Yesterday three Birmingham Muslims were found guilty of plotting to set off a number of rucksack bombs. Already they’re being referred to in the media as the “Three Lions” on account of the similarity of their plot to that in the infamous film by Chris Morris, Four Lions (2009) (you should watch it). Irfan Naseer, Irfan Khalid and Ashik Ali are just the latest “terrorists” (read: morons) to be caught up by the British secret service, a triumvirate of agencies better known for having its agents turn up dead all over the place. The Three Lions plot included recovering explosive chemicals from coolpacks, and amongst other things “sourcing a gun” and “using it”. In many ways the plot was absurd to the point of parody, but it seems to illustrate how the idea of terrorists has degenerated over time.
In the early days after 2001 we (the people) were convinced that a massive global conspiracy existed called Al Qaeda, a network of extremists and supply chains headed by bearded anti-messiah Osama Bin Laden. But as the years progressed the story (which was part justification for increased military presence in the Middle East) started to lose wheels. We discovered that a) Osama Bin Laden had close links to the White House b) he was probably hiding in Pakistan, our supposed “ally”, and c) Al Qaeda, instead of being a global network of terror, was instead half a dozen terrorist cells using outdated technology and second-rate weaponry in their fight to overpower the greatest industrial and military powers on the face of the earth (read: western civilization). The climate of fear, which was central to providing support for aggressive expansionism, started to disintegrate. Other problems became central in the public consciousness. A global recession somehow became a bigger problem. Now we’re all so poor, we don’t have anything to get blown up.
Do you remember the early 2000s, when seemingly everybody was afraid of terrorist action? That was the only time the terrorists were winning. Places and people were being smashed to bits with terrifying regularity. I was young, but it seemed to me that the fear was justified. There was an entire section of the world population who wanted to rain death on the West (or so it appeared). Our way of life was under threat. Or was it?
In a pig’s arse it was. I never realized how utterly out-gunned opposition to Westernization was until I saw robot Drones in action. The weapons on our side are so advanced they practically fire themselves. The other side uses weapons that were cutting edge in the ’80s. Bill Hicks once did a skit about the first Gulf War:
“We know that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction.”
“How do you know that?”
“Well, er, we looked at the receipt.”
Radicalised Muslims were forming anti-Western terror cells, paid for with US money, armed with US & UK weapons from the last millennium. Was is hypocritical to use the enemy’s weapons while decrying their technology? Yeah, a bit. Did it occur to them that they were fighting a losing battle? I don’t know. They were facing off against two of the most advanced organisations on earth: NATO and the EU. These organizations have a combined military budget of six hundred billion euros, and more than its fair share of that was aimed at a hundred or so operatives living in hiding who thought VCR video tapes were pretty cutting-edge. Western decadence wasn’t going to go away. There was not going to be a “Eurabia”. It just wasn’t going to happen. Ever.
Meanwhile a secret war was being fought: a war with far greater import and longer-reaching implications. The hacking war between the US and China is into its second decade. The idea of an actual attack, where people are blown up, seems somehow old hat compared to cyber-terrorism. The methods seem outdated, primitive. Wars fought with car bombs and kalashnikovs are already obsolete. The tactics used by terror cells were brutal, sure, but they were also pathetic. They were the lashing-out of a child who has no weapon but his fists: no rhetoric, no wit, no logical argument. Nothing but blind, foolish rage.
Is the fact we could be blown up by a rogue cell a real issue? Absolutely. People die and that by itself is terrible. Is terrorism something we should fear on a daily basis? No. Terrorism only works when people fear it. The goal of terrorism is to inspire terror, after all. If we fear terrorists, then they achieve their aim. If we laugh at them, we win. So no more jail services with no possibility of parole. The punishment should fit the crime. Terrorism is an overt, public act, and the punishment should be similarly overt and public, in order to make the point: we are not afraid. But because the action of terrorism is violence, we should refrain from something that metes out similar violence. We should instead aim for humiliation. Not the abject, aggressive humiliation of forcing a cleric to cut his beard or denounce the Koran, but a mild, comedic humiliation associated with programs like The X Factor. We want a televised punishment that shows we, the people, are simultaneously unafraid and un-outraged by terrorism. The aim would be to extend retribution on a level that children understand implicitly: make the enemy look silly, and they stop being scary. Plus it would really boost television, which is sliding slowly up its own arse.
My solution is based largely on a recent episode of Black Mirror: each terrorist cell captured on UK soil has to endure a grueling appearance on a ridiculous game show like The Generation Game, hosted by Jim Davidson, prejudiced “comedian” who makes patronising and off-colour jokes at their expense. The convicted contestants are forced at gunpoint to engage in progressively more embarrassing and humiliating tasks, beginning with having to place an egg between their toes, put on a sock and run around the studio, proceeding to drinking a liter of gravy and vomit it into a bucket while an elderly Muslim cleric disjointedly plays the accordion at them, having to perform a stage recreation of Gilbert & Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore on a shoestring budget, culminating in being dressed as a clown and sealed into a perspex box suspended above Putney high street, being goaded into alternately sobbing and masturbating while the public throws pennies at them.
Result: no more martyrs, no more terror cells, no more jihad, no more climate of fear, no more retributive violence against Muslim communities, case closed. It sends a clear message to soft-headed young men who think that killing people is a good way to get your opinions across. You want to blow up innocent men, women and children? Fine. We reserve the right to humiliate you: not torture you, or imprison you, because that would legitimize you as an enemy. You are not our enemy any more than you are representative of the Muslim community. You are tiliting at windmills, a pygmy throwing spears at a cloud: your humiliation is deserved.