The paranoia of combatting terrorism

We see the surviving suspect of the Boston bombings about to be charged in the US, and this is good and proper and how it should be. But as has also been seen, this is not enough for some people. Some people scream “enemy combatant” and want everything changed, either because they are too authoritarian or too scared.

For a start, you don’t adhere to the proper rule of law and criminal charges for the sake of the bomber, you do it for your own sake, and the sake of your society. He deserves to be treated as a common criminal, with the same rights as a criminal, because that is how a civil society runs. Importantly, in the US that could also mean the death penalty (which I’d object to for other reasons), but in this case that is appropriate because it already exists in the law (not as something thrown up as a “special case”).

You’d think that after 10 years people would have learned something, but sadly that would be somewhat naive. The type of person who wants to throw away all established legal precedent to “fight the terrorists” is for a start in the US usually someone not willing to do much at all to combat regular gun violence (a massive irony there by itself), and usually an ultra-conservative authoritarian who is happy to throw away the law whenever they please just because they can. They seized the post-September 11 landscape as a chance to transform society as they wished, and in the ensuing disasters they gradually lost their influence, so of course with a new event they sought to re-establish that influence.

Fortunately this doesn’t seem to be working right now, though there’s always a chance of them making a return. Even in Australia you can see that authoritarianism rising at times — I would say most related to the fear of “boat people” and the paranoia about refugees that grips too much of the population. Just be vigilant of this mentality, I think.


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