Tag Archives: terrorism

Littlejohn and a ‘pretend university’

Bloggers have already covered the unpleasant way in which Richard Littlejohn treats a disabled protester today – and my snapshot of the print edition has been doing the rounds on Twitter all day. Needless to say Littlejohn loves this kind of attention as he sees it as his job to upset people – albeit he tries to argue that he revels in upsetting the rich and powerful, whereas in reality he only ever attacks the weak and disenfranchised because he is, like any bully, an utter coward.

I want to focus on something else, a constructive way of getting at Littlejohn and the Daily Mail for printing his offensive drivel. As usual his main column – this time of the Swedish suicide bombing – is a series of assertions that Littlejohn cannot possibly verify. The Press Complaints Commission have no interest in correcting Littlejohn even when he makes assertions that are provably false, so there is little point in complaining about Littlejohn writing:

Abdulwahab is bound to have attended a radical mosque, affiliated with some British-based bunch of maniacs connected to Alky Ada, like the outfit fronted by the ubiquitous benefits scrounger Ram Jam Choudhary.

He will definitely have been exposed to the rantings of an extremist preacher, either on the internet or, more likely, in person.

for example. Even though Richard Littlejohn cannot possibly know any of this, the PCC will defend it as opinion and not challenge it – even though saying that someone has ‘definitely been exposed to the rantings of an extremist preacher’ is not a statement of opinion.

Complaining about that would be a fruitless waste of time. However, his claim right at the start of the article, is worth challenging and might get the Mail into a bit of trouble:

Iraqi-born Taimour Abdulwahab Al-Abdaly moved here from Sweden nine years ago to enrol at one of our pretend universities.

‘pretend university’? Perhaps Bedfordshire University would like to make a complaint via the PCC or their lawyers?

The Daily Mail knows ‘Why suicide bombers are Muslim’

I haven’t had time to post much recently as I’ve been busy with a project that should be finished at some point this week/end. I’m perhaps also running out of patience with a media that will repeat any rubbish as long as it pushes a few buttons or causes a bit of controversy. If it’s about Muslims then any kind of conjecture will happily be published, case in point this article currently on the Mail website:

Muslims

Seriously. That is the headline: ‘Why suicide bombers are Muslim (lack of sex)’.

How can anyone explain how a newspaper in a supposedly regulated, responsible industry could publish that?

The controversial psychologist in question is Satoshi Kanazawa who – from what I have read – seems to exist to talk absolute shit simply to sell books. His theory is explained by the Daily Mail as follows:

The linking of suicide bombers with sex made this one of his most controversial theories.

But while suicide missions are not always religiously motivated, when religion is involved, it is always Muslim, says Kanazawa.

Kanazawa states that in societies where polygyny is allowed – taking more than one wife, such as in Islam – there is a necessary number of men who are unable to mate because of the simple mathematics involved.

He says this is what makes men more violent or aggressive – they are competing for a mate.

According to his theory, his increased competitive pressure on men ‘increases the likelihood that young men resort to violent means to gain access to mates because they have little to lose and much to gain by doing so, compared to men who already have wives.’

This is why, across all societies, polygyny increases violent crimes, such as murder and rape, even after controlling for such obvious factors like economic development, economic inequality, population density, the level of democracy and world regions.’

He goes on to say that the idea that 72 virgins await a martyr can inspire young men in this situation to go on to become suicide bombers.

He writes: ‘For young, low-status Muslim men who are excluded from any mating opportunities because of polygyny among older, higher-status men, even such a vague promise in the afterlife begins to be appealing in light of their bleak reproductive prospect on earth.’

I’ll be honest I haven’t the patience to even begin to pick through this rubbish, I’ll simply cheat by nicking a comment from the Independent website that also covers the claims (without the Daily Mail headline about Muslims):

Note to Dr K, and any other ‘evolutionary psychologists’.

