One of the slightly thankless tasks historians often face is determining the extent to which violence is either articulate or inarticulate, particularly the violence which erupts around riot, rebellion, resistance and revolution.
A couple of days ago I referred to the remarkable savagery visited upon nationalist Poles in 1846, some of them at least liberal and modernising, by 'their' peasants, who seemed to take a rather different view of the ties between them.
Deciding why the rural classes chose to thwart the elites with such sadistic abandon is always going to be difficult, partly because none of the illiterates would contribute to the written record and anyway, such events always tend to appear different from each distinct perspective.
After the October 7 massacre in Israel there was much talk of 'barbarism', a word we know originated in civilised people not being particularly bothered to understand the uncivilised.
We now know that a lot of the violence that day was anything but spontaneous. Gleeful perhaps, but it had semiotic content.
This seemingly permits a certain class of moral degenerate in the West to throw up their arms and say something like "what did you expect?".
In other words, the Hamas killers and rapists are not beasts but misunderstood millennials whose feelings have been so badly hurt that any kind of response was to be expected, up to and including the unspeakable. (e.g. They were only trying to express themselves, albeit a little over-cathartically.)
But anger is a feeling, not an ideology.
The information payload of the pogrom was in a sense far more sinister than mere brutishness. It was more like an amuse-gueule for a (real) genocidal programme, not so cunningly disguised by the "from the river to the sea" mantra. (At the very least we can say that this violence was very consciously desirous of being interpreted as politics.)
And the message (more like a proclamation) had a particular set of sub-clauses for Israeli women, articulating to them precisely how their rights would be handled in any future 'free' Palestine.
In Diary of a Utopia. Looting an Empty Utopia, Rhys Williams notes that to “be part of the conversation, to ‘protest’ rather than riot, you have to have coherent dreams, versed in the language of the political land.”
Hamas were definitely barging in on the conversation, but not in a way that any of us can really engage with, for theirs in not the language of the political land, but of an otherworldly utopia beyond death, and their ‘coherent dreams’ are of destruction not construction.
To any civilised person, it really is all just “bar bar bar bar”.