Because this issue officially marks my first full year, I was initially planning this week’s editorial to be a discussion of The Voice Magazine’s history, and why certain things (such as our website) seem so out of date. The short version? Because it is.
However, with the events that happened in Ottawa, and a lot of the reaction I seem to be seeing, I thought I might as well make use of this platform to share my point of view, one that I hope will find itself echoed by most people.
First, we need to get some things straight. Terrorism is used far too loosely. The definitions of whether certain actions constitute terrorism seem to vary mostly based on who is doing the defining. Are the unsuspecting civilians killed by a drone strike terrorist victims, or collateral damage? Is a soldier killed by an enemy combatant a victim of terrorism? What if the combatant isn’t in a uniform? What if the soldier is in what we define to be the theatre of operations? When we level a building to wipe out people we think are enemies who have hidden inside, is that terrorism? What about if they do it to us?
As you can see, there’s a lot of wiggle room, especially these days when we don’t march up in red coats while they stand in line in their blue coats and everybody plays target-practice.
So we really need to nail down a definition of terrorism. To me, a terrorist activity has to have three basic characteristics. It needs to aim primarily at civilians. It needs to be organized. And it needs to have the goal of causing a people to permanently alter their normal behavior?that’s the whole terror aspect. With these criteria, the attack in Ottawa fulfills one. Maybe. The guy wasn’t organized, as we know from him having to hi-jack a vehicle after the first shots were fired. He definitely didn’t aim primarily at civilians, the only people who got hurt in the whole incident were uniformed soldiers or guards, and, of course, the gunman. And did it have the goal of causing us to permanently alter our behavior? Given that we know we was at a senior’s home a couple of days before telling people to prepare for the world’s ending, it doesn’t seem likely that any change to our behavior was intended?he thought the world was ending anyway, after all.
So the reality is that what we have here isn’t a terrorist act, but rather the actions of a sad, desperate, and sick individual. In many ways, less of a real threat to Canadians than the recent shooting in Moncton, and nobody calls that terrorism. Yet as a result of this act, we have our government preparing to fast track increases and reviews to police powers, and that’s entirely the wrong way to go.
Because, as I saw it mentioned by one of the various commenters on all of the stories that came out regarding this event: Terrorism sucks, but it’s incredibly unlikely it will ever affect you directly. Government, however, will.
Enjoy the read!