With the public singularly failing to be terrified by the very sporadic terror attacks – in western cities at least – and in general displaying a sane attitude to these random and infinitesimal personal threats, sections of the Right have been forced to do all the work of being terrified for all of us.

Most people by now understand that Al-Qaeda and other groups is a brand – or at best a very loosely organised franchise – and that the people who take on the label or the mission are isolated groups who combine a range of rational grievances – such as the allied occupation of İraq – with more sweeping politico-religious obsessions.

Politicians who relentlessly take these plots – usually caught at the ‘pre-planning’ ie pub\coffeeshop bullsh-t stage – and turn them into a global challenge to our way of life have been sussed by most as cheap hacks appealing to the politics of fear, inadvertently doing the terrorists’ PR work for them.

But not according to John Roskam, for whom any attempt to analyse the political uses of these sporadic attacks amount to a form of “cynical inhumanity”. İn a fantastic misconstruction of Judy Brett’s writing on Howard – Roskam suggests she sees Howard as having no redeeming features; has he actually read anything she’s written? – the IPA executive director suggests that what we should do is not analyse terror but publicly emote about it, “experiencing the horror shock and sympathy” with the victims.

A similar desperate strategy got poll position in Arts and Letters Daily, where Carlin Romano wonders why western leaders don’t take more opportunity to call terrorists ‘scum’ etc. His answer is that we’re scared of them – most people would suggest that it’s because it would end up making Bush, Blair etc sound even more like a Sgt Rock comic than they do now and make the terrorists sound relatively more rational.

And in the wake of the Clover Moore fiasco, The SMH’s Miranda Devine cautions that we’ll all be laughing on the other side of our Go-Bags if terror should strike.

For all these writers, anyone displaying critical thinking about the uses of fear and its effect on individual liberties is being ‘cynical’. It’s the final stage of a collapsing ideology, where the mere act of interpreting reality in order to act is a heretical and turncoat act – because reality is the one thing that has to be avoided at all costs.

Five years ago they could get away with this. Now they just look like ninnies. The real question is, is this done out of their own cynical deployment of emotion in the service of unreason, or because they are genuinely more consumed by physical cowardice than the rest of us?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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