CONTEST 2: so where do I sign up?

One massively important development back home in Airstrip One, that I somehow missed, as I am here in Brazil, was the announcement of (now officially the worst ever) Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith’s only personal Stasi – sorry, it was just terrorism preparedness training for thousands of workers. It’s easy to get confused especially as this all comes as part of a package of measures designed to counter Islamic radicalism through state propaganda. It’s all part of CONTEST 2, the sequel to the CONTEST strategy that we criticised in our recent book on urban resilience as threatening to turn all British citizens into paranoid spies – for more ridiculous rhetoric along these lines, see the Metropolitan Police poster campaigns. It’s also part of long tradition of volunteerism in British civil defence that goes back to WW2 and even before, and encompasses all that ridiculous advice on hiding behind your sofa in the event of a nuclear attack.

Backing the plan are odd individuals like Maajid Nawaz, who is a former member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an extremist Islamic group, who seems to have swapped one extremism for another in his support of the British government’s authoritarian stance, in his leadership of the Quilliam Foundation. However, the Conservative Party despite their liberal words on ID cards, actually want to go further than Labour. They claim that we are ‘soft targets’ and that ‘whole community needs to be involved in tackling the danger’. They argue that this would be learning the lessons of Mumbai, but it is quite clear that Mumbai was an attack planned in one country against another, not a homegrown assault, so it seems that they are simply trying to scare us into thinking that we need more McCarthyite tactics.

My first thought about the new terrorism preaparedness training was ‘so where do I sign up? Perhaps the best thing for all critical and progressive people to do would be to sign up and do exactly the opposite of what they want… not that I would ever suggest such a subversive strategy.