Fear is the key in this theatre of the absurd

#1
Lively article below by Brigadier Ian Gardiner (RM retd). Subject, what should our response be to the terrorist threat.
Source http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/opinion.cfm?id=120072005
Published 1 Feb in the Scotsman, I missed it at the time, but just received a link from a pal.

Fear is the key in this theatre of the absurd

IAN GARDINER

AN average of about 1,000 people a year have been killed by terrorists worldwide over the past ten years - and that figure includes the Twin Towers atrocity.

Each death indeed represents a shattering tragedy for the families involved. But, approximately the same numbers die each year as a result of lightning strikes. So, statistically, you have about as much chance of being a terrorist victim as you have of being struck by lightning.

The response of governments around the world to the perceived terrorist threat has been varied, but most have sought to increase security measures. Many have also introduced new legislation to help them combat the terrorist - legislation which inevitably gives those same governments more power and intrudes further upon the private lives of their citizens. They could hardly do anything else. And yet, and yet.

Terrorism is theatre. Hardly good family entertainment, but a bizarre genre of theatre nonetheless. It is designed to grab our attention, to publicise a cause, and to make us change our behaviour. Kill a hundred, terrify a hundred thousand, fascinate millions. The terrorist wants to terrify.

However, the damage and destruction he inflicts is relatively minor when compared to other violent and deadly threats that we face daily. While the incidence of lightning strikes is unlikely to increase, did you know that an average of more than 3,000 people each day die in road traffic accidents? Or that 9,000 people are expected to die each day this year of HIV/AIDS-related illnesses?

How do we relate this to the average of the three a day who will fall victim to terrorists? This is not to trivialise terrorism nor to underestimate its potential horrors, especially if nuclear weapons were to be involved. We require our government to protect us against this. But how much governmental response is theatre, too?

You can no longer go through airport security with anything much more threatening than a nappy pin on your person. But, once through, you can go to the shopping mall in virtually every airport in the world and buy a weapon with such a noble pedigree that the verb "to bottle" has entered our language.

Included in the raft of new legislation is the intention to introduce identity cards. This will bring with it the National Identity Register and the collection and storage of information such as fingerprints, iris scans, facial dimensions and DNA profiles. It is meant to be a voluntary scheme to begin with, but how long will it be before it is an offence to be found not in possession of your ID card? Does anyone suppose for a minute that this will make it any more difficult for terrorists to get legitimate ID cards than it is now for determined criminals to get hold of firearms - in spite of draconian measures to restrict their availability? The Twin Tower terrorists and the Madrid train bombers had legitimate ID papers. To what problem is an ID card supposed to be the solution?

It is the nature of bureaucracies to want to know everything - but do they need to? And as for going to war against Iraq ...

So, what should our own response to the terrorist threat be?

Firstly, don’t be terrified. Don’t even be anxious. Keep things in proportion. Yes, we might suddenly find ourselves slammed out of the blue into some vile violent terrorist hell. But we might also be hit by lightning, or a bus - or a tsunami. So, relax and don’t worry about it, and don’t let the media wind you up. Secondly, don’t let our own government get things out of proportion. A baleful, sceptical eye should be cast over all attempts to introduce illiberal laws and to increase government powers and spending on the back of the apparent increased threat. Don’t let them erode further your privacy or your liberty without good cause.

And, lastly, don’t stand under trees during thunderstorms, mind how you cross the road - and remember to use a condom.


• Ian Gardiner is a former Royal Marine.
 
#2
On 9-11 over 3000 people were killed. How many people need to die before a government reacts ? Perhaps we should take no action until 20,000 have been killed. We lose over 45,000 people a year on our highways mabye that should be the threshold ? Is terrorism a criminal matter or one for the military ? Our democrat politicans believe in the former and the administration the latter.

Terrorists play to the media. In Iraq a majority of attacks occur in time to make the news cycle - before noon Iraq time.
 
#3
While i understnd his points about reaction-over reaction,

I wonder where he gets his ststisics?

AN average of about 1,000 people a year have been killed by terrorists worldwide over the past ten years - and that figure includes the Twin Towers atrocity.
.............did you know that an average of more than 3,000 people each day die in road traffic accidents? Or that 9,000 people are expected to die each day this year of HIV/AIDS-related illnesses?
Sure, more Americans died in Highway accidents in the US than did in Vietnam for the duration of that war. It was apparently safer for a young man to be in Vietnam than driving the highways of the US. So what of it?

and in this he greatly minimalises it all
Each death indeed represents a shattering tragedy for the families involved. But, approximately the same numbers die each year as a result of lightning strikes. So, statistically, you have about as much chance of being a terrorist victim as you have of being struck by lightning.

His view probably makes more sense prior to the WTC attack.

Fewer people died at Pearl Harbour than in the WTC attack, should the US not have become involved in WW2?

