"...soon as the cops round the buggers up and treat them as criminals the better..."- Labour cabinet minister Shane Jones (right) shows an admirable devotion to the principles of free expression and "innocent until proven guilty". In the wake of the collapse of the terror case against the Urewera 17, the police (and, possibly, the SIS) have been running around trying to pawn off their "evidence" on whichever media outlet is most keen for an old-fashioned lynching. First TV3, then the Herald on Sunday, and today the Dominion-Post. The only way to explain this contempt for the judicial process is that the cops have decided that they can't criminalise most or even all of the defendants in a court of law, and have decided that trial by media, smear and innuendo is the only way forward to achieve their aims. Socialist Worker has said from the beginning that the real agenda behind the terror raids was to criminalise radical dissent, particularly from Maori sovereigntists, ecological activists and anarchists. And if they can't manage that, they can at least try to line up public opinion behind a witchhunt. Witness the disgusting racist cartoons that appeared in yesterday's newspapers. The police and their media patsies want you to be disturbed that people were allegedly talking about assassinations or property damage. Unfortunately for the cops, while making plans to do any such thing is illegal, simply discussing it is not. This is why the Urewera 17 aren't up on "conspiracy to murder" or "conspiracy to damage property" charges - the police have nothing. The end goal of this media witchhunt is to gain public support for criminalisation of speech, thought and actions which aren't illegal yet. Do New Zealanders want to live in a country where even talking about certain subjects is illegal? That's the question we have to answer. If the Urewera 17 are branded with the scarlet letter of terrorism, how long before anyone who doesn't accept the current "rules of the game" are in the same boat? When will they come for Hone Harawira - or even Keith Locke? The only thing in the leaked "evidence" which is even close to being illegal under actual existing law is the possession of unlicenced firearms - and, rumour has it, "possession" is a very loose term for quite a few of the defendants. Regardless of whether we agree with their political ideas or strategy, all those who believe that there should be real political debate in this country should stand by the Urewera 17, and by the idea that thought and speech should not be criminalised or anathematised unless there's a damn good reason for it. The cheerleaders for state terror say that "there is no reason for violence in a democracy". Perhaps they might want to look at the social exclusion, exploitation and racism that underpins their vaunted "democracy for a few", and decide whether those who refuse to toe the line deserve to have state terror and media slander unleashed on them. Unpopular political speech is not, nor should it be, a crime. The job of the police is to prevent crime, not to engage in media witchhunts against people they just don't like.
Wednesday, 14 November 2007
EDITED TO ADD: