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Terrorist threats or the politics of fear?

By Will Hardiker - posted Friday, 1 September 2006

The alleged trans-Atlantic plot to blow up airliners precipitated yet another code red, imminent threat from terrorists within our midst.

These occurrences as they arise send government agencies, corporations and most of all the media into a frenzy of eager anticipation and excessive reporting. For the rest of us, we have little choice but to suffer the insecurities and inconveniences that such alerts instil on face value, without receiving any real evidence to substantiate that of which we are informed.

Is it wise to trust those official sources that have a vested interest in keeping the terrorist threat alive and at the forefront of the West’s collective conscience?


It is clear that the so called “war on terrorism” has been used by governments to implement policy that would ordinarily not be deemed acceptable. The curtailing of civil rights, the monitoring of personal information, the detention without charge of suspects for indefinite periods and the grouping of government opposition groups under the umbrella of seditious ideology, among other infringements, are all a consequence of the “new world” in which we are led to consider we inhabit.

Those allied to the Bush Administration’s “War on terrorism” continue with a political strategy that is best described as the “politics of fear” in order to support their geo-strategic agenda's in the Middle East. By way of creating the perception that we all face an imminent threat from Islamic extremists, who could strike anywhere at any time, world focus is diverted from domestic and international issues of great significance.

It is now clear that there was in fact no imminent threat of attack to be thwarted in relation to the terrorist plot to blow up trans-Atlantic commercial airliners on August 10. However, the massive response unleashed by the American and British Governments succeeded in creating a near hysterical response within official circles, the media, and airline industry and police and security agencies.

This case follows a familiar pattern. Allegations are made by the authorities and the media springs into overdrive embellishing and exaggerating the official line. Very soon thereafter the story falls from the headlines with no verification of the initial claims. Meanwhile world attention is transfixed by the fear of terrorist attacks and diverted from other sensitive current events such as Israel’s war on Lebanon.

As James K. Galbraith points out in his recent article, “we should now be hearing about bombs, (of which there were none), chemicals, detonators, labs, testing grounds, airline tickets (none of which were purchased), passports (some of which were not issued), witnesses, suspicious friends, neighbours and parents, threats and confessions”.

The two pieces of information we do have, i.e. the fact that no airline tickets were purchased and that there were no bombs, does not instil one with great confidence that an imminent threat was thwarted.


As a direct result of this “imminent” threat, Prime Minister Tony Blair is planning to push through 90-day detention without charge for terror suspects. Home secretary Dr John Reed has ordered the draft of new anti-terror legislation that would suspend key parts of the Human Rights Act of 1998, to facilitate the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects within the UK without charge or trial. The plan is also planned to apply to British citizens.

The truth is, the August 10 imminent terrorist threat was thoroughly and critically politicised and no evidence of an imminent threat was brought to light.

A senior British official involved in the investigation told NBC News on August 14 that “in contrast to previous reports an attack was not imminent, and the suspects had not purchased airline tickets. In fact some did not even have passports”.

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About the Author

William Hardiker is a journalist and activist living in Australia.

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All articles by Will Hardiker

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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