Terrorism 101

On September 12th, 2001, I attended work as usual at the offices of the National Rail Enquiry Service to find a note on my desk.  It was a badly photocopied memo with the heading of the British Transport Police, and in it the police admitted that they didn’t know where or when the next security threat was going to come from.  The previous day there had been several terrorist attacks in America, and the whole world was in shock.  What was going to happen next.

A few days later I received a phone-call from a man who claimed that an acquaintance of his had taken a gun onto a train.  I thought back to a previous time when Britain had been under threat from terrorism, and remembered that we had been old to keep the person talking as long as possible in the hope of getting some clues as to what was happening.  And so I talked for several minutes to this man, and when I had run out of things to say I put the phone down.  Moments later the police arrived to take evidence, and they said that they believed the call to be a hoax, specifically from a person known to them.

You see, no one knows where the next threat is going to come from; all one can do is do one’s best to deal with the situation.

By July of 2005 I had moved jobs and was working in the telecoms industry, taking calls from people who had problems with their broadband.  On July 7th, I woke to the news, and in due course switched my radio off.  The radio news at that time finished (and still does finish) at just after 9.00 in the morning.  Had the news programme continued in modern day 24 hour rolling news format I would have heard the breaking news of a terrorist attack in London.  Several hours later, I turned into work and was assigned to an emergency call centre dealing with railway customers who were trapped in London.  (The entire central transportation system was in lockdown until around five in the evening).  I received several hundred phone-calls that afternoon from people asking advice; most people I couldn’t help.  Information was very scarce, and it was constantly changing.

Sadly the callers from London were very well used to terrorism.  The IRA had attacked London on several occasions over the previous few decades.  Indeed, I myself walked past the Harrods car bomb hen on a school trip.  The people of London knew what to do in an emergency.  They invoked the spirit of the Blitz.

Moving on then…well actually, first of all I just wanted to say above that I have been touched (ever so slightly) by terrorism for most of my life. So, I have a passing acquaintance with some of the issues surrounding terrorism and war.

Moving on then, I’d like to talk about what has been happening this year.

I wont bother recounting to the nth degree what has been happening this year.  I’ll just give you a broad outline.  There have been several terrorist attacks in France, and in North Africa (where a former colleague was killed).  And simultaneously with this there has been an upsurge in the number of people fleeing the war in the middle east and seeking refuge in Europe.

This last Friday around eight people engaged in a terrorist attack in Paris that eventually killed over 100 people in a number of different places.  And there has been uproar from the racist far right.

There are a few things I should explain.

The far right have very similar political views to the “Islamic” terrorists currently taking up lots of airtime.  They hate equal marriage, for example, just like the ISIS terrorists.

They feed on fear.  They have said for a while that Europe shouldn’t accept refugees from Syria or other war torn areas, and they have said that if we do then Europe will be attacked by refugee infiltrators.

Most dangerous of all is that they are on “our” side.  And this is where we have problems.  You see, the far-right are happy to hit social media and spread their message of hatred, recruiting fellow travelers as they go.  But they don’t realise that the internet is available anywhere on the planet, and their outpourings of bile are acting as recruiting sergeants to extremist terrorists.

These people call Muslims animals, and call for all of them to be killed, because, after all, that’s what they want to do to us, right?  Er no, if they did then we would know about it.  Muslims make up a billion strong community of people.  ISIS?  Certainly less than a million.  And the far-right see no problem in saying that Muslim people operate in a death cult, and simultaneously call for them to be exterminated.

The plain fact of the matter is that we are fighting a war that must be won, and won’t be until everyone is onside.  At the moment young people have a choice between embracing “Western” civilisation, and turning to terrorism.  And who can blame them from joining the terrorists when they see people calling for them to be exterminated. It’s our job to offer a more attractive option.  And to act better than the terrorists.

Symbols

Here’s a symbol:

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It’s toilet roll printed with the American flag.  I may pick up some death threats for publishing this.

Here’s another symbol:

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If you go to this website, you will find that the company advertises Union Flag toilet paper for sale for “the person who has everything!”  The only way someone would die in this case would be if they laughed their heads off.  It’s considered a quirky, humorous gift.

Back to the American symbol, though.  Americans are very protective towards their flag.  People can get into trouble if they “desecrate” their nation’s symbol.

In this article, there is a cute picture of a baby wrapped in the American flag.  Sacrilege, according to some.

Patriotic hero Sarah Palin has even been accused of flag desecration.

So, in America, at least, it’s best to be careful in one’s use of America’s symbol, her flag.  But in Britain, I’m still chuckling away at that Union Flag bog roll…

In January of this year some criminals in Paris, France, used the desecration of another symbol, Muhammad, as an excuse to kill over a dozen people.  Don’t get me wrong here, that’s no excuse for killing, but at least we can learn from this that some people can get upset when their “own” “symbol” isn’t used appropriately.

