Thursday, 2 July 2015

Full spectrum response

[The prime minister] said IS posed "an existential threat" to the West, and its members in Iraq and Syria were plotting "terrible attacks" on British soil.

Mr Cameron - who chaired another meeting of the Cobra emergency committee on Monday morning - said the UK must have a "full-spectrum response" to the IS threat - including continuing with air strikes.

Two things:
  1.  The threat is not existential. The Tunisia attack was horrible - horrible in the same way as another recent attack by a frustrated, gun-wielding young man against the designated scapegoats of his peculiar ideology - but, contrary to what you might read in the Daily Mail, the armies of the Caliph aren't currently massed at Calais, poised to hit our beaches, roll over our armed forces and impose hand-chopping Sharia on everyone in these islands, from the Scilly Isles to Stromness.
  2. A 'full spectrum response' might imply a well thought out, methodical, rational, attempt to quantify every aspect of the threat and calmly implement an evidence-based, proportionate reaction to every element of the problem. Experience suggests that 'full spectrum response' will probably translate as 'throwing any random shit we can think of at the problem in the hope that some of it will stick', a view reinforced by the desperate attempt to imply that the case for ever-more intrusive mass surveillance of the British public has somehow been made by the indoctrination of a Tunisian citizen in Libya.
If you want to know what the 'random shit' version of a full spectrum response looks like in more detail, consider the reaction of the American religious right to the recent US Supreme Court ruling on equal marriage:
Conservative Christianity promises full spectrum response to gay spectrum threat
  1. Again there's hype about an alleged existential threat, this time to religious freedom. This time, not only is the physical threat exaggerated, but it's actually non-existent (unless I missed some news bulletins about equal marriage fanatics mowing conservative Christians down with automatic weapons). Extending the rights of one group to marry doesn't threaten the rights of people with different beliefs to marry, believe or worship as they've always done in any way at all.*
  2. The stuff being thrown at the not-really-existential threat is jaw-droppingly random (I'm using the modern, colloquial sense of 'random' as in 'totally off the wall and uncoordinated'). Two ... er ... random examples:
First, there's the guy who insists that a few unconnected Bible passages quoted out of context constitute a clear and specific prophecy that the USA will shortly be punished for its tolerance of same-sex marriage by being destroyed by Vladimir Putin's irreproachably homophobic Russia.

Second, there's our old friend Steve Kellmeyer at The Fifth Column, with his own unique variation on the slippery slope argument. I've already seen plenty of equal marriage opponents asserting that permitting gay marriage is just the same as allowing people to marry their parents, siblings, multiple partners, or pet animals, but this is the first time I've actually seen anybody come up with the idea that if, as a society, we tolerate gay marriage, we might just as well tolerate rape.

Yep, same-sex marriage, rape, morally equivalent, apparently. Interestingly, somebody in the comments raises the obvious point that, these days, all marriage is (or should be) consensual, whereas rape, by definition, is not. Kellmeyer's response is also interesting:
Monkeys tear each other apart and eat each other, but that doesn't make cannibalism acceptable. Just because we consent to something, that doesn't make it acceptable, or good, or something that thereby becomes impossible to question. 
And there was me thinking that one of the moral problems with cannibalism, or eating another sentient being, might involve lack of consent on the part of the party being torn apart and eaten.

In short, the religious right seem to be throwing every sort of bizarre argument, from every place on the spectrum, at the enemy in the hope that something will hit home and ending up with something like a textbook example of Poe's Law ('without a clear indicator of the author's intent, parodies of extremism are indistinguishable from sincere expressions of extremism').

Of course, for somebody of my generation, a proper full Spectrum response would involve an indestructible puppet man with a campy red hat and and the voice of Cary Grant:

Off the wall, I know, but it makes at least as much sense as any of the other full spectrum responses I've been seeing lately.

*Self-inflicted threats, like the hilarious Australian couple who vowed they'd divorce out of sheer spite, if their country ever allowed people of the same gender to marry one another, don't count.