The pre-speech leaks suggested Brown was going to launch a war of ideas to defeat the terrorists. In fact, he proposed remaking British society to protect against their (vastly exaggerated) threat. He said we need new laws to silence terrorists or their sympathisers, new ID cards to foil them, and a new focus on security in every government department to make sure that they never harm a hair on our heads.
This is not a culture war; it is the cultural equivalent of hiding in the trenches and putting up enough sandbags to keep the enemy at a safe distance. Brown's speech powerfully demonstrated that the real problem today is not a threat from without to our national security, but rather an internal sense of national insecurity - a top-down fear and uncertainty that means the threat of terrorism to society is blown out of all proportion and any Western value worth defending can be sacrificed on the altar of safety.
In this sense, Brown's speech did indeed send a powerful message to the terrorists: if you want to hurt British society, and get us to change our way of life and write off our civil liberties, then just plant a few homemade bombs on the London Underground.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Gordon Brown skewered
I am trying to write Friday's House Points about Gordon Brown this evening. But it is hard to compete with Brendan O'Neill's article on Spiked.