There’s this thing called scientific method. It goes something like this:

1. Make observation
2. Formulate hypothesis to explain observation
3. Design experiment to test hypothesis

Take careful note of stage 3. It really doesn’t work nearly so well if we go:

1. Make observation
2. Formulate hypothesis to explain observation
3. Sell book touting untested hypothesis as ‘science’.

Well ok, I guess it works for you and Gillian McKeith if by ‘works’ you mean ‘generates cash for very little effort’. But it’s still cheating.

Daily Mail invent Al Qaeda link

The Daily Mail has claimed this in a headline today: ‘Was it a training exercise? Loch Lomond forest blast is linked to Al Qaeda‘, which immediately begs the question: who has made this ‘link’? The answer, unsurprisingly is they have. Calum Murrray, Strathclyde Police Chief Superintendent, has stated clearly that:

At the moment it would be unhelpful to speculate on what caused the explosion and we are just giving the public the facts but there will be a serious investigation which will take a number of days.

Which seems to me is a way of asking for the media not to immediately start suggesting that this was an explosion caused by an Al Qaeda training camp. Congratulations to Charlotte Gill for this shameful reporting which clearly tries to implies that the Police have made a link, when in fact she did.

‘It’s not at Ground Zero and it’s not a mosque’

These are the words of Sharif El Gamal the project developer of the, well, Islamic Cultural Centre? The sad thing is it is hard to know exactly what it should be called, given how the media have only referred to it as the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’. The words used as the title of this post appear in a Daily Mail article, an article which allows El Gamal to give some details about the building. Yet once again the Daily Mail completely ignores the content of its own article and decides to use this as a headline: ‘First look inside the Ground Zero ‘mosque': a fitness complex, a cook’s school, THAT prayer space… and a 9/11 memorial‘.

Where to start with this? Firstly, as cannot be repeated enough: it is not a mosque, and it certainly is not being built at ground zero. Secondly, the block capitalisation of ‘THAT’ is frankly disgraceful. The implication is that incorporating space in which to pray inside the building is what all the outrage has been about. The question that immediately springs to my mind is would things have been any different if such a prayer space didn’t exist? What if it was just an Islamic centre, would the right-wing press have responded any differently? I doubt it, given that there is no link whatsoever between Muslim New Yorkers who live, work and pray in the city and the largely Saudi Arabian ‘Muslims’ who destroyed the twin towers, yet a link has been created and has fuelled all of the protests and anger.

Who exactly has created this link? The Daily Mail is happy to blame it on others: ‘Some have called it an exercise in triumphalism, intended to plant Islam’s flag at the scene of the attacks and deliberately provoke Americans’ . They also go on to state that: ‘The building’s prayer space for Muslims – the part of the centre that has caused critics to brand it the ‘Ground Zero mosque’ – would be located on two levels in the basement’. Again, the Daily Mail is blaming someone else – critics have branded it, ‘some people have called it’. None of these phrases actually gives a real clue as to who these people are, but then we don’t need any, given that those responsible for creating the link and branding the building the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ are right in front of our eyes.

The headline clearly labels the building the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ and the first line of the article repeats the same old lie about it being built close to Ground Zero:

These are the first sketches of the Islamic centre to be built just yards from Ground Zero in Manhattan.

It is several blocks away, yet here the Daily Mail is claiming that distance is ‘just yards’. The Daily Mail is reinforcing the link that it is blaming on ‘critics’. This article – like so many printed in the Daily Mail – is a mixture of news and editorial comment. The real message is always conveyed in the headline and the introductory paragraph whilst the news is buried below. The writer has the audacity to blame critics for branding it ‘Ground Zero Mosque’, yet they are happy to use this as their headline. Likewise, they are also perfectly happy to repeat the lie about it being built ‘just yards’ from Ground Zero. It is dishonest, cowardly and hypocritical – it is, in short, so very ‘Daily Mail Editorial’.

The article as usual contains all of the contradictory information that demonstrates just how dishonest the headline and introductory paragraph is:

The futuristic-looking building is wrapped in a honeycomb of abstract shapes, with a core containing far more space for secular pursuits than religious worship…

The largest part of the building – four of 16 floors – would be taken up by a sports, fitness and swimming centre.

