Reactions 10

Trivialising liberty, Western values and not-so-smart bombs: more spiked readers give their views.


Topics Politics

After the attack on America: more spiked readers give their views.

What do you think? Email spiked letters. Please keep your letters succinct.

Liberty is a complex subject, frequently trivialised by civil liberties groups (‘We can never be safe – but at least we can be free’, 15 November). Liberty is made up of the sum of our collective rights to go about our business without fear. Terrorist groups want to kill us: this is a clear ‘dis-liberty’, if I can use such an ugly phrase. In response, governments are then forced to impose a certain amount of dis-liberty on some of their citizens. Clearly the effect of terrorism in the USA was to deny many thousands of people their right to life; furthermore, the terrorists have created a huge amount of fear that has impinged on Americans’ freedom of movement and association. The truly interesting question is then whether the total dis-liberty caused by terrorists (death, maiming, restrictions on movement caused by fear of harm) is greater than the total dis-liberty caused by governments. Of course, we never see this debate acknowledged, let alone actually aired in the media. But most ordinary citizens do understand the balance: it is their pragmatic analysis that lies behind the apparent apathy in the US and UK towards the question of civil liberties. We all understand that the enormous dis-liberty that arises from the actual risk of dying (which is small), and the perceived risk (which is much larger and which causes people to avoid association and free movement), mostly outweighs the dis-liberty that comes from government actions to contain and defeat terrorists. It is an intelligent and rational approach, unlike the shrill, hysterical and patronising tone of Jennie Bristow’s article. Chris Rodger, UK

Mick Hume is wrong to suggest that the Vietnam War was the turning point in both the West’s attitude to fighting and dying and its commitment to its own values (A war that nobody wants to fight, 9 November). The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 by nuclear explosions was the high-point in a process of technologisation that started with the use of gunpowder and convinced the technologically developed nations that they could win wars with destructive distance weapons while suffering minimal casualties. The Americans could ‘win’ the war against the Taliban and suffer zero casualties in the time it takes to aim and fire a small number of nuclear missiles. On the second point, the West started losing faith in its values almost as soon as it began to construct them. As Nietszche claimed, the destructive ‘will-to-truth’ is an inevitable result of the rational enquiry that the Enlightenment made possible, and it will continue to undermine any total value system that the West tries to establish. ‘Values’ have always been a tool to keep the masses in line, which explains Mick Hume’s observation that it is the deliberately ill-informed working classes who tend to be taken in by them and are willing to die for them – even though these ‘values’ justify the injustices that rain down upon them every day. Steve Hall, UK

If American bombing is so accurate, as some spiked readers state (Reactions 9, 22 November), I wonder why the USA keeps bombing hospitals and Red Cross Warehouses. Not to mention the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia. Dave P Hallsworth, UK

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Topics Politics


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