What would the Brigadier have as the proper response, other than simply
Firstly, don’t be terrified. Don’t even be anxious. Keep things in proportion.
?
 
#4
I did say it was a 'lively article'.

I think Ian Gardiner's point was 'keep things in proportion'.

In other words, support your Government in taking the appropriate response, but don't give away your liberties (unnecessarily) in the process?

NOT 'don't try to do anything about it when our people and our allies are attacked'?
 
#5
It is safer to fly than not to fly - official!

Statisticians found that the overall death rate went up during the days after 11 Sep 01 due to passengers being forced to find alternative and unsafer means of travel such as driving, or simply falling foul of the mishaps that life throws up, rather than spending 2+ hours safely ensconsed in a pressurised tube.

I believe the terrorist atrocity of 11 Sep 01 was seized on gleefully by politicians on both sides of the Atlantic as an excuse for control measures.
 
#6
tomahawk6 said:
On 9-11 over 3000 people were killed. How many people need to die before a government reacts ? Perhaps we should take no action until 20,000 have been killed. We lose over 45,000 people a year on our highways mabye that should be the threshold ? Is terrorism a criminal matter or one for the military ? Our democrat politicans believe in the former and the administration the latter.

Terrorists play to the media. In Iraq a majority of attacks occur in time to make the news cycle - before noon Iraq time.
The Brigadier's point serves to underline the fact that 9-11 was seized upon as a 'new Pearl Harbour' and has become the justification for measures which would have been unthinkable prior to it. I suspect that there is not an argument here for ignoring the potential perils of an active and sophisticated terror threat BUT that there are, rather, many more significant threats to the global population which are either ignored or trivialised by those same governments which have reacted in so draconian a way to AQ (and other threats far less tangible - WMD/WME for example).

Climate change stands to catastrophically (and directly) alter the lives of far more than did 9-11 but the same government which is leading the GWoT does not even acknowledge the sense of the Kyoto protocols (despite - but actually because of - the fact that their nation contributes far more of the posited climate change cursors than any other). Where is the global response to HIV/AIDS; to rampant infant mortality, raised astronomically by the actions of the global systems sponsored by the governments of the Western world; to fox hunting on an industrial scale? Oh, and yet that’s my point, ‘spinable’ trivialities for headlines at the expense of things of import.

Equally, it might be asked, whether the coalition (let alone Iraqi) death toll since the start of TELIC has received the comparable amount of attention in terms of its proportion to the death toll of 9-11. However one looks at the rights and wrongs of regime change, the publicly stated reasons do not hold up to close scrutiny and as a result of the decision to enter Iraq many of our people have died - as a result of middle eastern terrorism but equally as a result of the actions of our own governments. How many are seriously suggesting regime change in Washington or London as a result of the, as at 8 Feb 05, 1,626 coalition dead in Iraq (okay, except on threads here about 'not voting labour' - the US just re-elected GWB for crying out loud) in comparison to the swift response to ‘over 3,000’ dead in the WTC attacks. We ought to be reacting more than half as strongly against the GWoT as we did against 9-11. Let alone all the other things which are going on around us.

If road safety is so poor and more a real threat to the individual than terrorism, why is more focus not put upon it? Headlines, spin and votes.
 
#7
The Brig's point is extendable to all sorts of incidents - cancer deaths per day, MRSA deaths etc. The point he makes is not really new - there is even a sociological term for it - I think Media Panic if my mind serves. Remember the banning of dangerous dogs, handguns after Dunblane. Things get people's emotions - 3000 in one go is, to them, far worse that one a day for ten years. Governments have to react to such waves of fear - generally what they do quiets the fear but does little to solve the root problem.
My brain says I'm with the Brig in reaction to the threat but my heart would expect things to tighten up. Sadly, experience tells me it is of little use. That is what terrorists do - terrorise.
 
#8
I could be very flippant and say Be alert - Britain needs lerts.
Little Johnnylickarse tells us out here to "Be alert - but not alarmed" What a crock!

Terrorism has been around for ages - it just makes better news now on CNN than it did before. The War on Terror makes a great smoke screen for domestic instabilities within a government (wag the dog anyone?). Then when it is not going according to plan some other issue will suddenly be brought up as a smoke screen (fox hunting perhaps or am I just cynical?).

Yes it is a very real threat and if not taken seriously would have fatal consequences. Security improvements, risk reduction, and increased vigilance at an appropriate level is a necessity. However a knee jerk reaction by politicians, or even the introduction of unnecessary intrusions into everyday life under the guise of "The War on Terror", would be hard to undo once implemented.

One cannot relax, take a chill pill and not worry about it. That would make a mockery of lives lost trying to fight terrorists. Terrorism is a real threat. Same as unsafe workplaces are a real threat. Panic reporting and legislating is, however, in my opinion anyway, another means of terrorising the population. People in the main are sheep and will follow the leader. Unfortunately for the world at present the leaders' abilities seem rather dubious at best.

