Fear-mongering by frauds for fame and fortune.

So the Herald on Sunday published an article by a business lecturer from some obscure university in the UK (now apparently visiting at Auckland University) in which she claims that NZ is a  “sitting duck” for an attack on a shopping mall (I will not link to the article because the fool does not deserve any more attention). She compares the NZ terrorism risk level to that of the US, UK an Australia and says that we should emulate them when it comes to mall security, to include bag and ID checks before entering. The Herald on Sunday then followed up the same day with an editorial and a couple of other articles hyping the terrorist threat in NZ.

I will not go over the levels of idiocy marshalled up in this sorry excuse for reportage. Instead I will rephrase a comment I left over at The Standard:

 …(T)he lecturer who penned the scare-mongering hysterical piece has no demonstrable experience with terrorism or counter-terrorism, much less the broader geopolitical and ideological context. She makes a false comparison with the US and UK, acting as if the threat environment here is equivalent to those of these countries and Australia, and states that NZ should emulate them when it comes to mall security. That is simply not true.

Moreover, just because al-Shabbab carried out one successful mall attack in Kenya and called for others in the US, UK and Canada does not mean that they have the capability of doing so anywhere else. In reality, those calls have gone unheeded and security authorities in those states have not appreciably increased their warnings about attacks on malls as a result.

Let us be clear: no mall in the US (and the UK as far as I know) requires bag and ID checks in order to go shopping. So the claim that they do is a lie. I mean, really. Can you imagine the reaction of the average US citizen to being asked to produce an ID before being allowed into Walmart or any one of the thousands of malls that exist in the US? Heck, they might pull out a firearm and say that their name is Smith and Wesson!

Anyway, the costs of of engaging enhanced security measures will be prohibitive for many businesses and even if adopted will be passed on to the consumers, which in turn could drive away customers in an age when they can shop on line. So it is not going to happen. The use of CCTV, coordination with local security authorities and hiring of private security guards suffices in the US and UK, so it surely can suffice here.

I will leave aside the democratic principles at stake, one of which is that you do not restrict the freedom of movement of everyone on the pretext of stopping a potential act of mass violence. And even if you were do do so, who is to say that evil doers would not switch targets to, say, transportation hubs or entertainment districts in downtown areas. Are we going to then go on to lock down every place where people congregate? Lets get real.

In sum, what we got from the Herald was an article that used a false comparison from someone who is clueless but who somehow got interviewed by a rube reporter as if she was an expert in order to justify a call for a hysterical and impractical overreaction, which the Herald then used to write a fear-mongering editorial that contradicts what our own intelligence agencies are saying about the risk of terrorist threats on home soil. Geez. Perhaps hyping up security and sacrifice in the lead-in to the Anzac Day commemorations has something to do with it?

There is only one indisputable fact when it comes to terrorism and NZ. Joining the fight against IS/Daesh increases the threat of terrorist attack on Kiwis and NZ interests, not so much here at home but in the Middle East where IS/Daesh has a broad reach. Although the Gallipoli commemorations will likely not be affected due to the security measures put in place by the Turks (who do not fool around when it comes to security), the risks to individual or small groups of Kiwis in the ME–say, tourists, aid workers, diplomats or business people– are increased as a direct result of NZ involvement in the anti-IS/Daesh coalition. The emphasis should be on their safety, not on that of local malls.

An absolutely wretched effort by the Herald.”

The problem is bigger than the Herald going overboard with its scare-mongering in the build up to the Anzac Day commemorations. Since 9/11 we have seen the emergence of a plethora of security and terrorism “experts” (including a few here in NZ such as the poseur who featured in the Herald article) as well as an entire industry dedicated to “countering” extremism, terrorism and a host of other potential or imaginary threats. Likewise government security agencies have pounced on the spectre of terrorism to justify expansion of their budgets, personnel, powers and scope of search, surveillance and detention.

There is, in effect, an entire terrorism growth industry hard at work conjuring up threats and scenarios not so much as to safeguard their fellow citizens but to enrich themselves via fame, fortune or power. In this they are abetted by a compliant when not reactionary and sensationalist media that does not bother to fact check the claims of many of these fraudulent experts (such as the Fox News contributor Steve Emerson, who falsely claimed that there are non-Muslim “no go” zones in the UK and France, or the charlatan Rohan Gunaratna, who claimed that there were jihadi cells in NZ ten years ago without ever having visited here, and who has now had to pay serious money in damages for defaming a Tamil community group in Canada).

