After we were told the video made by Ottawa shooter Michael Zehaf-Bibeau would be made available to the public, the RCMP has changed its mind, or had it changed for them. RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson wasn’t exactly clear on the specifics. He said there may be a release of “some aspects of a transcript of the video”… whatever that means.
Given the terrorist narrative favored by the government and also by the police, how can the public be sure that ‘aspects of the transcript’ aren’t cherry picked to reenforce the preferred narrative. Surely the honest and transparent thing to do would be to release the video for the public to make its own judgment or alternatively release the entire transcript, rather than “aspects” of it. If as some claim, there are concerns about the video being exploited in some way for jihadi propaganda, the odds of that happening would be diminished considerably if a transcript was involved – cop out though that would still be – because there is no compelling reason to sit on the video.
There are any number of jihad-inspired videos in circulation that glorify jihad and attack the West… lots of audio-visual incentive out there for anyone influenced by such material. The release of Zehaf-Bibeau’s video – assuming it contains any such content – would not likely make a substantial difference one way or another.
In giving reasons for withholding the video, Paulson also made vague allusions to “some sort of court process.” But given what we know this doesn’t add up. Zehaf-Bibeau is dead and there were no known accomplices.
The decision to withhold the video seems to be more about political calculations. Perhaps Harper is concerned that the video’s contents might in some way influence public opinion about Canada’s involvement in the US-led war in the Middle East… part of the government’s deeply misguided foreign policy agenda.
There has been some debate in parliament about whether or not the term “terrorism” should be used in describing Zehaf-Bibeau’s actions. But from the outset it was clear that the government was dead set on labeling it a “terrorist attack” despite information about Zehaf-Bibeau’s past that indicate mental and emotional problems were a likely trigger.
Zehaf-Bibeau’s mother, Susan Bibeau, who presumably knew her son better than most, denied that he was a terrorist acting “on behalf of some grand ideology or for a political motive.” She said he felt “cornered” and “acted in despair.” She is also skeptical of the radicalization theory and said she believes “mental illness is at the center of this tragedy.”
According to a recent poll Susan Bibeau’s view is shared by a high percentage of Canadians … while 36% describe the shooting as a “terrorist attack” 38% believe mental illness played a part in it.
Although the Harper government has been careful not to appear to be chaffing at the bit to beef up enforcement powers in the wake of the attack… given the reactionary right-wing nature of this government you can be sure it wants to extract as much mileage as possible from the incident. The wheels are apparently in motion. On Monday a Commons committee passed Bill C-44 that hands additional powers to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). According to Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, another bill is in the works that will boost law enforcement powers in the areas of surveillance, detention and arrest.
In the course of conjecturing out loud when and if the Zehaf-Bibeau video might see the light of day, RCMP chief Paulson wasn’t big on specifics… “I don’t know when it’s going to be released. It will certainly be released some day, but I would be a fool to say when it will be released.”