Another full floor would be occupied by a child care centre and playground.

Much of the rest of the building would be occupied by a restaurant, culinary school, artist studios, exhibition space and an auditorium for cultural events.

Yet the writer is still happy to call it the ‘Ground Centre Mosque’ and they’re still happy to lie about the location in which it is being built. The writer may have hidden behind the anonymous ‘Daily Mail Reporter’ but that will not stop them having to come to terms with the fact that they have sold their soul to write this stuff. I’d advise whoever wrote this to take on board the words of Stephen Fry:

I have never met a Mail journalist whose first words weren’t an apology. “We’re not all Paul Dacre types….” they mournfully beg us to believe. Well, leave before it’s too late! Just imagine that there really is a St Peter to greet you after death. Suppose he asks what you did with your life, your mind, your heart, your whole being and your immortal soul and that you have to reply you that wrote for the Daily Mail. Wow!

Richard Littlejohn on torture

This is part two of ‘Richard Littlejohn: The cloaca series


It is vitally important to understand that Richard Littlejohn does not condone torture, but that he does condone torture whenever he writes about it.

I’ve described the Daily Mail writer / reader’s use of the word ‘but’ as essentially an admission that they are about to write something that contradicts the first part of the sentence that has gone before it. For example, the old line ‘I’m not racist, but most crime is committed by black men’ is a typical example of pre-empting an accusation by stating that you are not guilty of something you know you are about to be accused of.

In today’s column Richard Littlejohn uses this exact technique in textbook fashion when he talks about the use of torture on people suspected of being connected to terrorist activities:

I’m not condoning torture, but it would be naive to pretend that it doesn’t exist in less scrupulous parts of the world…

The problem I have with this statement is that his argument is that torture happens, therefore we should accept it and use it when it suits us. Let’s try using the argument with another kind of crime, rape for example:

I’m not condoning rape, but it would be naive to pretend that it doesn’t happen in less scrupulous parts of the world…

You are either against something or for it. You cannot be against torture if you then accept that it happens in other countries and that we therefore ‘can’t discount vital intelligence simply because it hasn’t been gleaned under the Queensberry Rules’. Littlejohn’s argument for the use of torture is always the same: whatever it takes to get results is justified when it comes to ‘terrorists’. Yet what results has torture actually achieved? Littlejohn always argues that those suspected of terrorism are guilty because of where they were ‘picked up’ (he used the exact same argument to suggest that Binyam Mohamed is guilty):

They were arrested variously in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Africa  –  on the battlefield, in Al Qaeda training camps and safe houses, or trying to board planes with fake documents.

This is what Littlejohn lists – and all that he lists – to support his argument that: ‘There seems to be convincing evidence of their involvement in terrorist activity’. Which is complete rubbish, it is precisely because torture has failed to procure any evidence – convincing or otherwise – that these men are eventually being released, many of them after spending several years in ‘detention camps’  – a useful euphemism designed to make us think of naughty schoolchildren passing an hour idly staring out of a window after school, rather than adults locked up for years in a constant ritual of sensory deprivation and other forms of torture. If all these years of torture and detention have left columnists like Littlejohn with no other evidence than the locations where they were originally ‘picked up’ then I would be arguing that not only is torture completely barbaric and amoral, it is also a complete waste of time.

Probably the worst part about Littlejohn claiming that he does not condone torture is not just the fact that he clearly attempts to condone torture for the next few paragraphs of this article, but the fact that he has told us in the past exactly what he thinks about torture: ‘How should we grill terrorists – with a cuddle and a cup of tea?‘. Here he makes it clear in the very first paragraph what he thinks of brown people who allege that they have been tortured with the implicit collusion of the British government:

Maybe I’m in a minority of one here, but I still don’t understand the fuss over Binyam Mohamed.

