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Oceania The Power of Nightmares and The New Al-Qaeda

Discussion in 'Oceania Discussion Boards' started by Katana_Geldar, Dec 8, 2005.

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  1. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    I can absolutely question the conclusions Moore draws - as is the case in BFC, he loses sight entirely of his agenda and it's left to others or partially explored ideas to make the true mark of brilliance in his work.

    The state has, to a degree, a responsibility to act in a such a manner when dealing with terrorism here. What you have to understand about the brand of ideology which Qutbists like Osama bin Laden subscribe to is that it's incredibly persuasive. I'd argue for the most part people have little idea to the true nature of al-Qaeda, due to our old friends at the media. Al-Qaeda has been painted as a real life and nastier SPECTRE, when in reality it was little more than a franchise. You learned some moderately anti-social skills, had some ideological indoctrination and limited logisitics support. What you took forth that was, I'd argue, more deadly than your knowledge of bomb making when you left an al-Qaeda camp was the meme, as it were, of bin Laden's take on Sayyid Qutb's ideology.

    The London and Madrid bombings amply illustrated this; as we'd destroyed the basic infrastructure of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, we left alot of these disaffected Muslims without the direction they needed and thankfully their attacks reflected this; generally, they were less intricately planned and casualties were far lower.

    What happened was that the seeds sown by bin Laden had outlived his immediate capacity to nuture his own mujahideen.

    (I apologise; I became somewhat enamoured with Asia and lost interest in alot of this, so I'm not as up to date as I'd like)

    Which brings me back to Australia; whilst there's little doubt the state and media do indeed distort the reality of this situation, there's a perfectly good (but insulting) raison d'etre behind it. The media is attached to fear because it guarantees consumption; for example, the environmental lobby has sold it's tenuous ideals on the back of fear.

    The state, however, has a double edged blade to walk. The price for inaction or inadequate action is of course great; but the flip side is to be too cautious and risk planting nasty suspicions in the minds of constituents.

    I'm of course familiar with Mr Jefferson's comments on the negative benefits of a trade off between temporary security and liberty, but I do question to what degree Australians have sacrificed liberty. ASIO's power, as I understand it, has been expanded somewhat but nothing seems to have been created from scratch.

    Your comments about documentary vs print media are taken, and it wasn't my intention to create the impression of a hierarchy. I am wary of generally all post-9/11 pieces on terrorism, as in my experience they initally tended to be hyper-emotional and then took a nose-dive on the validity front in my opinion. Documentaries, however, can be more subject to the bias of the filmmaker. If you can find bias in, for example, the works of Paul Pillar or Peter Bergen, you're doing a great job.

    E_S
  2. Sai-Mera_Saa Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 18, 2002
    star 4
    Fair point about Moore. To defend him against a charge of lack of coherency is to take on a doomed task.

    Those are very interesting comments about al-Qaeda. I'm no expert in the area, but it seems plausible to me that the physical presence of this organisation, whatever it may be, might be outweighed by the 'perceived threat' presented by politicians and the media. This is what I understand Curtis to be suggesting.

    If I understand your perspective correctly, it is the ideological basis for terrorist action that you believe the world should be concerned about. On the assumption that any ideological movement draws resources from outside itself, is not Curtis plausible in suggesting that administrative 'protection' from what amounts to be an ideologically motivated terrorist threat might be blown out of proportion to the actual physical presence of terrorists in the world? The point I am making, of course, is that this indeed seems possible.

    As for Australia, I can only surmise that it functions similar to reactions in the U.S. and Europe. A more interesting question, I think, is whether Curtis' framework can be applied on a domestic level to things like racism.

    You make a very valid point about post 9/11 works on terrorism. I wonder, though, whether authors, and thus their books, are so immune to bias. It seems to me that print material is as subject to the perspective of its author(s) as film material. I don't claim to know the motivations of the two authors you mention (or of Curtis for that matter), but I would think that, while providing a measure of clarity, they still approach the issue of terrorism subjectively.
  3. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    Yes, basically I'm saying the media's focus is too heavily weighed upon the physical entity of al-Qaeda rather than the ideology al-Qaeda spread like a virus. London and Madrid weren't al-Qaeda attacks in the proper sense of the organisation; they were born of the ideology reaching other disaffected Muslims and influencing them to act.

    As for media; even pro-Palestinian Middle East academics decry the death of innocents to make a point. So bias against the acts themselves are of course always present; it's the way in which the facts are presented. The only totally non-biased source I've read is in a book called "Secret Soldiers" about special forces and their role in fighting terrorism by a chap called Peter Harclerode. He presents a history of major terrorist attacks without any personal opinions, recalling them as they happened before discussing specific operations later.

