The freedom to be terrorized: Is the UK "barking mad"?

November 24, 2016 22:57

Terror and infantilism
Thursday, 4th November 2010

Melanie Phillips writes:

On last night’s BBC Radio Four Moral Maze, on which I am a regular panellist and which you can listen to here, we discussed whether, in the light of the Yemeni ink cartridge plane bomb plot, we in the UK had got the balance right between liberty and security.

Once again, I was left open-mouthed by the fact that some folk go to such extreme lengths to deny the reality of the Islamic jihad against the west. And to maintain this position, otherwise intelligent individuals say extraordinarily silly things.

For example, they really do believe that, despite the fact that the security service has warned that there are 2000-4000 individuals in Britain who are connected to Islamic terrorism, hundreds of terror cells and dozens of ongoing bomb plots that are known about; despite the warnings from the same security circles that it is not a matter of if but when there is a dirty bomb attack on the UK (suggesting strongly that they have been monitoring such attempts); despite the dozens of trials of Islamic terrorists who were trying to murder thousands of people, none of this makes the slightest dent in the fixed view that there is no grave threat to the UK.

Instead, they believe that the political and security establishment is setting out to scare people, purely in order to achieve more control over their lives and to procure more resources for the intelligence service. In other words, it’s all a giant conspiracy by people who are constitutionally malign.

This kind of thinking is on a continuum between infantile and barking mad. It ignores the evidence that Islamic terrorists have been persistently trying to do – and sometimes succeeding in doing – precisely what they say they want to do: murder as many Brits and westerners as possible. It posits a conspiracy theory for which there is not a scrap of evidence, but is based merely on the notion that the security service lies to us all the time – and behind that paranoid claim lurks the toxic belief that the whole ‘war on terror’ was got up by the neocons in order to do the bidding of Israel.

Do these people really think, were any of this conspiracy theory remotely true, that individuals within the security establishment horrified by such an egregious abuse of democracy would not leak what was going on? Anyone who has the slightest acquaintance with that world knows that it does not have one homogeneous viewpoint. Arguments about the nature of the terrorist threat and how to deal with it go on there all the time – and a significant number are bitterly hostile to the neo-con view of the world.

Then there is the argument about ‘disproportionality’. There is a threat, the disbelievers allow, but it’s not as bad as the threat in the past from Irish terrorism; nor was there such hysteria in responding to the IRA. Again, it is hard to credit quite how stupid this argument is.

However bad Irish terrorism was – and it was – the IRA never wanted to murder hundreds of thousands of people and take over the country. The Islamists do. And ‘no such hysteria’ over the IRA? No, there was no hysteria then – but the British army was deployed against the terrorists in Northern Ireland, and on occasion used ill-treatment and shoot-to-kill tactics.

Despite all the screams that we are currently losing our freedoms in an unprecedented way, none of this is happening now. Despite the enormous scale of the terrorist threat, it is being treated as a policing rather than a military issue. Whereas in Northern Ireland during the Troubles normal justice was suspended by the judge-only Diplock courts, currently all we have done is impose inadequate control orders on a few weasly foreign-born terror suspects in their own houses – and who in any event could freely depart the UK at any time.

In any event, what hysteria? Thousands of people continue daily to travel the Tube, despite the risk of further attacks. Muslim airport staff carry out body searches of departing airline passengers at the airports. Radical Islamists serve in Whitehall as government advisers.

No, the only hysteria is to be found amongst those screaming that ‘we are doing the terrorists’ job for them’. Yes, but not by destroying our liberties – but through people like themselves.

November 24, 2016 22:57

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