Saturday, October 01, 2005

How do you glorify terrorism?

I mean, that's the real issue about the whole thing isn't it? When does talking about terrorism cross over the line into glorifying terrorism?

Fundamentally, I believe we have in Britain the right to free speech. That is, assuming we are not accusing anyone else of doing something criminal or obviously being predjudiced, we can say whatever we want. People might disagree with you, but then that's a good thing because it encourages further debate. Being tolerant enough to accept that people might have different ideas to you is part and parcel of living in a free, democratic society. To pull out the old and cliched quote from Voltaire 'I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.'

Not any more, or at least so it seems. Now we cannot 'glorify' terrorism. So back to the first point; what is glorifying terrorism? Now to my mind, whipping a crowd into an ideological frenzy, encouraging martyrdom and sending people off to commit acts of terrorism is pretty much already covered by existing legislation. As Liberty's initial reactions to the anti-terror bill comment, "There are sufficient measures in the current criminal law to allow prosecutions where necessary." So what is it exactly that the government is trying to stop - fuel protestors? animal rights groups? hecklers?

Glorification is difficult to pin down. Considering that universities have now been put on watch for 'extremists', does this mean that academic discussion of terrorism is going to be cracked down on? This cannot happen - there is a world of difference in my mind between debate and acceptance. Looking at an event from a different perspective is called being objective - terrorist/freedom fighter, and all that. There are two sides to every story; we should not allow our government to ban the side they do not like.

And that's another thing. (And a final thing, before I go on forever) You want glorifcation of terrorism, how about funding and supporting terrorism? OK, it's a cheap dig, but it highlights a greater point - if you support a group which later becomes a terrorist group, are you to be held accountable for what you may have said or done in the past? It's a tricky world out there, and loose fitting, ill thought out legislation helps no one.

Be careful what you think.


KathyF said...

The problem is, glorify is not a legal word. It is a political word, and politicians will use it. But lawyers will have the devil of a time enforcing it.

In the States we have a rule that you have the right to free speech, but you don't have the right to yell "Fire" in a crowded theatre. In other words, when your words cause harm, you can be held liable.

Reasonable enough, and enforceable.

MatGB said...

Very true, which is why I doubt it has any chance whatsoever of getting through the Lords.

Never been 100% on the calling fire thing, it's never been explained to me in a "where does the greay area end" way. As Paul points out, incitement is already a crime, but I'd hate to see, for example, a biographer of Mandela (by definition under TACT a terrorist in his youth) being arrested for glorifying.

Actually, wat am I saying; I'd love to see it happen, sometimes the only way to get rid of a law is to reduce it to the absurd.

Still, comments! Paul, do you get the email notification as well? Great post BTW, pretty much agree completely.

PaulJ said...

No, I don't get the notification. Didn't see that I had the choice either, but i'll go look.

It's exactly the point that it's such a loose term that makes it so dangerous. We've already seen a certain amount of 'stretching' the Terrorism Act, so I've no doubt we'd see a stretching of the 'glorifying' term either.

It's not really about the legal aspect to me though - if a person gets arrested, is detained and perhaps goes through a lengthy trial, even if it is thrown out as ridiculous, that person has still been mistreated and scapegoated for however long it takes to sort out. We can live without that by nipping it all in the bud right now before it even takes off.

Thanks for the comments though - nice to see people take the time to consider what I say.