Hitting a nerve 31


I appear to have hit a nerve with my call for a sceptical view of the alleged “bigger than 9/11” plot. Over 50,000 people so far have read the item on my own blog, and it has been quoted and reposted all over the web.

In the UK, at least, the more serious wing of the mainstream media is beginning to catch up with the idea that all is not well here.

Still, after eight days of detention, nobody has been charged with any crime. For there to be no clear evidence yet on something that was “imminent” and “Mass murder on an unbelievable scale” is, to say the least, rather peculiar. The 24th person, who was arrested amid much fanfare yesterday, has been quietly released without charge today. Breaking news, another “suspect” has just been released too.

The drip, drip of information to the media from the security services has rather dried-up. The last item of any significance was that they had found a handgun and a rifle – neither of which could have been in any use in the alleged plot. If you were smuggling undetectable liquid explosive onto a plane, you would be unlikely to give the game away by tucking a rifle into your hand baggage.

As with the murder some years ago of the uncle of the suspect held in Pakistan, it remains a possibility that there could be some criminal activity here involving a few of the suspects, which is not terrorist linked.

As the Police immediately told the press about the guns, it is a reasonable deduction that it remains true that they still have found no bombs or detonators, or they would have told us, particularly as they haven’t charged anyone yet. They must be getting pretty desperate to announce some actual evidence by now.

This brings us to one particuarly sinister aspect of the allegations – that the bombs were to be made on the plane.

The idea that high explosive can be made quickly in a plane toilet by mixing at room temperature some nail polish remover, bleach, and Red Bull and giving it a quick stir, is nonsense. Yes, liquid explosives exist and are highly dangerous and yes, airports are ill equipped to detect them at present. Yes, it is true they have been used on planes before by terrorists. But can they be quickly manufactured on the plane? No.

The sinister aspect is not that this is a real new threat. It is that the allegation may have been concocted in order to prepare us for arresting people without any actual bombs.

Let me fess up here. I have just checked, and our flat contains nail polish remover, sports drinks, and a variety of household cleaning products. Also MP3 players and mobile phones. So the authorities could announce – as they have whispered to the media in this case – that potential ingredients of a liquid bomb, and potential timing devices, have been discovered. It rather lowers the bar, doesn’t it?

This has a peculiar resonance for me. I spoke at the annual Stop the War conference a couple of months ago. I referred to the famous ricin plot. For those outside the UK, this generated the same degree of hype here two years ago. It was alleged that a flat in North London inhabited by Muslims was a “Ricin” factory, manufacturing the deadly toxin which could kill “hundreds of thousands of people”. Police tipped off the authorities that traces of ricin had been discovered. In the end, all those accused were found not guilty by the court. The “traces of ricin” were revealed to be the atmospheric norm.

The “intelligence” on that plot had been extracted under torture in Algeria – another echo here, as the “intelligence” in this current case has almost certainly been extracted under torture in Pakistan. Another police tip-off to the media was that the intelligence said that the ricin had been stored in plastic jars, and they had indeed found plastic jars containing a suspicious substance. It turned out the containers in question were two Brylcreem tubs. What was in them? In the first, paper clips. In the second, Brylcreem.

I told the story in my speech, and concluded with a ringing “So we must congratulate the government for saving us from a dastardly Islamic plot to take over the World using hair styling products.”

I fear the government may have taken me seriously!

I do not discount the possibility that there is a germ of something behind the current alleged plot. Will it be anything like the hype? No.

The hype scarcely lowers. On the flagship ten o’clock news last night, the BBC reported breathlessly on the United flight diverted from Washington to Boston last night, and its fighter escort. We had very earnest besuited security experts terrifying us about the dangers.

The extraordinary thing was that, by this stage, we knew definitely that this was a 60 year old woman with claustrophobia, who had a few loose matches and some Vaseline intensive care hand lotion in the bottom of her handbag. The facts reported were totally at odds with the whole manner of the “be terrified” report and the analysis being built on it. But that didn’t stop them.

It has, of course, worked. When did you last see Iraq on the news? Where is Liebermann’s defeat now on the news agenda?

A blog like this is much too small a player to affect the public mood. What it can do is tap into it. The extraordinary response to these posts shows that there is a very significant section of the public not prepared to buy more Bush/Blair propaganda.


31 thoughts on “Hitting a nerve

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  • Craig

    Sorry, typo in there which will get corrected in due course. Meanwhile, the intelligence indicated that the ricin was kept in plastic jars, not the intelligence itself. Actually, the intelligence shouldn't have been kept at all, it was rubbish.