So, where are we so far.  In America people can get upset if the American flag is misused, and in the Muslim world there are people who use “symbol misuse” as an excuse for violence.

What on earth, then were some far right Americans thinking of when they decided to hold a “Muhammad drawing competition”?

It ended in bloodshed.

Defenders of the “contest” assert that it was an expression of “free speech”.  They even invited to the event Geert Wilders, a far right European politician who is due in court at some stage on hate speech charges.  Because in America, everything goes.  Except wrapping American babies in the flag, of course.

Anyone fancy buying an American Flag themed doormat?  Only $21…

I’m still chuckling about that Union Flag toilet roll by the way…

Death Threats

This story is in today’s Guardian.  It deals with the subject of online death threats, or cyberbullying.  I’d like to share my response:

I periodically pick up death threats from people in America. The American police response is typically that death threats are an allowable free speech activity. Yes, I’m blaming the Americans, but for a point: America asserts to being a civilised, responsible country and so people from outside America who see death threats on social media think that they are an acceptable form of behaviour. It’s time that the world’s role model, grew up – or perhaps decided that they would no longer wish to assert to being a role model.

Proof: America IS a terrorist state

This week the world was shocked to hear of another plane crash that took the lives of over 100 people, this time in Europe.  (Incidentally, I’d just like to remind people at this stage that air travel remains safe).

Today, details from the cockpit voice recorders came out, and it would appear that the co-pilot deliberately flew the plane into the ground.  At this stage, we don’t know the reasons behind what happened but this hasn’t stopped speculation from the American far-right.

The American far-right (or at least those people commenting on Facebook) have decided that this is a “terrorist” act, simply on the basis that the pilot killed people other than himself.  Let’s think about this:

“A terrorist is a person who kills another person”.

Previously I have described that if you follow the “logic” of these American right wingers through, you end up with a situation where they are calling for all Americans to be exterminated.  According to their “logic”:

“People with the same background as terrorists should be exterminated”.

All this leads to the conclusion that America is a terrorist state because there is the 2nd Amendment which enables a lot of people to have the gear (guns) necessary to kill others, and millions of people support the Second Amendment.  Follow the right wingers “logic”, and it becomes necessary to eliminate both gun owners, and the people who support them.

(On top of this, of course there is the issue over American funding of terrorism, such as the CIA funding of the Taliban (the “grandparent” of ISIS), and the funding of the IRA by American citizens.)

All of this, and the hatred of Muslims that is apparent every time one goes on Facebook, creates a problem.  America is at this time in a half-hearted fight against a criminal organisation, ISIS, and every time someone from the American far-right comments online, airing their “thoughts”, it is quite possible to hear the celebrations from the middle east right here in England – simply by opening a window.  It’s possible to see quite regularly fights over ISISs name (IS, Islamic State, whatever) and there is certainly a problem with the use of the “T” word.  We really need to stop using the “T” word, but instead refer to ISIS actions as criminal behaviour since the “T” word only gives the criminals an increased status that they don’t deserve. (It did occur to me that the right wingers were attempting to devalue the word by using it for every possible action, but frankly, well…).  We also need to get a grip with our use of language, and our “thinking” processes.  Every time a right winger posts a “dumb” comment on Facebook, well that counts as a “win” to the criminals.

Doctors and drugs

I visited my Doctor’s surgery for the first time ever yesterday.  (I should mention that I’m not super-healthy; rather my old doctor retired and transferred my notes over without my intervention to the new surgery.)  The surgery is not far away, but in a neighbourhood that I’m not familiar with – and I got lost.  I’d just gone down an alleyway that is wide enough to drive a car down at one end, but at the far end is so narrow that I could barely walk down it and decided that I would need to ask a stranger for directions, when a miracle happened.  I heard a four-year-old bug incubator cough, and knew that rescue was near at hand.  Sure enough, the incubator and entourage turned into a property, and walked up to the door of the surgery.

I went inside, and asked the receptionist for an appointment.  When one had been booked she said that she would text the details to me.  There was a small problem; the number that she rather mysteriously had for me clearly wasn’t one that I used, and she resorted in the end to writing the appointment down on a piece of paper.

Once I had marvelled at the modern age I thought ahead to a new experience that I would have with the doctor.  I am going to ask for another couple of boxes of pills, and it turns out that the modern age has invaded the ancient art of writing scripts.  Presumably in an effort to get patients fit doctors no longer issue paper prescriptions.  Instead they email the prescription over to a chemist and leave the patient to walk around town playing hunt the script. (My little joke – I’m sure that there is a way round this.) This modern technology is a marvel!