And he argues that the British should be using torture:

British intelligence officers are accused of colluding in his alleged torture on the basis of supplying a few pertinent questions to his interrogators about what he got up to while he was living here.

That’s their job, for heaven’s sake. They would be failing in their duty if they didn’t make every attempt to glean information from suspected terrorists who want to do us harm.

No one is actually accusing any British officer of physically torturing him, merely of turning a blind eye. There is a legitimate debate as to whether he was tortured at all, in the true sense of the word.

Condoning torture does not get much clearer than that – especially his sinister suggestion that what is accused of having taken place might not be ‘real’ torture. This becomes ever more callous when Littlejohn then goes on to  list the treatment he suggest might not really be torture:

While at Gitmo, he was shackled and deprived of sleep – practices approved at the time by the White House. He is also said to have suffered severe mental stress over threats that he would be removed from U.S. custody and transferred to a more cruel regime.

OK, so the Americans put the frighteners on him, but if they hadn’t cared less whether he lived or died, they wouldn’t have had him on suicide watch.

His treatment wasn’t pretty, but it has to be put in context of the 3,000 people killed in the worst-ever terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

As to his claims to have suffered genital mutilation while in CIA custody in Morocco, there has never been any firm evidence produced.

Littlejohn is happy to suggest that the torture might not have happened because of the lack of ‘any firm evidence’ yet he is happy to condemn as guilty those suspected of terrorism on the basis of no evidence whatsoever. Richard Littlejohn condones, justifies and makes feeble excuses for the use of torture although – as his columns unintentionally make clear – no useful evidence seems to be procured through the use of torture.

The two columns have another link, equally as unpleasant, and it goes like this: ‘OK, so we torture people, it’s not like they’re even British anyway!’. In the case of Binyam Mohamed he argues:

Why did the Government go to such lengths to secure his release from Guantanamo Bay and then charter a private jet to fly him ‘home’ to Britain?

For the umpteenth time, he’s not British. He’s not even a British ‘resident’…

Frankly, he is not our responsibility. We owe him nothing. Why would anyone in their right mind want him back?

In his latest column he makes much the same argument, but in even more extraordinary terms:

we bend over backwards to give succour to our enemies. Only a couple of these men can be described as ‘British’ by any stretch of the imagination.

They are mostly foreign nationals, granted permission to live in Britain, who voluntarily chose to move abroad.

The argument seems at worst to be implying that anyone foreign is our ‘enemy’ and at best to be arguing that as they are not – in Littlejohn’s eyes – technically British they do not deserve our concern or protection from torture. You could argue that the only technicality that makes them not British in Littlejohn’s eyes is their skin colour or religion.

Richard Littlejohn condones the torture of people racially or ethnically different to himself. His calculated ‘but’ is a complete shambles and is contradicted not by the paragraphs that follow in the same column, but also by the attitudes and columns that have come and gone before it. He condones torture not necessarily because he has the stomach for human suffering, but because he does not view people racially different from him as human beings. This is why he goes to such lengths to argue that the people being tortured are not really British (even when they clearly have British passports) and why he can dismiss the 1994 genocide in Rwanda with the question:  ‘Does anyone really give a monkey’s about what happens in Rwanda? If the Mbongo tribe wants to wipe out the Mbingo tribe then as far as I am concerned that is entirely a matter for them’.

Richard Littlejohn is a cloaca, this cannot ever be stated enough.


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Judging Millions by the Actions of a few

Diversity is a bit of a swearword for the Daily Mail and its readership, and it is a word that is often used to make people scream in outrage and miss the real point of something. Take this story from today’s Daily Mail: ‘‘We don’t want to upset 9/11 families but we have to balance diversity': Mosque near Ground Zero gets go-ahead‘.

For starters, the planned Mosque is actually 2 blocks away from Ground Zero, so it isn’t literally being built on the rubble of the World Trade Centre. The Mosque is also merely part of a much larger ‘proposed 13-storey Muslim community centre, which will include a swimming pool, gym, theatre and sports facilities’. The purpose of the proposed building is to:

meet a growing need for prayer space in Lower Manhattan as well as provide a venue for the dissemination of mainstream Islam, to counter extremism.

