Magazine article The Spectator

To Survive in the War on Terror You Must Live in Fear and Be Very, Very Stupid

Magazine article The Spectator

To Survive in the War on Terror You Must Live in Fear and Be Very, Very Stupid

Article excerpt

They've been trying to scare us all again, this time through the offices of the BBC - a somewhat cowed organisation which seems, these days, more than happy to do the bidding of the government. I don't think they can have succeeded, though, except with that tranche of the population which has the collective IQ of a crayfish. Everybody else will have seen Sunday night's drama and discussion Dirty War for what it was: the finest BBC comedy since Blackadder departed from our screens. They may not have meant it as high comedy, but high comedy is what it was - especially the discussion bit with a pert and perky Fiona Bruce telling us we were all going to die of cancer very soon.

A dumb, clunking, 90-minute 'drama' which was entirely devoid of drama, with dialogue drawn from a government information film, told us what would happen if mad Muslims detonated a dirty bomb at Liverpool Street station. Except, of course, they weren't portrayed as mad Muslims: they were portrayed as devout, troubled souls who had - as characters in the police force helpfully explained - very real grievances about the state of the world: Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq and so on. What they were doing was less wicked than misguided. When one of the bombers was eventually caught, he got his head kicked in by an angry white police officer while a female Muslim police officer, wreathed in sanctimony, explained to him that his actions undoubtedly constituted a grave betrayal of Islam, which is a peaceable and inclusive religion. Allah would be mightily pissed off, she contended. By the time she'd finished speaking I felt like strapping the explosives on myself, except I was laughing too much. Throughout the show one veered from annoyance to helpless hilarity.

Anyway, the point of the exercise was to explain to us how desperately unprepared we are. And not just that: why we should be a lot more scared about the 'fanatics' than we are at the moment. It's going to happen, we were told, no question about it. It's a matter of when, not if.

There was a government minister full of good intentions but aghast at the lack of planning. Where are all the NBC suits? How quickly can we get the decontamination units in place? Every now and again the most banal or obvious points were rammed home, via a mallet to the head, to the crayfish audience sitting on its collective sofa.

It all portrayed a vision of the world which bore no relation to reality, a vision of the world as the government would like us to see it: heroic firemen, conscientious and understanding police officers, well meaning and likeable government ministers, responsible Muslims prepared to shop their fanatical brethren - and a dumb public oblivious to the threat and minded, irresponsibly, to ignore official advice. And an implacable, clever enemy which is waiting, en masse, in a Neasden bedsit to do us in.

The discussion afterwards was, as I say, better still. A panel of baleful experts took questions of the most supreme and staggering idiocy, via telephone from the crayfish at home and directly from crayfish in the audience. One woman was very scared. She explained that she lived only 'ten minutes' from Ringwood airport, near Manchester. And she had relatives who lived even nearer. What was she to do? …

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