The terror threat is palpable in central london at the moment: I think every day for the last week has seen at least one major road closure to examine suspicious bags or cars – the security services are certainly on edge, it’s not just London, Paris too is on high alert with regular evacuations of tourist sites, something almost unheard of in our laissez-faire republican cousin.
It’s an odd state of affairs – Be Aware! we’re told, but the question most people ask is of what? Odd looking cars, people with turbans, odd beards, shamrocks, the germans, smurfs – what? Most people on the street wouldn’t know where to start without some guidance, and so far there’s been no guidance. The result? Fear – precisely what the terrorists want, we change our lifestyles because of them, and they win.
It’s interesting to watch the various media outlets explain the terror threat, the BBC have made a huge thing out of it – it’s been the lead or top three story all week, ABC news and FOX are the same, some French outlets – most notably Canal+ are following our lead – whilst the German’s are remaining remarkably stoic, the conservative Erste network and the rather
lowbrow commercially guided ZDF and ProSieben channels are treating this as an ‘and in other news’ feature. Not once has the terror threat come above story 3 – why? Because there’s very little one can actually say about it without resorting to hyperbole and conjecture, and that’s not news.
When I grew up it was exposed on an obvious Military installation at the height of the terrorist activities of the Irish Republicans. Cars were bombed, people were shot – but through all of this, guidance was always given, you knew that you have to check your car before you got in it, you knew you had to report certain people, numberplates or activities, and you knew most of all that the chances of you actually being involved were ludicrously low; but for the sake of everyone in your community you should be vigilent anyway. Some commentators have been screaming for exact facts, but that’s clearly not intelligent or practical, but if the state, both ours and abroad, want us to be more aware; they must start giving the public more useful information about what they need to be vigilant for, rather than simply scaring people about an unknown, unsized, unpredictable threat.