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Create Libel-Style Laws For Politicians Or Civil Servants For Alarmism

Comment 2nd July 2010

The term 'terrorism' or 'terror' was used frequently and to great effect over the past 10 years of government. After the 9/11 attacks, it became a term adopted widely by the media and massively misused, and when invoked in many brought to consciousness the shock of the attacks on New York.

We were told that 'the world had changed' and that security, and the withdrawl of civil liberties, was effectively to be expected and, in some cases, it was regarded even to be unpatriotic or even supportive of those resposible not to agree.

A string of 'alerts' were issued, many of which as Peter Oborne reported in his Dispathes programme Election Unspun: Why Politicians Can't Tell The Truth, and also in BBC's Adam Curtis' excellent documentary series http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_power_of_nightmares were found to be exaggerations, or simply flat lies designed to elevate a threat in order to sell newspapers in the media side, or invoke obedience on the political side. It has been a sad decade for civil liberties.

The new legal entity 'terrorist' has been created, separate from our normal legal system, carrying its own set of penalties and treatment of the suspect, including being able to lock up the suspect without even having to present evidence of guilt.

History shows politicians can use fear with great effect and ease to push forward unjust powers and build more unjust regimes, because it is really only under threat that people, sadly including in a democracy, allow such unjustices to take place. The media magnifies this power because they know also that it will gain them short-term attention.

This can't happen again.

Besides the idea of repealing the current 'splurge' of terrorism laws based upon this nebulous new legal entity, if a new threat develops, politicians and civil servants need to be held accountable, by law, to any claims or ideas they circulate about threats.

I would go so far as banning the use of the term 'terrorists' in describing threats, as the term is simply too loaded and people are too easily frightened by it, often beyond the scope of the actual threat.

But more than that, similar to libel laws, politicians and civil servants (including those who work in the intelligence services) should be able to be penalised clearly and in public view if they can be seen to be using alarmism to justify actions.

That's terribly difficult to quantify – how is it done?

Perhaps some sort of public, electronic based accountability system, calling time on alarmism in some way, could be developed and those in power should know that it exists and may be used. The public could vote if they believe they are being deliberately alarmed. If it reaches a certain level, it would require public scrutiny of a civil servant's claims.

Or, perhaps bring the accountability system closer to the government, bearing in mind the fact that this means the government is holding itself to account – always a problem!

Or, create a new Office Of Threat Claim Responsibility (no that wouldn't be the actual name) whose responsibility it is to scrutinise politicians/civil servants claims as to the magnitude of a threat, and give them access to those necessary to establish a reasonable concensus and most importantly, anonymity and protection to those involved so that they did not 'keep quiet' if they felt their job was under threat. Conscientious Objectors should be treated with absolute confidence.

There may well be better ideas, but that's a flavour. But the idea is important.

Why does this matter?

Civil liberties, and their preservation, in my opinion, is the most important role of government. Withdrawl of liberties (of all) in response to threats _is_ one of the biggest threats we face.

The public deserves to be protected from alarmism and the withdrawl of liberties as much as it deserves to be protected from those who commit mass murder.

Some of the 20th century's most terrible powers used alarmism to great effect to bring themselves into power, by presenting themselves as the only means to secure against the threat they expounded.

Please sort this out as much as can be because alarmism is as great, if not greater, threat than those responsible for politically motivated murders.



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