Archive for August 17th, 2006

Terrorist Profile-actic

Not content with attempting to destroy our way of life, the terrorists are now shamelessly shaving half-hour chunks off our holidays. Before long, a week in Mallorca will really mean 2 days in Mallorca and 5 days in airport security.

The ‘solution’ proposed to the additional delay is to introduce profiling, touted as a way of separating the peaceful sheep from the terrorist goats. People are also calling it ‘positive profiling’, which is exactly the same thing, only with a positive spin.

It is also getting described as racial profiling, but actual skin colour is unlikely to be a key determinant when building the profile. It just so happens that if you fit all the other criteria for profiling purposes – your name, where you were born, where your parents come from, where you live, what you believe, your travel records – you are highly unlikely to be as white as, say, John Reid.

Contrary to the crap you read in the papers about stout-hearted British resistance to terror, a lot of British people are actually very skittish about it, egged on by an increasingly overbearing and authoritarian Labour government, and its media accomplices. Nowadays, four out of five Britons think that the west is losing the ‘war on terror’.

Somewhat ironically, the ones calling most forcefully for profiling to be introduced appear to be the same people who bemoan the lack of Muslim integration. Also ironic is the fact that if British Muslims don’t like it, they can always stay in Britain.

I am pretty sure that I had the privilege of being positively profiled by British security forces. Or maybe everyone else was positively profiled and I was negatively profiled. Anyhow, between 1994 and 2000 I flew back and forth from England to Northern Ireland upwards of 20 times. My baggage was subjected to a ‘random’ security check on quite a few of these occasions, which generally involved me lugging over my luggage to a square-headed guy called Graham who would have a brief root through my dirty underwear to check that it contained no bombs. If my success at getting selected for a random check could somehow be translated into success at backing horses, I would be living on my own Caribbean island by now.

I always found these ‘random’ checks a pain in the hole. When you’re not actually a terrorist or a member of a guerrilla organisation, you don’t tend to think of yourself in terms of how likely you are to blow something to bits, so it always comes as a bit of a surprise when someone else thinks that you might do just that. If it does happen, you might start to perceive an essential difference –in national, perhaps even ethnic terms- between yourself and the security guard copping an eyeful of your Makin’ Bacon boxer shorts.

In Northern Ireland, though, where ladies’ handbags would get checked for weapons on entry to Marks and Sparks, there was a degree of equality, since everyone was suspected of being a terrorist, and it was therefore reasonably bearable when Darren from Shrewsbury with a machine gun and a red searchlight stopped you and asked where you were off to that evening. After all, it was the sort of question he asked everyone, so it wasn’t as if you were being singled out for special treatment.

Some might say that the point of Darren being there, stopping you on the way to evening Mass, wasn’t to foil bomb plots per se, but to suggest to you rather subtly that armed separatism and challenging the power of the state wasn’t really worth the hassle.

Now, given that there was quite a lot of bombing about, I think we can be sure that it was part of the security forces’ brief to detect and arrest people with bombs. What is less clear, looking back, is how much the practice of road blocks, checkpoints, car boot searches, handbag searches and all that malarkey was intended to render the general population submissive to the requirements of the British state.

But now that the Provos are gone, this practice is surplus to requirements. (Although, 16.5% of MI5’s counter-terrorism budget is still spent on Northern Ireland, and annual spending has not changed that much) I’m sure former Stalinist John Reid can be fully trusted to carry out his responsibilities in dealing with international terrorism without recourse to NI tactics i.e. heavy state surveillance by lots of public displays of men with machine guns. Indeed, who better to lead the fight against extremism than a guest of Bosnian Serb mass murderer Radovan Karadzic? OK, slap me, I’m being cynical. He was a rather moderate Stalinist really.

As a side note, it is quite interesting, looking at MI5’s website, that the sort of ‘bomb’ ‘plot’ ‘foiled’ last week would appear to fall under the rubric of international terrorism, whereas Northern Ireland-related terrorism is domestic. So, if the IRA receives arms from Libya, that is domestic terrorism, but if Englishmen acquire arms from Sainsbury’s, Dixon’s and Boots, that is international terrorism.

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August 2006