    Craig

  • ElfKnight

    Absolutely spot on about the BBC news – I was practically shouting at the TV due to the tabloid spin on this item.

    I was only calmed down again by the infinitely saner converage by Newsnight, with a more sensible besuited security expert who agreed that it wasn't just the unfortunate lady on the flight who was getting hysterical, and that perhaps we should concentrate on people rather than trying to ban any object that could conceivably be used as a weapon.

  • spinstress

    BBC News has been hopeless since the governors caved in after the Hutton report:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/uk/2003/david

    Of the two rolling news channels on UK Freeview – Sky and BBC – Sky has seemed consistently more sceptical (well, a bit more) about the 'terror plot' and every other aspect of UK foreign policy and home anti-terrorism measures since 9/11. BBC News seems just so anxious to avoid upsetting the government. What a state we're in when the senior public broadcaster has less independence than a commercial outfit bossed by media oligarchs with close ties to the US and UK establishments.

  • Winstons Myth

    Just to let you know that, as one of the many people who republished your article (with full credit added of course!) I have had a little over 30,000 views of your article too…

    The fight is by no means over, in fact, I think that it is just beginning.

    Keep up the great work Craig. We need more people with your knowledge and experience to join us.

  • madmustelid

    Craig, it sounded phoney, and so conveniently timed, that I was cynical from the start. I'm annoyed, but not surprised, that the overwhelming majority of the media I've seen (particularly the BBC) has been so uncritical and accepting of the whole nonsense.

    One (minor) aspect you missed is the accusation of "links to Al-Quaeda" – as in "…sources indicate that one or more of those arrested may have l.t.A."

    What a useful phrase that is. I must admit, I also have links to Al-Quaeda. Yes, I've been to Arabia, where Al-Quaeda comes from (I spent two hours there wiating for a plane) – that's one link. I've made many telephone calls to the Indian sub-continent, a place rife with Al-Quaeda agents – there are multiple other links.

    Remote? Possibly. But there's no smoke without fire, you know. So many links begin to make a pattern. I must be a suspicious character – look, I also post diatribes against the government and therefore supportive of terrorists on "conspiracy theory" websites (like this one).

    That phrase, without qualification, and evidence to back it up, is meaningless, and the people using it know that. But it is so useful, and so easy to use it to blacken anyone's reputation, that it will continue to be used, attributable or otherwise, by those who have no care for the truth or evidence.

    I'm going to start using it as a shibboleth. Anyone who accuses anyone or anything of having "links to Al-Quaeda" is either a sophistical propagandist with no evidence, or a kneejerk apologist for one such.

  • The Liberal Avenger

    Craig:

    I'm curious about what countries your readers are generally from. Do you get mostly UK traffic or US traffic or neither or both?

    Thank you for sharing the final disposition of the deadly RICIN plot! It was, of course, big news here in the US when it happened. I never heard what eventually happened to them. Much ado about nothing, it seems.

    I have always been skeptical of the hysteria they've been feeding us. This time around, however, with the liquid bomb/airplane plot I felt as if it was finally me who was wrong for being skeptical. Surely if they've arrested these men and woman and they know so much about the plot and it was going to happen anytime they must be on to something! I am glad to hear that it is more of the same overblown nonsense.

    Are people here familiar with the dangerous nest of al-Qaeda operatives they uncovered in Florida recently – a group headed by a man named "Brother Sunni"? More nonsense, of course… These guys only al-Qaeda connection was an FBI agent posing as a member of al-Qaeda (he even delivered them the al-Qaeda oath which the FBI secretly taped them taking!) These tough guys allegedly wanted to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago 1500 miles away but had never actually been there. They asked their "al-Qaeda contact" for boots, uniforms and a digital camera for the plot. "Brother Sunni" turned out to be a Catholic and former altar-boy who's nickname all his life was "Sunny." An honest mistake on the part of the Justice Department, I'm sure.

    The news surrounding the big Toronto bombing plot has quieted down… That one may be more smoke-and-mirrors, too. We were told at one point that they had enough fertilizer to make THREE bombs the size of the Oklahoma City bombs. In time we learned that it was the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who supplied them with the fertilizer – undercover. In fact, it has been reported that the RCMPs substituted another material for the fertilizer just in case.

    There is a vested interest by our dark corporatist overlords to keep us frightened. There is also an underlying group of people who support them who thrive on the fear. They love it – it is like pornography for them. They love nothing more than being collectively scared and wetting their pants at every new "revelation" that reinforces their anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, pro-America, pro-UK, pro-war world views.

