Thursday, August 10, 2006

I can't bloody believe it

Not the fact that there’s a terror alert right now, though. Of course I can believe that. Of course I can see the insanity that is enveloping mass travel as a result of the overnight arrests is actually taking place. But what I can’t believe is that we’re letting it happen so... blithely.

Here we have, on the BBC website, people saying: “Well, I think the police did a marvellous job last night so of course they can reach into my life and screw around with it as much as they like. I’m completely happy to have my shoes x-rayed, and really rather comfortable with having to buy a book and throw it away before the flight if I wish to read in the airport bar. A complete absence of writing materials and music of my own to listen to is fine, and I have a laid-back attitude to having an additional 4 hours added on to the normal time it takes me to fly within my own country. In fact I am content to be treated as a potential terrorist along with everyone else, regardless of the certain and needless sense of threat this may cause among the wider population. The thought of sitting on a long-haul flight with toyless, blanketless babies delights me. None of this will really change my holiday and therefore my ability to enjoy myself, which of course is the point. We shouldn’t let the terrorists upset us. More tea?”

Well, I don’t agree with any of it. There. I said it. What we know about these supposedly well-planned attacks isn’t even extensive enough to give us knowledge that they were well-planned. What we know is sketchy at best, and at worst illusory. Of course what the police know is more detailed, but I wouldn’t mind betting there are massive gaps in their knowledge, and inside those gaps could lurk... possibly nothing massively terrifying at all.

I’m not for a second saying that this chaos is worse than 10 aircraft exploding over the Atlantic and thousands of body parts being fished out of the sea. However, it’s a significant, invasive, and self-catalysing over-reaction.

As plenty of people are saying in this Metafilter thread, there are real reasons behind why there are so few planned attacks that actually work. Very few people are actually plotting them. Fewer are planning to execute them. Fewer have enough money / organisation / resources to do so. Fewer are expert enough to slip below police radar for very long. And so on.

We’ve managed to stop... possibly something, possibly a white elephant, possibly something which would work and be nasty. And if all the people arrested turn out to be lurking denizens of snarling terror, we have also caused the other members of their cells to fragment and hide for another year or so. I really would not mind betting this month’s salary that if everyone could fly as normal today, no harm would be done. Statistically each of us is immune to actually being involved in a terror attack. So why the overreaction? Why do our governments encourage us to think that we really can live in a perfectly safe, cocooned world as long as we’re as careful as they say we have to be? Read this, and think.

Happier notes, which you really should read more of than my rant above: The time travel tube map — Herzog and de Meuron’s propsed extension to Tate Modern (I’m really not sure whether it’ll stand the test of time) — proposed islands in the Thames estuary, out in the water East of London, one ofr an airport (maybe they can build a prison there too, for all the travellers) — Seattle’s underground city: houses left behind as the city’s pavements rose above them.

tags: [terror] [london] [] [] [] [] [] []

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