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Home > Politics

Terror: Be annoyed. Be very annoyed

30 July 2004

'I have lived with the fear of IRA terrorism since before I was born without the need of any such leaflet.' - Joe, Birmingham (BBC Talking Points)


It's Friday. you're probably feeling relatively relaxed, and slowly gearing down to the weekend, maybe thinking about getting some colleagues to go for a few drinks after work, then a lie-in tomorrow... yeah, that sounds nice, doesn't it?

Well, we hate to interrupt your chilled frame of mind, but we feel it is our duty to tell you about the government's anti-terror leaflet, something that may make you very tense indeed. Not from fear of a terrorist attack, but because of the contempt the government apparently has for the general population.

The anti-terror, what-to-do-when-Al-Quaeda-kill-you booklet has been in the news this week, but has anyone actually read it? There's an online version at http://www.pfe.gov.uk and, frankly, it's a fucking insult.

At a cost of 11m, the government is publishing must-read advice like:

'It is important to make sure 999 has been called if people are injured or if there is a threat to life.'

And we were just going to leave them bleeding in the hope that their legs might grow back! And:

'If a bomb goes off in your building, look for the safest way out.'

That's just in case you haven't got any sort of survival or self-preservation instincts whatsoever. In which case you're probably already dead from playing with the lions at your local zoo.

The rest of the advice is the usual toss, eg. keep a torch and batteries, keep a list of useful telephone numbers. Such as? 999? The number for your local 24-hour atomic/biological/chemical decontamination service?

The advice seems to be mainly geared to water and electricity supplies being cut off - which is ludicrous when you look at recent terrorist attacks: the Bali bombings, or the attacks on Spanish trains. Let's just hope Al Quaeda changes its tactics by the time it gets round to Britain: 'Forget that plan to blow up a tube station during rush hour, let's hit Aberthaw power station.'

And as with all doomsday-scenario advice booklets, there's a jolly little slogan: 'GO IN, STAY IN, TUNE IN.' In other words: go indoors, stay there and wait for announcements on TV. Or maybe invite Abbie Hoffman round. We're not sure.

Is this the best they could come up with? 'Stay in and watch the telly'. However, if you fancy yourself as an armchair MI5 officer, the leaflet invites you to do some sleuthing to prevent a terrorist attack:

'Terrorists need a place to live: Are you suspicious about any tenants or guests?'

Well we are now. Oh for God's sake. Did the 9/11 hijackers wander around cackling 'Ha ha ha! Wait til we blow up the Twin Towers! Allah Akhbar!' The other side of this moronic coin is that Mrs Miggins from number 22 has now been authorised to keep dialling 999 because she saw a group of suspicious-looking dark-skinned gentlemen in the local Mini-Mart.

As if the government advice wasn't patronising enough in itself, it's sparked off a stupefyingly pointless public 'debate'. It's said that a crisis brings out the best in people, but the threat of terrorist attack just seems to make them speak their brains.

Association of Chief Police Officers president Chris Fox said that 'people have got comfortable', and no longer keep packs of candles or stocks of tinned food. Hang on. Quite apart from the question of how candles and tinned food are going to protect us from Al Quaeda, the reason people don't keep stocks of tinned food isn't anything to do with us becoming decadent and weak, IT'S BECAUSE FOOD ISN'T AS SHIT AS IT USED TO BE. Who wants to go back to the days when meals consisted of baked beans with a gristly Walls beefburger, a helping of Smash and a slice of rubbery Mother's Pride?

Then there were the usual inanities on BBC Talking Points. Jill from Leeds takes up a familiar refrain:

'In the past, this advice would not be needed - my grandparents kept stocks of tinned food and a little cash hidden in the house just in case...'

Just in case of what? Kaiser Wilhelm chasing them in a Zeppelin? Then Jill comments: 'I will be putting together a little pack of essentials - I am not living in fear of terror attacks, just being realistic. And we are just as at risk of our 24/7 shops being unavailable due to sun-spot activity knocking out power
grids - I want to be ready.'

What sort of paranoid, terrified life do you lead if you worry about 'sun-spot activity'? Watch out for intelligent carnivorous plants, Jill. They'll evolve eventually.

But perhaps the most annoying aspect of the whole terror leaflet nonsense is the reason it was produced in the first place. The reason is this:

Britain's role in the Iraq war has massively increased the chances of the country being attacked by Muslim extremists.

It's that simple. Tony Blair has already been playing God with the lives of Iraqis. Now he's decided to do it with us too. Al Quaeda might decide to attack the infrastructure of the UK, in which case candles and bottled water may be handy.

But we've got a feeling they're more likely to just try and kill us.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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