The anniversary of the London bombings has given the terror mongers a great chance to spread some more fear. I have just listened to a twice disgraced, twice fired former Labour minister on the radio telling us how we have all become complacent, and needed to be more afraid.
I don’t think we have become complacent. We have just got back our sense of proportion. We now realise the actual risk posed by terrorism is very small in relation to other risks. Fifty five people were killed in the London Tube bombings. That’s one person in a million of the UK population. I face a much bigger risk whenever I drive my car. Each year almost 600 people die in drunk driver accidents. Many more people are stabbed or kicked to death in the street by yobs than are killed by terrorists.
There are three groups that have a vested interest in terror mongering. The first is the media. Sensational stories sell newspapers. Frightened readers buy the next tabloid issue to find out how they can be saved. Even the BBC puts out a regular stream of terror mongering messages. It’s just past noon and already I have heard three terror mongering news items on the BBC Radio Four. I have never heard Radio Four broadcast a piece in which someone says, ‘don’t be scared, calm down, the risk to you is very small’.
The second group is the UK’s police and secret police. Careers are being made and budgets boosted by the ‘terrorist threat’. They needed something to keep up their budgets when the Cold War ended; terrorism is the answer. If it hadn’t existed they would have had to invent it.
Finally, we come to the politicians. Blair and Bush have got a lot of electoral mileage out of terror mongering. Could Bush have got re-elected without the support of Al-Qaeda? I doubt it. Could they have managed to pass so many intrusive and oppressive laws without promoting terror mongering?
The problem for these groups is it is getting harder to sell the fear product. In the USA Bush’s support is down below 40%. Clearly, the American people have not been scared enough. In the last general election in the UK only 22% of the electorate voted for the Labour Party. Yes, that’s right. Only 22%! The rest either voted for a different party, or abstained. The British are even harder to fool than the Americans. I see a big difference between the messages and world view being spread by politicians and the media, and what people actually believe, or care about.