Tweedledum or Tweedledee, or possibly both, once said to Alice that words meant anything he (or they) wanted them to mean, neither more nor less. As a descriptor for modern media it’s horribly accurate. Words that mean one thing one year mean the opposite the next. War is peace, as Orwell pointed out a long time ago.
All three might have been mildly amused by a man having a heart attack this week. Strictly, that wasn’t the nub of the story, although it seemed to be at first glance. After the driver had the heart attack the vehicle drove on and literally into Terminal 5 at Heathrow. Yesterday.
My father had a fatal heart attack and carried on after death much as he’d lived, being an expensive nuisance to other people causing a mess everyone else was expected to sort out and crashing into three cars. I don’t know whether this driver survived. But two things stood out immediately.
First, there was huge debate over whether the man should be called a taxi driver. It used to mean a black cab driver who had done the Knowledge and had a proper licence from the Hackney Carriage Office dahn the end of Chapel Market where Sammy Fox’s granny shopped, left then right then there guv, you won’t mind if I drop you here because I can’t get back otherwise what with the traffic and that, I was going down Kings Cross anyway but not this time of the afternoon living out in Essex south of the river nah, I’m not going that way this time of night. I had that Jeremy Clarkson in the back of my cab last week, very clever man. And all that STUFF.
No For Hire sign. No proper cab. So he was a mini-cab, like the dreaded Uber, which seems to be shorthand for the kind of no-insurance but gee-it’s got-a cute-app-plus-its-cheap which is shredding the black cab business, so long as you don’t mind nobody knowing where they’re going and legging it if there’s a traffic accident.
Rather more significant I thought was the fact that the picture showed so many lies we’ve all been told. Back in 2007 two men attempted to massacre people in the main concourse at Glasgow airport by driving a car into it and detonating gas bottles there. No, the big ones. The attack failed, not least because an airport baggage handler headbutted one of the attackers who was already on fire. After that we were told over and over again that airport security blah paramount importance- lessons-will -be -learned – best practice – watchful – security – terrorism – CCTV – vigilance and all the customary words that clearly mean nothing at all.
Why do I say this? Why do I doubt that when I have to hold my trousers up at airports with my hands like someone on Death Row because my belt has to be interrogated because Terrorism, that this isn’t just a stupid charade that does less than nothing to stop terrorism? Becuase of the picture at the top.
If you go to Edinburgh airport you can get a car near the concourse. There are metal barriers stopping you repeating the attack at Glasgow. There are concrete bollards protecting the main doors, so you definitely can’t drive a car in there, whether you get head-butted or not. At Heathrow T5, obviously none of that matters. This taxi, mini-cab, VW microbus, call it what you like, stopped only because the driver’s foot came off the accelerator. As you can see clearly, it went straight through the puny designed-to-stop-people-only metal railings that were the front-line defence against a car being used to smash straight through the windows onto the concourse. As this vehicle nearly did.
Public response to this? Nothing? Security implications debated all over the media? No. Social media backlash? Well actually yes. I was told this was ‘nothing to do with terrorism’ and I was ‘stupid’ to mention it by someone on Facebook. So that seems to be official. Fifteen years of ‘security’ which has been nothing more than legalised theft of alcohol and perfume bottles over 150 ml at every airport where the G4S personnel don’t fancy doing their own Christmas shopping and the net result is that anybody with access to a car can still stage their own carbon copy of a terrorist attack mounted seven years ago. It isn’t just that it doesn’t matter. That matters in itself. What matters more to me is that nobody is even supposed to notice, or to mention it if they have.