    In defence of the State, however; it is an explicit condition of the social contract for the state to provide security for it's people and as such, it has a duty to ensure that it's people are not subject to harm via the threat of terrorism. Which is why states feel compelled to act; and as we've seen with the recent trial of two Australian terror suspect, the actions of the state are warranted at least in part. Moreover, it's naive fallacy to assume Australia will be benevolently spared the spark of Islamist action; that we've not had any now I think speaks more to the actions of the Security Service and the Federal Police than any sort of luck.

    E_S
  4. stinrab Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jul 9, 1998
    star 5
    eeee... does not compute... eeee
  5. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    I think what the Hobbit is saying, Katana, is that whilst you're advocating having your own opinion, you're ruining it by letting people who make documentaries make the opinion for you.

    E_S
  6. stinrab Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jul 9, 1998
    star 5
    Good interpretation. More Latin next time, plz.
  7. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    Salus populi suprema lex?

    E+S
  8. HawkNC Former RSA: Oceania

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 2001
    star 6
    I thought he just meant that putting "thought-provoking" and "Michael Moore" in the same sentence is some form of heresy. Which I don't agree with personally - every time I see him on TV, I think of breaking it. He's costing me a lot of money, actually.
  9. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    Hawk, you don't agree that having Michael Moore and thought provoking is heresy, yet you want to Hulk smash! your TV..?

    o_O

    That makes no sense.

    Enjoy

    E_S
  10. stinrab Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jul 9, 1998
    star 5
    The JCC fried his brain. It's best not to draw attention to it.
  11. HawkNC Former RSA: Oceania

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 2001
    star 6
    You see, he provokes me to think...bah, never mind.
  12. Amaya_Unduli Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Sep 13, 2005
    star 3
    Uhh, I think that you've misunderstood me. What I was saying was that I don't see any evidence that the Islamic people have contributed to the 'phantom threat'; not that the theory of a 'phantom threat' is unsupported in fact.
  13. Katana_Geldar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2003
    star 8
    Thanks for all your comments guys including you, ender. ;)

    One of the important things I gathered about this phantom threat was that it doesnt really matter who it is, where it comes from or how big it is in reality. That really has no bearing when the state decides to use it as 'the other'. But having an 'us and them' is really due to the fact that we humans are social people, we like to see things in black and white even if it is not so. Look at sporting matches, there must be a team that wins and one that loses and a draw is a real let down.
  14. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    The phantom threat most certain is not a phantom threat, or did you sleep through the London and Madrid bombings, Katana? Tell you what; you tell me what the recent evidence presented at a certain terrorism trial was, and we'll go from there.

    E_S
  15. Katana_Geldar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2003
    star 8
    Alright, I agree with the phantom threat theory to some extent but it doesnt apply now of course given Madrid and Bali.

    The New Al-Qaeda seemed to support your theory about Al-Qaeda, Ender. Kinda like an umbrella term.
  16. Sai-Mera_Saa Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 18, 2002
    star 4
    I'm not so sure that Curtis really is advocating this 'phantom threat' concept that you speak of. On the contrary, I think his point is that administrations have capitalised on a very real threat, but have extended this through rhetoric to create a cultural identity moment such that, through focus, power is revested in the government.

    E_S is right to insist that terrorism is not a vacuous concept. What, though, of the political rhetoric of terrorism? For example, what is terrorism? Could you define it? This is such a potent term in today's world, yet its definition is left to ambiguous politics. Does terrorism, in fact, have anything to do with ideology at all? These are all interesting and, I would argue, important questions that must be addressed if some positive headway is to be made towards peace.
  17. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    Well my definition of terrorism is less, how would you say, political sensitive than the US government one. I define terrorism as political violence intended to provoke a reaction within a state; either by coercing a government to act or by turning the people against their ruler. Thus, to that extent I would call the Special Operations Executive's actions against Nazi Germany terroristic; the main different is many of these groups don't actively target civilians. The SOE would destroy infrastructure to undermine confidence in the German occupiers as leaders in states; they weren't killing civilians to blackmail the Reich.

    So my main problem with terrorism is that I tend to define it based on the terrorists and the acts rather than giving it a blanket "teh suxx0r" label.

    Katana; it doesn't apply at all. Consider bin Laden's take on Sayyid Qutb's ideology of violent Islamism to be seeds. Bin Laden can both plant them himself and allow them to be pollinated the same way seeds are spread nowadays; stuck to creatures (people who leave the camp to take the jihad to their home front) and on the wind (via media). As London, Bali and Madrid illustrated, the threat isn't what the media's necessarily fixated on - i.e. the SPECTRE aspect of al-Qaeda - but rather that the ideology is fluid and being absorbed by thousands of disaffected and angry Muslims worldwide.

    E_S
  18. Katana_Geldar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2003
    star 8
    Well there are two ways you can reassure people generally, you can tell them that everything is okay and there's nothing to worry about or you can tell them that everything is NOT okay but they are doing all in their power to make sure it is. The latter generally has the most power particularly when you have real visual reminders on how stuffed up the world really is.

