Are bikies terrorists?

New anti-association laws will make it illegal to be knowingly in company of members, former members or people involved in the running of a declared criminal organisation. While not specifically targeting motorcycle gangs, the Criminal Organisations Control Bill has been dubbed ‘anti-bikie laws’ by several journalists.

Is the term 'bikie' creating a villain to rally against like 'terrorist' has done in the past? (photo: smh)

Adelaide Now writes: “These new laws in effect will treat criminal gangs in a similar manner to how we deal with terrorists. Bikie gangs are every bit as frightening as organised terror groups.”

But what is a ‘terrorist’, and what defines an ‘organised terror group’?

Currently, there is no academic or international legal consensus on the definition of terrorism. The UN has a broad definition of what constitutes terrorism:

“1. The States Members of the United Nations solemnly reaffirm their unequivocal condemnation of all acts, methods and practices of terrorism as criminal and unjustifiable, wherever and by whomsoever committed, including those that jeopardize friendly relations among States and peoples and threaten the territorial integrity and security of States;

2. The States Members of the United Nations reaffirm that acts, methods and practices of terrorism are contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations; they declare that knowingly financing, planning and inciting terrorist acts are also contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations;”

3. Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them;”

The US defines it slightly differently:

“2. the term “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents;
3. the term “terrorist group” means any group, or which has significant subgroups which practice, international terrorism;”

Under US definitions, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can be called a terrorist, but not the US government, who are neither subnational or clandestine (arguably; though that is for another debate). It doesn’t seem to matter though — when the US, or members of the US, could be labelled ‘terrorists’ (such as in the recent massacre of several Afghans), the term is suspiciously absent, as it was when Korans were burnt by US soldiers, which caused protests and left around 30 Afghans dead.

Instead, we see the media label groups ‘separatists’, ‘freedom fighters’, ‘liberators’, ‘vigilantes’, ‘rebels’, ‘patriots’… the list goes on. So when the US occupies Middle Eastern countries, they are liberators. When Libya and Egypt fight for democracy, they are freedom fighters. But Hezbollah, the Lebanese political group fighting for Islamic control of Lebanon, are labelled terrorists. Hezbollah are a particularly interesting case, as the Middle East widely regard them as a resistance movement, and they are given financial and political support from Iran and Syria; but the Western world classify them as a terrorist organization.

So who is classified as a ‘terrorist’, and what is classified as ‘terrorism’ largely depends on which side you’re standing. Being such an emotionally and politically charged word, it’s obvious that it can become so subjective. The label ‘terrorist’ instantly creates an enemy to rally against — and governments take full advantage of this hysteria. But how should the media react?

The Guardian and BBC styleguides both recommend the word should be used very carefully to maintain impartiality. The Guardian says:

“we need to be very careful about using the term: it is still a subjective judgment – one person’s terrorist may be another person’s freedom fighter, and there are former “terrorists” holding elected office in many parts of the world. Some critics suggest that, for the Guardian, all terrorists are militants – unless their victims are British.”

Case in point: Nelson Mandela was once labelled a terrorist. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nelson Mandela. Once his views had become sympathetic to his aggressors, he became a ‘statesman’.

Terrorism has become the go-to word to villainise a group or individual. Under this word laws have been passed and acts committed that would cause uproar in normal situations. Australia’s 2005 Anti-Terrorism Act restricts freedom of movement, freedom of association (including one’s lawyer), and many other restrictions on named individuals. Police can force information from anyone (including journalists) about suspected individuals. It was an act passed under the guise of fighting ‘The War on Terror’, but it need not necessarily affect only terrorists, or even be directly related to terrorism.

So are bikies terrorists? Or is this an attempt to pass more controversial laws (that need not necessarily target bikies) under the guise of a villain that needs to be defeated?

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One comment

  1. […] Are bikies terrorists? (anactofwar.wordpress.com) […]

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