Over the last year there have been a huge amount of articles covering terrorism. Nearly all of them international coverage. Deaths from cars, trucks, stabbings. It’s awful. I was in Paris when a man shot some police. The city was chaos with road blocks and the detonation of a suspicious bag in the Metro.
This was during the elections and the Parisians were on high terror alert. The city sounded like a never ending Jason Borne car chase with all the sirens. People were deeply worried about Le Pen and feeling suspected even though they had lived in Paris for 10 years. Desperately concerned about what the election would mean for them.
But this is Paris. Smack bang in the middle of it all.
Meanwhile in New Zealand people are worried about terrorism as well. It is hard not to be when news agencies constantly post terror related articles. They do this because fear sells. They get more hits and sell more advertising through fear mongering.
The government uses fear to fulfil it’s agenda. Massive increases in defence spending, the NZIC budget, the removal of privacy protections in the GCSB Act. All these things have been justified as combating global terrorism, protecting us from the unseen threats that surround us. The shadowy evils that are waiting to pounce.
Fears don’t have to be rational and the fear of terrorism or war in New Zealand isn’t. For instance, the UK travel advice for New Zealand doesn’t even have a link for terrorism.
Prime Minister John Key justified the massive increase in defence spending by pointing out the threats.
“The emergence of ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), heightened tensions in the East and South China seas, increases in military spending across South East Asia, and the rapid evolution and spread of cyber threats are just a few examples,” he said.
Yet the same defence force white paper that the spending was based on states,
“New Zealanders can remain confident that the country does not face a direct military threat in the foreseeable future. ”
And then goes on to advance possible threats that may be more likely to occur. Not much to justify spending an extra $20B over.
In Budget 2016, the Government announced an increased funding package for the NZIC of $178.7m over four years. In the words of the government this was,
“for the New Zealand intelligence community to ensure it can provide essential intelligence and security services and remain effective in a rapidly-evolving environment.”
Which can be roughly restated as we don’t have anything to worry about and we have made up a nice sounding sentence in the hopes you won’t ask to many questions. Or possibly, we just changed the law so we can surveil you but there are quite a few of you so we need more money.
At the end of 2014 New Zealand’s terror threat level increased from very low (unlikely) to low (possible but not expected). MFAT
The GCSB Act and associated legislation.
The changes to the GCSB and associated Acts gave the New Zealand government unheralded powers to protect us from terrorism. Yet the last act of terrorism was the Rainbow Warrior bombing in 1985. A full 32 years ago.And a simple search of the news for ‘GCSB threats‘ doesn’t find any reports of them to do with terrorism. Just the usual reports of how they have broken the law, been used to advance politics, and are installing their software in ISP’s in order to ‘better protect us’.
“Unlike many other countries, including our closest neighbour, New Zealand has not recently experienced terrorist attacks or serious, publicly-disclosed security threats.” – Cullen Report 2016
So why are we so worried about terrorism?
In the end there doesn’t appear to be any explanation for why we or our government are so worried about terrorism. It is insane that we spend so much time and energy on it.
It is justified by the use of shadowy threats to the country, people working secretly to destroy us. The problem with this is that it can’t be proven and we can’t disprove it either.
If the government says that 18 people are under watch for suspicion of terrorist links we aren’t allowed to see the reasoning. It is secret. We must trust them. They only want to protect us.
In reality New Zealanders have a greater chance of dying from just about anything else than terrorists. You have a greater chance of killing yourself than you do of being killed by outside forces. 579 people took their own lives last year. We should be worried about that.
I think in the end it is because we aren’t afraid of things we believe we can control. It is the things that we can’t control that are easiest to fear. It is a pity. There are a lot of things wrong with this country that should gain more of our attention. There are better ways to spend our money.