Analysis The "car bomber" hysteria gripping much of the British and international media over the weekend has had a bucket of cold water from the Reg already, but just one bucket doesn't seem enough for this kind of outbreak.
To recap: an exceptionally incompetent group of troublemakers, unknown to the plods or spooks, decided to bring a spot of terror to old Blighty starting last Friday. These people had no actual explosives, and were apparently too lazy and ignorant to learn how to make them. Instead, they decided to load cars with petrol, domestic gas cylinders and "containers holding nails", and then set fire to them - either manually or using a cellphone-initiated remote rig of some kind.
Some selected headlines:
"Police avert car bomb 'carnage'" - BBC
"London on the Edge" - Belfast Telegraph
"Terror in Theatreland" - Daily Record
Normally reputable news sources used phrases like "explosives-packed cars", "Qaeda Tactics" and "a third attempt to create terror mayhem in Britain in under 36 hours. Only luck saved lives".
This isn't just rightwing hacks pumping up fear so that the evil securocrats can steal money from hospitals, aid, road safety etc, as our own Thomas C Greene has suggested (As an aside, for UK readers, the health-service budget alone is around three times that of the Defence ministry - and the Defence budget is the big fish in the UK securocrat pond).
Regrettably, alongside the usual mongers of terror fear, more liberal journos have also sought to exaggerate the significance of these rather pathetic attacks. In the case of the lefties, the idea is to suggest that had we Brits not mounted recent wars in Southwest Asia, we would be spared this kind of devastating "terror mayhem."
Frankly, if this kind of thing is the only backlash the West experiences for Iraq, we've got off pretty much scot-free: we should indulge in a spot of military adventurism any time we feel like it.
Conversely, if this is all al-Qaeda have to offer, we should never have lost a moment's sleep over them - let alone shoved our valuable appendages into the military meat-grinder of Afghanistan (I'm choosing to assume here that al-Qaeda only became a serious presence in Iraq after we invaded the place. Argue among yourselves as to whether Saddam was more or less threatening than Osama).
Getting back to here and now, these have to be some of the most pathetic terror attacks ever - difficult to distinguish from minor accidents. For goodness' sake, a car is full of petrol anyway; and gas cylinders too often enough. People drive cylinders of gas around all the time. Now and again - oh my god! - they probably carry boxes of nails, bolts, tools or whatever in the same vehicle. (Aiee!)
Sometimes these fiends crash their cars, and sometimes the vehicles burn out. It's one of the costs of living in the industrial world; if people couldn't get fuel - portable energy - easily enough to have accidents with it, most of us would still be dirt-poor, illiterate, shovelling muck for a living and dying like flies from disease - rather than dying very rarely in car crashes or gas explosions.
This kind of event happens on the motorways almost every day, at least the petrol fires and often enough with the other hazards added. The roads get closed off as a result, sometimes for hours - just like the Haymarket did on Friday morning. It causes massive inconvenience to lots and lots of people.
But the perimeter is manned by firemen and traffic cops, not bomb teams and terror-feds. And so this weekend a minor news story - one injured in bunt-out car / suicide attempt causes travel chaos - becomes a big international media frenzy, a "test of the new Prime Minister's mettle," if you please.
It might be a test of ministerial mettle if thousands of British Muslims were burning cars every night, as has happened in France. But what we seem to have here is some foreigners burning just one car and failing to burn two more owing to almost unbelievable incompetence.
The mindset of a man who's willing to set himself on fire to make a point - as one of the Glasgow terror-clowns seems to have done - but not to spend any effort at all on researching methods is a difficult one to understand. Even if these jokers were illiterate or had no internet access (seems unlikely, one of the suspects is apparently a doctor) they could have at least done a test. In my part of town, fun-loving teenagers burn out a car or two down by the canal every week or so: nobody would notice another one with some nails in it.