(Incidentally, I was told once by a pharmacist that the emailed scripts are printed out by the chemist.  So no paper saved there then…)

Possesions

I recently bought a book about Mahatma Ghandhi, and as usual I flicked through it looking at the pictures.  One photograph in particular caught my imagination; a picture of Ghandhi’s worldly possessions at his death – all ten of them.  The picture isn’t too good, so I looked on the Internet to see what some of the items are, and I discovered a whole world of ‘minimalist’ living.

It turns out that some people actually make a conscious decision to live with a limited number of items, and then write about their lifestyle choice.  Several people report having less than 100 possessions, and there is even a ‘challenge’ for anyone who can live with 100 items or fewer.  So, it being a long and dull Sunday…

The grand total is 184 items.  I won’t bore you with what they are, except to say…6 items that I can listen to the radio on???

Of course I have cheated, as in fact everyone else seems to have done.  People routinely miss out their book collections (if you are counting, that’s an extra hundred or so) and furniture (it doesn’t belong to me, but if it did – an extra ten).

I wonder how many people would cope if they actually were forced to limit the number of items they posess? Would they be able to plan a suitcase full, or would they be looking for little ways out? A pair of socks or ear rings is one item, surely? And is it necessary to count my comb? It only cost me pennies to buy…

Materialists, I suspect, remain so even when they become minimalist materialists.  Would I do any better?  Probably not.  But having drawn up an inventory I can see that I have some work to do.

On harassment

Someone wrote to me yesterday, and said this:

” I don’t troll liberal pages ” – that was at 8.30am

Having shared a few more of her “thoughts” – on MY blog, she said this “I do believe your constant poking and prodding at me is borderline harassment – can you please stop?” That was at 9.18am

So, this person who doesn’t troll and felt “threatened” – ie harassed – went away after that right?  After all, if you are being harassed by someone it’s unlikely that you would want to speak to them again.

7.53pm

“Whether you like to believe it or not (cause I know for whatever reason you DESPISE Fox News and stop at nothing to defame them on almost a daily basis), MOST Americans watch because what Fox tells appeals to MOST Americans. We love our guns because we know without them, we cannot defend ourselves from tyrannical governments or protect ourselves from criminals. They are also used for hunting purposes – which we do a lot of in this nation.

And once again you are slandering me by stating that I DEFENDED the killer of the 3 Muslim students. You are a fool. You clearly NEED my attention so I’m giving it to you – I know some people love attention, sometimes even if it’s negative attention. We over here in America laugh at you guys in the UK because we know how you guys sacrifice your rights all the time blindly and then wonder what happened? Sounds to me like you have a jealousy problem cause I can guarantee if you ever lived here in America, you would change from a ravening flaming liberal to a conservative. We stand for freedom – in all aspects. It’s a shame you imprison yourself with your ridiculous and binding beliefs.

Nobody achieves peace by killing people you say. You are absolutely right. We don’t SEEK TO KILL PEOPLE. We seek to defend our selves from those that DO seek to kill people – or to steal from them. I wish you liberals would pull your heads out of your rear ends. You are so blind and your rhetoric is so laughable to most of the world. Take your fascism somewhere else and leave your (obvious) hatred of me OUT of your conversations with 3 people. Thanks.”

7.58pm

“And btw – thank you for continuing to promote me….I am also extending the favor. God bless and have a GREAT DAY :D”

What this idiot doesn’t understand is that actually I was offended by some of her remarks, and I took action to stop her comments hitting my email.

Compare then: the person who complained of harassment and came back for anther go – and the person who just went ahead and stopped the boob from commenting.

Oh and that “slander” (it’s libel by the way, or possibly defamation)?

“But I think that her defence of the killer is this:

“Maybe if our government did something about the terrorism, Americans wouldn’t feel as if they have to take matters into their own hands…””

Free speech and thought are protected for me under UK, EU, UN and…yes you’ve guessed it…even US law.  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”.  Isn’t free speech wonderful! 🙂

Islamophobia

Two weeks ago three terrorists went on a shooting spree in Paris, France, and the American right wing went on their usual “lack of thinking” spree.  As usual their first response was the “we need more guns” argument – as if that has worked in America.  Then there was the “these terrorists are Muslim  – all Muslims must die because of the actions of this tiny percentage of their peoples” argument.  And I have pointed out in another post that if we carry forward their “thinking” to its logical conclusion they were calling for all Americans to be exterminated.

Now, two weeks on, the Islamophobia is still there, but like a mutating bacteria it is a different beast altogether.  We have had calls for the Islamic community to “out” the terrorists in their midst.  Let’s think about that for a moment.  These criminals are involved in a conspiracy, the very essence of which is secrecy. And yet, people like Rupert Murdoch seem to believe that bombing conspiracies are openly discussed in the Muslim community?