Together, these various branches of the terrorism industry work to mutually profit by promoting fear and distrust while curtailing the rights of the majority in the ostensible interest of securing against the potential harm visited by a purportedly violent domestic minority. And they are selective when they do so: notice that all the hype is about Islamic extremists when in fact a large (if not THE largest) amount of political violence in Western societies, including NZ, is meted out by white, Christian extremists. Yet we do not hear dire warnings about neo-Nazis and white supremacists even though they have a proven track record of politically or racially motivated violent acts.

“Esoteric pineapples,”a commentator on the Standard thread that I made my remarks on, provided this very useful and informative link on the phenomenon. Read it and weep.

It is a sad day that NZ’s leading newspaper stoops to this type of tabloid rubbish. Shame on them. But at least it seems that many of its readers are not taken in by the ruse, which augers slightly better for informed debate on the true nature of the NZ threat environment.

PS: For the record, I do not consider myself to be a terrorism or security expert. I have a background in counter-insurgency, unconventional warfare and strategic analysis among other things, and have written extensively on those and other topics. But I have largely been pigeon-holed in the NZ media as one or the other in spite of my repeated requests to be identified correctly, which is another example of shoddy journalism.

13 thoughts on “Fear-mongering by frauds for fame and fortune.

  1. NZ should introduce a small flat media tax (~$100?) where each person so taxed can choose which registered news provider can get it, or fractions of it. If people don’t choose then it is divided evenly among the news org’s.

    Then advertising should be strongly limited for the registered news organisations.

    Currently advertises are the customers, the readers are the product.

  2. a large (if not THE largest) amount of political violence in Western societies, including NZ, is meted out by white, Christian extremists.

    Really? Odd that I can’t think of a single episode of Christian extremist terrorism in the past 10 years and at least 20 Islamic ones. Or do you actually mean Neo-nazi violence, which is neither Christian nor terrorism, but simply mob violence.

  3. And the Christofascist who murdered Dr Tiller in the USA. And his hangers-on who regularly bomb or burn medical clinics in the name of being “pro-life”.

  4. I haven’t read the NZH article, nor do I need to when surrounded by such intellectual grunt of the writers and contributors to this website!

    On the flip side and tongue in cheek… perhaps it would be good if shopping malls did starting infringing on personal freedoms… because hopefully Joe and Joelene public would vote with their feet and purchase their goods elsewhere!

  5. Pablo, if you are concerned about being misidentified as an expert in terrorism, perhaps the key is to refuse to comment publically on terrorism-related issues, and to instead refer those who seek comment to a bona fide expert.

  6. Duddings:

    I have plenty enough background to authoritatively discuss terrorism related issues, but I do not solely focus on that particular subject so do not wish to be locked into that particular label, or that of “security expert” for that matter.

    FYI, I refuse many media requests to comment on a variety of subjects and often refer other people as better sources for comment. Nor do I go out looking to make public comments in the media. They come to me.

  7. So it’s not so much that you don’t know as much about terrorism as an actual terrorism expert, but that you are an expert in other areas too… perhaps they should label you a “polyexpert”?

  8. Duddings:

    This is starting to look like trolling and your IP addresses suggest so.

    The bottom line is that an expert focuses in depth on a specific subject area. Since I have researched, written and worked on various fields that include but go beyond things like terrorism (a tactic, after all) and “security” (which s something that home alarm installers are experts at), I do not feel it appropriate to pigeon hole me as one or the other. I am a political scientist by training, was called a strategic analyst while working for the US government and am a geopolitical risk consultant now. Any of the latter will suffice as an identifier.

    The business lecturer who uttered the scare-mongering rubbish is not remotely close to being anyone of these and yet allowed herself to be identified as a terrorism expert. That is a fraudulent misrepresentation.

    I now consider this discussion of credentials and labelling closed.

  9. OK, I won’t talk about your credentials anymore, but could you recommend some terrorism experts?

  10. So would it be fair to say there is nobody in NZ more qualified to discuss terrorism than you are?

    Perhaps NZ media needs to look outside NZ for commentary on this issue

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