Blog : Posts tagged with 'terrorism' : Page 1

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Another day

In which things get back to normal


Today has been another plain, ordinary day. Nothing out of ordinary in the news. Nothing exciting has happened. Which is, you know, just as it should be.

I didn’t even manage to be awake at seven minutes past seven this morning, to note the pleasing symmetry of the timestamp. I think I was awake at ten to nine, but that passed without notice too. Which is, in a way, just as it should be.

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Just for once…

In which the world spins around us


…I am going to write a post without a one-word title.

The news is full of utterly incompetent terrorists; politics is all changing;* and the floodwaters are finally dropping.** And, I’ve been all quiet. Because I’ve been feeling absolutely terrible – as if I’m going to be sick any minute, without ever actually being sick.

Oh, and there was a wedding party, too; and the usual turning world.

On Doctor Who: I have a long post planned, about the similarities between the series finale and the books of Pratchett. It can wait, though, until I have more energy. And until Ian is back from his holidays, so I don’t accidentally spoil anything. I wonder what he might be getting up to.***

* this may be an exaggeration

** unless you live near Doncaster

*** and if there will be photos.

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Things I don’t need to write

In which this site’s posts are superfluous


I was thinking of writing an exciting political post* about last week’s terrorist alerts, and how I was a mite suspicious of them. But, of course, this being the internet, lots of people have done it already, wondering if it really was necessary to jump so suddenly. Chris from qwghlm.co.uk, particularly, was very suspicious of the vagueness of the reports, and apparent lack of hard evidence so far.

Hard evidence may well turn up, eventually. Or, more likely, it may turn out that the plotters hadn’t even made their bombs yet. The government are starting to have a bit of a Boy Who Cried Wolf problem. The more times the police raid innocent houses, or paralyse air travel, especially if it comes at politically sensitive times, the less we are going to believe them.

* well, OK, not that exciting

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Flying

In which travel is a bad idea


Well, I’m glad I’m not going anywhere today. Not just in a plane, but anywhere that might involve driving past an airport, because no doubt the traffic around them will be awful too.

Today demonstrates the horror of 24-hour news. I’m just as bad as everyone else, refreshing the BBC News site every five minutes to get the latest on the Terror Alert. The news reports, meanwhile, are filled with hyperbolic phrases such as “mass murder on an unimaginable scale”.* No it isn’t. People have imagined it. To quote The Princess Bride, “I do not think you know what that word means.”

The government seems to be stuck between a rock and a hard place, when it comes to statements. “We have arrested everyone involved, apart from the ones we haven’t”. “This is nothing to do with race, but we’re talking to Community Leaders about it.” How do you become a Community Leader, anyway? Are there elections?

No doubt bottled liquids will be confiscated on planes for the next few months, before everything goes back to normal, and the next terrorist attack comes along with something completely different. The ones that get through are never the ones you expect, after all.

* To be fair to the media, it was a police spokesman who came up with that exact phrase.

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End of another week

In which we get back to work


You can see, now, why I wanted to end the London post series early – I didn’t want yesterday’s post to merge into it. Yesterday’s post was “written” some time ago, and the last of the London series was written nearly a week early too – see, there is planning involved in some of this.

Not many people at work observed the two minutes silence yesterday, as far as I could tell. I found a quiet part of the building, where I wasn’t on the security cameras and wasn’t likely to be interrupted, so I could spend a few minutes with my own thoughts. From what other people have said, it seems that most of the people I know who were personally affected did something similar – rather than join in some sort of group silence, they found somewhere quiet to sit and think on their own.*

It’s been a bit stressful at work, coming back from a week away and trying to catch up on everything. “That’s nothing,” said Big Dave, “I was working 12-hour days while you were off. And I’ve been told I can’t take any holidays until the end of the month.” Fortunately noone has said anything like that to me since I returned.

Scanning got so boring that I’ve given in and bought an expensive digital camera. I’ve signed up for a Flickr account too, to try to avoid running out of disk space on this site; when there’s more on it than just daft test-shots of myself in the mirror, I’ll link to it.

(and with that, I’m going off out for the weekend. See you next week)

* and eat cake, which is the best way to remember someone who loved baking.

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Books I Haven’t Read (part five)

In which we fail to complete Iron Sunrise by Charles Stross


Books I Haven’t Read was supposed to be a regular sequence of articles, but has been on pause since – ooh, last November, by the look of things. It fell by the wayside because of a post I never wrote, about a book I couldn’t finish because I came across a passage in it which seemed to have been blatantly lifted from an obscure Victorian memoir. I’ll manage to write about it, one day. In the meantime, here’s another book I haven’t read. Iron Sunrise by Charlie Charles Stross.

I’m not someone who reads much SF, but I do read some selected things. Iain M Banks, for example, because I liked his Iain Banks books* and wanted to expand. Neal Stephenson, because I liked his historical novels and, well, ditto. And Charlie Stross, because – although I don’t know him – we used to drink in the same pubs.

So, last July, I was heading down to London for work, for a week. Planning it all in advance, I bought an unread Stross book – Iron Sunrise – to read on the train. I was catching the train down to Kings Cross on Sunday, July 10th.

I got onboard my train at Doncaster and opened the book, hoping that it would distract me from worry. Unfortunately, it opens with a mass terrorism attack, one which destroys an entire planet. I struggled to read it until Peterborough, and gave up. I haven’t looked at it since then.

