Happy Wagga Christmas

It really is that time of year

Ah, Wagga Wagga. Why have I not visited you before?

In fact, Santa pipped me to the proverbial post. I love it that Santa makes it all the way to Wagga Wagga. You'd think it might be an Australian outpost too far, but no, there he is with his reindeer and his sleigh. But look closely at the photo -- is that a Woolworths I see before me? They have Woolworths in Wagga Wagga?! Or maybe that's where all the defunct Woolworths went when they were shut down over here. I can just imagine a great ocean liner, full of rather forlorn-looking shops, all awaiting a new life on sunnier shores. I'm sure they have a nicer time in Wagga Wagga than they would on the average British high street, so we shouldn't feel too bad about it.

Anyway, it all went extremely well with Santa.

While Santa's arrival was the highlight of the night, shoppers had already enjoyed plenty of entertainment with giveaways, face-painting, roving entertainment and the popular bouncing kangaroos.

What was the roving entertainment? That's what I want to know. I do like entertainment that roves, that's on the move, but in a sort of skulking way. It's much the best.

And as for the popular bouncing kangaroos -- it's just too good. Christmas simply isn't Christmas without popular bouncing kangaroos.

 

 

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

Photo:Getty
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There's something missing from our counter-terrorism debate

The policy reckoning that occured after the 2005 terrorist attacks did not happen after the one in 2016. 

“Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? That's not my department, says Wernher von Braun.” That satirical lyric about Nazi rocket scientists has come to mind more than few times watching various tech giants give testimony in front of the Home Affairs Select Committee, one of the underreported sub-plots of life at Westminster.

During their ongoing inquiry into hate crime in the United Kingdom, committee chair Yvette Cooper has found a staggering amount of hate speech being circulated freely on the largest and most profitable social media platform. Seperately, an ongoing investigation by the Times has uncovered how advertising revenue from Google and YouTube makes its way straight into the coffers of extremist groups, ranging from Islamist extremists to white supremacists and anti-Semites.

One of the many remarkable aspects of the inquiry has been the von Braunesque reaction by the movers and shakers at these tech companies. Once the ad revenue is handed out, who cares what it pays for? That’s not my department is the overwhelming message of much of the testimony.

The problem gains an added urgency now that the perpetrator of the Westminster attacks has been named as Khalid Masood, a British-born 52-year-old with a string of petty convictions across two decades from 1982 to 2002. He is of the same generation and profile as Thomas Mair, the white supremacist behind the last act of domestic terrorism on British shores, though Mair’s online radicalisation occurred on far-right websites, while Masood instead mimicked the methods of Isis attacks on the continent.  Despite that, both fitted many of the classic profiles of a “lone wolf” attack, although my colleague Amelia explains well why that term is increasingly outmoded.

One thing that some civil servants have observed is that it is relatively easy to get MPs to understand anti-terror measures based around either a form of electronic communication they use themselves – like text messaging or email, for instance – or a physical place which they might have in their own constituencies. But legislation has been sluggish in getting to grips with radicalisation online and slow at cutting off funding sources.

As I’ve written before, though there  are important differences between these two ideologies, the radicalisation journey is similar and tends to have the same staging posts: petty criminality, a drift from the fringes of respectable Internet sub-cultures to extremist websites, and finally violence.  We don’t yet know how closely Masood’s journey follows that pattern – but what is clear is that the policy rethink about British counter-terror after the July bombings in 2005 has yet to have an equivalent echo online. The success of that approach is shown in that these attacks are largely thwarted in the United Kingdom. But what needs to happen is a realisation that what happens when the rockets come down is very much the department of the world’s communication companies. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.