic character of conflict is an essential dimension for understanding it. It’s one that requires examination both of individual psychology and the ways in which groups of people think. One excellent book I can recall from Brian Job’s security studies class at UBC is Kaufman’s Modern hatreds: the symbolic politics of ethnic war. Those wanting a far better explanation of some of these issues than I can provide should have a look.