Fighting terror with terror

Apr 10th, 2009

In attempting to ‘combat terrorism’ the British government has been promoting fears of its own, namely fears of terrorism. All too often this has been in the form of encouraging the British public to be suspicious of everything around them, even going as far as promoting fear of photographers. Most disturbingly, this has been accompanied by police harassing photographers, as well as more troublesome discussion of legal restrictions against the photography of police officers. It is not difficult to see why this is a problem.1
It doesn’t help that pre-existing assumptions and stereotypes mean that a lot of these campaigns contain embedded racism and xenophobia. while the campaigns don’t mention it specifically, the characteristic that will make a person using a mobile phone, or camera look dodgy is, for a lot of people, a middle eastern appearance. If you think I am over-reacting in this case, I can indicate several situations in which air passengers panicked about fellow travellers because they were of Arab appearance.2

The latest campaigns from the British Transport police continues this tradition. Below are two desgins that were rejected.3

Whats he doing sat alone? I bet hes planning to bomb something. Better report it, just in caseThis duck wont be able to make a bomb because it is a duck. But you should be scared anyway.

Click for full size

  1. Also, as I write this, BBC News 24 keeps mentioning that the police raids in several Northern English cities have revealed photographs of possible terrorist targets. No mention how these differer from tourist photos. []
  2. Of course, in some of these situations other ‘reasons’ were given. However I can’t help feel that none of these ‘reasons’ would have raised suspicion is the passengers were not of Middle Eastern appearance []
  3. Of course they are actually parodies. Although I realise that it can be difficult to tell when faced with some of the real posters. []

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