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IT APPEARS we now live in a state of constant terror threat. Arguably, in part, due to the lust for war by successive British governments. Almost weekly, we have media reports of another terror arrest and in the majority of cases, as in the most recent incident, those arrested on terror charges were all young men with one being 21 years old and two others just teenagers.
With the internet providing a gateway to a vast ocean of information, some of it true, most of it not, there is obviously a danger for young people in particular that they may be influenced by what they see, hear and who they communicate with online. Examples of this are plenty and require no further explanation from me.
Since 2015, the British government set up the Prevent programme that targets people showing signs of being radicalised to enable intervention before it’s to late.
As part of the programme, under the Counter Terrorism and Security Act, universities across the UK are required to comply with responsibilities set out in the guidelines, which place certain obligations on them to perform risk assessments on the possibility of a student being drawn into extremism. Indicators to pay special attention to include:
- a desire for excitement and adventure
- a desire for political or moral change
- family/friends already involved in extremism
- being of a transitional age
While the jury is out on whether this strategy has been a success or not, I would suggest the British government is being both selective and hypocritical in its claim to be protecting all young people of impressionable age.
For example, while warning young people of the dangers of being drawn into something that could result in them losing their own life, taking the life of others or being sent to prison for terrorism, the British government appears comfortable with young people coming into contact with weapons, if, with their parents or guardians’ consent, they sign on the dotted line at 16 to commence military training a year later. For proof of this we only need to look at the most recent recruitment campaign directed at the 16-25 age group who are more likely to engage in violent video games.
It is no coincidence that adventure, excitement, and being at a transitional age are part of the characteristics that attract young people to both terrorism and joining the armed forces. If not, why do the army recruitment adverts suggest that after joining, adventure and excitement is exactly what awaits the recruit?
Take a recent recruitment advert on TV for the Royal Marines. It begins with a marine with rifle in hand, remaining perfectly still while an arachnid crawls slowly across his face. Obviously by nature of a jungle setting the location was designed to be exotic. To a working-class youth from the inner city, faced with limited opportunity and possibly seeing a life of zero-hours contracts, would this not seem a life of adventure and excitement?
Many former soldiers like myself consistently say there is no adventure or excitement in killing and point to statistics on the effects “active service” has had on them, with many facing alcoholism and/or mental health issues.
However, it would be wrong to deny that there are former military personnel that have served and believe for them doing so was a positive aspect of their life.
However, what most of us all agree on, is that there is no glamour in war. Worryingly though, we have recently had an MP that served in the forces and appears to try to glorify killing.
With statistics showing a shortfall of over 8,000 armed forces personnel, the worst figures since 2010, and no doubt to “help” the recruitment drive, on November 26 Tory MP Jonny Mercer took to twitter to not only encourage young people to join the army, but suggest that killing is good.
The Plymouth MP wrote: “The application of violence to defeat the enemies of the nation has become worryingly unpopular. Nothing wrong with fighting (yes killing) for values/what you believe in.
The oppressed/bullied/tormented/voiceless deserve it. Join the fight; best thing you’ll ever do.”
There are so many things wrong with Mercer’s statement it’s difficult to know where to begin.
Firstly, there is a very good reason why, thankfully, the application of violence has become unpopular. If Mercer is unsure of the answer, I suggest he researches the effects Tony Blair’s Iraq War has had on not only the Middle East and service personnel that returned home with life changing injuries, but on our way of life today.
Mercer has made an assumption that everyone that reads his tweet would agree just who the oppressed, bullied, tormented and voiceless are. However, we know this is almost certainly not the case. The question – is killing ever justified? – is such a complex issue that for Mercer to make a one-line statement that “killing for values/what you believe in,” is open to so may interpretations it beggars belief.
Does Mercer not know that the supporters of Isis, white supremacists and others also have “beliefs and values”?
Can he not see that it’s because of these so-called “values/beliefs” that young people strap a bomb to themselves to a blow up civilians, shoot or stab innocent shoppers on high streets, use a vehicle as a weapon against Muslims leaving a mosque, enter synagogues to shoot Jews at prayer or even attack MPs? Can Mercer not see that it’s comments like his that can be read and accepted by young people as justification for their cruel actions, which they may mistakenly believe will be exciting, therefore destroying exactly what his government’s Prevent strategy is there to do?
If that wording had appeared in a tweet by a member of the public who could be linked to any banned organisation, would MPs including Mercer not be expecting the police to investigate the person that wrote it?
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