It’s a few days on from my last post and there does seem to be widespread acknowledgement that a large number of ordinary people really are quite sceptical about the latest terror scare.
So much so that the paranoid in me is getting a little twitchy.
Maybe ‘They’ want us to be sceptical this time around.
But I’m consciously trying to shelve that idea.
Thinking like that could send you round the twist.
Besides, there are still plenty of people out there backing the government position 100%. Most of their on-line responses fall into a handful of categories…
- Anybody who is sceptical about the current security flap is a conspiracy theorist
- If the threat has been deliberately exaggerated thousands of police and public servants would know about it. Someone would have said something by now
- If the police didn’t act on intelligence everyone would blame them if a bomb went off. The police are damned if they do and damned if they don’t
- Public safety is paramount. You wouldn’t be so worried about civil liberties if it was you or someone you cared for in a shattered 747 plummeting towards the Atlantic
- You just love terrorists don’t you
Plus, most recently in the context of the botched Forest Gate raid, I've also heard versions of that tired old chestnut - "Everyone in the area knows those two blokes are into something dodgy. The police wouldn’t have arrested them if they didn’t have something on them". Oh yes, the Spirit of Tacit Approval for Police ‘Fit Ups’ is still alive and kicking. How very 1970s.
None of these arguments against domestic War on Terror scepticism are the slam-dunk intellectual tour de force some of the people parroting them seem to think they are. There are reasonable responses to all of them. And, without claiming that all Muslims are angels or denying that they are murderously potty people out there, including some Muslims, I’m still baffled by the level of trust shown by some people in our government and security forces.
It’s not as if the likes of Tony Blair or Ian Blair are without ‘form’ when it comes to taking a few liberties with the Truth is it?
So why isn’t everybody at least a little bit sceptical about what’s going on in our airports?
Part of the explanation lies, I think, with plain racism and concerns about high level of migration into the UK. I too have issues with the way migration has been handled over the last ten years and I can understand why some people feel insecure and afraid. But singling out Muslims as being some kind of Judas Goat when it comes to cultural insecurity and conflating those worries with terrorism is straight bollocks.
A more significant possible explanation why more people aren’t up in arms about the Liquid Terror nonsense may be something to do with trust.
British people are accustomed to trusting authority.
And the thought that some of the people in charge of our security forces aren’t acting in our best interest doesn’t bear thinking about.
So we don’t.
Cognitive dissonance is a very wonderful thing.
The problem is that our public services, and public servants, have been corporatised, privatised and politicised like never before in living memory. And people who refuse to face up to that are living in the past.
A very cosy past.
Fear is now a business and it conveys profit and power to those who promote it.
A nice little example occurred on first day of the current outbreak of insanity when Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Paul Stephenson said the alleged plotters had intended "mass murder on an unimaginable scale".
That wasn’t a policeman talking. That was a politician in a policeman's uniform at work and it was disgraceful, and unforgivable.
There’s a fine balance that needs to be struck when spouting this kind of manure and scaring the bejesus out of the people you’re supposed to protecting. On one hand you’ve got to serve up helping after helping of delicious Fear Pie. But, on the other hand, you don’t want to make the situation sound so bad that people start to doubt your competence to deal with the alleged threat.
... Scary but not too scary
Hence lines like this from our Home Secretary, John Reid…
"While I am confident that the security services and police will deliver 100% effort and 100% dedication, they cannot guarantee 100% success."
Well, I'm convinced.
There was a blinding piece by Keith Olbermann on MSNBC last week where he presented a top 10 list of occasions, including last week’s Liquid Terror nonsense, that the Bush Administration has gained political benefits around the same time that the public's fear of terrorism was at a peak. Sadly, no one has produced a British/ Blair equivalent though the material is there and the conclusions would be the same. As Olbermann said at the end of his report…
”If merely a reasonable case could be made that any of these juxtapositions of events are more than just coincidences, especially the one last week in which terror policy was again injected directly into a political race, it underscores the need for questions to be asked in this country, questions about what is prudence and what is fear-mongering.”