They have previously said they picked the spot precisely because of its location near Ground Zero.

Building a mosque ‘where a piece of the wreckage fell…. sends the opposite statement to what happened on 9/11, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the cleric leading the project, told the New York Times last year.

‘We want to push back against the extremists,’ Feisal, 61, added.

So it is really an attempt to demonstrate that there is a significant difference between mainstream Muslims and the minority of extremists, its location is supposed to be significant. Unfortunately, the Daily Mail has picked up one word (diversity) and used it to imply that this is just another act of appeasement, and one that is disrespectful because it is being proposed very close to where they blew up the Twin Towers. The diversity comment was made by Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer who supports the project:

‘I don’t think anybody wants to do anything to disrespect those families. They made the ultimate sacrifice,’ he said.

‘At the same time, we have to balance diversity and look for opportunities to bring different groups together.’

…’What I want people to do is to take a look at the totality of what they are proposing,’ Mr Stringer said. ‘What we’re rejecting here is outright bigotry and hatred.’

Bringing ‘different groups together’ seems like a pretty good idea, for how else are we supposed to combat extremism? Sadly, the response by the families – and I can understand their anger in a way – is to lump all Muslims together:

Rosemary Cain, whose fireman son was killed, said: ‘I think it’s despicable. That’s sacred ground. It’s a slap in the face.

‘How could anybody give them permission to build a mosque there?’

And this attitude is what we find in the comments:

I could go on, but it just too depressing watching an entire culture being demonised for the violent actions of a few deluded people.

A slight overreaction?

The Liberal Democrat commitment to not just renewing Trident without any consideration as to whether it is still relevant in today’s world has received quite a lot of attention from the tabloids. This isn’t really surprising considering that tabloids exist to spread fear and it seems from my conversations with people that a lot of people do think we still need a nuclear deterrent. However, one of the arguments for not renewing Trident is that it has no tactical function in dealing with terrorism, and can play no part in the extended wars in Afghanistan or Iraq. However, a Daily Mail reader thinks that Trident can be useful when dealing with car-bombers. I spotted this comment under the article: ‘New York bomb investigators hunt for balding, middle-aged white man‘:

an_overreaction

So there you have it, a white, balding and middle-aged man leaves a homemade bomb in a car in New York which fails to go off and Robert McKenna believes this is a reason not to scrap Trident. I’ve seen some pretty dumb arguments wheeled out in defence of Trident, but this really is the most stupid. How would Trident have helped in this situation? Unless he is suggesting a tactical nuclear strike aimed at Times Square would have helped?

Mail Quiet over White Terror Plot

I read a brief story over at Pickled Politics today about a terrorist confessing to plotting acts of terrorism and manufacturing weapons to carry the plots out. The link was to an article in The Independent:

A white supremacist today admitted producing deadly ricin while preparing for acts of terrorism…

At Newcastle Crown Court he admitted producing a chemical weapon – ricin – and preparing for acts of terrorism.

He also admitted three charges of possessing a record containing information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing acts of terrorism.

Perhaps because he is a white supremacist he didn’t get any coverage in the Daily Mail, who instead chose to report: ‘Seven Muslims arrested in Ireland over plot to kill Swedish cartoonist who drew Mohammed with the body of a dog‘ and ‘Pakistani men arrested ‘within days of massive Al Qaeda terror attack on Britain’‘. The Daily Mail did report the initial arrests back in June 2009, so why haven’t they reported on the confession? Maybe it just doesn’t fit into their worldview in which all terrorist plots are only planned by brown people.

