Panic in Detroit. And Auckland.

So New Zealand has a Terrorist Threat Level! Who knew?! Well, exist it does, and it’s been raised – from “very low” to “low”.

As I set fire to a large pile of bamboo this morning, The Smiths’ song ‘Panic’ came to mind. As the bamboo explosions rang out across Gisborne, it amused me to slightly amend the lyrics:

Panic on the streets of Auckland
Panic on the streets of Wellington…

Of course, The Smiths were singing about panic induced by vacuous pop music, but, as the bamboo burned, it segued nicely into a merry rendition of Bowie’s ‘Panic in Detroit’. However, despite my fire sounding like a mixture of gang warfare and the detonation of explosive ordnance, there wasn’t any need to panic. It was all sound and fury, signifying nothing, much like the New Zealand Government right now.

Imperator Fish has published a most excellent New Zealand Government Cynicism Level Indicator, which seems to accurately sum up John Key’s announcement about the existence of the Terror Threat Level.

Imperator Fish's NZ Government Cynicism Level Indicator

Imperator Fish’s NZ Government Cynicism Level Indicator

After all, prior to the election, John Key ruled out sending troops to Iraq. Now, with the other four Five Eyes countries sending troops of one description or another, Key wants in. And he wants the public on side with him once the decision is made, as the last thing he wants to do is get New Zealand involved in a foreign war without majority public approval.

Now I’m not saying that New Zealand shouldn’t help out our allies in Iraq in some form or another. There’s certainly a case to be made as to why we should be involved. Key is busy making the case, and part of that case is the art of making New Zealanders uneasy about the threat of terror. Bad Things are happening overseas, and we have a duty to try and stop them. If not, we’ll only have ourselves to blame when those Bad Things come to our own shores.

That’s where the cynicism comes in. Raising the Terror Threat Level, and then making that raise public without giving any real indication as to why it was raised, is a very deliberate strategy to make people uncomfortable. It’s a strategy that works for National on two levels.

Firstly, it brings people into line to support the Government sending troops to fight the Islamic State. IS must be crushed, because it is now the most public face of Islamic terrorism. The stronger it grows, the more likely it is that something like the alleged Australian beheading plot will happen here.

Secondly, people are less likely to ask searching questions about the actions of our domestic spy agencies. If something like the Aussie beheading plot were to be planned here, who would stop it? Our spies! Neuter their ability to spy on New Zealanders, and they lose their ability to keep us safe…

Key’s public announcement regarding the Terror Threat Level makes it a dead set certainty that New Zealand troops will be heading to Iraq.

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