    I'm trying to find some middle ground here, I don't know why but it seems the safest best nowadays when there are two completly polarised points of view.
  19. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    A middle ground between "it's OK" and "it's bad", huh? What would that entail; "It's both good and bad", "It's mostly OK"?

    E_S
  20. Katana_Geldar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2003
    star 8
    More like "It's bad, but not as bad as we are told to think it is."

    I'm a history student so it's second-nature for me to find some sort of synthesis between two opposing points of view. This might seem to be a vague attempt of not coming to a point, or trying to please everyone but we can't view a situation as a simple black-and-white issue as I said before.

    It's not like: these are the good guys and these are the bad guys, they both have reasons for doing what they do. Not that the terrorists did of course, I have no sympathy for them whatsoever, more like the Afghanis and Iraqis who are sick of Americans telling them what to do.
  21. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    Katana, maybe your analysis would benefit more from 25 years on the shelf to see how it all pans out? ;)

    E_S
  22. Katana_Geldar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2003
    star 8
    Pehraps, this kinda views only been with me for the past three years since I've been a history student.
  23. Saintheart Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Dec 16, 2000
    star 6
    I missed the kickoff for this debate...or rather I was out buying popcorn before it started...but on this one I thought I'd chime in.

    To deal with the 'climate of fear' thing first, I think there's a very strong case for saying that the agenda of the United States government at the very least is well-served by a continuing climate of fear and polarisation against a definable enemy. That is because one of America's biggest industries is the industry of war. I accept France and the Soviet Union have their own arms industires, but I think the US's share of the market dwarfs the others. The Lend-Lease agreement during World War 2 would not have been made if it didn't make economic as well as 'moral' sense...the UK was paying off the debts it owed to the US for decades, if it still isn't doing so today. Take a look at the F-22 Raptor; a state-of-the-art fighter, costing billions to design and build, and the very foe it was originally intended to fight collapsed in the meantime. When the US enters a war, whilst there's typically a fall in short-term stock prices, the American economy tends to prosper in the long term. War creates jobs, and sales. After all, the US military is one of the America's biggest employers and buyers of manufactured goods. It's also a source of technological advancement: a great deal of the advances people take for granted originally started out as experiments to find military applications--not least the Internet itself, which was a military communications system at first and slowly expanded out into the academic world.

    But in order to keep the machine of industry running, you have to have someone to fight, or at least a definable enemy, and one that the American public is resolved to fight. Historically speaking the US public doesn't like to get into conflicts outside its own territory; indeed there's an argument that if Hitler had chosen not to declare war on America, the US would have simply fought the Japanese alone and left Europe to its own devices. Popular opinion in the US before Pearl Harbour was isolationist and pacifistic. I won't touch the conspiracy theories that the US government knew the attack at Pearl was coming and allowed it to happen in order to galvanise the nation. Needless to say America probably came out best from World War Two.

    I'm of course familiar with Mr Jefferson's comments on the negative benefits of a trade off between temporary security and liberty, but I do question to what degree Australians have sacrificed liberty. ASIO's power, as I understand it, has been expanded somewhat but nothing seems to have been created from scratch.

    This is probably the only point of distinction I have with you on this, E_Sai. The problem is with the persistence of the changes. At the moment the changes that we're seeing don't appear to be causing a loss of liberty. But it's also highly unlikely that those changes will be repealed upon a theoretical victory in the war on terror (whatever that may mean). I'm not really concerned about the changes now; there's too much of a spotlight on them for them to really be abused. I'm more concerned about 20-25 years down the line. That's when governments--or more correctly, certain public officials--start getting creative about the use of old legislation that was meant for one purpose but can be adapted for another. Usually the argument that the law wasn't intended for the purpose it's used for doesn't work in all except the most heavily defended cases. The UK gives us examples of that.

    I was reading about some of the laws that are in place regarding what can and can't be revealed to the media during a trial. The question of whether a piece of evidence can be given in a trial because it offends national security can only be assessed by the Attorney-General, whose decision on the matter is unreviewable and secret. That worries me...mostly because the Attorney-General is not apolitical, as a judge is. And with that kind of power it is very simple to mistake something that is embarrassing
  24. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    If I may, before I respond; could I essentially condence your argument to a concern about an upset of the separation of powers, favouring the executive at the expense of the judiciary, Saintheart?

    E_S
  25. Saintheart Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Dec 16, 2000
    star 6
    Basically. Although what I suppose I'm most concerned about are:

    (1) The executive using the umbrella of national security to conceal material that is only politically inconvenient, as opposed to concealing material that must bona fide be kept from the public because it endangers a continuing operation; and

    (2) Use by the executive of laws for purposes that the original laws were not intended to combat.
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