Sunday, September 21, 2014
Being afraid of the Muslim bogeyman – Australia’s cowardice and double standards
Nine years ago, I wrote cryptically about the legal dubiousness of what has since publicly been named as Operation Pendennis. I would like to refine my opinion, somewhat, on the advisability and effectiveness of citizen intervention on crimes as they unfold – as opposed to crimes in the anticipation. And certainly to change my opinion entirely on what we have learned from September 11. Never mind the apparent cowardice, or more charitably, the rote by-the-book-adherence by the passengers on the first three planes; we are now all firmly on the fourth plane, United 93, as it were – well I am, anyway.
Inchoate offences are a fraught area, because unless a line is drawn around a small minority class of the surveilled, the only alternative is a total police state, aka a permanent State of Emergency. But even under the less draconian scenario, defining the unfortunate subject class is, of course, hugely fraught. The majority can keep living their lives much as before, but the singled-out, intensely-surveilled minority – which in the present case is young Muslim men – will have their lives (and those of their families) turned upside down. For this reason alone, I predict that the main outcome of Thursday’s raids will be the creation of a dozens, at least, of new terrorists. And if they are squashed with another pre-emptive raid in a few years’ time, hundreds will then fill the void. And so on: nice one, Tony Abbott.
Of course, I am not a fan of terrorism, nor opposed to legitimate law enforcement. What happened on Thursday, however, was abhorrent – if, as was widely reported, 900 police were mainly there to stop a Lee Rigby-style planned public beheading of a (i) random stranger, or (ii) uniformed soldier, that would be filmed, presumably by an accomplice.
Here’s a shocking thought: two evil-, and You Tube-, minded terrorists, one armed with a knife, and the other with a phone-camera, probably cannot do that much damage in a crowded public place – unless we stand by and watch. Someone can be easily fatally stabbed, sure, but to slit a throat, on camera, requires a reasonable amount of choreography in the lead-up. Meaning that there may well be enough time and opportunity for one or more passers-by to (a) jump, or incapacitate the knife-wielder by heavy blow using anything at hand (fatal or otherwise, I think it matters not), and (b) at the very least, jump the phone-camera wielder. Is mainstream Australia really so cowardly that we cannot see this common-sense approach as a viable alternative, at least, to pre-emptive mass raids of the sort that happened on Thursday? If so, then I suggest that the terrorists have already won.
Corroborating this, albeit unintentionally, are the words on Thursday of former judge Anthony Whealy (who was the judge in Pendennis), who said that his lot, arrested in 2005 and some still in jail, were mere bumblers in comparison to those recently raided:
ANTHONY WHEALY: "It's a propaganda tool. It's a horrific one. It's one that must just make us shake our head in horror . . . It is far more sophisticated in these things than the bumbling efforts of a few would-be conspirators acting out on their own. In some respects, Operation Pendennis was essentially that. So this is different. This has got an international connotation and it's got a more horrific connotation in that it's orchestrated by people who well understand the propaganda value of such a horrific act".
So “horror” is no longer a physical thing, apparently, but relates to You-Tube viewer statistics, including whether they are domestic/Australian or international (larger numbers of the latter make for “more horrific” horror, because it is propaganda, see). And indeed, personally I am shaking my head in horror right now – as to how someone with as limited a set of insights as Wheatly ever became a judge.
There are also two related double-standards that concern me, and may explain why what I term a common-sense approach is not that common, apparently. One is Australia’s extreme tolerance, in my view, for young, law-breaking bogan men – other than Muslim bogans, of course. Steal a car, and then die driving the stolen car, at a dangerous speed in a police chase? Apparently, that death is the police’s fault, unless proved otherwise. This situation is somewhere between an anomaly and an outrage. Statistically I imagine that a random, innocent Australian is far more likely to die as collateral damage in the stolen-car chase scenario than in a public-place terrorist beheading, but not only are likely car-thieves not comprehensively pre-emptively surveilled (as far as I can tell), but they are not subject to murder charges, if they kill an innocent stranger, and live to face court. Personally, I think that if the stolen-car driver is the only person killed, then the cops deserve a medal and this is a win for just about everybody. Except the owner of the stolen car, now a wreck – but if this was me, I’d be sending the bill to the family of the deceased.
The second double-standard concerns why we have singled-out young Muslim men only (again, as far as I can tell) for pre-emptive surveillance, while there are other categories of men – non-bogans, this time* – who seem reasonably prone to the mass-murder of innocents. Forty-four year old farmers, apparently happily married, for instance (44 being the age at which depression peaks for men). And recently-separated fathers of young children, who have an access visit arranged for Father’s Day. If our police and intelligence forces are as good at thwarting murderous plots as the generally obsequious media coverage of Thursday’s raids suggests, then eradicating, in the near future and throughout Australia, the murder of children and/or (ex-) partners by men (none or few of whom are Muslim, as far as I can tell) should be a cinch for them.
Such raids/surveillance would’t get the same applauding, banner headlines, though – and in fact the biggest headlines would probably come from the protests of innocent men, outraged that they have been targeted unfairly, as one of a high-risk minority. Treated like a Muslim man in Australia in 2014, other words.
* I am trying to be an equal-opportunity offender