September 27, 2008

The Red Flux: Does the Swedish Social Democrat Youth Association Promote Bioterrorism?

Dried roseA few weeks ago a shigella outbreak occurred at the Swedish Business Association, making about 140 people sick. Recently some leftist group apparently claimed responsibility on a web page, making the security police investigate. The mortality of shigellosis in developed countries is ~1%, so statistically there could have been about 1.4 fatalities in the outbreak. Now the social democratic youth organization (SSU) promises a bouquet of roses to whoever caused the outbreak. Emma Lindqvist, chairwoman of SSU Stockholm says: "We are of course not condoning methods like this, capitalism is to be abolished without biological warfare. But sick practical jokes like this should be promoted with a bit of flowers."

The UN defines terrorism as "Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes..." and more academically as "Terrorism is an anxiety-inspiring method of repeated violent action, employed by (semi-) clandestine individual, group or state actors, for idiosyncratic, criminal or political reasons, whereby - in contrast to assassination - the direct targets of violence are not the main targets. The immediate human victims of violence are generally chosen randomly (targets of opportunity) or selectively (representative or symbolic targets) from a target population, and serve as message generators."

By these definitions, if the shigellosis outbreak was deliberate, it seems to have been terrorism. Maybe if the goal was just a direct attack against the Swedish Business Association it would have been a lesser crime. The UN resolution continues "...are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other nature that may be invoked to justify them" - something that most people would agree with. But apparently SSU Stockholm finds bioterrorism at least a sick practical joke worthy of symbolic rewards.

Given the rapid growth of bioterrorism risks we are soon likely to rue a few other "practical jokes".

Posted by Anders3 at September 27, 2008 10:26 AM