Red Alert

So the UK has stepped up to Red Alert; as all Red Dwarf fans knows this is a serious step because it involves changing the bulb first. Naturally as a good citizen I have been alert all day for suspicious characters. Alas in Edinburgh during the Fringe there is almost nothing but suspicious looking characters around, so I have up and had a cuppa, the standard British repsonse to any crisis from a traffic accident to global warfare.

I am, cynical bugger that I am, more than a little suspicious of all of this supposedly thwarted attack. I’m not saying there was no threat to be dealt with – since we have almost no details it is impossible to really know that. However I am deeply cynical because it seems almost every time Blair’s government is in trouble either over their Middle Eastern policy or resistance to their continuing plans to do what the Nazis could not and turn us into a police state by imposing more controls and reducing our liberties ‘for our protection’ a large terrorist scare suddenly materialises. Remember the infamous army tanks around Heathrow a few years back? How many high-profile sweeping arrests have we had from Edinburgh to London, people held for days, major intelligence lead ops only to end up with little to show for them at the end of it? Always just after the government has had trouble over their foreign policy or been thwarted in their attempt to force draconian new legislation through. And yet although the nation is in such crisis the Prime Minister is still on holiday and parliament has not been recalled from recess – gee, must be really serious.

None of this is to say there isn’t a real threat of course; only an idiot would assume that. But the powers that be do have a vested interest in keeping the populace scared – a scared populace is less rational, less thoughtful and more likely to be more easily manipulated to go along with certain programmes. We only have to look at the way we were continually lied to about WMDs and the imminent 45 minute danger to us from Iraq to see the lengths the buggers will go to in order to herd the mass of the populace into the sheep pen of their choosing (while making sure those few who raise suspicions are villified as ‘friends of terror’. Now a mere day after the government’s hard man John Reid (who always reminds me of some nasty boss in an old British gangster film) tells us we must be prepared to sacrifice more liberties to fight terror we have this enormous action.

No, not suspicious at all. When politicians talk about the enemy within they mean lunatics like the London bombers, people who are British but so brainwashed by funamentalism they will committ atrocities. While this ‘fifth column’ use of the term is legitimate I also tend to think that the enemy within is anyone who threatens our traditional way of life: our freedoms, liberties, legal protections and democracies. By those terms quite a number of those politicians count as the enemy within. What did we use to say in the 90s? Trust no-one and the Truth is out there. Just don’t expect the government to set up any public enquiries to tell us the Truth.

And as Boing Boing and others noted, this emergency measure of denying people from taking even small hand luggage onboard planes is deeply illogical – if this is indeed necessary to protect flights then why wasn’t it necessary before? Liquid chemical explosives are not a new development after all. And what about after this emergency? If someone carrying on a small rucksack with a bottle of contact lens solution is a potential danger today then when will it ever not be? But can you imagine airlines not having it rescinded when it pisses of passangers and hurts business? And what the hell is with banning books and magazines??? Are the worried some terrorist will clobber the aircrew over the head with a hardback bestseller? Or are they reminded of the wave of mid-air hijackings during the 70s where Arab terrorists took over TWA planes using rolled up magazines? I wonder, do you think Tony Blair will be allowed to read a book on his flight home? Actually perhaps we should ban certain books and round up writers and members of reading groups just in case, eh?

Oh, and one little note to the authorities protecting us all by stopping folks carrying on books and spectacle cases onto flights: those plastic bags you are giving people to put the few bits they can have with them are more dangerous, that’s why all plastic bags have big warnings on them. If some mad fundementalist (or just irate flier who cracks under this shit) sticks a poly bag over a pilot’s head, don’t say I didn’t warn them. Hmmm, come to think of it are we sure the pilots and cabin crew are safe??? Blimey what about their personal baggage? What about those mini cans of drinks they have on board, couldn’t that contain explosives? And I heard that some engineers filled a 747 with a highly explosive liquid (they used the euphimism ‘aviation fuel’ I believe – very dangerous stuff).And let’s not get started with the dangers of in-flight peanuts. And those sharp edges on the pilot’s wing badges. Blimey it is a miracle we’re not ducking falling aircraft everyday.

Thank goodness there is a new Armano Iannuci show to take give us a giggle on BBC2 (and so soon after his new radio show, excellent).