As many of you know, I follow news around the world fairly closely.
I spend hours a day reading and listening to what is happening, focusing largely on terrorism and related matters. As a consequence, I share a lot of what I find out with my followers on social media (like Twitter).
Here is what I have found out over the past few days (this is being written on April 14, 2021):
- ISIS recruiter murdered gay man and injured another for committing ‘grave sin’ of holding hands;
- Turkish security forces arrested over 850 ISIS suspects in 2021;
- High-security trial of neo-Nazi group that wanted to spark civil war begins in Germany;
- Norway charges alleged ISIS extremist with terror plot targeting London landmark;
- Again, Borno’s Damasak Town Comes Under Boko Haram Attack (Nigeria); and
- Ontario lawyer seen in video reciting Proud Boys oath.
Let’s look at these stories, shall we?
Islamist terrorist groups like Islamic State (ISIS) and Boko Haram – among many, many others – are carrying out terrorist attacks in dozens of countries around the world on a daily basis or inspiring wannabes to do likewise. Far right actors, including neo-Nazis, are engaged in attack planning in places like Germany on occasion.
Meanwhile in Canada, one guy uttered an ‘oath’ to the Proud Boys, a ‘group’ the Canadian government unwisely listed, with little to no evidence to support the decision, as a terrorist entity. He did not plan an attack, let alone carry one out. No one died or was at risk of dying: to the best of my knowledge pledging an oath never harmed anyone. This was a total non-event.
Why in heaven’s name, then, was this ‘news’?
The good “news”
In this light two things came to my mind, one very positive and one, well kinda, confused. Let’s start with the good news.
The fact that the leading story on ‘terrorism‘ in Canada is one wanker pledging allegiance to at best a marginal bunch of wankers which has done nothing violent in our land is a very good news story! We don’t have the levels of terrorist violence that some of our allies like the US, UK and France, let alone Afghanistan and Iraq, have. That can only be seen as positive.
None of this is surprising. As I wrote in my latest tome, The Peaceable Kingdom: A history of terrorism in Canada from Confederation to the present, we have had very few actual incidents of a terrorist nature in our 154-year history as an independent nation. Nor does it appear we will see an uptick any time soon: not that I am ‘predicting‘ anything (my crystal ball is still in the shop for repairs!). We live in a fortunate land and should be grateful for that fact.
The confusing news
On the other hand, the prominence of this story points to something puzzling. Put simply: who cares that a lawyer seemed to come out with a statement supporting the Proud Boys? Why is this ‘news’? Why should Canadians care? Is this not in theory a matter for the law society to look into in the event some internal code of conduct was breached? Why make it a headline report? Why ask for ‘experts‘ to weigh in on the significance of something so trivial? Why suggest to readers that the sky is falling?
In my humble opinion this occurrence demonstrates two things
a) Canadians‘ general ignorance when it comes to terrorism (which is largely tied to our lack of national experience with the death and destruction this phenomenon has engendered – again, a good thing). We who worked in national security should not be exacerbating the fear factor, and that includes the so-called ‘national security experts‘ who should know better (the fact they do not appear to do so speaks volumes about their ‘expertise‘);
b) our current obsession with anything tied to RWE (right-wing extremism), despite a total absence of data supporting such an obsession. I have made so many arguments in this regard which I will spare you by not repeating here.
The simple truth is that terrorism is not at all important for Canadians. Personally, as a proud Canadian (but not a ‘Proud Boy‘!), I am so thankful to live in a land where I do not worry about going to a restaurant for fear of a terrorist attack (as happens with alarming regularity in Somalia). Or going to a public event. Or to the grocery store. Or walking down the street (aka the London Bridge attack in 2019).
My appeal is a simple one. When you think about terrorism in Canada step back and look at the facts (i.e. don’t just take ‘instant analysis‘ as your go-to information). Consider what is being said, who is saying it and what it all means. Then look at other things that go bang in the night -even here in good ol’ Canada – and allow yourself to compare apples to apples, not apples to kiwi fruit. There are many far more worrisome phenomena out there that do indeed warrant our attention and action.
A lawyer saying stupid shit does not.
Read More about Terrorism and Canada
The Peaceable Kingdom? A history of terrorism in Canada from Confederation to the Present
Are the recent concerns about the state of the ‘5 eyes’ intelligence alliance justified? Take a breath folks, nothing to see here.
Leaders are asked what they would have done better about the Afghanistan exit.