Sometimes, there are no lessons

By skepticlawyer

woolwich-knife_2570492c‘We must do something, here is something, let’s do that thing’ is one of the most seductive wrong routes those in power can take in the wake of an act of terror. Initially praised for his unwillingness to be drawn into the usual epidemic of jerking knees that breaks out whenever awful stuff happens in Britain, it seems David Cameron is now letting his Laura Norder-loving Home Secretary make the running for him:

The killing of Drummer Lee Rigby has posed a series of questions for the government to grapple with. The central one is this: what more, if anything, can ministers do to reduce the likelihood of other similar attacks?

Home Secretary Theresa May is very keen on giving the police and intelligence agencies more power to access details of online communications where necessary.

There is no such thing as a trade union of former home secretaries. But on this issue, it sounds as though there is. Labour’s Lord Reid and Alan Johnson and the Conservative Lord Howard all agree with her. In short, their argument is we have seen the classified files and the spooks need this power. Critics – including most Liberal Democrats – accuse them of going native and backing a “snooper’s charter”.

If enacted, the Communications Data Bill would give police and security services access, without a warrant, to details of all online communication in the UK: the time, duration, originator and recipient, and the location of the device from which it was made. Other bits of ‘something’ include removing extremist websites from the internet as soon as they appear and banning radical preachers who–in Britain at least–have a depressing habit of turning up to address university students. Both proposals are seriously wrong-headed. The first because it is impossible, and the second because it would involve aggressive monitoring of students’ unions up and down the country.

Indeed, the latter problem (and it is a problem) can only be addressed by a sea-change in attitudes within the universities themselves, and no government is going to be able to achieve that by legislative fiat. One of the most notorious ‘red flags’ when it comes to Islamist speakers in British universities is the presence of segregated seating: women are forced to the back of the lecture hall. As soon as a student Islamic body does this, it should be deregistered by the responsible student association, and the analogy with Jim Crow and the Nuremberg Laws should be drawn explicitly. That, however, can only be done at the university level, not by some mandarin in Whitehall. And that means the universities abandoning the woolly-headed multiculturalism that excuses all kinds of bad behaviour on the basis that its perpetrators were once ‘oppressed’ (presumably by Britain, in the days of Empire).

It is hard to accept that a terrorful thing has nothing to teach us, apart from the truism that ‘some people, inspired by religion, do terrible things’. Indeed, even the lesson beloved of gun rights advocates–that the only thing that stopped the killers was the arrival of men with guns–turns out not to be true in this case. The toll was kept to one because Cub Scout leader, Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, talked them down for a full twenty minutes before police arrived. And yes, I suspect she will finish up with the George Cross for her trouble.

Sometimes, there is nothing the law can do.

11 Comments

  1. Mel
    Posted May 27, 2013 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    “The toll was kept to one because Cub Scout leader, Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, talked them down for a full twenty minutes before police arrived. And yes, I suspect she will finish up with the George Cross for her trouble.”

    I’ll say. That is a lovely story.

    The only policy outcome of this and similar incidents should be blocking immigration from those ethno-religious groups with a track record for producing extremists who upset the social order. The blocking needn’t be permanent, rather it should be lifted when we finally get through this historical phase of jihad. It won’t last forever, even though at the moment it seems endless.

    ps. I think I may have read some research about female bouncers, unarmed female police etc having a calming effect on badly behaved men. Maybe Ingrid exerted this type of female influence. Anyway, she is a champion.

  2. Posted May 28, 2013 at 12:00 am | Permalink

    A bystander took the photograph in the post; it shows Loyau-Kennett engaging with one of the killers.

  3. conrad
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 5:24 am | Permalink

    I don’t mind the idea of letting them have segregated seating — it really shows what bunch of idiots they are and presumably hurts their cause more than it helps.

  4. Lurker
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    It is hard, sometimes, to accept that a terrorful thing has nothing to teach us, apart from the truism that ‘some people, inspired by religion, do terrible things’.

    I’m with Mel. Toss those who act up out of the country and reconsider letting in those from the same cultural/religious background until they have grown-up. Other countries have hard-line attitudes to who they let in (Japan is a prime example), yet the West isn’t allowed to do the same? Riddle me that puzzle.

  5. TerjeP
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    Conrad – you’re too tolerant. I’d kick them out of the venue if it was my decision to make.

  6. Posted May 28, 2013 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Segregation is never about respecting difference, but pathologising it.

  7. Posted May 28, 2013 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Segregation is never about respecting difference, but pathologising it.

    I’m wondering when our school system will wake up to this fact.

  8. Mel
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Lorenzo @6:

    “Segregation is never about respecting difference, but pathologising it.”

    Unless it is the Gaza Strip or the the ever shrinking bantustans in the West Bank, apparently.

  9. Posted May 28, 2013 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] Ah, the complexities of life. Single-sex schools and single-sex classes raise a whole lot of issues. Single-sex classes tend to be better for girls across some years of secondary school, for example.

    [email protected] The borders of the Gaza Strip are international borders recognised by just about everyone and there is no permanent Israeli presence inside the Gaza Strip, so how is that segregation exactly?

    West Bank settlements do constitute a land grab but “segregation” does not really get at what is wrong about them.

    Arafat should have taken Barak’s offer, but this is Palestinian politics–the people who never miss a chance to miss a chance. Arafat didn’t want to be the Michael Collins of Palestinian politics.

  10. Mel
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] The borders of the Gaza Strip are international borders recognised by just about everyone and there is no permanent Israeli presence inside the Gaza Strip, so how is that segregation exactly?”

    Because the Gaza Strip is a de facto bantustan controlled by Israel that is subject to a punitive blockade and restrictions on the flow of goods and people.

    The degree of control is downright creepy.

    Nonethless, I reckon if the Palestinians dominated the Israelis the oppression would be worse.

    At the end of the day, they are all quarrelsome Semites and we should wash our hands of them all.

  11. Posted May 28, 2013 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    An extraordinary interview (both text and footage) with Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, the intervenor.

    Should be compulsory reading in sociology courses when they talk about ‘victims’, ‘perpetrators’, and ‘bystanders’.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/may/27/woolwich-witness-ingrid-loyau-kennett

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