Clarkson on terror
When you read this, I hope to be performing the TopGear Live stage show in either Australia or New Zealand. But in all probability, I'll actually be at Heathrow Airport, standing in a body scanner, while a bunch of security guards snigger at the smallness of my gentleman sausage.
Doubtless, I will have no shoes, no belt, no laptop, no toothpaste, no underarm deodorant and, now that a Nigerian boy has demonstrated it's possible to store explosives in the cleft of your buttocks, no underpants either. And for the privilege of this humiliation, I will have had to stand in a queue which stretched back to Macclesfield.
If I could have driven to Australia - and James considered this before I pointed to the blue bits on his special globe - I would have done. Because a car sets off when you want to set off, doesn't give you deep vein thrombosis and you don't have to sit next to someone who's fat. Unless I've given you a lift.
What's more, it doesn't take three hours to load your luggage into the boot - unless you are Coleen Rooney and you have a Hillman Imp - and you are not invited to buy a watch or a currency converter or a crap book while you wait for someone else to do it either.
Things that I allow in my car include darts, guns, baseball bats, mace, camping stoves and musical instruments. None of this is allowed in a plane. And if you make a joke about terrorism while I'm driving you along, I will laugh. Not put you in prison.
I hate airports.
I wish someone would start an airline called "I'll Take My Chances Air" . It would work on this principle: you drive up to the door of the plane, you get on immediately with no checks whatsoever, and then it takes off. If it blows up, it blows up and it will have been a small price to pay.
Sadly, however, no one has started such a business which means we are forced to endure stupid - and pointless - searches before we may board. And don't argue. They are pointless.
In the olden days, you were scanned to make sure you didn't have a gun or a sword with which you might hijack the plane, but those measures did nothing to stop those who think that by committing suicide, they're in for a life of milk and honey and a million vestal virgins. In other words, a metal detector does nothing to stop Johnny Suicide Bomber.
So after September 11, 2001, we were no longer allowed to board the plane if we had a rounders bat or a pair of scissors. And then along came Richard Reid with his amazingly exploding shoes, which meant we had to take off our flip-flops and put our toiletries in a clear plastic bag. .
And then we had the Nigerian with his undercracker bomb so now we have to show the security guards our penises. And it'll go on like this for ever. The Americans have a clampdown. The terrorists find a way round it. So the Americans have another clampdown and the terrorists find a way round that.
"In the next 10 years, I’ll spend 1,800 hours queuing at airports. That’s 75 days stolen by the idea terrorists can be kept off planes"
Meanwhile, you and I are being asked to check-in 16 days before the scheduled departure time so that a billion people in high-visibility jackets can ask a lot of damn fool questions and examine every one of our follicles. It's all just too stupid for words.
I estimate that in the next 10 years, I will spend 1,800 hours queuing at airports. That's 75 days of my life stolen by this idiotic idea that suicide bombers can be kept off planes. They can't. The end.
Except it's not the end because consider this. You don't have security when you get on a train and if you think about it, why not?
A well-placed bomb on an inter-city express would not just cause carnage in the carriage itself, but cause many deaths in the subsequent derailment. And unlike a plane which tends to crash out of sight, into the sea, a train wreck can be seen. It can be filmed. It will be on the news. In terms of casualties and PR, a bomb on a train would be far more effective for the bombers than a bomb in a plane. You know that. I know that. Governments know that. But still we all merrily catch the overnight express to Edinburgh without a care in the world.
And actually, for maximum effect, the terrorists could cause even more mayhem if they forgot public transport and went after the roads.
I know the BBC - which publishes TopGear magazine - is supposed to be regional in its thinking these days and that for an example I should choose somewhere like Barnsley or Bombay. But I'm afraid I don't know Barnsley or Bombay very well, so let's stick with London.
Let us imagine, just for a moment, that a security scare shut the Hammersmith flyover where it crosses the Broadway. That would sever London from the M4. Now let's have a similar problem a mile to the North on the elevated section of the A40. One more incident at Brent Cross, which is London's tummy button with the umbilical cord that is the M1, and that's pretty much it. No one could get into or out of the most important capital city in Europe.
Unless they wanted to go to Essex. Or Kent. And no one wants to do that.
Can you even begin to imagine the mayhem if London were cut off from its main airport and a million or more workers couldn't get to work in a morning? This would be one of the biggest coups in the history of terrorism and I am not the only person in the world who's thought of it...
But do your knees shake when you drive over those flyovers on the way into London? Do you wish for a security gate and a body scanner? No. You trundle along, gently moaning about the bus lanes and listening to Chris Evans to take your mind off the traffic.
And I'm only talking about security scares here. Imagine if there were real bombs. Imagine if those flyovers were brought down. In an ordinary country, they'd have them up again in weeks, but here there'd have to be inquiries. Wildlife bodies would insist that indigenous beetles would have to be removed before repair work could begin. Budgets would spiral out of control. Billions would be spent. More would be wasted. Years would pass. And London would be finished. Finished, because of three small bombs that, if they went off in the middle of the night, might not injure a single person.
I presume the security services are aware of the implications of such an attack. I presume, too, they have dreamed up more scientific pinch-points than I have, places where even bigger problems would be caused. And what do they do about it?
Well, I drive down the M1, the M40 and the M4 into London a lot and, apart from a few wonky CCTV cameras which are mostly designed to catch people making illegal right turns, there's no evidence of any security at all.
It doesn't worry me. I don't want more security on the roads. And nor am I calling here for more security on trains. No. I'm simply drawing your attention to other targets to show that the situation at airports is absurd and ridiculous.
It's counter-productive as well. The only way you can defeat terrorism, ultimately, is by ignoring it. If you react to every tiny thing by running around, waving your arms in the air and screaming, the idiots will know they're getting to you.
And if you paralyse the world's airports, then they know they're not just getting to you; they're winning.
Want to comment on this?
Very good article. True, funny and slightly scary at the same time I hope you haven't given "the idiots" any ideas. :(
Please run for prime minister, please make audiobooks of your books.
This world is stupid, run by the stupid, and, for some reason, the smart people make there money, move to some beautiful warm island saying f@ck you stupid people. This is very true i ride the train into NYC every day and i sit there thinking about how easy it would be to throw some bombs onto a train at night and when it gets to Grand Central Terminal blow it up... What happens then? most of the people on the train are blown to smithereens, other trains crippled, and i am sure if it is on a lower track the structural integrity of the building would be destroyed. Body scanners are pointless, some one once said "You can't make anything idiot proof because idiots are so ingenious." ? Ron Burns This is why the stupid Johnny Suicide Bomber will always figure a way around the newest security feature at the airport.
ahhh the refreshing sense commonsense