| | | Effective PR

Terrorism: reporting v publicity

Nigel Morris-Co...

Not long ago, it's hours not even a day, a man drove, at high-speed a rented van along pavements and up streets in the face of incoming traffic in Toronto, Canada.The man has been arrested and is in custody. He has been named as Alek Minassian, aged 26. Whatever Minassian's motive, one thing is clear: publicity was inevitable because the choice of weapon, the fact that it's in Canada and the fact that it took place only a few kilometres from a G7 ministers meeting convened to discuss developments in terrorism and counter-terrorism. Media has provided blanket coverage around the world. It's time to think about that.

It doesn't matter what the underlying cause is: if a person or body of persons is prepared to use force or the threat of force to compel a government or a part of society (such as animal research labs) to do as the person or persons demands, that meets the basic definition of terrorism that is common across almost the entire world. What turns an ordinary act of violence into terrorism is the intention to effect change.

I have long argued that society should not maintain a specific offence of terrorism for the purposes of prosecution. I argue that the motive for the attack is a matter that should be taken into account at sentencing, not as a matter of guilt or innocence. This makes the prosecution of those who commit acts of violence much easier. The intent for murder is simple: did the person committing the act intend that death or serious injury would result, or was he reckless of that risk? If the answer is "yes," the offence is complete and a conviction is inevitable.

Obtaining a conviction for terrorism requires the proof of an additional intent: that of changing society. Why do we fetter police and other prosecutors with that additional requirement?

It is argued that we must differentiate between violence per se and violence for political (etc.) purposes because, in the latter case, there are additional "tools" available to prosecutors. Those "tools" are often the conduct that most closely resembles the activities of the criminals.

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