Back in my student days I often went about my daily business packing heat. This was necessary because I was at constant risk of deadly assault from my flat mates.
You see, they were packing heat too and they were more than prepared to use it.
The heat in question consisted of a small, die cast pneumatic spud gun. Sculpted along the lines of a classic Beretta automatic, you could jam it into a potato then squeeze off a pellet in the blink of an eye. To call it a mere gun would be unfair. It was a complete weapons system, capable of use as an impromptu water pistol with the optional nozzle attachment and also detonating small percussion caps.
You never knew when you would need to defend yourself. You could be strolling around campus or watching television in your flat when the gunmen came for you. Quiet Sunday afternoons would burst into explosive bouts of starch-based violence. Uttering curses from our favourite spaghetti westerns we would direct a hail of potato pellets at each other until we got bored or the supply of potatoes ran out. Both of which took a very long time indeed.
Happy days that are unlikely ever to be repeated in my own lifetime. Boo.
I only mention this because I think I might still have a couple of spud guns knocking around in the flat somewhere and probably should think about handing them over to the police next time we have one of our periodic local weapons amnesties. They are, after all, the most perfect terrorist assault weapons. In the wrong hands they would be lethal.
Using the sharpshooting skills I developed as a younger man, I could vector green potato based death with pinpoint accuracy onto anyone within a 15ft range. All they would have to do would be to open their mouth for a fraction of a second, that's all I would need, and they'd be history. If they survived that onslaught I could fix the nozzle attachment, get in closer and finish them off with a few squirts of homebrewed cherry cyanide or, the ultimate horror, fill the chamber with lighter fluid and project a jet of flame five or six inches long, capable of singing the most resistant eyebrows.
Yes OK, as we like to say hereabouts, I am taking the f*cking piss.
But if I'm taking the piss what does that say about my government? Surely they're taking the piss as well? Only on a much larger scale and, as far as I can tell, not for clumsy comic effect either.
One of the many questions that should be asked in the wake of the Wood Green Ricin story, but hasn't, is
Why didn't these guys get their hands on some proper weapons?
Hard drugs are available at record low prices in the UK, gun crime is on the rise and illegal human trafficking a big business. To describe our borders as porous is an insult to porosity. If, as we are being repeatedly told, there are several hundred trained Islamic terrorists plotting death and destruction in the UK why don't they get their hands of some 'real gear'; some AK-47s, a couple RPGs or a few kilos of Czech made plastique? Why do they choose instead to tit around with fruit pips and fermented curries? Why do they appear to be so lame, disorganised and, frankly, not much of a threat at all?
Could it be that they are lame, disorganised and not much of a threat at all?
Let's face it. If you start rounding up a few thousand people inhabiting subcultures on the margins of society you are going to come up with one or two lunatic losers. Actually, I'm surprised that we've found as few as we have. I suspect that if the police had spent the last few years picking on other fringe groups; right wing nationalists, young farmers, Lambeth based bloggers, they would have come up with a much more impressive haul of potentially lethal materials. This is a perfectly predictable result and in no way supports the notion of an organised terror network. Remember, it is the concept of a well-resourced, well-trained network of stone cold killers, which supposedly makes the current terror threat so uniquely deadly.
I'm not being entirely accurate here. The other factor that makes the current threat so uniquely deadly is the thought that these terrorists are arming themselves with invisible weapons of mass death rather than boring old guns and bombs. We know what guns and bombs are all about. A few people might get killed by someone so equipped but life carries on as normal immediately afterwards. The general public is familiar with conventional weaponry. The general public wont be scared enough of conventional weaponry to sit by and watch their country gradually turned into a police state.
No, if you really want to scare the crap out of people you really do have to come up with something a little bit special; a nameless, invisible killer. A killer you cannot see or sense until it is too late. A killer with the potential to slaughter thousands. You also have to put that killer in the hands of people clever enough and ruthless enough to use it effectively and without pity.
Well, that's the story we're being told isn't it?
And that's how the head of the Metropolitan police can come out with tosh like this without anyone slapping him
"I know my professional intelligence assessments and I know that we are facing a threat more significant than anything we have faced since the Cold War and the Nazi tyranny before it."
In another place, another time, people would laugh in this man's face for saying such things. At the very least they would demand some real proof. Proof that we should believe we are confronted with a threat comparable with five million Nazi soldiers or 10,000 Russian nuclear weapons. Proof that we should allow the Rule of Law to be overturned or that we should hand over dictatorial powers to our politicians and police chiefs. What we get is cherry stones and fairy stories.
So, who's really taking the piss then?