    The rest of us live in a "pre-9/11 mindset" and apparently enable the "islamofascists" by our failure to be scared.

    God help us.

  • kid tung

    Your article casting doubts over the alleged plot to bomb transatlantic flights was fantastic. How the press immediately followed the official line and then started adding to it by publishing pages after pages about the new profile of terrorists (mothers with young kids, students, young & old … well, pretty much everyone is now a potential terrorist if we follow this line of reasoning), their new methods (after knives and shoes now come the shampoo bottles) is nothing short of intellectual terrorism. What we should realize is that whether this plot turns out to be real or not is a question that is quickly fading into the background (in all the press reports that I've read I'm still waiting to see a shred of hard evidence). Instilling fear, suspicion and security paranoia into the mind of ordinary people is an objective already amply achieved. Soon the majority of the population will be happy to surrender its last remaining liberties, hand over permanent political control to a bunch of megalomaniac thugs and feel very satisfied with it. After all most of us have for good reasons a short memory. Who remembers all those past police raids following "mysterious" intelligence information about terrorist cells and plots that turned out in the end to be … bogus! But at the end of the day what is not bogus is the shredding of hard-won liberties and social security that actually make life in society possible. Centuries of social struggle cancelled by a few real bombs and countless imaginary ones. Welcome (back) to the state of nature, ape-man.

  • ScottSA

    Craig, are you prepared to admit that the WTC, Bali, Spanish, London, USS COLE and a host of other attacks are not a conspiracy cooked up by the Bush Blair Axis of Evil? If so, doesn't it lend just a tad of credibility to certain aspects of this current plot?

    I mean really, your entire argument hinges upon a LACK of information rather than any particular information. Here, for example, you "deduce" something from the ether:

    "As the Police immediately told the press about the guns, it is a reasonable deduction that it remains true that they still have found no bombs or detonators, or they would have told us, particularly as they haven't charged anyone yet."

    This is nonsequitous, as you must know, and ignores the reams of other evidence they have also released, including money transfers, explicit emails and numerous pieces of evidence; any one of which is convincing, and in total conclusive.

    Granted, they cast the net wide and may release the odd person here and there, but it is clear to the vast majority of thinking people that there is fire with the smoke here.

    Judging by the quality of arguments of your admirers, it seems the people prepared to buy your line have become immersed in a sort of alternate reality wherein it is possible and indeed necessary to reject out of hand the process of rationality; wherein any application of Occam's Razor is treated like "blindness" to the alternate reality which only a few clever people can perceive.

  • richard

    ScottSA,

    Not everyone commenting here is a 9/11 or 7/7 conspiracy theorist. It's possible to accept that the terrorist threat is real without taking at face value every claim that governments make about it. Famous examples so far discussed include the Iraq-WMD claim, the Iraq-Al-Qaeda claim, the claims made by UK police in the immediate aftermath of the Menezes killing, the imaginary "Ricin plot", and the Forest Gate incident. These were all cases where the UK authorities clearly and unequivocally said things that turned out to be untrue.

    Now whether these claims turned out to be untrue because of deliberate mendacity, wishful thinking, mere organisational incompetence, or some combination of these factors, it has happened often enough that it would, in my view, be irrational for the British public to continue to believe UK government claims without question – especially where those claims relate to terrorism.

    Add in this particular government's record of sleaze and spin, detailed usefully (linking only, so far as I can see, to mainstream news reports) here: http://labour-watch.com/sleaze.htm, and the evidence that significant amounts of the information being relied on by UK intelligence has been extracted through torture by corrupt dictatorial regimes like Pakistan, and this only adds to our scepticism, I'm afraid…

  • Craig

    Scott,

    Yes, Islamic terrorism exists. Its threat has grown recently, fuelled by US foreign policy and its continual aggression towards predominantly Muslim countries. There is a threat, and we have to work against it.

    But there is also propaganda, and the fact that those who have most fuelled the threat most seek to benefit from it. This is just the latest in a series of wildly-hyped plots. In quoting from the media you have to consider very carefully who the journalist is, and how he characterises his sources.

    I feel pretty confident here that we will find there are no plane tickets, electronic or otherwise. I also see no reason why large transfers of money would be needed for the plot if it existed as alleged – a $500 dollar ticket would not be beyond many if they believed they were never to need money again. I think the money transfers, which seem to be well-sourced leaks, quite probably do exist, and quite likely relate to illegal activity – but not necessarily terrorism.

    In these matters, I am perfectly entitled to rely on the negative – it is up to the government to prove people are terrorists. Thank God it has not yet reached the stage that we have to prove we're not terrorists. But the way things are going…

    If the authorities had any knock-down evidence, they would have said something by now. There would be triumphalist noises coming out of the Police and the Home Office.

