Sunday, 1 July 2007

Failing terrorism and liberty

A man on the BBC has just described the assault on Glasgow Airport and the car bombs in London as "failed terrorist attacks". Well, we can be grateful that no one has been killed; since my parents are flying from Glasgow (where I grew up) this morning, I'm very glad that worse hasn't happened.
But I'm not sure about "failed". All terrorist attacks succeed at some level, in that they inculcate fear, or merely inconvenience, or – which I think may be the worst of all – encourage damaging restrictions on freedom. And they need only win once. Try again, fail again, fail better can be anybody's maxim.
I had lunch the other day with Farah Mendlesohn, who edited an excellent collection of short stories called Glorifying Terrorism, for which, declaring an interest, I wrote the introduction. Each of the stories attempted to break the law introduced in Britain to prevent anything which "could be interpreted" – and, mind you, by anyone – as glorifying terrorism. This is precisely the sort of damage terrorism leads to and it is, in its own way, as corrosive as the initial attacks themselves.
What will it profit us if we fight off the advocates of the Caliphate and sharia law by introducing legislation which approximates the constraints on liberty they want?
Farah says there are very few copies left. You can get them here.
Damian Thompson, on his Telegraph blog, draws attention to another consequence of terrorism, and the Muslim Council's pre-emptive attempts to (commendably) discourage reprisals, or (moronically and cravenly) avoid issuing the obvious condemnation. That consequence can only be called sheer blithering idiocy.