Stealth bombs? Killer plagues? Don't panic, just follow the money

Now it is planes falling from the sky. On Tuesday it was "superbugs threaten return to dark ages". At the weekend it was internet thought-control menace. Last week we had killer fruit juice. The edifice of fear knows no limits, its apparatchiks know no shame.

Had the Guardian leaked yesterday's story from the US about a "stealth bomb alert" at world airports, it would have been accused of traitorously warning terrorists that the authorities were on to their new weapons. Unnamed officials were asserting "a global threat environment" related to plastic explosives hidden in body cavities and tested in Syria. Details of the cells responsible were traced by the BBC to the rightwing American Cato Institute and David Cameron's office confirmed "there are terror organisations that seek to do the UK, its citizens and its allies harm". I am sure – but why tell us now?

A day earlier Cameron was double-barrelling. He held a press conference to smother his European presidency debacle with antibiotics. Banging the drum for Britain, he trumped Jean-Claude Juncker with superbugs posing "a very serious threat. He spoke of "tens of thousands dying", of "unbelievable scenarios" and of a time when "minor scratches could become fatal if nothing is done" – that is, done by him. He said Britain had saved "billions of lives round the world" by inventing penicillin, and would do so again." He appointed a committee.

How to respond to this daily output from the fear factory? At the drop of a headline, prime ministers disappear into "Cobra bunkers", to return telling of blood-curdling threats. These are always backed by "hard evidence" from the government's two most trusty allies, the security-industrial complex and big science and/or big pharma.


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