Keeping Abreast of New Terror Threat

From a column in Forbes, by a certain Elan Singer, 5 January:

what is the shrewd terrorist to do if he cannot place a little PETN (pentaerythritol tetranitrate) in his underwear?… While most religious clerics would frown upon breast implants for aesthetic reasons, there are more than a few who would likely put their blessing on a pair for explosive reasons…And there is no shortage of physicians who are terrorist sympathizers or even terrorists themselves. Just look at Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was a prominent gynecologist before dedicating his life to death and destruction. He is more than capable of popping some implants into an eager small-breasted terrorist… As a plastic surgeon who has done hundreds of these procedures, I know that all you really need is a knife, some suture material and maybe a bite stick.

This is speculative, but it’s also plausible. A reader letter to the Ottumwa Courier outlined the same scenario the next day.

Remarkably, just weeks later the Daily Mail warns us that it may all be true:

…an operation by MI5 has uncovered evidence that Al Qaeda is planning a new stage in its terror campaign by inserting ‘surgical bombs’ inside people for the first time.

…It is understood MI5 became aware of the threat after observing increasingly vocal internet ‘chatter’ on Arab websites this year.

The warning comes in the wake of the failed attempt by London-educated Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up an airliner approaching Detroit on Christmas Day.

One security source said: ‘If the terrorists are talking about this, we need to be ready and do all we can to counter the threat.’

A leading source added that male bombers would have the explosive secreted near their appendix or in their buttocks, while females would have the material placed inside their breasts in the same way as figure-enhancing implants

So “an operation by MI5? actually means… looking at some websites. Judging from experiences such as the “Terror Target Sugar” Glen Jenvey fiasco and the “Madonna Targeted by Muslim Fanatics” non-story, one is strongly advised to consider whether the “chatter” is anything more than some anonymous person linking back to Singer’s article or the Ottumwa Courier letter and saying, “hey, wouldn’t that be great?”

But there’s even more, from WorldNetDaily yesterday:

Agents for Britain’s MI5 intelligence service have discovered that Muslim doctors trained at some of Britain’s leading teaching hospitals have returned to their own countries to fit surgical implants filled with explosives.

…Women suicide bombers recruited by al-Qaida are known to have had the explosives inserted in their breasts under techniques similar to breast enhancing surgery.

…Hours after he had failed, GCHQ – Britain’s worldwide eavesdropping “spy in the sky” agency – began to pick up “chatter” emanating from Pakistan and Yemen that alerted MI5 to the creation of the lethal implants.

A hand-picked team was appointed by Jonathan Evans, the head of MI5, to investigate the threat. He described it as “one that can circumvent our defense.”

Top surgeons who work in the National Health Service confirmed the feasibility of the explosive implants.

In a report to Evans, one said:

“Properly inserted the implant would be virtually impossible to detect by the usual airport scanning machines. You would need to subject a suspect to a sophisticated X-ray. Given that the explosive would be inserted in a sealed plastic sachet, and would be a small amount, would make it all the more impossible to spot it with the usual body scanner.”

WND does not cite the Mail article, nor does it give the sources for its more dramatic claims (aside from WND’s own paper newsletter Whistleblower, which doesn’t count). How exactly a conspiracy-mongering conservative internet news-site operating out of the west coast of the USA acquired this extra information – including a direct quote from the head of MI5 that is found nowhere else on-line (1), and material from a report prepared for him – is somewhat mysterious.

Pointlessly, WND also includes a picture of a woman suicide bomber named Iat Alacharas – who actually carried her bomb in a purse.

Meanwhile, the Mail reports that one man is on the case:

Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, chairman of the Commons Counter-Terrorism Sub-Committee, said: ‘Our enemies are constantly evolving their techniques to try to defeat our methods of detection.

‘This is one of the most savage forms that extremists could use, and while we are redeveloping travel security we have got to take this new development into account.’

That would be the same Patrick Mercer who allowed himself to be serially duped by Glen Jenvey.

(1) Yes, I also looked for “defence” as well as “defense”, and I did plurals as well.


This article first appeared on Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion.

