I want to put in a good word for Waleed Aly.
Two interrelated things. First I think Janet Albrechtsen was a bit harsh yesterday.
Waleed Aly exposed himself as a hypocrite. In the past, Aly has seemingly ducked for cover about mentioning Islam when Muslim terrorists have been Muslims murdering innocent people in the name of Islam. In 2013 he told us that “terrorism is a perpetual irritant”.
There are many, many costs to living in a sophisticated society and an advanced liberal democracy. Congestion costs we all know and understand. Well there are political congestion costs too. We have to live with people whose views and understandings of society we dislike. The secret of success in liberal society is that we recognise that we all have to live together and accommodate as many viewpoints as possible.
Terrorism is a political congestion cost. There are people in our society who do not behave in ways that consistent with liberal society. Who choose to attack our society in ways that are considered to be unacceptable. We deal with those individuals though the deployment of coercion. We severely constrain how we deploy that coercion and we agonise over whether that level of coercion is too much, too little, and so on.
But here is the important point – our way of life and our system of government is not at risk from malcontents and terrorists. Yes individual lives are at risk and families will be devastated and the human cost of terrorism is high. Terrorism is the price we pay for living in a diverse open society.
We shouldn’t trivialise that cost – and I don’t Aly has done that. Unlike, say, an American professor on the ABC who claimed that you were more likely to be killed by a falling kitchen appliance than terrorism.
The second point is his performance on The Project last week. This piece by Sam Maiden is doing the rounds.
At issue was Aly’s reference to a 2010 shadow cabinet meeting where Scott Morrison is accused of noting anti-Muslim sentiment in the community and suggesting the Liberal Party capitalise on it.
The New Daily has confirmed that Mr Morrison’s chief press secretary, Andrew Carswell, contacted Network Ten after the broadcast insisting the report included “discredited information” and referring to “defamation”.
“[He said] it was defamation effectively of the Prime Minister,” a Ten source said.
I don’t know if the story is true or not. Let’s assume it is. Again two things – on Friday Aly was emotional. He was angry, shocked, scared, horrified. Should he have gone to air? Maybe. Maybe not. But he was being human. There is a huge difference between an intellectual understanding of the world and an emotional understanding of the world. On Friday his emotional understanding dominated.
So what should Morrison do? Well the last thing would be to threaten to sue either Aly or Ten. Rather get an invite onto The Project and debate Aly.
But it is here that the Liberals have failed and continue to fail. Words are not violence per se. Criminals should be treated as such – whatever their “true” motives, “root” causes, abused as children, or whatever other excuses they make for their criminal behaviour.
Back to Aly – in 2013 he was updating the old maxim, Keep Calm and Carry On. Sometimes it is hard to do that. Last week it was hard for him.