Saturday, October 23, 2004

From Whose Bourne No Traveler Returns

A reader sends a link to a Guardian article claiming that terror is a figment of the panicky American imagination. There are really no wolves in the forest, just the sound of the wind in the trees. BBC documentary producer, Adam Curtis, produced a series called "The Power of Nightmares" (scheduled on BBC2 at 9pm on Wednesday October 20) which claims that terrorism "is a fantasy that has been exaggerated and distorted by politicians. It is a dark illusion that has spread unquestioned through governments around the world, the security services, and the international media.". The article goes on to say:

Bill Durodie, director of the international centre for security analysis at King's College London, says: "The reality [of the al-Qaida threat to the west] has been essentially a one-off. There has been one incident in the developed world since 9/11 [the Madrid bombings]. There's no real evidence that all these groups are connected." Crispin Black, a senior government intelligence analyst until 2002, is more cautious but admits the terrorist threat presented by politicians and the media is "out of date and too one-dimensional. We think there is a bit of a gulf between the terrorists' ambition and their ability to pull it off."

In this view, terrorism is a narrative invented by unscrupulous politicians to panic people into doing their bidding. Osama Bin Laden is a boogie man who is not really the threat he is made out to be.

"Almost no one questions this myth about al-Qaida because so many people have got an interest in keeping it alive," says Curtis. He cites the suspiciously circular relationship between the security services and much of the media since September 2001: the way in which official briefings about terrorism, often unverified or unverifiable by journalists, have become dramatic press stories which - in a jittery media-driven democracy - have prompted further briefings and further stories. Few of these ominous announcements are retracted if they turn out to be baseless: "There is no fact-checking about al-Qaida."

The most interesting aspect of Curtis' argument is the narrowness of its cast. By limiting his set of terrorist incidents to the developed world, and to Europe in particular, he arrives at the conclusion that terrorism does not exist. He looks around his world and asks, 'where is it?'. Kashmir, Algeria, Saddamite Iraq, Sudan, the Balkans, Indonesia, Timor and the Philippines -- to name a few places -- are ommitted from his account. The wonder is not that he omitted them; the astounding thing would have been if he had included it. The Left has displayed a magnificent indifference to death in the Third World and only slightly more sensitivity to deaths in the Balkans.

In places like Basilan in Mindanao, terrorism is not a nightmare. It is the waking day. The Australian Government, for example, issued a travel advisory warning its citizens from visiting Mindanao not because it feared some Freddy Kreuger intruding upon Aussie dreams as they lay in their beds in the Lantaka Hotel, but to guard against something more substantial, like a hand grenade pitched in at the seaside bar. You go to shrink to defend against nightmares. In places like Jolo a shrink will get you nowhere. But an automatic rifle will, and I have heard fathers lovingly describe a prospective purchase of a Browning Automatic Rifle or an M-1919 machinegun in the anticipatory tones of someone who has bought health insurance for his children. The "Power of Nightmares" should be shown in both the Muslim and non-Muslim parts of Mindanao. It should do well, billed as comedy.

Best of the Comments

For a while I've wondered if the blindness of the left comes from a lack of knowledge of their physical world. ... Spiney Widgmo

I wish it were that simple. As an engineer in Silicon Valley, I have observed that a delusional world view has no relationship to professional skill. I've spoken in depth with a solidly leftist engineer friend, and his world view diverges from mine at a very deep level. ... Twisted Knickers

Spiney--I sympathize with the thrust of your comment, but in fact, having met many, many Physics PhDs (theoretical and experimental), chemical engineers, and the like, Communists and Socialists (many of them taxi drivers in NYC originally from the former Soviet Bloc), my opinion is that in reality the ones capable of resisting and destroying the cultural legacies of Marxism and the darker elements of the French Revolution (the Bolshevik Revolution, for example) are those who are CORRECTLY instructed in history and the arts. ... Dan

Not even the stock market noticed. When 80 people were blown up in Buenos Aires in 1994, it was a one-day story in U.S. and those victims are still awaiting justice and their Iranian killers are still walking free. Why is terrorism not terrorism if it happens in Latin America? ... ArgentinaWatcher