In the early hours of the morning on Tuesday, August 4, The Australian reported that police were poised to arrest four terrorism suspects. Several hours later, the raids were carried out. As he sat down before 6am to commence the day’s blogging, Andrew Bolt learned of the reports and went on to produce a hefty bundle of blog posts and newspaper columns about the arrests.

What might have gone through the Herald Sun attack blogger’s mind during those fateful days?

This diary, which has been carefully assembled using the latest in hypothetico-fictional mind scan technology, might shed some light. (Click on the time links to read Bolt’s actual postings.):

Day One (4/8/09):

6:11am: It’s good to know what I’ll be writing about for the next few days. Just as well these raids happened, too — the weather’s been a bit warm of late, and the economic figures have been better than expected. This means I can set “the warming has stopped” or “the stimulus has failed” aside for a while.

I’ve started with a brief post noting the reports. Best to keep it to the facts, which means I can add more as they come to light. Since some of these guys are from Somalia, I got onto Google News and found loads of stuff about Somalians and terrorism. Copied and pasted it all in. I started running out of relevant stuff so I dug up Christine Nixon’s fudging of stats about crime by African youths.

11:00 am: The ABC wrote a whole news story on the arrests that didn’t use the word “Islam” I Wrote a post — they can’t get away with misleading people like that. Had lunch with Sally — she mentioned reading the ABC article and seeing mention of the suspects seeking a fatwa, the al-Shabaab group wanting sharia law, and a few paragraphs on its links to Al Qaeda. But it still didn’t say they were Muslims, did it?

PM: I filed my column for tomorrow’s paper. After letting fire with the scatter-gun on the blog this morning, having to put together a column made me think about a theme. Today, it’s that we have to talk openly about Islam — just like I do. I think my best line was this one: “I suspect it’s now time not for non-Muslims to reassure Muslims that they mean no harm, but rather the reverse.”

Day Two (5/9/09):

9:09am: Time to refine my point today. The column will be out there in print, so now I can use the blog to accumulate the evidence. It’s time to talk about Islam.

Started with the news that 16 of 17 proscribed terrorist organisations are Muslim — and the 17th is a “Workers Party” (read: Leftists) from Kurdistan! I’m so glad Kevin Rudd’s Government is too incompetent to list the Tamil Tigers, ETA, or the Real IRA — they’ve made it look like I have rock-solid evidence to back up my point!

11:03am: At last — some opposing commentary I can react to! Blended some commentaries about recruitment to terrorism in diasporas in with a rebuttal of an Age column. I have a clear message now — if migrants are becoming a problem, the solution is to stop bringing in the problem migrants. And if we can’t figure out who the problem migrants are, we stop anyone who looks like they might be a problem. Refugees in need asylum? Irrelevant. Only a child when they come here? Irrelevant.

And I know what else is irrelevant — looking at the circumstances and treatment they get when they come here. Attempting to look at what might make a young person choose terrorism is apologia, because it inevitably means mentioning things other than the person (and Islam).

12:31pm: Rupert may not like this, but it had to be done. I ripped into Paul Coglan from The Punch for suggesting that “it’s clear terrorists don’t look like anything in particular”. Pointed out his stupidity – some of these guys were from Somalia and some were from Lebanon, but they’re all Muslims — so they look exactly like each other! UPDATE: Turns out his name is Colgan. Fixed my post.

Day Three (6/8/09):

6:45am: These guys’ friends and family haven’t disowned them yet, and they’re disrespectful. Time to imply that there is broader support for terrorism among the Somali Australian community.

9:37am: Wrote a post about some particularly nasty criminals. Their names didn’t sound Muslim so I pinned the blame on their family instead.

PM: Filed my Friday column. Now that we’re a few days into this, it’s time to refine the message and hammer home a single point. That point? “It’s the Muslim immigration, stupid!” We’re bringing the problem in and the solution is to stop it. Recycled some greatest hits from the blog, mixed in some new riffs on the same theme, and nailed it. Nobody could read this column and be left thinking that Muslim immigration is good.

I’m now all set to offer commentary around that theme. If any Muslim offers an apologia or support for these guys, I can imply that they’re not such an unrepresentative minority after all. If a Muslim happens to condemn them (without daring to raise the issue of how the situation for immigrants in Australia might be involved), I can note that they agree with me yet they can’t be condemned as racists. From here, it’s all about pointing to the problem group in our midst.

Day Four (7/8/09):

7:18am: Not such an unrepresentative minority after all.

10:28am: Not such an unrepresentative minority after all.

11:11pm: He agrees with me but you can’t call him racist! Inserted the parenthetical “(of Muslim extremists)” to clarify the meaning of what he wrote. A few people kicked up a stink about there being a distinction between “Muslim extremists” and “Muslims”. They started getting a bit noisy about it, so eventually I changed it.

Saturday:

7:38am: Good news — terrorists dead!

8:02am: Got some video and reports of earlier violence by one of the suspects. Had to stick in a “presumption of innocence” disclaimer to avoid legal issues, but solid stuff.

11:27am: He agrees with me (almost) and he’s a Leftist! But the ABC is still trying to cover up the Muslim issue.

Sunday:

8:00am: I wrapped things up with some commentary on Muslim immigration in Europe. The implications should be clear. Of course, a lot of the material talked about the ways EU countries can address “disadvantage” to help these people integrate, but I made sure I dismissed that as a “comforting assumption”.

I’ll be onto new business from tomorrow (although I’ll be back to this for the committal hearing, then the trial, and then — hopefully? — the sentencing), so what kind of week has it been? The first couple of days responding to a breaking crisis are always a bit frantic, but I managed to bring together a coherent message and hammer it home by the end of the week. I might have stretched things in a few places and I’m sure some will suggest I’m over-generalising or ignorant. But I’ll find a way to dismiss or discredit them — maybe with a photo, or a selective quotation, or a graph?

Peter Fray

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