Sacrificing Freedom for Security - a Cruel Irony; 11

Article excerpt

Byline: Mario Basini

THE furore that broke over the latest caper of selfstyled ``comedy terrorist'' Aaron Barschak was, it seems to me, a graphic example of just how skewed our values have become in the post9/11 world.

The aging enfant terrible of standup comedy managed to push the unfolding tragedy in Iraq, African civil wars and the widening gap between the poor and the lightlytaxed rich off the front pages by gatecrashing Prince William's 21st birthday party.

Yesterday's tabloid coverage of the incident included page after page of shocked analysis. They managed to strike what seemed to me an entirely unwarranted note of hysteria. In their hands, what was little more than a successful publicity stunt became a threat to the safety of the Royal Family, even to the security of the state itself.

Underpinning the coverage was, of course, the assumption that Barschak's audacious ``assault'' on the birthday party exposed serious shortcomings in the arrangements to guard the Royal Family. Those concerns are heightened by the fact that since September 11 the warnings of further AlQaeda attacks, perhaps involving Britain, seem to have been coming at a rate of one a week.

But it seems to me that treating the antics of a comedian of dubious talent and intellectual stability as if they were the equivalent of a determined act of terrorism is stretching credibility too much.

The success of the attacks on the New York World Trade Centre and on the Pentagon upped the ante when it came to terrorism. They showed that by targeting the vulnerable populations of cities you can maximise the havoc you create.

In the unsavoury thinking of the terrorist the months, perhaps years, of planning that go into an attack are not justified unless you think in term of thousands or at least hundreds of victims. So in Osama bin Laden's twisted logic it is doubtful whether targeting a member or two of the Royal Family would pay worthwhile dividends.

What Aaron Barschak has managed to do is highlight just how far our current obsession with security has taken us.

For some, living in modern Britain is becoming the 21stcentury equivalent of life under siege behind the massive walls of a mediaeval castle. …