Welcome to the second, less frequently-posted decade of RevMod.

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Friday, August 05, 2005

More strange laws

It's difficult for governments, faced with the spectre of shit blowing up at seemingly random, to know exactly how to respond. The NYC police are randomly searching backpacks on the subway, and civil-liberties groups are none-too-impressed. George Bush, faced with an unwinnable "war" against terror, decided to have a go at a noun instead: Iraq. Not that it's happened, but at least people have some idea of what winning that war would look like.

I note with some relief that Tony Blair is able to crack down on terrorism without actually declaring a literal or figurative "war". But the plan to make it an offence to "condone or glorify terrorism", as well-intended as that might be, might be a little too vague. At what point does legitimate resistance (the ANC in apartheid South Africa, or the French resistance in World War Two) become terrorism (al Quada trying to provoke the west into confrontation and war, so as to polarize the Arab populations, thus encouraging revolution)? I'm not a complete relativist, unable to tell right from wrong, but I don't think it's unreasonable to recognize that, as Churchill said, where you stand depends upon where you sit. Ronald Reagan's White House actively supported the Nicaraguan Contras, who engaged in violent acts against civilians as a tactic of resistance against the democratically-elected Sandinista government. Terrorists, or freedom-fighters?

If this movie is done as well as the comic book was, V for Vendetta will ask the same questions. But what's the future of the film, now that the British government is considering making the questions illegal? More to the point, how do we the people judge what laws are reasonable? What's the smell of fascism?

I think Canada is fortunate to have a resilient Charter of Rights, with an equally resilient Section 1:
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.
Can any of us imagine a better yardstick? I hope for the sake of the citizens of Great Britain that they have some equivalent of the Oakes test to measure the Prime Minister's new anti-terrorism measures.

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