    Instead, the sheepish silence now resembles the couple of days between all the front page lies about De Menezes, and the admission he was innocent.

  • SilentButNotIgnorant

    We are the Silent majority in US and got sick of this Tony and Bush tragedy. Republicans had hijacked the pass two elections by simply presenting the wrong picture of the story. I must admit that most American's are the ignorant of all facts. Media plays a bigger role here to dictate the stories. Right from the beginning, this whole situation looks doggy and skeptical. I would say another last minute stunt by both parties (US and UK regime) to booster their image and political gimmick with the help of obedient partner (Pakistan). Musharaf is definitely a loyal pet.

  • ScottSA

    Craig, we will know in the fullness of time what evidence will be forthcoming.

    I think that silence lends itself to speculation, and the process of speculation can go in virtually any direction. The direction you have chosen to go in is claiming a "wildly hyped plot", which is I might suggest a toning down from your previous position. But there are myraid conclusions one can draw from silence, and yours is neither exhaustive nor particularly warranted at this point.

    The flip side of this is of course speculating on the Blair Bush axis of evil alowing this plot to go forward successfully; the same people who are now caterwauling about its use as some sort of publicity stunt would be on the front lines of those demanding to know why it wasn't stopped in the face of all the evidence. So really, Blair and Bush can't win…there is no one here who has decided, on the strength of the actual evidence, that there is or isn't a plot…all either of us are doing is re-enforcing a priori assumptions about the danger and how it is being handled.

    There is indeed a threat, and what we have to do now in my opinion is recognize what the threat is. In my opinion we have much much more to fear from Islam than from any alleged temporary loss of freedoms from our regimes. This is not a clash of civilizations, it is a clash of peoples, and it is one which has gone on for centuries in recurrent flareups. If we lose this time, it will be the last time.

  • Nur-al-Cubicle

    A Pakistani woman with doubtlessly nail polish remover in her carry-on is the latest mobilisation in West Virginia.

    Le Monde had an editorial about mobilising the public by waving the al-Qaeda "epouvantail".

  • Nur-al-Cubicle

    A Pakistani woman with nail polish remover (likely) in her carry-on has just been promoted to al-Qaeda terrorrist in West Virginia.

    Le Monde had an editorial about mobilising the public by waving the al-Qaeda "epouvantail".

  • Lobster Blogster

    I see the troll's back, and now he's got opinions :0)

    Glad to see you are getting some hits. Just keep telling it as it is Craig, I sense a slight change of mood. Newsnight carried a really good piece on the Archbishop of York tonight. Why would a man in his position start camping in his cathedral?

    Funniest bit I caught on the radio today was someone in the US who was covering the Boston hysteria flight who said, just as it was starting to dawn that their live coverage of the "terror incident" was a fool's errand: "So what you are saying is we've been watching a sausage being made?"

    Good luck: the truth will out.

  • Alien

    I can imagine the scenario of the coming few weeks:

    1- The police will apply for extension of detention of the suspects up to the maximum 28 days, this will be granted for at least some of them.

    2- At the end of the 4 weeks, some of the detainees will be charged with offences under the Terrorism Act, all charges will be in the form of "conspiracy to …". The decision to prosecute will be accompanied with a big bang in the media, and hailed as a victory for the security services.

    3- At the end of a long trial, all will be acquitted (except maybe some with other minor charges).

    4- By that time, the public will have forgotten all about the plot, but for the government, objectives (whatever they may be) all achieved.

    This has been tested several times before, and it works EVERY TIME.

  • geofones

    Well said Richard and thank you Craig for your opinions. I just hate the UK governments kneejerk reactions to any event with each event eroding our civil liberties that bit more.

  • gregorach

    There's a very interesting article over on The Register looking at the chemical feasibility of binary liquid explosives. They actually talked to a profesor of chemistry with some experience in the matter, and the short answer is that it's completely unfeasible to make explosives on a plane.

  • simohurtta

    Soon the paranoid Brittish and Americans have go in planes naked. Eventually the terrorism experts notice that chemicals can also be transfreed in clothings.

  • Craig

    In reply to the Liberal Avenger's question, blog readership just over 50% US, 25% UK, the rest pretty scattered around the world.

