But the guys with the guns and cameras and listening devices have been on a roll since 9/11, embarrassing their clip-board-toting rivals in the race for public money, even though, collectively, they've taken or made meaner far more lives than they can ever hope to protect with their strategy of violence in the name of peace, and fascism in the name of liberty.
To keep the billions rolling in, they've got to produce a terrorist every now and then. Only real terrorists are hard to come by, so clowns and stooges with harebrained schemes end up doing bin Laden's perp walk periodically.
Today we have news from London, where a "big [explosive] device" was discovered inside a parked car near Piccadilly Circus. The device consisted of petrol, propane gas cylinders, and nails. The car containing it had been abandoned after its driver was observed piloting it erratically, crashing it, then running off, like a true professional. Ambulance workers called to assist nearby noticed what they initially thought was smoke inside the car, but which likely was petrol vapour, and contacted police.
Bomb disposal specialists made it safe, and police officials and politicians began slyly invoking the terrorist bogeyman. Heaven forbid the public should be starved of their regular fear rations.
"As the police and security services have said on so many occasions, we face a serious and continuous threat to our country", day-old PM Gordon Brown said. "But this incident does recall the need for us to be vigilant at all times and the public to be alert at any potential incidents."
And what an incident. "It is obvious that if the device had detonated there could have been serious injury or loss of life", Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke intoned gravely.
Ah, if it had detonated. Yes, it could have been a real horror. Only, the device could not have detonated. Not under any circumstances. You see, the terrorist wannabe clown who built it left out a crucial element: an oxidiser. The device was pure pre-teen boy fantasy.
"We'll heat up these propane cylinders with burning petrol, and they'll go off like bombs", boys the world over have remarked with glee. They don't realise that air is a poor oxidiser, and the only "explosion" they will get is when gas pressure inside the cylinders is great enough to burst them. Then the propane will ignite, and a nice fireball will blossom. A fireball, not an explosion.
Oh, the Piccadilly fireball would have blown the car's windows out, and popped its doors open, and sent various bits like mirrors and so forth into the air at velocities possibly fatal to people nearby. It would have looked really cool, that's for sure. But an explosive event...a detonation? Not in a million years. Sorry lads: you failed car bombing 101; you did not attend a single lecture; you did not even open the textbook.
Some stupid people did a stupid thing. Yes, they might have injured or killed one or two passers-by, but any body count would have come in spite of them, not as a product of their efforts. You and I are more likely to have been killed accidentally by the lousy driver than intentionally by his Beavis and Butthead car bomb.
This should have been dismissed for what it is: an event on the level of some teenagers getting a tremendously foolish notion, and being drunk enough for it to appeal to them. But we're hearing whispers of terrorism instead - much as we heard from the Americans when they foiled a "terrorist plot" to blow up fuel storage tanks at Kennedy International. It would have been devastating, prosecutors told us. Only that "plot" had the same hole in it: air makes a lousy oxidiser. If it had been carried out, it would certainly have made a bigger fireball than the one in London would have made. But that's about it.
So why is this such big news? Because clowns have got to be passed off as terrorists. Because a vast industry depends on terrorists, real and imagined, to justify its existence. We live now in the grip of the security-industrial complex, and that hungry beast demands to be fed. We feed it money hand over fist, and in return, it feeds us fear biscuits, which we are expected to accept with gratitude.
Roll over. Sit up and beg. See the bad man? Good citizen; here's your bickie. ®
Thomas C Greene