The latest Australian fear campaign

Fear in all of it’s formats has been used politically for a long time, Nazi leader Hermann Göring put it this way –

“The people don’t want war, but they can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and for exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.”

What is new is the times that we live in, with the Internet and information and social media at our fingertips. Now more than ever before, the public can question what they are being told by the Government and the media’s newspapers, TV and talk back radio. The beauty of social media is the ability to be able to share information and your point of view, not just locally or in your country but all over the world. A good example of this is the Ferguson shooting aftermath. Palestinians, Muslims and Black Muslims who normally don’t get along, came together in solidarity on Twitter, Instagram and live feeds.

ASIO head David Irvine has said this week that the he is contemplating raising our terror threat level from Medium, (it’s been that threat level since the last Iraq invasion in 2003) to High, meaning the Government thinks an attack is likely to happen instead of could occur. He retires tomorrow and it’s looking like it will be raised. On the 29th of August, Britain Prime Minister David Cameron announced that his Government was raising the UK terror level from Substantial to Severe, meaning they think an attack is no longer a possibility but highly likely. It’s to be noted that Northern Ireland has had that threat level for the past 4 years.

British based risk analysis company Maplecroft found this year as part of it’s Maplecroft’s Terrorism and Security Dashboard, (MTSD) world terrorism deaths have risen by 30% compared to the previous 5 year average. There were 12 fatalities in Western countries due to terrorism last year that includes 2 in Northern Ireland and 2 in Greece. Iraq had the highest number with 2 deaths on average per attack. Nigeria the home of Boko Haram, is the world’s deadliest with 24 deaths on average per attack. And what Main Stream Media (MSM) doesn’t report is that the rise in Western countries terrorism was due to Northern Ireland and Greece. Northern Ireland is fighting an upsurge in dissident republican terrorism and Greece is still battling it’s terrorism groups and austerity measures are inflaming their situation worse still.

Jihad is Arabic for ‘Struggle’ yet now it’s defined loosely as violent acts of terrorism. Language and it’s use by politicians and the media are very powerful psychological tools that can help to create a culture of fear. It is ironic that this is the same business model favoured by the terrorist group Islamic State (IS). The videos and the be-headings are done to promote fear and you have to ask how much does the MSM enable that and where do we draw the line?

Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam, the head of Egypt’s Dar al-Ifta called for Western media to stop calling IS extremists “Islamic State” militants but “Al-Qaeda Separatists in Iraq and Syria” (AQSIS) because the extremists are “far from the correct understanding of Islam.” He also has an online campaign that is tackling the extremist idealogy of Islam militants in Iraq and Syria and “to reflect that Muslims are against their practises.”

“The initiative by Dar al-Ifta came to express the institution’s rejection of many stereotypes that attach the name of Islam to bloody and violent acts committed by such groups,” Ibrahim Negm told Al Arabiya News.

“We are afraid that such incorrect stereotypes will be rooted in the minds of Muslim and non-Muslim viewers alike.”

Let’s remember the UK and the gory terrorist attack last year in May, involving the murder of British soldier Lee Rigby. He was randomly selected by British Muslim extremists because he looked like a soldier and brutally butchered and run over amongst other things. They reveled in the killing and stayed at the scene asking if people wanted to take photos on their phones saying –

“The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying every day. This British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”

The beheading of James Foley is believed to be a Britain citizen, although they haven’t officially identified him or the voice of Steven Sotloff’s killer as yet. This has led UK Prime Minister David Cameron, to respond to reportedly 500 British citizens being recruited by IS to fight in Iraq and Syria by lifting the terror threat level, for fear of them returning home and committing acts of terrorism. He has also introduced stronger powers through their Immigration Act, to deprive naturalised Britons of their citizenship if found to be involved in terrorist activities. Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his Government has introduced similar new anti-terror laws in response to reportedly 60 Australian citizens having being recruited by IS.

Mr Abbott’s go much further in that they want to make “it easier to arrest terrorists by lowering the threshold for arrest without warrant”; also make “it easier to prosecute foreign fighters, including by making it an offence to travel to a designated area where terrorist organisations are conducting hostile activities unless there is a legitimate purpose” and “ASIO to request suspension of an Australian passport (or foreign passport for a dual national) in appropriate circumstances.”

What is worrying is the lack of detail and evidence for these added measures and discussion with not just a failed attempt with Muslim leaders but also the Australian people.

Australia sending weapons to Kurdish fighters let alone the cost of inserting ourselves again, in a US-led Iraq venture is cause for concern considering the current Governments obsession with surplus and austerity. There are no reliable figures for how much the last Iraq war cost Australian tax payers, it’s been estimated at $5 billion and it cost the US tax payers $816 billion. Another question is has Australia or any other country involved learned from the last time that Iraq was invaded? Lets not forget either that the initial reason for the 2003 Iraq invasion, was the supposed Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) that as we now know were lies seemingly for political gain. The overdue by several years, Chilcot Inquiry which is about the entire Iraq war and the UK’s role in it, has faltered again with accusations of white washing of correspondence between former President George Bush and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. Without the truth from the last attempt at America fixing Iraq’s woes how can we fix them now? How can the fact that links between foreign policy and extremism be ignored any longer?

If it’s revulsion to the extremism displayed by IS, we would be better off offering asylum for Iraqi and Syrian refugees and fighting the brain washing recruiters of IS; working together with Muslim leaders, not just domestically but globally to help identify extremism in all of it’s forms as preventative action and providing lasting infrastructure, including education for their countries. The G20 would be an ideal forum for leaders to share ideas and come up with global solutions for this because it’s an economical and migration problem as well. It’s time we all talked about gas, oil and mining collectively and globally and not use the guise of war and fear campaigns to keep the public ignorant as to political and vested agendas.

If these issues are ignored and glossed over for domestic political gain and with the measures being proposed by the Abbott Government things will only escalate. The ‘Team Australia’ rhetoric in particular will only further isolate vulnerable Australians, as it only reconfirms their misguided beliefs being fed to them in a format that is actually cult like, as Mr Abbott has suggested. But it’s dangerous because it reinforces the ‘Us against Them’ mentality that organisations like IS create and indoctrinate into their followers. The MSM particularly in America but ever increasing into Australia, is currently not only promoting fear but it’s also showing it’s appetite for it, with offerings parodied with insight by Jon Stewart including how Bahrain being part of the global effort against IS is a good thing exactly? Humour, comedy, education and insight are perhaps weapons to be considered in the fight against extremism and it’s many forms. Our biggest fear isn’t returning foreign fighters but a religious war that is not just threatening the Middle East and it’s borders but universal peace with a ripple effect across the global Islamic community that is hard to be measured.

It’s curious that our Government is now discussing proposed heightened security measures via the media after covert measures such as Operation Sovereign Borders (OSB) and people smuggling measures. The idea that ASIO and the Government work independently in regards to security is offensive and frankly a dangerous image to portray to the Australian people. Does Australia belong in Iraq or Syria or is it just the 2014 version of the latest fear campaign?

         

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