Terror fear over Clash fan's song. (For some reason that link isn't working like that, so see the link at the end of this entry.
My first thought was that this story was going to be similar to those “Bible Belt Teen Suicides Possibly Probably Maybe Caused By Devilicious Heavy Metal Muzak”.
So I read the story expecting to learn that the house of some alleged terrorist had been searched and that his iTunes showed that he had listened to “The Guns of Brixton” 666 times before committing some horrific subway bombing and that the authorities were attempting to make a connection between the music of a rebellious/progressive youth culture and terrorism.
Instead what I read was that Harraj Mann, an English mobile-phone salesman of Indian descent, had been arrested and pulled off of an airplane because the taxi driver who had driven him to the airport had thought his behavior was somewhat suspicious. Among the allegedly suspicious behaviors exhibited by “Mr. Mann”, the red flag seems to been raised because he listened to and sang along with the Clash song “London Calling” on his way to the airport.
Okay – now I understand that terrorism is a real possibility and that the police, in order “to protect and to serve”, have to check things out when someone makes the allegation that someone suspicious has just boarded an airplane.
What gets to me is the climate of fear that has been created post-9/11. It’s gotten to the point where if a 23-year-old Englishman of Indian descent listens to and sings along with a 27-year-old Clash song on the way to the airport, he is reported to the police as suspicious. I wonder, what if an Englishman of Swedish descent had sung along to the same song? (The CNN version of the story mentions that he also listened to “Procol Harum, Led Zeppelin and the Beatles” en route to Durham Tees Valley Airport. I have to admit that if I were the driver I might have asked the authorities not to make an arrest but to at least delete the Procol Harum songs from Mr. Mann’s iPod.)
As to a climate of fear on this side of the pond, in the U.S. there have been numerous stories regarding unwarranted surveillance by the FBI and Homeland Security. Remember the case of Homeland Security monitoring Vegans who were protesting in front of a Honeybaked Ham store? Or the FBI photographing anti-war activists in Pittsburgh who were opposed to our invasion of Iraq and were guilty of advocating pacifism? or the outing of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame by the Bush Administration as political retribution for her husband publicly contradicting the administrations false claims about Saddam Hussein seeking uranium in Africa?
Okay so maybe all of this isn’t really connected. But in a way it is. In England people are being detained for singing ancient punk rock chestnuts. In the U.S. Homeland Security is watching people for picketing a store that sells hams. The “War on Terrorism” seems less focused on tracking down the likes of Osama Bin Laden and more focused about spying on citizens who don’t quite fit the popular perception of what is “mainstream”, including vegans, environmentalists, pacifists and those who oppose the Bush administration’s war in Iraq. Which tends to make some people, like me, a little bit nervous, as it evokes the days of the COINTELPRO.
But enough for now. Go out with friends tonight and bravely sing Clash songs at every karaoke bar in town. Just make sure that one of your friends sings only Dave Matthews Band tunes in case you need someone to bail you out of the big house.