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Question Time

9/11 Ten years on – terror attack or not?

Question Time has returned and they are talking about 9/11 – not surprising given this weekend’s tenth anniversary.

But just before that on BBC3 was a programme involving a group of young people being taken around America who were all convinced that the attacks on the Twin Towers, The Pentagon and the other attack were all caused by the American Government or some other secret society.

 

Most believed that there was some undercover reason for the attack which was carried out covertly by people within the American Government (or somewhere else) for some greater gain.

 

Greater it seems than the lives of thousands of people. Greater than any amount of lives – as no one could have known how many people could have been killed. Ten thousand could have lost their lives, 20,000, 30,000….

 

A comedian, who I did not recognise, was given the task of trying to challenge their conspiracy theories by taking them to meet those who had knowledge of events and to see if their minds could be changed. Two of the group experienced a real change in their views.

 

I found the programme interesting but rather shallow. There were childish squabbles, tantrums, gnashing of teeth, that inability to listen to anybody else who doesn’t share your view.

 

Liking much of what is put out on BBC3 and BBC4, I was up for watching this programme but I did feel it was a project which was out of step with all of the other programmes about 9/11 at the moment.

 

Watching the contributors throwing eggs onto the ground, or throwing stones into piles of flour to show what could happen when a plane hits the ground at speed and is then swallowed up by the impact, somehow felt all wrong. This is just a personal feeling, it seemed without heart.

The only moment when I saw what 9/11 means to me was when they met a woman who’s son had called her from the plane where passengers overpowered the hi-jackers and through their bravery, saved lives on the ground. A son who was just recognising that he was about to die.

 

Stand in front of a mother who’s received such a call and tell her about your nebulous conspiracy theories. In the face of such dignity, yet so much pain, this group of people appeared pathetic.

What did their theories matter to this woman? Her son is still dead. She is still without him for the rest of her life.

I can’t criticise the way the programme was made in any way. But it seemed to belittle what 9/11 meant.

 

It was a human tragedy and crime carried out in front of our eyes where thousands of people were killed and the effect of those deaths sent out ripples of misery which are still being felt today. It’s not something that’s over and done with – dusted. Just as I can still feel the pain of the Holocaust, so I feel the pain of this awful event. And I was not directly involved.

9/11 – whatever caused it – was a visible example of human misery and terror being carried out across the media. There have been many since – that were less visible.

 

For me, it was something that showed how powerful the media can be – we’ve seen that since with the uprisings in Egypt etc.

It also shows how helpless we are in the face of such terrorist attacks (yes, I do believe it was a terrorist attack)

Ten years after 9/11 - Question Time

The way terrorists behave during an attack make them virtually impossible to stop, so early prevention has to be the key. Otherwise it’s too late, there’s no control.

WHAT ABOUT THE RIOTS?

Riots - have you seen mob mentality up close and personal?

I’m listening to Question Time talking about riots as I’m writing this.

Here in Swindon, for three evenings in a row there has been rumour and counter-rumour about trouble in the town centre. To my knowledge, nothing’s happened.

 

Shops closed early, the police officer numbers were out in force. There was just a feeling of fear, of flames being fanned. Even my kids picked up on it. It’s been ridiculous, it almost feels like we are tempting fate by creating fear of something that’s just not there – thankfully.

 
Clearly other places have had terrible scenes and there has been much loss. My heart goes out to the families of the three men killed for trying to defend their street in the Manchester area.

But who or what can we blame? Is there anyone to blame? Is it our social ills?

And now there’s something else to blame now – social media.

 

I’ve just listened to someone say that the speed of social media made the police’s jobs impossible. What? Social media is for everyone and is used by millions, including police officers. Social media is simply a tool that anyone can use and the police need to get to grips with it along with everyone else.

 
Let’s get real here.

 

People were behind this trouble – not the police, not social media, not the business people and individuals who were under threat, or who had businesses wrecked.

Individuals decided to break the law and others piled in and took opportunities to thieve and be destructive. The same happened with the student demonstrations. The same happened in the demos in the 1980s etc, etc.

A young black man died – was shot by police. We don’t know the circumstances for sure. But what part of the riots will make his family feel better? What part of the riots will cure the problems in which he may have been involved?

The police have come in for considerable flack and that will continue. I know many police officers and not one of them is incompetent, or ridiculous, or violent or lacking in dedication to my knowledge. All of them are men or women with families and the same hopes and fears as all of us.

Even with the best clothing, shields, helmets, truncheons etc facing a screaming mob is absolutely terrifying. This is something I do know about – because it’s happened to me.
Years ago, in a small Somerset town, I was out with the police as a newspaper journalist when we attended a disturbance outside a pub where there had been lots of trouble.
When we arrived, there were a group of about 50 people, many had been drinking heavily, and they were wound up. When the police arrived, I was told to stay in the car. The noise was so loud, bottles were thrown at the car. Believe me, I didn’t need to be told twice.
Some of these people I’d been to school with – I saw the mob mentality in action, some knew me and it made no difference. At one point a group grabbed the car and started rocking it up and down with me in the back. I’ve rarely been so terrified.
The whole thing probably only lasted moments, but it was all in slow motion – I can’t remember how we got out of it. I suppose they were dispersed.
I’ve often been told that individuals are reasonable but mobs are without reason – and I think that must be part of it. That night, in a sleepy backwater town, I saw the mob in action very briefly.
And it’s that memory that stays with me when I see what’s happened. I don’t know the answers but I do know what it feels like to face violence without reason.

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