Be alert!

The German interior minister has lately been warning of imminent terrorist attacks.

Berlin’s senator for the interior has built on this with an impromptu guide on how ‘we’ can spot the terrorists in our midst:

If you notice that 3 people have moved into the neighbourhood, looking a bit strange, keeping to themselves, only talking Arabic or another foreign language that you don’t understand, then you might want to think about notifying the authorities

Depressing, isn’t it? This bigoted idiocy is from a minister in Germany’s most liberal and broad-minded city. He’s even from an ostensibly centre-left party (the SPD, which admittedly has lately produced an impressive stream of high-profile racists).

Worst is, he’s just being unusually blunt in expressing the general logic of calls to public vigilence. Any non-specific call to report ‘suspicious behaviour’ will get people disproprtionately reporting people they already distrust. In the political climate of the past decade, that’ll often mean arabs. But more generally: is there any liklihood of getting warnings of genuine terrorist plots, rather than just a mass of paranoid fantasy?

[Things I’d love to read on this topic: the police on how much useful information they get from these campaigns, compared to time-wasters. Statistics on what things/people get reported. Memoirs of a Home Secretary or similar, explaining what the hell they were thinking — whether it was cynical political manipulation, or if they believed they were being useful]

ETA: not entirely convincing retraction here

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