We wake up this morning to ‘breaking news’ in a Sydney Morning Herald ‘exclusive’ (cue #sarcasmfont) that Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, believes that wiping out Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, etc.) is impossible.
I despair, for two reasons. Neither of which has anything to do with the inherent truth in what Bishop is almost saying – that you can’t destroy an ideology with force: military, police or otherwise.
I am also non-despairing that the Australian government response to what is happening in the Middle East will not address the underlying issues fanning the flames of religious extremism and greed for resources – two ideologies I’d be quite happy to destroy.
(From my armchair, Western greed has meant our actions in the area have not tackled inequality and injustice – are there ever any other underlying issues? – and have instead either propped up brutal regimes or created power vacuums for well-armed militias to fight over.)
No, I despair because I fear Australia is about to see a raft of attempted law changes, in the name of fighting terrorism abroad and being a responsible global citizen, which will increase surveillance, freedom of movement and generally clamp down on our civil liberties.
This isn’t idle speculation. This was the legislative response of Australian state and federal governments to the planes being flown into the World Trade Centre and Pentagon in the U.S.A in 2001 – a series of anti-terrorism laws and a foreign invasion.
You may well say, “but if I’m doing nothing wrong I have nothing to worry about,” but you’ll also note that the laws put in place post-911 don’t seem to have exactly won the ‘war on terrorism’, do they.
Bishop says the goal of the government is to stop ISIL’s “spread beyond Syria,” targeting its financial flows, its recruitment activities, and its social media campaigns,” and “leaving them in some capacity intact anywhere would leave a cancer in place that will ultimately come back to haunt us”.
You may hear Warrior for Freedom when you read those words, but I hear the grinding cogs of political spin – an attempt to create a public consensus that there is a ‘clear and present danger’ and that we good citizens must trust the government to do what is necessary to protect us from this threat.
The second reason I despair is that this exact position now has a degree of consensus among what passes for Australia’s mainstream media. We’re not talking about an article in the Murdoch Press (the Daily Telegraph is this morning running their own themed exclusive: “Hate for sale as jihadist flag goes to auction at Liverpool mosque, inspiring teens to post their radical rubbish.” Classy). This is the masthead that proclaims itself “Independent. Always.” Umm…
While nowhere near as sensationalist as the offering from the Murdoch Press, Fairfax’s foray is sadly just as one-sided. In this ‘exclusive’ there is no countervailing comment from Labor, or the Greens, or someone (heaven forbid) who is knowledgeable about the Middle East.
Who knows why. In my experience, political ‘exclusives’ too often don’t come from good journalism. They come because the government gives a media outlet ‘exclusive’ access to certain information, with an understanding that there won’t be too many tricky questions asked about it.
Pretty much the only sentence in the Sydney Morning Herald article that comes close to the truth is this: “The US and its partners were also eager to stop countries that were buying oil from the group, which was a major source of its revenue, [Bishop] said”
It’s buried in the middle of the article. I despair.