It's a common perception that some terrorist suspects get more coverage and attention than their fellow nutcases, but why might that be?
Terence Gavan's story is in almost all of today's papers in one way or another - a dangerous man who has thankfully been brought to justice. But what is it about his story that's different? Look at the first part of the story:
A former BNP member who turned his bedroom in his mother's house into a bomb and weapons factory has been jailed for 11 years.
From the outside, the house in Batley, West Yorkshire, betrayed no sign of Terence Gavan's sinister pastime.
But when officers from West Yorkshire Police entered the property with a search warrant as part of a firearms investigation in May 2009, they were to discover the largest cache of home-made bombs and other weapons ever seen in the region.
The rest of the house that the 39-year-old bus-driver shared with his mother was "immaculate", according to police, in stark contrast to the tangle of bomb-making equipment, improvised weapons and materials filling the locked attic room.
What religion is he? It's not there. Because it's assumed that it's not part of the story, and not relevant to the threat he posed. How did he become an extremist? That's not mentioned either. It's not been investigated, or if it has, it's not been deemed relevant by either the prosecutors or the media reporting it.
Compare that to the story of another terror convict, Nicky Reilly:
A Muslim convert has admitted launching a failed suicide nail-bomb attack on a Devon restaurant.
Nicky Reilly, 22, pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to attempted murder at Exeter's Giraffe restaurant on 22 May.
Reilly, from Plymouth, had been preparing the attack when a bomb went off in his hands in a toilet cubicle.
Police believe Reilly, said to have learning difficulties, was "preyed upon and radicalised by others". He will be sentenced on 21 November.
First of all, Reilly's religion is deemed important - he converted to Islam. Secondly, the idea of 'radicalisation' is mentioned, and that's an important thread in all this. The narrative we like to read about terrorists who want to bomb people is that they are either Muslims to begin with, or become Muslims, then become 'radicalised' somehow, then they're terrorists. With the far-right terror convicts, there's no such interest in the causes, no process of 'radicalisation' is deemed to have taken place - or if it has, it's not deeemed relevant. Look at another far-right terror convict, Martin Gilleard:
A neo-Nazi paedophile who had four nail bombs under the bed he let his five-year-old son sleep in, has been jailed for 16 years.
White-supremacist Martyn Gilleard was found guilty on Tuesday of two counts of terror offences and had pleaded guilty to possessing 39,000 indecent images and owning ammunition without a licence.
There, the man's paedophilia is listed alongside his terrorist intentions. Like Terence Gavan, there's no attempt to describe a process of 'radicalisation' that has taken place, to list his religion or anything like that - it's assumed that his political leanings have brought him to terrorism, but they is no equivalent radicalisation narrative in place. He was far-right, he became a terrorist. There is no list of places he went to or people he met who may have 'preyed upon' him; that side of the story isn't of interest.
Compare again, to another terror convict, Isa Ibrahim:
A former public schoolboy was today found guilty of plotting to carry out a suicide bombing using a vest packed with explosives at a shopping centre in Bristol.
Andrew Ibrahim, who changed his named to Isa Ibrahim by deed poll Andrew Ibrahim, who changed his named to Isa Ibrahim by deed poll Photograph: Rex Features
Isa Ibrahim, 20, made viable explosives, manufactured a suicide vest and carried out reconnaissance on the Broadmead shopping centre. Detectives believe he was about to launch an attack, possibly targeting the centre's busy food court area.
Police are heralding the case as a breakthrough as they say it is the first in which the information about a British would-be terrorist planning an atrocity in the UK has come just from a Muslim community.
Ibrahim's extremism did not come to the attention of the authorities until members of a mosque he attended grew worried about his behaviour and went to Avon and Somerset police.
Again, the 'radicalisation' element comes into the story. Ibrahim was a nice public schoolboy, then changed his name and became radicalised, then he became a terror convict. So is it just a case of a certain narrative being true, or something different going on when it's far-right terrorists as opposed to Muslim terrorists? Why do Muslim suspects get different coverage, and why is 'radicalisation' an important part of the story?
I think the answer, this time, might not be in the prejudices of the media. I think it has to do with how these people are brought to justice. Gavan was found as part of a firearms investigation; Gilleard by officers looking for pornography. Ibrahim, on the other hand, had been marked out as a terror suspect from the word go by fellow Muslims who were disturbed by his behaviour; and Reilly had actually got to the point of detonating his bomb.
So there's something else going on, I think. These far-right terrorists are stumbled upon - and there's no big fear about them, no worry about a wave of terror sweeping the country (although the Mail, bless them, did try to create such an impression last year). As well as that, there is no willingness to understand the process by which ordinary people with far-right views take that step to become a serious threat - there is no equivalent of 'radicalisation', and so there's a gap in the understanding of these people.
The Muslim terror convicts' story comes from a template - young man, preyed on by external forces (often forces with tentacles overseas, or so we're led to believe), converts and becomes radicalised, then is a terrorist. That's an easily understandable narrative, and one that is terrifying in itself - that any young man could be susceptible to that kind of change, with Islam playing a big part in it. Whether that's right or not, I don't know; but that's the story that people are told time and time again, and what we're led to believe is the case. But if that is the case, then what happens to convert far-right terrorists? We just don't know because there isn't the willingness to understand. I think that's because there isn't the willingness to see them as being as much of a threat.
We don't seem to fear the Gavans of this world as much as we do the Ibrahims, and that's reflected in media coverage. Of course, it's true that more Islamic terror attacks have been completed than far-right ones, and that's worth bearing in mind as to why people might be more scared. But it's assumed that there is a spectral force of Islamic terror driving these attacks, and they are evidence of the bogeyman. We don't fear the far-right terror types as much; we're not concerned about 'radicalisation' of young men and assume, perhaps, that individuals act out of their own steam rather than being controlled by scary foreign forces. Whether we're right to be less scared of them, I'm not so sure.
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