ORC is spot on with his post, as is RC. In fact I cannot see that any of the points made in the posts on this thread are without merit. Hackle thank you for bringing the article to our attention.
 
#9
I agree with mizkrizzi's point that we should never slacken the grip on international terrorism.

But when are the opportunistic, lazy, headline grabbing jurnos going to give it a rest.

Or the publicity grabbing, soundbite emitting, tosser politicians, who have nothing of any consequence to say, going to give it a rest.

The threat is real. The threat is for the police forces and military powers of the world to address. Why all the sensationalism??? The answer is >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Tabloid journalism and self-interested politicians.

We spent many years with terrorism on our doorstep in Northern Ireland (some would argue its still there) but we didn't whip the public into a terror frenzy.

Or maybe the world was a bit more professional in those days than it is now!!!
 
#10
Another perspective on the response to terrorism, again from the Scotsman.
Web version of a report in today's paper, based on a major two-year study led by St Andrews University.
Key gaps exposed in terror defences

JAMES KIRKUP
POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT

Key points
• Most in-depth study since 9/11 to warn ministers of gaps in nation’s defences
• Defence strategy too focused on London and cities according to report
• Report claims rhetoric not matched by action despite improvements

Key quote
"We have identified some major problems, areas where there is a long way to go until we are satisfied we have the necessary resources in place" - Prof Wilkinson, head of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at St Andrews University

Story in full CRITICAL gaps remain in Britain’s defences against terrorism despite four years of intensive planning, ministers will be told this week in the most authoritative public report on the nation’s security since the 11 September attacks.

The study, which had the co-operation of the intelligence services and other security officials, will say that, in certain key areas, the government still has "a long way to go" before the UK is fully prepared for a terrorist attack.

Among the warnings from experts is that more attention must be given to protecting sites away from London and other big cities....
KEY POINTS REPORT WILL HIGHLIGHT

Government action still lags behind political rhetoric on counter-terrorism

• Britain is better prepared for attack than other European countries, but may face a greater threat
• Ministers have not exaggerated threat of attack
• Terror suspects may face public trial later this year
• Focus of security efforts on London and other major cities leaves other parts of the country relatively exposed to potential attack
• Vital funds set aside for regional police forces to spend on counter-terrorism posts are not ring-fenced, meaning the money can be spent elsewhere
• Greatest risk remains conventional explosive attack aimed at causing mass casualties
• Equipment to respond to an attack using biological agent is still not adequate
• Private sector does not get a consistent message from government about who to prepare for potential attack. Government websites advising on responses to terrorism are updated only slowly and infrequently
full story at http://news.scotsman.com/uk.cfm?id=195302005
 
#11
By the end of the 3 days after 9-11 when civilian air travel was banned in US airspace the daytime/night-time temperature differential over the continental United States was a degree wider than the thirty year average for September. With air travel due to increase by 1000% by 2050 and the potential for wide scale damage due to climate change already forecast the implications of just something so seemingly innocuous as air travel takes on an entirely new dimension. It can be argued that the biggest lesson we should be taking away from the events of Sep 01 is that we are contributing far more to destabilising the somewhat unstable equilibrium which is the global climate.

To go back to the most recent posts; of course we should be going after the terrorists whose raison d'être is to stimulate societal change through violent means. Lessons from recent history (NI) suggest that overcoming the problem posed by terrorism (to the extent that this has actually been achieved in NI) can only be done through the tackling of the causes of the trouble in the first place. Clamping down simply forces more and more to go on within which ever pressure cooker the terrorist/freedom fighter/criminal regards as his motive for violent political action. We know fairly well what it is that those responsible for 9-11 were agitating for: removal of infidel troops from the holy sites of Islam, some manner of conclusion to the Israel/Palestinian problem and revenge for our dismantling of the Caliphate. In no way whatsoever, at all, ever, am I suggesting that we ought to give in to terrorism - but, and its a bit but - these reasons are carefully thought through, to a certain mindset they are sensible and logical, and even the most pigheaded of us can see that if the roles were reversed we (whilst not perhaps able to see ourselves flying planes into buildings) might have the odd little grouse about the status quo.

The Western world has the power, military, political and cultural and unless we can see a way to use this power sensibly we are doomed to go on creating a global sub-culture who feel that they have no recourse except that of the bomb. Whether it ends up in Hyde Park for the Horse Guards or strapped around some Jihadi and delivered in person to Israeli border guards is little more than a matter of cultural origin.

It is only a matter of time before the descendants of those who lose their land, homes and families to rising sea levels, AIDS, starvation as a result of IMF third world debt policy find themselves taking up the cry of freedom and acting against their persecutors. If I live on a hill, well away from sub-Saharan Africa and I can just about pay the mortgage and the child care then I'm not the problem. If my bank and government are instrumental in disenfranchising those who are not (yet) our enemies then I am part of the cause of future conflict.
 

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