Questions are being asked about how the perpetrators of this shameful and horrible massacre somehow evaded the notice of the authorities, and were not on any “security watch list”.
Bear in mind that, here in New Zealand, we do not live in a police state. We do not routinely keep lots of people on “security watch lists”. No doubt there will be calls for this to change, in light of the deaths of so many innocent people. Why not give up a little bit of our liberty -- just a little bit, you understand -- if it will make us all feel safer? Isn’t it worth spying on ten or a hundred or a thousand more people, if it will save even one life?
But that is exactly what the terrorists want to happen
. Remember the whole point of a terror attack: it’s to spread fear and insecurity among the populace. If people no longer feel able to go normally about their daily lives, if they are continually looking over their shoulder (the infamous “see something, say something
” mentality), if they are willing to accept armed police checkpoints and routine questioning as an inescapable part of ordinary life, then that is no longer a free society. That is a police state.
Yes, there is a real risk of further terrorist attacks, let us not gloss over that. But here’s a question: is liberty worth dying for? We commemorate those who fought and died in past wars to help keep us free, yet when it comes to the thought of running a little risk ourselves to continue preserving those liberties, too many of us quickly turn into snivelling cowards.
New Zealand has long thought of itself as one of the safest, dullest, places on Earth. Others have suffered worse attacks, it is true. And we have seen how the authorities in those places often overreact, and the populace often let them get away with it, all in the name of “security”.
Well, now it’s our turn. Are we going to follow the worst of the practice of those other countries? Or are we going to demonstrate that legendary Kiwi common sense and unflappability, and refuse to be terrorized?
(The motto “Refuse To Be Terrorized” comes from noted computer security expert Bruce Schneier