Criant au Loup

Monday, February 7th, 2011

That’s supposed to be the French for “crying wolf” – I admit it, I had to go to an outside reference-source for that information and yes, it does seem suspiciously close to the English expression – but what brought that saying to my mind was this piece in Der Spiegel about the latest warnings of an imminent terrorist-strike issuing from the Direction centrale du renseignement intérieur (DCRI) or intelligence bureau of the French Interior Ministry (i.e. more-or-less their FBI).

Now that the American Department of Homeland Security has recently officially retired its much-derided color-coded (excessively-hyphenated) terror-alert system, could it be the French government which has now pulled into the lead in the Chicken Little stakes of driving its citizens crazy via repeated terror-warnings, until they just tune out and don’t listen anymore? After all, we heard this same sort of warning from the same source – and saw men in uniform with automatic weapons patrolling at the base of the Eiffel Tower, and all the rest – just last October, and nothing at all happened then.

Indeed, if you examine it closely this latest advisory is spiced-up with some new elements. It’s the recent revolution in Tunisia that is said to be one reason for the heightened alert; the DCRI claims to have intercepted a communication from Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQMI) urging attacks against both France and the US before they can get a chance to install new “vassals” in power there. More intriguingly, a second indication comes from the steep rise that the DCRI has detected in “Europeans” being trained in those infamous terror-camps located in the no-man’s-land between Afghanistan and Pakistan – that is, whites looking like any other native resident of Paris, or Lyon, or Frankfurt. So now it’s apparently not enough to be cautious around “Arab-looking” people, the next suicide-bomber could look like any other “European”!

That’s a sure-fire recipe for heightening the general climate of paranoia in France. What possesses the French authorities to issue such warnings? Even if they truly believe in what they are saying, can such proclamations really put the population on some sort of meaningful “alert” that will make any material difference in stopping an attack? You don’t see this sort of thing in Germany; the Spiegel piece is short and resolutely opinion-free, but you still have to think that its (unnamed) authors are wondering just what has gotten into the French as of late.

UPDATE: Whoops, the US authorities are back at it, color-coded chart or no: the terrorism threat there is now “at it’s most heightened state” since 9/11, says Janet Napolitano. FYI – and FWIW!

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