Monday, June 05, 2006

Make (thought-) bombs, not seditious talk

To be honest, I haven’t followed the anti-sedition law threat – and the recent apparent backdown – that closely. As a writer/academic, the prospect of going to jail for my words (and thoughts?) is obviously a thing that affects me, but one glance at the names who are all het-up about it confirms for me its Boomer Establishment Heartland origins.

Like refugees-in-detention, the cause of “sedition” is an intellectual equivalent of scarf-knitting for the troops. To a rational mind, would-be hand-knitters of scarfs should instead help to buy/build a scarf-making factory (it is not as if troops get anything extra, tangible or intangible, from the hand-knit factor*). But of course, this is not the point: so much care and time of the upper-middle class is invested into the act of knitting. In other words, the supposed “cause” is about them, and their needs, rather than its ostensible subjects.

And the need for a “factory” rather than “boutique” model of countering terrorism-related threats to freedom of speech has never been any greater than right now.

Over the weekend, two high-profile raids occurred, in the UK and Canada. The UK raid was an interesting one, in its variance from typical “terrorist” demographics, viz Xer (or Xer-mentored) intelligent/highly-educated males, with little or no criminal history**. Not surprisingly then, two bog-ordinary East London thugs, who presumably (and characteristically) once casually big-noted themselves as terrorists, have lead the police to a cul-de-sac. No chemicals – and no books, even.

Meanwhile, the Canadian raid did uncover heaps of chemicals – all of which seem to have been supplied by the police. A clear-cut case of entrapment, akin to an undercover cop waving his erect penis around at a gay beat, and then arresting the first person to respond to the bait.

So what have these unproductive farces got to do with Australia? The answer is in the law as applied to inchoate (or entrapped) “terrorist” offences. At some point, arrests will be (and already are being, IMO) made for mere thought-crimes. And because of the twisted logic of terrorism’s being an exemplary offence (orange jumpsuits and all that), such a thought-crime charge will usually need to be followed with a thought-crime conviction, and hence then a thought-crime appropriate sentence.

Are you with me? I’m suggesting, inter alia, the coercive “re-education” sort of thing. While I’m not trying to suggest that 60s-Soviet gulags or Mao/Pol Pot-esque class-cleansings are just around the corner, if I was a Muslim, Xer, highly-educated male anywhere in the West (or the “pro-West”, like Saudi Arabia), I would be very afraid right now. (As it happens, all the boxes apply to me, except “Muslim”.)

In Saudi Arabia, about 750 men are currently being jailed as thought-criminals; i.e. for being “terrorist”-sympathetic, but otherwise not having committed an actual offence (and I’m confident that Saudi’s criminal code doesn’t have glaring loopholes in this regard). While a Saudi spokesman maintains that these men’s re-education/de-programming is voluntary, how could he say otherwise, given the UK’s enthusiasm (same URL) for the Saudi approach?

Maybe some, or even most, of these men have been successfully “nipped in the bud” – caught before they inevitably became real (/physical) terrorists. Be this as it may, what then happens is when things get interesting. (Hint: to extend the bud metaphor, “nipped” terrorists don’t then oh-so-exquisitely flower in the vase.)

Human rights groups – doing their best scarf-knitting act, as always – have denounced Saudi Arabia, re these 750 men in jail, for its detaining them without trial (same URL). Well, derr.

Would they prefer it that instead, such men get framed, tried and convicted for a minor terrorist offence? If so, do they then recognise that a few years in jail will only re-double the resolve of a thought-criminal? Meaning that the State will have to fall back on coercive “re-education” measures, after all; i.e. that the Saudi approach actually saves a pointless, middle step.

Australia’s Mick Keelty falls somewhere in between here. Officially and/or not yet, he is not in favour of detention of thought-criminals per se, but he is definitely an enthusiast for “re-education” measures for Australians “terrorists” who only get modest jail sentences. Which is surely to say, Muslim Xer highly-educated men whose “offence” was too inchoate, or entrapped, to justify the life (or nearly so) sentence that “terrorism” otherwise automatically merits.

As I said, coercively “re-educating” a highly-educated cohort within Australian society doesn’t amount to a Soviet Gulag et al, yet. On the contrary, the two are still a whole hand-knitted scarf’s length away.

* The refugees-in-detention lobby might here counter that their personalised, upper-middle class services can contribute something extra to their cause: viz a social or professional “in” with the Immigration Minister (who has a wide-ranging personal discretion to intervene in refugee/asylum-seeker cases). In the third world, this sort of leverage is (rightly) termed “corruption”.

** "What we're really facing is not a clash of civilisations, but a clash of generations"
- David Rothkopf, a former acting US under-secretary of commerce.

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