Dissent and terrorism
argument: ruzie. conference: congres, bijeenkomst. dissent: verschil van mening. to drag: sleuren. to emblazon: aanbrengen. Foreign Secretary: minister van Buitenlandse Zaken. to heckle: de spreker onderbreken. luminary: ster. profusely: uitvoerig, overvloedig. soundbite: scherpe en vaak geestige repliek. substance: inhoud. In British politics, the party conference season has just come and gone. For years now, it has been assumed that the purpose of such conferences is nothing to do with genuine debate and everything to do with morale-boosting. After all, the TV cameras are there, and the last thing a party wants is to be seen having furious arguments with itself. At the same time, it has still been expected that party luminaries on the podium will occasionally have to face the odd bit of heckling. Heckling is a time-honoured practice in British politics. It livens up otherwise boring speeches and part of the measure of a politician's worth is his or her ability to deal with it. But not, it seems, any more. When Walter Wolfgang, a frail, 82-year-old veteran of the Labour party was moved to shout "nonsense" during a speech in which the Foreign Secretary was explaining how necessary it was for British troops to be in Iraq, he was astonished to find two large men appear in front of him and then drag him out of the hall. He had not recovered from this shock before, upon attempting to re-enter the hall, he got another one. He was arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Tony Blair's 'New Labour' has always had a reputation for 'control freakery' - the carefully managed soundbites, the spin-doctoring, the emphasis on presentation over substance. But few people realised just how far things had gone until this year's party conference. Of course, Labour leaders, including Blair, recognised this incident as a public relations disaster and apologised profusely to Mr Wolfgang. But they were not so ready with their apologies to the 500 other people, outside the conference, who were also detained as suspected terrorists, including several for wearing T-shirts with uncomplimentary words about Blair emblazoned on them, one of them a local resident out walking his dog. Instead, they joined police and other officials in attempting to justify this behaviour on the grounds that it "sends a clear message to would-be terrorists". But what, one wonders, is the message it sends to everybody else? That from now on dissent and terrorism are, in the eyes of the authorities, the same thing?