    Craig

  • hommedespoir

    Imagine you're a BAA bureaucrat, you're told by HO that there's a risk that a couple of harmless fluids carried onto a plane could be mixed to make an explosive….would your intelligence not also suggest it's a good idea to instruct boarding passengers to mix their own explosive cocktail by emptying their bottles into a common public disposal container as they board the plane? Would it not matter if the resulting explosion killed a few people in the airport terminal at ground level? Or do British bureaucrats have inside knowledge that their terror alert is stage-managed to divert our attention and divert the real news to the back pages?

  • sevens

    gregorach is right about naked flying in our future. What people haven't thought of though is how this will actually solve the problem of suicide bombers on planes.

    The prepetrators believe they won't make it into heaven if they see a naked woman other than their wife.

    hmmm, I guess that only takes care of the male suicide bombers. Well, it's a start.

  • quasimodomouse

    So there have been some media stories stating that the police, "…have found several martyrdom videos in the course of their searches, the BBC has learned."
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/5265182.stm

    I just bring it up because I haven't noticed anyone else mentioning them yet. It remains to be seen whether or not this is a fact.

    I too am skeptical of these anti-terror "victories" as the timing of their announcements seems to benefit politics over actual enforcement or investigations in most cases.

    Notice how we don't hear about the much hyped Forest Gate Raid anymore.

    "…In the course of the pre-dawn raid, 23-year old Mohammed Abdul Kahar was shot. He and his brother, 20 year old Abul Koyair, were arrested and subjected to seven days intensive interrogation, after which both men were freed without charge. No evidence of chemical weapons or indeed illegal or suspicious activity of any kind had been found."
    http://www.counterpunch.org/marqusee06222006.html

    The entrapment of delusional would be 'terrorists' in Florida has done little to bolster my confidence in the capabilities of US anti-terror efforts.

    The announcement of the capture of an Al Qeda operative in Pakistan the day after the Democratic Party National Convention upset many people involved in the operations as it destroyed their ability to continue since their targets had been warned by the story.

    Another story that continues to bother me is the man gunned down by police while bording the Tube in the day(s?) after the 7/7 bombings in London. The botched interdiction (why would you wait until he was on the train to shoot? Ever hear of a dead man switch?), the coverup and the whitewashing. And of course the inevitable defense…,"If he had been a suicide bomber and we hadn't shot him then you'd be mad at us for failing to protect the public." How that qualifies as a defense is a complete mystery to me. Every murderer in history could use that defense.

    Anyway, I'm interested in following this "massive terror plot" story to the end. We'll know there was nothing to it if the story gets shoved down the memory hole.

    Oh yeah, and why do 'They' think we'll fall for this as proof that they are correct about the War on Terra? We've done everything we can to flex our military might and there are still terror threats. That sounds to me like confirmation that "staying the course" is simply going to result in more terror threats.

  • brenda

    Actually, I thought the concept was brilliant. There is no better way to encourage Muslim-hatred among Americans. Deprive them of their personal grooming products and let them believe the Islamo-fascists are responsible. Brilliant!

  • halva

    How can the many people who have been galvanized around this issue be kept together, and brought into contact and collaboration with activists engaged with less obviously media-influenced and so less volatile issues.

    Can this issue serve to give balls, e.g. to climate change activism?

    Will it be helpful to raise the demand of getting Israel and the Palestinian territories into the European Union? This is an idea that tends to appeal to the less warloving kind of Israeli.

    It is also logically complementary to the politics of Americans who want an end to the special relationship between Israel and the United States.

    It becomes difficult to be classified as a Nazi or anti-Semite, whatever else one is allowing to be said about Jews or Israel, if the bottom-line of what one is saying is that Israel should be in the EU, on the same terms as other member-states.

  • Me

    Craig,

    during the last few months there has been a sharp increase in the number of terror alerts and related arrests, and an increase in the panic the reporting of these alerts/events induce or attempt to induce in the population. Do you agree with Alex Jones of PrisonPlanet and InfoWars that this escalation could be preparing us for another large-scale 9/-11 style false flag terror attack? It is becoming increasingly obvious that the lie of 9/11 is crumbling faster than the controlled demolitions of WTC1 and WTC2 and that more and more people are asking questions, real questions, of what happened on that day. 9/11 is the key. Webster Tarpley author of "Synthetic Terror" has said this a number of times. 9/11 is the excuse provided for everything the USA has done since then. And now that the official 9/11 lie is crumbling 'they' need a new 9/11, bigger and more horrific than the original.

  • ScottSA

    The only thing that "crumbled" about 911 is the WTC. I don't know why they don't build a zoo for conspiracy theorists. Oh, has anyone noticed that they charged a whack of people over the "alleged" bomb plot? Could it be that its not just a hyped up fabrication by the forces of darkness in the Bush Blair Reid axis of evil?

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