Detecting a Bogus Fear Story

Fear is one of the staple products of the mainstream media. Whether it be everyday products giving us Cancer, paedophiles around every corner or terrorists waiting to detonate around us: fearful is the default emotional state that we should be in. Today an article on the Daily Mail website caught my eye, largely because it is just the sort of article that seems to be completely made up just to scare people: ‘Terrorists ‘plan attack on Britain with bombs INSIDE their bodies’ to foil new airport scanners‘.

The article is supposedly based on an ‘operation by MI5′, but details are thin on the ground and a number of unnamed sources sound pretty vague – as if those sources don’t really exist. MI5 apparently ‘became aware of the threat after observing increasingly vocal Internet “chatter” on Arab websites this year’. Which rather sounds like MI5 take seriously people chatting on the Internet. In which case I’m surprised most of the people on BBC’s ‘Have Your Say’ haven’t been investigated for wishing all sorts of violence against people slightly different to themselves.

This news story just doesn’t convince me. I could have made it up, anyone could have made it up. The premise is simple: terrorists might try to get round new security measures. Surely we already know this? The article gets slightly interesting because after the author has tried to scare the reader for a few hundred words they then point out that a security company could offer a solution:

Companies such as Smiths Detection International UK, which is based in Watford, Hertfordshire, manufacture a range of luggage and body scanners designed to identify chemicals, explosives and drugs at airports and other passenger terminals around the world.

Interestingly enough Smiths Detection would make a lot of money should airports become convinced that the threat of surgically implanted bombs were real, and the Mail has a history of mentioning the firm by name.

Sometime in 2002 – as far as I can make out – Smiths Detection was holding ‘urgent talks’ with the government to ‘strengthen’ police forces against combat chemical or biological attacks. The Daily Mail covered this with a short, undated article which made it sound like Smiths Detection was selling the government an apocalyptic vision of a Britain under siege from chemical and biological attacks. According to the Mail article they had already ‘provided’ the police with Chemical Agent Monitors and Lightweight Chemical Detectors. Smiths vice-president (at the time at least) Tim Otter revealed – according to the Mail – that the police had been ‘buying little bits here and there’ but perhaps Smiths Detection wanted a more wholesale adoption of their security devices. Although, to date, it seems that there has been no widespread chemical or biological attacks (even though the government ‘terror alert’ has remained at high levels for the past few years).

In 2006 things seemed to be looking up for the company when the Mail reported on a Smiths Detection ‘Machine which ‘sees’ through clothes boosts terror fight‘, a machine which just happened to be launched at a conference where the then Home Secretary John Reid delivered a keynote speech. In 2007 the Daily Mail confirmed that BAA would be buying new Smiths Detection ‘x-ray machines’ in a ’10-year deal worth at least £20 million’. This article focused on explosives on hand luggage, which presumably after being solved by a clever machine provided by Smiths Detection has now led terrorists to store their bombs internally. Which just happens to be something a new Smiths Detection machine can detect.

However, all is not rosy for the Smiths Group, as the Mail reported in March 2009: the company had a net debt of £975 million which wasn’t being helped by governments deferring orders and preferring to bail out banks rather than focus on the threat of terrorism.

I’m not saying that terrorism isn’t a real threat, and I’m not saying that Smiths Detection do not offer effective solutions to certain terrorist threats. However, I am very conscious that around the time when Smiths Detection were talking to the government about their wonderful devices and how we were all going to be attacked a million people took to the streets in London to protest against the Iraq war and were soundly ignored. The London bombers made it perfectly clear that their actions were as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, not as Tony Blair protested because they were ideologically opposed to our ‘way of life’.

The mainstream media can keep hyping up the ever more ingenious ways that terrorists can kill us and companies like Smiths Detection can keep hyping up ever more expensive and ingenious ways to try and protect us. However, unless we actually try to engage with the fundamental reasons as to why people want to blow us up I get the feeling that this circle of fear and expensive salvation will continue. After all, the mainstream will never run out of ‘unnamed sources’ and ‘foiled terror plots’ that really did exist, honest, they just aren’t allowed to report any details…