Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Expert

A google alert directs my attention to another appearance from everyone's favourite rent-a-quote terrorism expert. A paper by the Centre for Defence Studies (at K.C.L.) claims that terrorists might target other cities in the UK, particularly those with large Mulsim populations.
The paper said there was a "very real fear that an attack may occur in an area with a large Muslim population, such as Bradford or Leeds, if only to drive a wedge within that community".
I can't really comment on the report because I haven't read it. That's OK though, because the Scotsman have asked a terrorism expert to provide a comment on the paper from a Scottish perspective. Step forward, David Capitanchik.
David Capitanchik, a terrorism expert based at Aberdeen University, said UK cities far from London could be at greatest risk of attack.
"I think would-be terrorists may well think that more provincial cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow will be less well protected than London and therefore would be an easier target," he said.
Well I never, did anyone expect him to say that? It's not hugely informative really. In fact, isn't it just another variation on the comment he makes every time he's asked about terrorism? Let's consult the records. No offence David, but I do believe it is. I also noticed that the Scotsman have said David is "based at Aberdeen University", which is, I have to say, a slightly more accurate representation of David's current employment status than is normally the case. I have to suggest it might still be considered a tiny bit misleading though. Here's his biography (courtesy of David's most recent employer, the Robert Gordon University).

An Attempt at a Straw Poll
Am I just being a pedant in expecting the media to accurately report the employment status of their "experts"? Do I have unrealistic expectations of the media here? It's not a rhetorical question, I know do have pedantistic tendancies (which I'm trying to break by using horribly mangled words like pedantistic). I'd really be interested to know what people think.

It occured to me that I hadn't ever got round to explaining the one event which really motivates posts like these. As is hopefully obvious, it's not just about having a cheap laugh at the media and their "experts". About a year ago, there was a letter in the Press and Journal complaining about our local police force. It was written by a lady who worked in a shop in a small commuter town about 15 miles north of Aberdeen. She had found an unattended bag in the shop and, fearing it was a bomb, had called the police several times asking them to respond. The local police, not surprisingly, had been unconcerned with her plight, asking if she'd had a look to see what was in the bag, telling her it was very unlikely to be a bomb, and so forth. The tone of her letter was indignant, outraged even. It could have been a bomb! It took three hours for a policeman to arrive. We could all have been blown to smithereens...

To be honest, the first time I read it I laughed. The idea that terrorists would attack such a place is so far fetched, and the tone of the letter was so angry, I found it impossible not to. But then I read it again. The thing is, this lady was quite sincere in her belief that terrorists might try to blow up her shop. She was genuinely very angry that the police had left her to deal with a potentially deadly situation. And this made me angry too. This lady has been deliberately frightened, partly by the governments' "Don't Forget to be Scared!!!" propaganda, and partly by the activities of much of the media, who can't get enough of the same. I'm afraid David is one of the people who have contributed to the completely unnecessary sense of fear and danger this lady experienced. His activities, in their own tiny way, create, yes, a kind of terror. So my second question for the straw poll is this: Do you think David sleeps soundly after sharing his "expertise" with the world?

That's a bit of a heavy ending. Sorry about that. This sort of thing really does hack me off.

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