David Cameron describes the threat of terrorism in Britain as an ‘existential threat’. This is preposterous, and he knows it
The new laws now being pushed through by them were met with extreme reservations and opposition, even from the Tory side, when they were first mooted back in March.
What has changed in three months? The politicians now think that revulsion at the attacks in Tunisia will be such that they are able to push through changes to civil liberties that produced widespread scepticism.
These changes include blacklisting ‘extremists’ from speaking on radio and television, or in universities.
These will be, as David Cameron has been signalling for some time, ‘non violent extremists’ i.e. a completely separate group of people from those actually committing terrorist acts. It will introduce a category of thought crime, even if it doesn’t go by that name.
People will be banned and presumably arrested for doing nothing but speaking their views. These may be unpalatable or even offensive views to some, but should they be banned?
And who decides where to draw the line? What does ‘opposing British values’ amount to?
In practice this will lead to further repression of the Muslim community in particular. But it is also aimed at scaring off those who support the Muslim community and who have campaigned alongside them in the past.
It is reminiscent of the McCarthyism in the 1950s in the US, an anti Communist witch hunt which destroyed the lives of many people.
Cameron describes the threat of terrorism in Britain as an ‘existential threat’.
This is preposterous, and Cameron knows it. But the language serves to frighten people and to allow an atmosphere where such laws can be passed and where it is hoped that no one questions them.
The same is true of his use of the term ‘full spectrum’ to describe the British government’s response to the Tunisian attack. This echoes the US military term, beloved of the neocons who urge ever greater interventions to deal with a problem they told us their war launched 14 years ago would solve.
That problem of terrorism has instead become much greater. But rather than deal with the whys and hows of that – which would involve a wholesale rejection of US and British foreign policy since 2001 – it is much easier to crack down on ‘non violent extremism’ and drive through a Prevent strategy which is seriously alienating Muslims.
These solutions are no solutions, and will do nothing to deal with these problems. But that isn’t what they are about.
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.
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