Saturday, November 05, 2005

Why are we all missing the point?

I am listening to the cricket (YES I AM working as well!!) and, on the ABC, an ad was run for a talkback program later in the week. I was struck at the end of this ad how advocates of these terror laws are (1) completely missing the point or (2) are wilfully misleading the entire country.

Alastair Nicholson was quoted as saying something like 'If I were a judge faced with the new [anti-terror] laws [I assume he means an application for a control order], I would need to examine my conscience very closely before deciding whether to have anything to do with it'.

My reading of that is that he would probably, as a judge sitting in an application for a control order, decide not even to hear the application.

Then, some Liberal backbencher came on and said something like 'London happened. Bali happened. Don't let anyone kid themselves that it can't happen here'.

Now, here is where the (1) stupidity or (2) wilful deception comes in. The fact a terrorist attack COULD occur is completely undoubted. Of course a terrorist attack could happen here. Unfortunately, there is probably a reasonable likelihood. However, the MERE FACT an attack could occur is no justification for stripping away to the bone our fundamental human rights, just to protect us from terrorism. Yes, we need to restrict civil liberties SOMEWHAT. However, these changes are not SOMEWHAT, they are to the greatest extreme we have seen in our lifetime, and wildly out of proportion to what SOMEWHAT would require.

The question no politician asks is:

'To what extent are we willing to destroy our way of life and the fundamentals upon which our society is based to protect our way of life and society?'

Yes, terrorist attacks occur. Yes, it is nice to stop them when we can. BUT, what measures are we taking to achieve these ends? The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not these measures are proportionate to the threat we face.


Blogger Dash Brannigan said...

Ok perhaps this is the most effective mechanism for fighting terrorism we know of. Not because we can stop an attack but because it counters the way terrorism works.

Terrorism works by causing people irrational fear about living their daily lives. People think twice about catching the train or going into skyscrapers. The odds of them being blown up are really low but since they have been instilled with an irrational fear.

These new actually fight terrorism not by giving ASIO the power to nab people before they do something but rather give Australians almost an “irrational safety”. So just by their presence you can actually fight terrorism. To make it more effective you round up a bunch of Arabs who look dodge, put on the front page of the sun and all of a sudden people feel safer.

It’s not the arrest that fights terrorism but the fact that it’s visible and makes people feel safe. Only one problem with this… It’s a slippery slop. You would think we would have bought some cleats by now to cope with those slippery slopes.

11:56 pm  
Blogger Not my real name said...

I think you are right, Dash, to the extent that locking up every single person we can find probably does reduce the likelihood of a terrorist attack.

However, I would question firstly whether this is the 'most effective mechanism for fighting terrorism'. I would argue that engagement and understanding the causes of terrorism, then addressing those causes (such as, maybe, being in Iraq) is a more effective mechanism.

Ask yourself whether you personally feel any safer. I think lots of people do. I don't, because I think we are stoking those causes and being as provocative as we can work out how to be.

I don't think twice about getting on the city loop to go to uni. Yes, it might get blown up. But hey, if that's the attitude we take, let's all stay under the doona and eat delivered pizza forever. Because our situation won't change until we change our policy.

You are right about odds. More people died on America's roads in the year after 9/11 than in the terrorist attack itself. You are much more likely to find yourself under a bus than on top of a bomb. However, the way we tilt these odds is, quite frankly, ruining the basis of our country.

We tilt the odds against a terrorist attack from miniscule to miniscule-0.001%, but the damage we cause on the other side is almost irreparable. That was the point of my post, is that we now have laws on the books which CAN be used, even though not even I think they WILL be widely abused.

My problem is that I would accept higher odds of being on that exploding loop train in return for the handing back of civil liberties to thousands of people we are deliberately seeking out to put on the front page of the Sun, as you say. Not attacking these people, but engaging with them and working out how we can better manage this kind of problem surely leads to fewer extremists in the long run.

My other gripe - the lack of a long run view of politicians. Then again, I can see our Prime Minister's plans all being hatched 20 years ago, and him just waiting and waiting.

In any case, we should all remember that it is not the point that we put these laws in so that people FEEL safer. Because laws are used, regardless of the intention with which Parliament enacted them.

They are exactly the kinds of laws Hitler passed to 'protect' society from """"terrorists""""

12:57 am  
Blogger Dash Brannigan said...

Once again I shall say. Terrorism works by the creation of an "irrational fear". Because of mass media exposure people think it will happen to them. Now we don't need to lock up everyone, just maybe 6. Yeah six is a good number; make sure ACA gets an exclusive. Front page of the Herald Sun "Terrorists Foiled"

They don't even have to be real terrorists they can be actors. Just make sure they look Middle Eastern. Then everyone feels safer. The effects of terrorism are reduced through irrational safety.

2:32 am  
Blogger Not my real name said...

Unfortunately, it doesn't seem that this is going to be how it works.

I agree completely with the idea that this is a big blow up by most mainstream media, I just think that passing laws like these is about the stupidest course of action possible.

All it does is entrench our prejudices, that those people in the paper are terrorists and LOOK THEY ARE ALL BLACK. How does that help us in the long term, if we now all think that HA! WE WERE RIGHT!!! They WERE terrorists all along.

3:01 am  

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