Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Crisis Playbook - Paris Edition

In the aftermath of the tragic Paris Attacks last Friday, Western governments are responding with the typical crisis playbook:
  • Cast blame elsewhere (ideally scapegoats or political enemies)
  • Respond rapidly (even if ineffectively)
  • Most importantly, ask for more powers.
This script is not unique to terror attacks, but they seem to bring it out in its purest form.

The Paris Attacks have followed this rule quite well. Early on, in the effort to put the blame on something besides the incompetence of the government itself, many were highlighting the fact that that a Syrian passport had been found on just the attackers. The implication would be that refugees carried out the attack, and since France's security services could not have possibly screened all of those individuals, they would be partially exonerated. And France would have been victimized essentially for its humanitarian impulse. It would have been a great narrative from a political standpoint. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a fake passport, and it appears that all of the attackers were European nationals, at least so far.

As for a response, France has already stepped up its bombing campaign in Syria and carried out over 150 counterterrorism raids, in concert with the Belgian authorities.

And then there's the request for more powers. France has extended its state of emergency to three months and is currently asking for a variety of new measures:
  • The ability to remove French citizenship if someone is convicted of particular crimes
  • Increasing the police force by 5,000
  • Giving police officers more leniency to use lethal force
Of course, Hollande says he is doing this only to protect the freedoms already enshrined in the French constitution, but then, politicians always say something to that effect -- we must violate the Constitution to save it. Yeah, that makes sense. It's like how parents say sometimes you have to punch your baby in the face to save him. Wait, no one says that.

In this context, we're seeing a new and particularly dangerous variant of the playbook. Many are trying to attribute part of the responsibility to whistleblower Edward Snowden. This truly bizarre line of reasoning suggests that terrorists are able to perform more sophisticated attacks now, because Snowden told them the US is spying on them. And for good measure, the argument also gets to cast part of the blame on the makers of encryption software. In other words, this one is a two-in-one - they get to attack people they want to attack anyway (Snowden, privacy advocates, etc.) and roll in a request for more powers at the same time (if only you let us have access to all your data, then we could have nice things).

Glenn Greenwald has an excellent summary and debunking of this latest blame Snowden initiative, and that's our lead story. It turns out we shouldn't blame Snowden--we should blame the government officials who are currently asking for even more power.

Exploiting Emotions About Paris to Blame Snowden, Distract from Actual Culprits Who Empowered ISIS

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