Many years ago, I used to sell parts at a motorcycle dealer in New Zealand. Aside from the Japanese brands that were the mainstay of the business, we also stocked parts for British bikes that had, by then, largely disappeared from the nations’ roads. Yet bikes like the Triumph Bonneville remained popular with a small, idiosyncratic section of the motorcycling public—the biker gangs.

Then, as now, the New Zealand gang scene was a turf war between the Black Power and Highway 61 gangs. Violent confrontations between them were frequent. In their ones and twos, ‘the Highways’ used to call in to buy spark plugs, gasket sets and clutch cable nipples. They’d pull up on smoking Bonnevilles and remove the German helmets that were worse than useless in the event of a crash. The men that emerged from beneath those helmets were not what I expected. Instead of tough, steely-eyed, you-looking-at-me-huh? thugs they were timid, downcast, apologetic excuses for manhood. They needed a bike, a patch, and an enemy to believe their lives were worth anything.

Behind the media façade

The men of ISIS are the same. All we see is the bomb blasts, the executions, the shouted rhetoric and brandished AK47s. ‘Jihadi John’ is a typical example. Behind the media façade of the indomitable ISIS fighter lurks an emotionally crippled individual whose moral compass is so shattered he will follow the hateful braying of clerics drunk on the false glory of slaying women and children. Afraid to face the consequences of their inhumanity, such men have deluded themselves that dying for their idea of god is the supreme act of worship and thus hurry to their own deaths.

Their so-called leaders are equally lacking in moral fibre. They have no Churchill, no MacArthur; no Charles de Gaulle—nor will they ever have. The best they can muster are a few Stalin- and Hitler-lite sock puppets spewing the standard authoritarian cant of abdication of personal responsibility, blind obedience to an abstract ideal, unilateral violence and misogyny.

Black dildo flags

We see the balaclava-clad terrorist racing across the desert in a Mad Max-style vehicle, black dildo flag flapping in the wind, to slay his enemy and seize his women. We read horrific accounts of rape used as a weapon. What we don’t see is that this figure, shorn of his battleground bravado, is no lion in the bedroom. The difficulties with the opposite sex unearthed during background checks into ‘Jihadi John’ are not exclusive to him; you can be sure that every ISIS fighter—indeed, every fundamentalist—is the same. That’s why sharia law dictates that women must unquestioningly submit to their husbands; the husbands lack the confidence to negotiate sexual consent as equals. They are ‘little boy lost’ figures that resort to big, shiny guns because of their fundamental emotional and sexual disempowerment.

ISIS fighters are ‘little boy lost’ figures that resort to big, shiny guns because of their fundamental emotional and sexual disempowerment

While the horror of the recent Paris attacks is still fresh in our minds, it is important to retain perspective. During World War II, in the comparative lull between the Battle of Britain and D-Day, the German air force subjected the south of Britain to daily hit-and-run attacks. A typical raid on Bristol on 28 August 1942 killed 44 people. Collectively, these raids caused thousands of casualties and colossal amounts of damage, yet the public dismissed them as mere ‘nuisance raids’. Beyond the occasional terror attack ISIS has little capacity to trouble Britain. The worst damage they inflict is radicalising vulnerable youngsters; otherwise their only weapon is fear.

The Great British Telling Off

But fear is a two-way street. ISIS projects an aura of fearlessness, but put an ISIS fighter, minus his AK47, in the Great British Bake Off tent with Mary Berry and he would crumble in the face of her emotional cohesion, her dignified outrage, her unshakeable humanity. The Women’s Institute would turn ISIS into mincemeat—not physically but emotionally. ISIS is no match for the village choirs of Britain. For the magistrates, the school governors, the lunchtime supervisors and the lollypop ladies; all those Great British people—including all those Great British Muslims—who unhesitatingly set the world to rights because it is the right thing to do.

It is only by fully understanding ISIS that we find an effective way to tackle it. ISIS craves our hatred, our United Nations resolutions for war, and our air strikes. Just like the members of the Highway 61 gang, it feeds on violence. ISIS is the tantrum-throwing brat of the world stage. Like all the emotionally immature, the one thing it cannot stand is to be ignored. Total disengagement starves ISIS of the hatred that sustains it. That is what should dictate our response to Paris.