At the time, I didn’t even make the connection as to why I couldn’t read it. The planet-destroying opening was distressing for me to read, with characters in the midst of planning their lives, suddenly realising that their world is being completely destroyed. I didn’t draw the parallel, though, between the characters in the book, and the friend I was worried about.*** The thought would have been too raw at the time. Looking back, though, the connection is obvious.

I’m planning to go down to London again in a few weeks, and I’ve bought a different Stross book to read this time. Hopefully, I’ll be able to. Hopefully, too, I’ll be able to finish Iron Sunrise one day. I’m not sure I’m ready to try reading it again, though.

* in case you’ve never heard of him: he writes his SF books with his middle initial,** and his “literary” ones without.

** although you might think it would be easier to write them with a word-processor.

*** The characters in the book – at least, the ones who were worth writing about – realised exactly what was happening to them. I still hope, whenever I think about her, that the friend I’m talking about here didn’t know what was happening to her. Back on that train, it seemed certain that she must be still alive and in hospital unidentified somewhere.

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Expectation and deviation

In which we know what people are going to say


Today, in the news, reports will be released stating that the July 7th attacks* were not preventable.

That in itself stirs up all sorts of thoughts and feelings, but I don’t want to write about those just now. What I want to talk about is the phrase there “will be released”. The habit people have of saying: “later, I’m going to tell you this

When I say “people”, I don’t mean ordinary people, of course. It’s something I mostly notice politicians doing, but I presume they were poked into it by their PR people. I’m sure that companies also send out press releases saying “later, we’re going to tell you this“, but when ordinary companies do it it doesn’t make the news.

I’m sure there was a time when people listened with bated breath to, say, the keynote speech at a party conference, waiting together to hear it for the first time. Nowadays, though, it doesn’t happen – the synopsis, or at least the speech itself, is always released beforehand. Nothing is a surprise, because everyone watching already knows what the speaker is going to tell them – it was on that morning’s news. This is, I think, yet another reason why the ordinary public cares less and less about politics.** There’s no real reason to do it, given the speed of modern newsgathering. The only reason it’s done as standard, I suspect, is that most publically-visible politics*** now is just another branch of PR, and putting out a synoptic press release in advance is standard PR practice.

It’ll never happen, but I just wish that for once, a politician would get up on stage, in front of the autocue, and say: “This morning, all the news reports said I was going to tell you X, Y and Z. Well, I’m not. That’s all nonsense, in fact; I just wanted to make sure all the correspondants listen to my speeches properly in future. What I’m actually going to talk about is…” It may never happen, but it would be wonderful if it did.

* “attacks” is such a nice euphemism for “death and destruction caused by psychotically religious madmen”, don’t you think?

** The Budget is one of the last big speeches or reports not to be released to the press in advance – and that may be partly why it’s still the biggest political event of the year.

*** Most consultation and bill-writing goes on discreetly behind the scenes, after all.

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Disgusting

In which we do not like an empty justification


Today’s Guardian front-page story: an advisor to parliament called Robert Gifford is using July 7th as an excuse for advocating automatically prosecuting anybody driving without a seatbelt or whilst using the phone – and, by extension, tracking all cars in the country. The logic behind this: the evil murderers used a car shortly before the attack.

Similar car-tracking plans have been around for a while; as existing car-tracking systems are expanded, the police push and push for them to be extended to the entire major road network. I don’t like the idea. What really sickens me, though, is people like Robert Gifford who try to sell the proposals by bringing up July 7th. Yes, Mr Gifford, like most people in the country, the July 7th murderers travelled by car. That does not mean that they would have been stopped if the police knew where their car was.*

There may be legitimate reasons for car-tracking – stopping banned and uninsured drivers, for example. Stopping terrorism is definitely not one of them; and Robert Gifford is a horrible and reprehensible person for trying to make you think it is.

* Unless, of course, the police are going to stop every car from Northern England that suddenly appears in the Home Counties.

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Medals

In which we consider heroism


People often say that the honours system is old-fashioned and out-dated. There are many good reasons to criticise it: the unofficial system of honours-for-cash,* or the automatic medals given to high mandarins of the Civil Service. I don’t even see the point of awarding honours to sportsmen, or celebrities.

Sometimes, though, there are people who do deserve to be recognised. Occasionally, during an ordinary day, some people do something heroic. Even though I only have a very slight link to those events, it’s still painful for me to think about what they had to deal with, and what they saw, heard and smelled.

One thing I know, though, is that many more people than these 20 were deeply involved, and have received nothing. If anything is wrong with the honours system, it’s that there’s always a cut-off point. There’s always a point after which people stop being officially heroes.

* which was a much more serious problem in the 1920s, when the Liberal government even had a price-list for various honours.

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Democracy

In which we despise the authoritarian instinct


I’ve said it before, I’m sure, but I generally dislike pretty much all politicians. Some, though, I dislike more than others.

I particularly dislike it when people tell me that draconian and illiberal laws are necessary For Your Own Good. When people tell me that removing my right to freedom from arbitrary detention is really part of preserving my right to a greater, more nebulous freedom, which always remains mysteriously vague.

But what really disgusts me, is when people use innocent deaths, horrific deaths, deaths that deeply affected you and me, to push for ever-greater authoritarianism. No amount of detention without trial would have prevented the July attacks.

That’s just a few reasons why I smiled when I heard today’s news.

(and, incidentally, anyone who does think that we do need 90-day detention without trial “because of the victims” should read what Rachel from North London has to say about it)

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