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A blog on terrorism, democracy and international politics

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Alert, Not Alarmed 

While travelling home by train last night, my fiancee and I were surprised by a sudden loud bang and the sound of small objects bouncing around the carriage. A large rock had been thrown through the window directly behind us, showering us with glass beads, although obviously the first thing that went through our minds was the London bombings.

The train driver declined to report the incident immediately on the basis that he would have to put us all off the train as a matter of standard policy. Presumably the teenagers will be out tomorrow scaring another train full of passengers.

We were on our way back from a trip to the centre of Melbourne. On the train journey into the city centre, a man entered carriage carrying a clear plastic bag. Amongst other items, the bag contained two large knives. Several inches of one blade were poking out the side of the bag.

An objective of terrorism is to sow panic. Accordingly, it is important to be conscious of the risks in order to make such attacks less probable, but to avoid unnecessary alarm. The risk of terrorism is real, and should be taken seriously. Carrying knives in full view, throwing rocks at trains, and failing to take rock throwing incidents seriously makes it difficult for the public to distinguish between real threats and false alarms, and also ratchets up the level of unnecessary alarm upon which the terrorists rely.
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