Originally published on Spiked
That 13 supposed climate change protesters from direct action group Plane Stupid managed to breach security at London’s Heathrow Airport in the early hours yesterday, chaining themselves together and not being cleared from the runway until 10:00am, over seven hours later will, no doubt, be cause for considerable embarrassment in some circles.
True, the economic cost may not have been severe due to there being flight restrictions in operation relating to take-offs prior to 6:00am there, and the number of flights cancelled – 22 out of some 1,300 – would not have caused much more disruption than may be expected normally. But the implications in relation to more serious cases seems evident to many.
What, runs this dominant commentary, if the individuals concerned had not been the cheerfully smiling, predominantly well-to-do types, opposed to the planned expansion at Heathrow recently backed by the Airport Commission? What if they had been jihadists, affiliated to Al-Qaeda or the so-called Islamic State? What if they had been armed?
No doubt such questions ought to be asked in certain circles. But, at the same time, we should not lose sight of the fact that almost all supposedly secure facilities have had their security compromised in one way or another since 9/11 – despite the vast sums expended to ensure that this is not the case. If anything, such events suggest terrorism is not the main problem.
Even more significant to national pride and purpose – the Houses of Parliament in Westminster have been invaded on at least three occasions over recent years. Two members of campaign group Fathers 4 Justice threw flour bombs during Prime Minister’s Questions there in 2004. Later that year five supporters of the Countryside Alliance invaded the chamber.
Five years later over 50 Greenpeace activists climbed onto the roof of Westminster Hall, many of whom spending the night there prior to being removed later. Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle have suffered similar incursions – from self-styled activists, as well as burglars and attention-seekers. That Heathrow was compromised is part of a norm, not an aberration.
What’s more, this particular type of incident – often perpetrated by self-absorbed types in pursuit of their usually limited political agendas – are not even the most significant in relation to airports and aviation security. In the intervening period there have also been countless incursions worldwide to cargo areas by more organised criminals in pursuit of bullion and other goods.
If anything, this seems to confirm the analysis of American political scientist John Mueller from 2006 in his book ‘Overblown: How Politicians and the Terrorism Industry Inflate National Security Threats and Why We Believe Them’. Stepping up security for passengers has done little to ensure integrity air-side. Terrorists know this, so there must be fewer of them than we imagine.
There is one aspect though – missed by most commentators – that we ought to pay some attention to. Those middle-class types, smiling for the photographers on the tarmac, are born of the same cultural malaise as many want-to-be terrorists and fantasy Islamists. They start from an unshakeable moral certitude regarding their project and require little public support or engagement.
They have also – by-and-large – been indulged by the various authorities who, in the past, more confident of what it was they wanted for society, would not have given any of them the time of day or handled them with the kid-gloves they use today. That is because those self-same agencies are no longer even sure of what it is that they believe in themselves now.
That someone could – irrespective of their purported beliefs – assume that interrupting the plans of thousands who have their reasons for doing what they do – whether it be attending a loved-one’s funeral in a foreign land or simply having a break – and not even trouble themselves to engage those people in a debate regarding their actions is a form of pretentious nihilism.
It is born of an age when we no longer demand of people that they support their actions through reason, or build community support for their opinions – but rather accept that if someone feels passionately about something then that alone may condone their actions. Having a grievance or being offended, according to many, can explain – if not justify – their rage.
Most alienated white Britons cannot readily join the ranks of those throwing a tantrum and heading off to Syria. They will have to find other forms of expression for their self-distancing disconnection from society. It may well be that terrorism is simply the more violent end of a spectrum connecting extremists to the far more prevalent and potentially problematic, mainstream narcissists.