Friday, 9 November 2007

"Branded as..." ?

According to the commentariat this morning the police should be harshly condemned for "branding" the "Urewera Sixteen" as terrorists. All sorts of commentators have declared that the police have "branded" them as terrorists, for which they now deserve compensation.
MAORI PARTY MP TE URUROA FLAVELL said the Ruatoki community had been traumatised by the raids, and "had been stuck with the terrorist label..."

LAWYER MOANA JACKSON: "The label of terrorist has`been bandied about..."

JOHN MINTO: ""They have been branded terrorists by the police and that's been bandied right across New Zealand through the media and that's absolutely unconscionable."

TUHOE ELDER PAKI NIKORA "We still can't understand why this brand of terrorism has been placed on him ... and is branded on us as an iwi."

Trouble is, this is a group of people who've been interviewing each other. It wasn't the police who "branded" these people -- no policeman has called anyone a terrorist, and I would challenge anyone to find one who has -- the only "branding" of the type of which these commentators have accused the police has been by the commentators themselves in their noisy insistence over the last few weeks that they've been so labelled:
NIKORA (17 Oct): ""We are being branded as terrorists."

FLAVELL (Oct 26): "I s'pose the main fear is that they're seen to be and will always be remembered as the Tuhoe the terrorists..."

LAWYER MOANA JACKSON (26 Oct): "Maori must not buy into the police tactic of branding their people as terrorists..."

MAORI ACTIVIST MIKE SMITH (25 Oct): "“If there was any terrorism in Tuhoe it was state sponsored..."


SCOOP PROFILES (13 October): " is continuing to profile each of the so-called terrorists..."
The question is, "so called" by whom?

"police tactic" to "brand" people as terrorists?

If there was any branding done, it was a rush by the defendants' supporters to wrap themselves in the word and take a strong leap for the branding iron.

Protestors in particular were quick to object to the "label" of terrorism being used against those arrested, and very noisy in their own use of the word last weekend outside the Labour Party conference, but the fact is that the "label" was used mostly by them and their fellow travellers and the commentariat, NOT by the police.

Right from the very first day, for example, when the raids were carried out on October 15, Police Commissioner Howard Broad explained very carefully that the search warrants they actioned were issued
under the Summary Proceedings Act to search for evidence of the committing of offences against the Arms Act and possibly the Terrorism Suppression Act.

Police will be gathering and assessing all available evidence before making a decision as to the nature of the charges to be laid under the TSA.

We're aware that this is the first time that the Terrorism Suppression Act has been considered in terms of an operation. We are, therefore, proceeding with full care in talking to people and assessing information before we can determine whether there is sufficient evidence to seek the consent of the Attorney General through the Solicitor General to charge anyone under that Act. [video here of press conference Oct 15]
That was the only time the word was used by the Police Commissioner, and only (necessarily) in the context of those search warrants. As he explained this morning on Radio NZ [audio here], the word "terrorism" was only used by him in explaining the basis for the searches, and only every by the police force in that context. The fact is that no "branding" at all was done by police, either as a tactic, or a policy, or even by mistake. No "labels" were so applied. The police, as Broad said, were proceeding with full care in talking to people and assessing information before determining whether or not sufficient evidence existed to charge anyone under the Terrorism Suppression Act. They were entitled to some patience from the rest of us in doing that.

It was not the police who were hyperventilating -- it was the commentariat.

Perhaps instead of drop-of-the-hat hysteria commentators and politicians could instead learn to breathe through their nose on occasions, to wait for the evidence before judging, and maybe just adopt the level of maturity their age and positions and supposed acumen might lead us to expect they'd exhibit.

1 comment:

  1. "Terrorism" is such a powerful word. I was in Paris at the time the story broke and it was the third item on BBC World news, only because of that word. "Firearms offences" would barely have made the Dominion Post. I felt embarrassed by it, it really isn't a good look for any country to have the Magic Word being thrown around.


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