Information Landmine

"The Americans keep telling us how successful their system is. Then they remind us not to stray too far from our hotel at night." - An un-named EU trade representative quoted during international trade talks in Denver, Colorado, 1997.

Friday, July 11, 2008


As expected, David Davis wins easily, the BBC sneers and the Greens come in second. This all seems to me to be to the good - the fact that prominent politicians can take a stand on these issues and come out of it looking pretty good is a very useful signal to send to MPs thinking about the political value of scare-mongering: apparently, the Daily Mail crowd will still vote for you even if you're doing things that could be protrayed as "soft on terror", and you might pick up a few civil libertarians along the way.

Also, from a far less cynical-political-horse-race-watching point of view, Rachel from North London, who was campaigning for Davis, has the text of her speech up. Awesome stuff:

Three years ago I was on the way to work when a 19 year old British man detonated a suicide bomb in the carriage I was travelling in, killing 26 innocent people and wounding over a hundred more. So I understand first-hand how terrifying terrorism is. But I now know that the real aim of the terrorists is not to kill hundreds but to terrify millions. To terrify us so much that we forget who we are and what we stand for and become like frightened children begging only to be kept safe. To use our own nightmares against us and to amplify them through the media and news cycle's endless feedback loop of fear. But as any parent knows, it is not always possible to keep those you love safe, and a person who is always safe is a person who never knows freedom - and who has no life.

Tony Blair once said that the freedom not be to be blown up on the way to work was the most important freedom - and that sounds temptingly true, until you unpack it. For no government can keep us safe, even if they watch over us and film us and listen to us and check our emails and internet use and hold our most intimate data and fill hundreds of prison cells with people who are merely suspected of - but not charged with - any crime at all.

When terrorists attack us, they try to divide us. They want a panicked reaction and a divisive, draconian response. It plays into their propaganda machine and by deeming them our terrible enemies against whom we must wage all-out endless, limitless war, we dignify and glorify their hateful - and hopeless - cause.

Now go and read the whole thing.


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