Listening to both Radio 5 and Radio 4 this morning, and hearing the panic-laden coverage of the latest “terrrorist warning” (issued by Tony Blair, Tom Ridge and whoever else), it really struck me how Al Qaeda are using our media-obsessed society to great effect. Blair can talk intelligently about the dilemna he has between alarming on the one hand and warning of possible threats on the other, but it’s pretty much a dead cert that the media will pick up on the alarm message and thrash it for all it’s worth. After all, isn’t that what we the punters want? Well, not this punter actually. I’d rather have terrorist warnings read out like weather forecasts, rationally and simply at the end of news broadcasts. After all, the likelihood is that we’re going to have to live with these threats for 10-20 years minimum, so why not just treat them like what they are – kind of storm warnings – and forget all the doom-and-gloom trappings round the side. Let’s not give the terrorists the disproportionate, fear-inducing coverage that they seek.
I read a really good review of Roger Scruton’s new book over the weekend – “The West and the rest (Globalisation and the terrorist threat)” – in which Scruton is quoted as saying “If all that Western Civilization offers is freedom, then it is a civilisation bent on it’s own destruction. Moreover, freedom flaunted in the face of religious prohibitions is an act of aggression, inviting retribution from those whose piety it offends.” As the reviewer (Bryan Appleyard) points out, the emergence of the new global terror threat “has happened at the moment that the West has decided to reject it’s own culture. As a result, disaffected Islamic youth is confronted with the spectacle of Western wealth and power combined with abject Western decadence, a state of affairs that is ‘bound to provoke, in those who envy the one and despise the other, a seethig desire to punish’.” Soberingly, Appleyard points out that “Americans don’t want to be free to be anything, they want to be free to be Americans with all that that implies.”
Another article, which was in the TLS but I can’t find now, talked of the difference between free and fair trade. The general attitude of the West (and most obviously seen in aggressive American capitalism) is that “we should have the right to sell you our goods anywhere in the world, in return for which we’ll buy raw materials from you.” Unfortunately that kind of “free trade” perpetuates massive inequality and only exacerbates the “seething desire to punish” mentioned above.