FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Mother’s Day and Teenage Terrorism

It doesn’t matter if it happens or not. It does not matter how probable the eventuality is. We are working in the higher realm of probabilities, designated as such by the police authorities who found, first, the possibility that there would be terrorist attacks in Melbourne on Anzac Day; second, that a 17-year-old would initiate a “Mother’s Day terror attack”. The point repeatedly made here is that a terrorist event just might have happened “in the coming days”.

On Friday afternoon, the seventeen-year-old in question was charged with engaging in an act in preparation for, or planning, a terrorist act following a large-scale raid on the family home. The object of interest here was a two-storey dwelling at Greenvale in Melbourne’s north. This action, supposedly, prevented the materialisation of “an imminent threat to the community.”

Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Mike Phelan gave us a sense of this hypothetical world, one where genuine consequences visit the individual who has, in fact, committed no verifiable criminal act. “We may not know exactly where it was going to occur nor when it was exactly going to occur.” (Exactitude is the enemy of actuality.) “But let me tell you, something was going to happen and as a result of Victoria Police and AFP interception yesterday, some Victorians are going to be alive because of it.”

Victoria Police acting Chief Commissioner Tim Cartwright added his share to the dish of hypotheticals. “We do believe the young man intended to explode a device at an event over the coming days.” The case for the prosecution was that the young man had “taken serious steps to prepare a device and… we made the judgment call late last week that in the interest of public safety we needed to act and we did.”

The case of exceptionality is intoned as the catch-all justification. In Cartwright’s assessment, there are two agents that figure in this pressing security emergency, one of flesh, the other distinctly absent of corporeal presence. “Overseas recruiters and, more broadly, social media are a real challenge for us, a challenge we haven’t seen in the past.”

To add plausibility to these claims, the Australian National Security Hotline, famous for its insistence on citizens reporting anything out of the ordinary, was cited as an important source. The unmistakable point about the Hotline is that it has proven a great incitement to regard everything as extraordinary. All that is banal is potentially suspect, infested with dangerous potential. Even materialistically crude occasions like Mother’s Day are not immune. Thank goodness for the excruciatingly vigilant public, especially one which sees fundamentalist enemies everywhere.

Having been created in 2002, The Adelaide Advertiser reported in 2011 that 31,495 calls out of a total of 156,694 on that celebrated phone line were teasing hoaxes. Victims of Crime Commissioner Michael O’Connell could only say, with queued exasperation, that “The line was set up for the purpose of preventing people from becoming the victims of terror and it is shameful that people are using it to perpetrate hoaxes.” Shame tends to be a relative concept, whether it comes from the phoning hoaxer, or a government official dazzled by possible terrorist activities. Such a field tends to be littered with security fantasists and pranksters.

The papers have conscientiously marched to the government tune. Andrew Rule, writing for the Herald Sun, decided to spread the seeds of terror with a nice sowing observation. The headlining of the piece was direct enough: “Mother’s Day bomb plot: A DIY guide to the dark side.” The spirit of youth can be such a terrible thing. “You don’t have to be old enough to vote to make something in your bedroom that will tear through human bodies just as murderously as shrapnel from an artillery shell machined in a modern munitions factor.”

Rule could only regret that the “gentle civilised custom” was to observe “17-year-olds” as “children”. For it was “our gentle Western law” that refused to accept that teenagers “are not children when it comes to acts of terrorism and criminality.”

Such commentary narrows to the eye of the needle. Afghanistan keeps popping up by way of comparison, as if distant Australia somehow bears resemblance to war ravaged Kabul. (Yes, Australia did its share of ruining yet another state in the ledger of crusading folly, but Rule’s wishful thinking is that ruination there implies imminent ruination here.)

The logic of the battlefield is the strained logic of Australian suburbia, where childish “beginners” are easily lured to making weapons such “that bloodthirsty peasants and zealots from Ireland to Afghanistan” can muster. An environment that has neutralised any notion of revolutionary ardour becomes energised by the likes of the “gentle” 17-year-old who has to be viewed as anything other than gentle. Such disposition acts as its own judgment. For all of this, is Rule trying to tell us something, inadvertently suggesting that foreign interventions, meddlesome engagements, and nose-poking do have consequences of blowback proportion?

The rest is left to reports to cast the accused to the wolves. The views of unnamed and unspecified friends are cited, claiming that the teen was “gullible” and susceptible to being “brainwashed”. He did not disagree with targeting kafirs. He expressed dissatisfaction on Facebook that Muslim youths supporting Sharia law were being subjected to excessive surveillance. “You will be monitored and possibly have your passport taken away.”

Finally, in this entire sordid business of speculation, a few verifiable facts. There is pervasive surveillance, along with enlarged powers on the books. And the witchdoctors in Canberra and Melbourne are desperate – one might even say very desperate – for their terrorist quarry.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
ANIS SHIVANI
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail