What comes to mind when you think of terrorism? Expolosions, mutilated bodies, distraught bystanders? Yet these have been ever-present when we witness airstrikes and hear accounts of the behaviour of coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. If terrorism was all about violence then this years airstrikes by the US on Somalia could not fail to be categorised as such.
But none of this is terrorism because it does not threaten the worlds leaders and their interested followers. By extension, what threatens the status quo is not just violent attacks by the likes of Al-q´eeda but the breaking of criminal as opposed to moral law and civil disobedience.
It is worth focusing on civil disobedience for a moment or two. What makes civil disobedience effective is its rejection of disciplines imposed by authorities. It is useful to think of the exercise of power in three stages- a)informal, uncodified rules or other mechanisms of control, (for example some cinemas ban the consumption of food that has not been purchased from the cinemas own outlets, b) formal rules codified in law such as those that protect property c) when these fail to obtain the desired results then force is applied. It is the informal rules that civil disobedience frequently targets. For example Heathrow is a maze of informal injunctions. Inside the airport passengers must submit to various procedures even those that seem ridiculous such as only carrying 100ml of fluid onboard flights as if it would make any difference ifyou were carrying 125ml. The airport is a fantastic example of the Panopticon where you are watched and ordered throughout by seemingly innocuous petty rules that exist to disrupt masses of people in order to exert control. This helps to explain why the camp itself is so unpopular with the authorities. It is a mass which is ordered primarily from within which creates an autonomous space where plots can be hatched.
For those seeking to prevent the violent forms of terrorism it is essential to maintain control through surveillance of the airport and its outer perimeter. The authorities explain patiently time and time again that anti-terrorist legislation is for our own good- they are seeking to protect freedom not to curtail it. (Interestingly this was a stance Hitler took by claiming to be protecting the German people from a Jewish led conspiracy to enslave them). The camp is they claim an obstacle to such protection- it obstructs their ability to detect terrorists or to respond to terrorist events once they happen. Perhaps they suggest terrorists are hiding within the camp quietly subverting naive and idealistic protestors to Jihad. Or perhaps even the protestors are formulating a new ideological threatto freedom- proposals for some kind of eco-caliphate ruled by George Monbiot rebranded as a druid martyr come back from the dead.
Yet none of these claims stand up to the merest scrutiny. Hence the bemusement of campers and sections of the ´liberal media´at the smears. Yet things become clearer once we interpret anti-terrorism legislation as a response to the supposed threat to hierarchical forms of order posed by network forms of organisation. it is theme networks of dissent that threaten the dominant story of social strength and progress through economic growth.
Of course the figurehead is Al-qéeda and its impossibly dense maze of interconnected units and affiliates united by a counter-discourse of Anti-western sentiment. Yet the anti-terrorist response must be extended to other networked forms of opposition that reject the dominant paradigm through civil disobedience and disrepect for private property rights. First the ´loonies´are targeted such as animal rights protestors, next will be the environmentalists, then the human rights activists.
The extent to which anti-terrorist powers given to the police and others can be described as laws is limited. Many have had little debate in parliament and they are frequently delivered in response to consultations with senior police officers. They seem in reality more like anti-legislation maskingthe use of arbitrary coercion- a clear retreat from UK law as it has developed over the centuries and a desperate attempt to ´correct´ dissenters before a final resort to violence.
This is all good news really. The ridiculous camera mounted on a crane overlooking the camp shows how scared they are. It is amusing to watch the spectacle of the camp running alongside daily accounts of crashing stock markets- somewhat reminiscent of a J G Ballard novel.