And then there are the rather strange comments made by the British government.  They are suddenly rather concerned about anti-Semitism (I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with that concern) in spite of the fact that there is no evidence of an increase in that type of hatred.  There is, however, evidence of an increase in hatred perpetrated by white people, for example in the case of attempted murder reported here.   And the hatred recorded here.

Then of course, there is the letter that the Communities Secretary sent to many mosques in the UK, asking how they feel that Islam contributes to British society.  Strangely, Pickles seems to have forgotten to write to the leaders of other faiths.  Did he simply set out to marginalise Muslims, or was it an accident?  Either way, David Cameron is proud of his efforts.

The truth is that terrorist attacks are carried out by criminals who just happen to be…let me try it this way:

What religion was Anders Behring Breivik?

How about John Hinkley Jr?

And yet everyone seems to know what religion the Paris shooters were.  Why is that?  Do people seriously think that Anders Breivik is any less evil because he apparently hates Muslims? Of course not. Evil isn’t in a person’s religion, but rather in his actions.

Another puzzle: since according to the right-wing narrative all terrorists are Muslims, then you would think that all victims of terrorism are NOT Muslim, right? Well, the jury’s out on this one, but the evidence points towards there being more muslim than non-muslim victims of terrorism.

Oh, and this little snippet caught my eye:

Between 2004-2013, the UK suffered 400 terrorist attacks, mostly in Northern Ireland, and almost all of them were non-lethal. The US suffered 131 attacks, fewer than 20 of which were lethal. France suffered 47 attacks.

So, as well as fewer homicides per hundred thousand head of population, France also has fewer terrorist attacks.  Something for America to think about there, I feel.

2015

Just about half the world has moved into the new year, 2015, but here in England we still have some way to go.  It’s a funny sort of arrangement – going potty just because the Year number has increased – but more and more people are liking it.  Thinking of the year that is past, and the year yet to come; past failure and future successes; past successes and…well we wont go on as there is beer to be drunk, and fireworks to watch…

There’s a meme on Facebook at the moment…umm hang on, and I’ll try and find it…it says:

Thank you 2014 for the ways I have grown.  I now intend 2015 to be the best year I’ve ever known!

What other New Years Resolution does one need?

Happy New Year! 🙂

The end of the world as we know it…

December 29th, Christmas past and New Years Day ahead and it’s now that I start to do the stuff that I have avoided doing these past 360 and odd days.

Forget thinking about New Years Resolutions, there is still the old year to tidy up.  So while I sit here and wait for the washing machine to finish a load I ponder on what might have been…

I have only ever successfully kept to a New Years Resolution once, when I gave up sugar in hot drinks.  Every other time I have made a resolution I have failed, usually by week 2.  I think that psychologists do say that New Years Resolutions if not set up properly are bound to fail.  And this year has been no exception.  I – well it would be pushing it to say ‘resolved’ – had a plan to sort out my finances, not so much the amount of money I have but the number of accounts that I hold, and one thing led to another with the result that my accounts are still as numerous as they were last year.

The thing is that New Years Resolutions have got to be achievable, but also you have got to be prepared to ‘train’ yourself to get on with whatever change you want to make.  I tend to struggle to get into any sort of regular habit (apart, strangely, from buying some beer on payday) so changing a habit I don’t really have is always going to be challenging.

2014 was a strange year for me.  I had not signed on to any evening classes in 2013, so by February of 2014 I was a little bored.  I went to virtually every play produced by my local theatre in order to try and ease the boredom, and in the summer I attended two BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall.  Those concerts were the first ‘proper’ concerts I had ever attended and were memorable for different reasons.  The first one was Der Rosenkavalier, sung in German with no surtitles.  I bought a libretto and tried following the opera, but in the end I decided to just sit and listen.  I did translate one of the lines – ‘Here I sit?, I sit here’ – but mostly I just let the words wash over me.  The second concert was conducted by Daniel Barenboim and I managed to snaffle a seat 6 feet or so from the stage.

Having learnt my lesson from last year I spent the summer looking forward to joining a college course in the Autumn.  That plan failed when I was summoned to sit on a Jury, and in the end I spent the best part of a month sitting in a courthouse.

I went back to London a few weeks ago and attended a concert at the Wigmore Hall.  It’s a gorgeous venue that sits 500 or so and has much better acoustics than the Royal Albert Hall. (I sound,like an expert but I’m not.  It’s just that sitting at the front of the RAH means that you get the benefit of hearing its echo.)

And so, there are some of the highs and lows of my year.  I didn’t get to do what I planned, but did do some completely different things.  Not a ‘waste’ of a year; simply a year that was unique.  A good New Years Resolution might simply to be to have a ‘unique’ 2015.  But deciding that will have to wait for another day.  I still have a very messy 2014 to clear up…