JOHN MENADUE. We need to better understand terrorism – how we got here and how best to respond.

The terrorist attacks in Manchester and London have received a deluge of media coverage. However, terrorism is much worse in the Middle East and other countries. Terrorism is a vivid political act, but deaths from gun violence, car accidents drugs, domestic violence and climate change are far more significant. We need to admit how we got into this mess.  

The carnage from terrorism in developed countries pales beside that in the Middle East. The Institute of Economics and Peace has published a Global Terrorism Index for 2016. The first ten top-ranked countries for terrorism and violence were: Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, India, Egypt and Libya. Among the 130 ranked countries, France was ranked 29, the UK 34, the US 36, Germany 41 and Australia 59. In a week in which 22 people were killed in Manchester and 8 people killed in London, 29 Coptic Christians were killed in Egypt and over 150 were killed in a terrorist attack in Kabul.. For days, our news media has given saturation coverage to the Manchester and London attacks, but the deaths in Egypt and Afghanistan were only briefly reported and then forgotten. A foot note only. Our derivative media clearly decided that attacks in the Anglo-sphere were more newsworthy and important than deaths in countries like Egypt and Afghanistan.. Our “news” coverage is heavily biased in favour of content from countries where we have traditional links or journalists in place. Again and again our media show us that it sees Australia as an island parked off London and Washington.

Terrorist deaths attract more attention because they are deliberately designed for propaganda value. It is political violence which relies upon the news media to spread the story. Unfortunately, our news media and others cooperate to maximise the propaganda value of terrorist attacks. Do they realise how much they are being used? Do they care?

Gun or domestic violence , drug overdoses and traffic accidents cause far more deaths. But they are not intended to attract political and media attention. ISIS and other terrorist groups try to seize every opportunity to advertise and promote their barbarity. Terrorist attacks are increasingly becoming low tech with “lone wolves” using vehicles and knives.   But they rely on the media to frighten us with blood and gore.

The terrorist groups’ craving for attention is mirrored by some conservative leaders whose stock-in-trade is the promotion of fear for political benefit. Malcolm Turnbull can’t contain himself when there are terrorist attacks in the Anglo-sphere. He believes that this focus on terrorism is effective in diverting attention from more important and intractable issues like climate change, energy policy, domestic violence or the failure of the war on drugs.

It is also clear that very powerful and influential vested interests depend on heightening the terrorist threat for profits, funding and employment. Even Universities are scrambling to join this booming industry. Just think, for instance, of the huge security infrastructures at airports, busily seizing mountains of nail clippers and installing new and expensive security machines.

Far more importantly, the vast military-corporate-intelligence communities in the United States and countries like Australia benefit from highlighting the terrorist threat and ensuring the vast expenditures that flow. Terrorism is an important factor in entrenching and extending the power and influence of the Security Industry State. The arms industry in Australia, for instance, has recently taken to funding the Australian War Memorial and provides substantial funds to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a so-called independent think tank that advises on defence issues.

Our intelligence agencies ASIO, ASIS and others have received greatly increased funding and powers to combat terrorism. But are we getting value for money.? Time and time again, we learn that terrorists and bombers were on security watch lists but were still able to wreak damage. Just think of how Monis was allowed to run free for months in Australia.

The most important and inescapable fact is that terrorist attacks today are driven by a thirst for revenge. Young, alienated Muslim men see terrorism as pay-back for the West invading and exploiting Muslim lands. Our invasion and continued presence in the Middle East has triggered terrorist attacks in the West and provoked historic Shia and Sunni enmity.

Until we admit that our interventions in the Middle East were mistaken, we will not begin to understand or overcome the tragedy that we see repeated week after week in many countries. But our media does not have clean hands. All our commercial media supported the disastrous invasion of Iraq. It is determined not to examine its role in the disaster it supported.. So it picks up each new terrorist attack but refuses to ask or examine how we got into this mess in in the first place.

The best thing we could do for starters is to get our military out of the Middle East.

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John Menadue is the publisher of Pearls & Irritations. He has had a distinguished career both in the private sector and in the Public Service.

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