The Commons transport committee reported yesterday that long-winded security checks are not only getting airline passengers down but also making them potential targets for suicide bombers - news unlikely to cheer them up. Meanwhile, examples of the absurdities that were narking passengers within days of stringent new procedures being introduced by Doc Red Top last summer continue. At Stansted on Saturday my wife had a roll-on deodorant confiscated and my ten year-old niece was told she'd have to carry her allergy medicine in a see-through bag. Please explain why this was not ridiculous. I knew it, the security staff knew it and, deep down, the government must surely know it. As for the statement on security made by Gordon Brown on Wednesday, I'm wondering how much of that might be ridiculous too. The Times carried the clearest report on its various proposals, so decide for yourselves. All that seems plain is that "real time monitoring" by way of "electronic screening of all passengers as they check in and out of our country," would have helped someone in some intelligence agency or other to find out where my wife bought that deodorant. Feeling safer, anyone?
In our house the Today programme has to compete with the chat and clatter of children being got ready for school. But I'm sure I heard all-the-talents security minister Admiral Sir Alan West telling Ed Stourton this morning that our involvement in Iraq hadn't helped our struggle with terrorism at home - a suggestion that has always been strenuously denied by this and the Blair government. I'll be listening again (from 8.10) as soon as the Today website has been updated. Watch this space.
UPDATE: Right, you can now hear it for yourselves. The interview runs from 8.09 but the bit about Iraq comes just after 8.16. Edward Stourton asks Sir Alan what he thinks of the view that Britain's military involvements in Iraq and Afghanistan have "increased" the threat posed by terrorism in Britain. West's reply is heavily qualified both before and after by the usual stuff about how the threat was there before, it would still be with us anyway, there are a variety of reasons for it and that would-be terrorists will seize on any excuse to justify themselves. Nonetheless, he said:
"Has Iraq made a difference? Yes, clearly it has, to an extent. People do draw attention to that and clearly it's got a lot of people upset in this country."
Even with all the caveats - which I happen to think valid - this strikes me as a significant admission, one that no one in the Blair administration was brave or honest enough to make.
Yesterday's charging of a third man with NHS connections over the car bomb attacks draws me to some pre-Brown accession observations by Robert Sharp:
"Listening to the radio reports just now, I noticed the repeated use of the phrase ‘linked’. Usually, we hear it as part of that nebulus catch-all, 'groups linked to Al-Q’aeda'. To hear instead that the men were 'linked to the NHS' manages to portray our Health Service in a rather sinister new light."
"I am taken aback at how so ardent a partisan of reasoned argument and the careful weighing of evidence - this precisely in order to recognize the evils, as he sees them, of religion - fails to apply to the case at hand the standards he commends to us."
"Even community leaders now realise that the burning anger among the grassroots was something more than a bit of youthful hot air, and that the tinder isn't just about Iraq. If we want to put out the fire, we'll have to move ourselves towards the water, rather than wait idly for the fuel to run out."
If you haven't already, be sure to watch the coverage of the brave Gaza reporter freed late last night after four months as a hostage. At the time of his capture he was the only foreign correspondent working in that perilous territory. Where would we be without the BBC?
"Crowd behaviour is characterized by a number of distinctive features. Firstly, a crowd is anonymous and erases feelings of self-consciousness. A typical modern sporting audience involves thousands of people, some male, some female, some drunk, some semi-naked, some singing, some screaming, and some simply watching the action. This multi-faceted setting may also destroy any sense of individual responsibility. The individual, while part of the crowd, indulges in behaviour which he would normally control, because moral responsibility has been shifted from himself to the crowd as a whole.(1) There is a decrease in the level of personal accountability because the individual's responses are covered up by the responses of the many others around him.
Secondly, there is a removal of inhibitions. This is why crowd violence at sporting functions may not only cause fatalities, but also damage to property and general uncivilised behaviour. For example, on 5th May 1990, during a soccer match in Bournemouth, Leeds fans ran amok. Over 100 arrests were made not only for assault but looting and rioting as well.
Thirdly, the crowd is typified by a sense of increased suggestibility. This can be defined as a tendency to respond to stimulus in an uncritical fashion and without rational control over the nature of the response. In simple words, in a crowd, one does things without conscious reflection and thought regarding the effects of such behaviour.
Experts believe that intoxicants (eg. drugs and alcohol) and rhythmical sounds like the beating of drums can put a crowd into a state of increased suggestibility. The analysis of a sporting audience shows that alcohol, drugs and some form of rhythm are combined in variable proportions. Rhythm is generated by synchronized clapping, dancing, waving of scarves, flags, music and songs.
An important implication of crowd behaviour is the emotional interaction. The individual's responses are affected by the responses of those around him. His actions and emotions become reinforced as he observes the actions and emotions of others. This means that the individual may approve and even engage in acts such as violence, vulgar language, dancing, etc. This kind of behaviour should never be tolerated from society, least of all from a Muslim."