Thursday, August 17, 2006

What's that coming over the hill?

Democracy can be a surprisingly fragile thing. When the general public are constantly being fed information which is misleading, manipulative, or just downright wrong, it can lead a democracy into all sorts of dark corners. The history of Europe in the 1930's is a stark demonstration of that process in action. We say we should never forget but it looks increasingly like we've done just that.

Today, the Spectator published a new opinion poll on the "war" on terror. The poll is available here (pdf). Some of the results are startling.

69% of those questioned believe that the police should be allowed to detain suspects for 90 days without charge. Yeah, and in order to save the village, we had to destroy the village.

On the global "war" on terror, the poll asked this question and got these responses:
Do you think that the West is in a global war against Islamic terrorists who threaten our way of life, or do you think that Islamic terrorism is a regional problem that poses no real threat to the West?
  • We are in a world war against Islamic terrorists who threaten the West's way of life - 73%
  • Islamic terrorism is a regional problem that holds no real threat to the West - 8%
  • Don’t know - 19%
Can you say leading question? Good grief. In truth, I couldn't supply an answer to that question because I can't agree with either of the two options offered. This is classic black and white thinking, exactly the sort of stuff which has already proved to be so useless when dealing with terrorism. Nuance is, it seems, dead.

Nevertheless, the fact that 73% of those questioned were prepared to agree with the prompt that we are in a "world war against Islamic terrorists" is troubling.

More troubling still is the response to the question on the direction of British foreign policy:
Should Britain change its foreign policy in response to the terrorist threat?
  • Yes – it should be softer/ more conciliatory - 12%
  • Yes – it should be tougher/ more aggressive - 53%
  • No, it should not change - 24%
  • Don’t know - 11%
That'll be another hideously leading question then. Who wants to be more conciliatory to terrorists? No-one, obviously, but the question misses the point entirely. Again, the public are herded, sheep like, into giving the "correct" response in large numbers. 53% believe our foreign policy should be more aggressive. Is that more aggressive than invading countries which had nothing to do with the "war" on terror? Yikes.

55% of those questioned would like to see 'passenger profiling' introduced at airports whereby passengers are selected based on their background or appearance. I was going to write a separate post on this, probably still will, but the key here is to understand that there's a difference between short term advantage and a long term strategy. Passenger profiling as a long term strategy is bullet/foot stuff. And there's very little, if any, evidence to suggest that it even offers a short term advantage. In counter-terrorism, as in so many things, it is better to do what is right than what is cheap and easy.

But the public don't care about any of that because they've been fed crap like this. What next? Separate check-in for Muslims, special travel permits, yellow badges, walled off Muslim ghettos?

And 28% of those questioned believe that most British Muslims are not moderate. Although not directly comparable, I'm sure I don't need to remind anyone that Blair's mandate to essentially rule by decree was delivered by 22% of the British electorate.

This government, as well as the Conservatives and the supporting cast in the media, appear determined to create a monster in order to fight their "war" on terror. The problem with monsters, of course, is that once created, they tend to have a mind of their own. If the Muslim demoniser slips its leash, it'll do a lot more damage to our society than a rag tag bunch of terrorist extremists ever could.

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Will said...

Profiling doesn't even mean searching Muslims more. How can you tell at an airport who's Muslim and who isn't? Searching people who don't have white skin is how it translates.

Whoever blogged this the other day was right: if we're really in a global war, it's time for a national unity government. If Labour insist on governing alone, then they shouldn't demand unity.

Graisg said...

It's shit creek stuff however you look at it. A clash of civilisations is coming and there's fuck all the great mass of us in the middle of all this hate and crap seem to be able to do about it.
Just one other thing, if the labour party still has any members left I hope they feel proud of their small part in letting all this get way out of control.
That's the way I see it, and I hope, hope, hope I'm wrong

Anonymous said...

Most of our fellow citizens have suffered a dumbed down education in which rewards are for putting ticks in the right boxes. Thinking for yourself is actively discouraged. A public thus trained accept totally uncritically whatever tosh is churned out through the media and regurgitate it believing it to be their own. A cycle of virtue is created so that any articulate and persuasive politician with good media links (guess who) can seed ideas in the gullible public mind and then respond "democratically" in whatever way that suits their own warped interests.

Mark said...

Ummmm...was this poll circulated amongst a broad cross-section of the public, or just amongst Labour?

Both Bush and Blair are trying very hard to frame this as a clash of civilizations, as graisg suggests it is, because they've both invested considerable effort in framing themselves as the only leaders who are prepared to deal with such a staggering crisis.

Many sources are speculating that John Reid is the new successor to the leadership. They base this on his evident coolness under fire in handling the "terrorist threat", and suggest that Gordon Brown is livid at being cut out of the loop.

But what if it's all a deliberate setup to advance the candidacy of John Reid? This -

- suggests (without going into the motivation aspect) that the whole thing is a load of codswallop. It introduces several gaping holes that I hadn't seen before, including the apparent fact that some of the arrested suspects didn't have passports. That, added to the previously known anomaly that none had purchased a ticket, either, makes them unlikely canidates for suicide bombing of international flights. The composition of the explosives appears to have been left deliberately vague. And so on.

Who is in the driver's seat on this one, and where are they trying to take everybody?

Mark said...

Here's a cool link-

- from Thomas Greene at The Register, taking apart the theory of binary explosives, and providing a hint of how very difficult the process would be to do in your own basement without blowing yourself up, never mind trying to spend several consecutive hours in an airplane toilet without arousing suspicion.

I realize the point is to blow yourself up, but it serves no purpose if you only kill yourself, and maybe cause a few copies of "Inflight Magazine" to get sucked out a window.

Making the explosive the alleged bombers are alleged to have planned to use is, in a word, tricky.

Niels said...

Ah, but it *is* a threat to our way of life. But only that part of it that goes around exploiting other countries through military and economic dominance so that we can sell each other more guff, more cheaply, and stay dominant.

It is not a threat to freedom, no matter how often that is suggested. It's a threat to £20 flights, cheap petrol and leaving the lights on all night.

Mark said...

Well, if you needed a source to come right out and suggest the plot was fabricated bull excrement, here it is;

Mark said...

Sorry, ".html" got cut off that last post.