Beware the Language


The way I see it the recent installation of new security measures at the departure gate of Terminal 2 at Manchester Airport (an X-ray machine specifically designed to transmit nude images of travellers) is a very contentious issue indeed. And it is nothing less than scandalous what UK newspapers and television pundits have failed to say about it. Because these security measures have been railroaded through in accordance with UK Government diktat, rather than being legislated for in the normal way – and the UK media (newspapers and TV alike) have been in complete nodding donkey agreement throughout. So much so, in fact, that identical scanners are now scheduled to make an appearance at Terminals 1 and 3. Meanwhile, the plain fact of the matter is that the introduction of such intrusive security measures is simply a knee-jerk reaction to a report emanating from the USA on 25 December last, the details of which are even this late in the day (12 March, 2010) merely “alleged”. And, certainly, the European Court has yet to rule upon the human rights aspect of this debacle, as no doubt it will – and certainly needs to do.

Accordingly, here is the essence of a complaint I’ve mailed to my MP at Westminster:

“[I am] totally, utterly and absolutely opposed on grounds of taste, public decency, personal privacy and religion to invasive X-ray security measures being railroaded through at Manchester Airport, such measures being specifically designed to reveal to agents of the Authorities parts of the airline traveller’s anatomy no one has a right to contemplate, bar a medic of necessity, nor (voyeurs and perverts apart) would perhaps care to.”

Ye Gods! My passport photo is bad enough! Besides which, I really and truly believe that being already constrained, as airline passengers nowadays are, to go belt-less, shoe-less, wristwatch-less and otherwise dishevelled through the departure gates at Manchester Airport is the end of civilisation as we knew it PLUS a very strong reminder that I personally had best revert forthwith to holidaying in Blackpool or Torquay, and no further abroad!

But back to my MP at Westminster.

What I’ve asked him, in the absence of appropriate and balanced debate in parliament and the media about these X-ray security measures is this . . . Is it perhaps the case that a D notice been put into place by the Government, forbidding all discussion or debate in this matter? As, for instance, the British Government is prone to do whenever the fire brigade goes on strike in the UK whereupon the British Army is invariably called upon to overturn (due to the British Army’s lack of fire-fighting expertise) Green Goddess emergency vehicles for fun (unreported in the press) and fire our city centres (similarly unreported).

I await my MP’s response with interest, because I believe the British public has been tricked into acquiescence in the matter of personally invasive airport X-ray machines.

Don’t fret if you don’t agree with me: I have yet to meet anyone who does. Just hear me out is all I ask. Because it is my contention that the British press is implicated in misleading (rather than informing) the public in this matter. For example, here’s an excerpt from what I personally perceive to be a pretty dodgy report that subsequently appeared in the press . . .

“[A] Muslim woman,” reads the report in question, “was barred from boarding a flight to Islamabad . . . after refusing to go through a new ‘naked’ full-body scanner at Manchester Airport on religious grounds. Her companion also declined to be scanned for ‘medical reasons’ . . . when they were selected to pass through the . . . security screen . . . They were warned they would not be allowed to board the Pakistan International Airlines flight if they refused.”

Now, I would venture to suggest that the words Muslim, Islamabad and Pakistan, as supplied here, are hardly germane to the main thrust of this story. On the contrary, they would seem to be examples of the sort of xenophobic claptrap that is often put out by the press with a view to rabble-rousing.

And can it really be true that ‘religious grounds’ carry no weight in this (or any other) debate? Or is it simply the case, say, that ‘religious grounds’ are perceived to carry no weight where a secular newspaper correspondent or a secular government is concerned? Because, if this (the latter) is the case, then denying the validity of ‘religious grounds’ is quite a different thing entirely. Simply stated, it is (as it is in any dictatorship), tantamount to a denial to accept as valid any opinion other than that decreed by The Leader.

And do ‘medical reasons’, similarly, carry no weight in this debate, despite their being everywhere and otherwise deemed perfectly reasonable by humanity as a whole and the self-same powers-that-be?

In conclusion, too, I would draw readers’ attention to the worst journalistic fault of all in this extract, and something I have no hesitation in pillorying as:



“They were selected to pass through the . . . security screen . . .”

Hopefully, students of modern history (and wannabe writers, too) will be on their guard against seemingly innocuous phrasing such as this. Because these are words akin to other sad words which would presume to discuss “friendly fire” in a newspaper editorial or “ethnic cleansing” from a safe distance. Words such as these are, in fact, the language of “The Final Solution” – a scheme dreamed up by bureaucrats in another time and place who were intent upon planning what we who know better nowadays refer to as the Holocaust. In other words, to say: “They were selected to pass through the . . . security screen . . .” is nothing other than a pseudo-civilised way of describing an interlude which, in reality, was unacceptably uncouth, and might more plainly (and truthfully) have been recorded thus:

“An official at Manchester Airport assumed responsibility for hauling two women out of line as they queued to board a flight and demanded (on pain of their otherwise missing their flight) that they should submit without argument to being X-rayed on the spot and, thereby, standing naked for inspection before another, anonymous official duly appointed to airport ogling duties.”

(Try selling that to your nearest and dearest. As I say, me and mine are off to Blackpool or Torquay for the duration.)

Meanwhile, tell it like it is, you writers! No matter how hurtful or unsavoury the outcome may appear to be. Tell it, unadorned, as you personally see it or know it to be! (Even if you disagree with Bill Keeth of That Ilk! Hey, especially if you disagree with me!) Because, as I indicate in  Write It Self-Publish It Sell It (p. 219): “When you get right down to it, what is important to you if you are a real writer is . . . your very personal word of truth as you honestly and truly perceive it . . . Because anything short of this is a lie or propaganda and, as such, is unworthy of a real writer.”

Above all, beware the language of the Holocaust!

April 2010

Bill Keeth’s books, Every Street in Manchester ISBN 1859880649 & Write It Self-Publish It Sell It ISBN 97809558863 are available from Amazon and all good book shops. Bill can also be contacted via his website,

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