I’m finding that the way that stories are reported rather interesting and full of hidden bias.
For instance that the alleged attacker in the London attacks yesterday was a 52 year old British born man as was headlined in several media outlets this morning like the New York Times app headline I read this morning “British-Born Man Named in London Attack”. (I see that now links to “London Attacker Khalid Masood Had 20-Year Police Record“).
You’d never know that rather crucial fact from listening to the Morning report headlines read out by Guyon Espiner on National Radio this morning.
That would have a different spin than a 52 year old man with an Pakistani name who has had a number of previous convictions, that last one 14 years ago being for a knife offense. Which is the selective spin of facts that came through in the headlines on morning report. Sure everything said was correct. However it left out some crucial facts that would have been far more useful for a rational debate.
As a consequence I suspect that I’m going to have to deal up with the usual gormless anti-immigrant bigots today who are appear to be too stupid to look past those selective headline ‘facts’.
Why is that important? Well for exactly the reason pointed out by Jason Burke in the Guardian in “No surprise that London attacker Khalid Masood was born in UK“.
The reality is that contemporary Islamic extremist violence has never been as international as often imagined by the terrorists or their victims. The 11 September 2001 attacks involved hijackers who flew thousands of miles from homes in the Middle East and lived in the US for months before striking. But this was an anomaly, though one that distorted thinking about the nature of the threat for a decade.
A vast proportion of attacks over the 16 years since have involved local volunteers attacking local targets.
And on the attacks in western nations
Many of these men had previous involvement in serious and petty crime. For those already living on the margins of society and the law, the step towards violent activism is smaller than it might otherwise be. Prison is a key site of exposure to radical ideologies and people. Criminal contacts can provide essential – if often inadvertent – logistical help.
The significance of Masood’s age will later become clear. For the moment it simply underlines the variety of extremist profiles, and the unpredictability of the threat. Most Islamic militants have been between the ages of 18 and 35, with the average age declining in recent years. Some analysts see their attraction to radicalism as partly a generational rebellion. Violent rightwing militants tend to be much older. Thomas Mair, who killed MP Jo Cox last year, was 52.
This is somewhat different to that propagated by the populist simpleminded bigots like Donald Trump and his ‘advisors’ with their ideas of immigrants pouring over the borders to become terrorists.
It is far more akin to the views of those who say that you get issues like this when you don’t deal with the issues inside your own country. You wind up with locals on the fringes of society doing offensive behaviors (like domestic violence) and sometimes looking for a cause to excuse those behaviors.
Similarly, back to the spin on stories, it has been apparent for days that the story about the botched SAS operation detailed in “Hit and Run” wasn’t that the attack took place as a result of faulty intelligence and general confusion. Quite simply, these things will happen in warfare.
David Fisher has done an excellent piece “SAS soldier: We killed civilians in raid” (again I am using the title from the app) that details pretty much that.
The soldier said it was not the only situation in which there had been civilian casualties from a NZSAS operation and which the soldiers blamed on faulty US-sourced intelligence.
The soldier said a number of those involved in the raid had received medals for their roles, which sat uncomfortably when the civilian casualties emerged.
Bearing in mind it appears that there was no return fire, it was a failure of intelligence and the usual consequential SNAFU (situation normal – all fucked up), it rather clearly wasn’t a action that medals should have been awarded for.
The story is why in the hell someone tried to cover this screwup up? Who was it that gave the orders to do it? Was the NZ government actually deceived (which by the sounds of it Wayne Mapp probably was)?
To my mind, that is the most interesting part of this story because it points to a monumental flaw in our process of deploying troops into combat situations (see note below).
When the military and government hierarchies start lying to themselves in the pursuit of better PR, then their ability to make decisions will deteriorate. That means that the soldiers and civilians at the front line will pay the penalty with death, injury, and having problems living with the consequences of bad actions for decades later. Not to mention the lack of international trust in actions and deployments that will hamper those future operations.
That is why “Hit and Run” is an important book.