Last night's BBC3 programme "7/7 The Conspiracy Road Trip" took four people who each doubted the veracity of the official explanation of the 7/7 Tube and bus bombings, on a journey meeting experts, witnesses and seeing some of the context with their own eyes in order to challenge their internet-fuelled beliefs. One queried the CCTV evidence. A second doubted that the bombers' personalities had been sufficiently probed to prove that they did what they did both knowingly and willingly. A third cited the UK government's benefits of staging such atrocities, enabling them to continue wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and to promote British business interests in any carving up of economic resources to be had. The fourth doubted that the detonations were those bombs in the bombers' rucksacks, but rather had been planted under the train already. Military ordnance rather than homemade bombs.
Three of the four by the programme's end had their beliefs challenged to the point of being persuaded that the official version of events had some validity. In the course of an hour long programme,with the inevitable editing and foreshortening of their thought and emotional processes, such apparent Road To Damascus conversions inevitably came across as barely credible. It's curious what details they chose to fixate on initially to underpin their overall skepticism about the official version of events. Why say the mysterious lack of CCTV footage as against the apparent lack of psychological analysis of the bombers that distinguished two of the conspiracy theorists on the programme. Just as a side note, I actually think that there was an almost unlimited probing of the psychology of the bombers after the event.
But it almost doesn't matter what they believe or don't believe, same as it doesn't matter what I believe. Unless any of us go on to express our opposition or displeasure by detonating our own bombs. A TV programme may have changed three of its protagonist's minds, but I doubt that any viewer trying to fathom the jump cuts of logic on display could have had their minds changed. In the realm of politics, especially online where conspiracy theories thrive and pullulate, people rarely have their mind changed by reasoned argument. And that is the point, such extremism of thought and argument which flourish behind a cloak of online anonymity, demonstrate exactly how four homegrown youths might end up expressing themselves by becoming suicide bombers.
For what it's worth, here is my response to the views expressed in last night's programme. I have no evidence to back up anything I say, other than what I have read, heard and made judgements on. My views are as instinctive as those conspirators, who have little more, if any, evidence than I do. The government have provided evidence, but we have no way of knowing whether it's true or not. None of us are afforded the opportunity to scrutinise the original source evidence and draw our own conclusions.
I can credit that the UK government could stage such atrocities for its own political ends. But to my mind, such warped logic is little different from that which might motivate the four bombers to carry out such acts for their own purposes. Either party in such a scenario, wants to create terror and a climate of fear. We know governments can cover up their tracks, as witnessed by the recent Hillsborough cover up that they managed to keep going for 23 years. The French secret services in Algeria planted bombs against their own colonial civilians for military strategic purposes.
Equally I can believe the bombers could have arrived at their actions of their own free will, just as much as being patsies of arch political and military manipulators winding up the key in their back and setting them in motion for their lethal course of action. What al Quaeda did was put out a body of ideas, an inspirational/aspirational set of aims to its constituency and a method of organisation that any local operators could adapt to suit their own parochial conditions. Many of the 9/11 bombers were university educated, as was one of the 7/7 bombers. And yet in the Madrid train bombings, the perpetrators were drawn from the local criminal underclass.
The 7/7 bombers I believe, were entirely self-motivated and successful, because of the very arrogance and complacency of the British Establishment that didn't bother to penetrate such militant groups because it had so few Asian recruits in the ranks of the secret services. The fact that the programme's conspirator Davina, couldn't initially see how such men could end up at a point of turning themselves into human bombs, only mirrors that of the authorities who also had no real inkling of such a journey from alienated to mass murderer. And I promise you, that occurring the day after London was announced as successful in its bid to host the 2012 Olympics, it is highly unlikely that the Government would have undermined that goodwill and hopeful message and anticipated economic boon, by enacting a conspiratorial slaughter of its own citizens. But that's just my opinion.
The complexity of the issues, of the possible motives behind the journey of someone to become a suicide bomber, is not going to be served by such a programme as this one last night. I tackled it in the space of a novel. I didn't just represent my own theories, but the broad spectrum that allows for the views of the four conspirators, the official line, the cracks in between whereby the secret services overlook what's happening under their nose, the online forums and vicious exchanges to be had there, the processes of recruitment (grooming for non-sexual purposes), misdirection and misinformation, citizen journalists trying to get to the truth under their own auspices... I think the journey I take you on in the book, though not exactly a road trip, is somewhat more credible than last night's BBC programme.
If last night's programme annoyed, bemused or underwhelmed you, then you might want to turn to my book for a more serious and yes informed treatment of the processes that could lead to acts such as the 7/7 bombings.