Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Chattering Stage

The big news in the UK today is a "plot" to kidnap Leo Blair, the 5 year old son of Prime Minister Tony Blair. The so called plotters are supposed to be extremist members of an organisation Fathers 4 Justice. Fathers 4 Justice have denied involvement and there is no doubt that the real members were in no way involved in this plot. Their organisation exists to bring children and their fathers together, not to split them up. They know they depend on public support to advance their cause. Kidnapping a child is an evil crime and they would destroy their cause just by attempting it.

F4J say they condemn any such action unreservedly and that the group is increasingly having it's name 'hijacked' by a growing number of militant extremists and that it would seriously consider the long term viability of the campaign.


Fathers 4 Justice fight for the rights of fathers who at the moment can be denied access to their children at the whim of the mother. They have staged some high profile stunts in the past but to my knowledge they have never endangered anyone other than themselves. Their most high profile stunt was getting a member to scale a wall of Buckingham Palace while dressed as Batman. The police naturally went nuts, not at the prospect of Batman flying away with the Queen under his arm like Kim Basinger, but because they had messed up and allowed a protestor dressed as Batman access to Buckingham palace, it could as easily have been a nut case with a gun or a bomb.

Sir John said police made a split-second judgment that Mr Hatch was not a security risk because of the way he was behaving and the clothes he was wearing - and for this reason they did not open fire.


Naturally the police would have put Fathers 4 Justice under surveillance and would probably have infiltrated their organisation. The result of this is the uncovering of the "plot" to kidnap Leo Blair.

But what was the "plot". Had they maps, timetables, hideouts, guns, ransom demands all the things you would think would be needed to kidnap a high profile person? Nope, what sparked this public alert is what's knows as "the chattering stage". Chattering is what is sounds like, chatter, talk, conversation. It can be two extremists discussing in detail and over a long period of time a plot to commit a crime. Or it can be two idiots talking to each other over a cup of coffee speculating wildly what stunts they could pull in the future.

Chatter is the term used by intelligence agencies when they have nothing but a vague idea that something could happen, maybe, in the future. It is used frequently in the United States to raise the terrorist alert.

The problem with chatter is that there is alot of it. There was intelligence chatter before 9/11, and before the Bali bombings. But even the intelligence agencies didn't recognise what was important until after the events. Imagine if you had to listen to every conversation that went on in your local shopping mall. How would you know who was planning a crime? Would it be the guy who says "I'd give my right arm for a Playstation". Or the kid who says he'd "beg borrow or steal a ticket to the concert". How about the mother who tell her son, "I'll kill you when I get you home". Should all those people be picked up by store detectives and interrogated to prevent a crime? Of course not.

What has happened now to Fathers 4 Justice is someone in their organisation said something about kidnapping Leo Blair. Kidnapping is a heinous crime, especially when a child is kidnapped. But obviously the police were not too concerned.

The plan only got as far as what police called the "chattering stage", BBC correspondent Ben Ando said. There has been no kidnap attempt and no arrests.


However it makes great headlines. The Sun has scooped a great story and everyone is quoting their story. Of course just a little hype and the use of dramatic language helps as well.

SPECIAL Branch cops smashed a plot to kidnap little Leo Blair while monitoring a small band of fanatical dads, The Sun can reveal.

They stumbled across the startling plan as they investigated the activities of men on the lunatic fringe of the Fathers 4 Justice group.


Fathers 4 Justice are now being demonised and seen as dangerous and extremist. They can deny it all they like, but the damage to their reputation is done. In a few days the story will have faded from media attention. In a few weeks there will probably be a small two paragraph story on page 19 of the newspapers announcing that the police investigation had uncovered nothing and the rumors of a plot have proven false. There wont be any front page headlines saying "Fathers 4 Justice Screwed By The Sun". There will be no public apology. No one will make a real attempt to inform the public of the mistake. The public will continue view Fathers 4 Justice as dangerous and watch their stunts with a more cautious eye. Perhaps next time a police officer who sees a man dressed as Batman walking towards Buckingham Palace or 10 Downing Street wont hesitate to shoot. All because of some idle talk and a media desperate for a headline.

Update: Fathers 4 Justice is to disband
Mr O'Connor said: "Three years after starting the organisation, we are going to cease all operations and bring the campaign to a close purely on the basis of what's happened."

He added that in recent months "extremist elements" had "undermined the position and credibility of an organisation that was flying along for the first two years of its existence".


Update 2: A, now former, member of Fathers 4 Justice calling himself "Silver Surfer" was on Newstalk 106 this morning. He was quite emotional and accused Tony Blair, MI5 and The Sun of launching a pincer attack to destroy Fathers 4 Justice to distract from the introduction of new plans to reform Child Support Agency and privatise some of it. He pointed out that the story was known for a month and had been sat un until yesterday. Then the first story on the BBC news at 10am was the CSA story, the second was the Leo Blair story. He may be a bit paranoid to blame Tony Blair and MI5 but it does sound like someone in the Government press office could be doing a bit of spin.

1 comment:

Emancipated said...

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