In all this excitement about the Papal visit, the figure of £12million has been chucked around a lot. I've not seen a breakdown of what it's all for, but I guess when you've got that many cops doing overtime, you'd better try and show the punters they're getting value for money. And so the EVIL KILL THE POPE AND BLOW HIM UP PLOT. Ta-dah!
You can see the variety of ways in which it's put over by the papers*. The Sun and Mirror imply there's definitely a plot, while the Times and Guardian are a little more circumspect. But was there a plot?
Oh. Street sweepers overheard having a laugh in canteen doesn't quite equal the same thing as a plot to blow up the Pope, as the Sunday Mirror's Saturday version had said the day before. Would any group of people joking about blowing up the Pope create such a massive story, I wonder? Or is there something about these men that led people to draw certain conclusions? Let's see if we can try and work out what. Sky News's tweets breaking the story might be able to help us.
Ah, I see. Arabic? Algerian? Uh-oh!
I can't help wondering how different this might have been if it was a few pink blokes having a bit of a laugh in the canteen about blowing up the Pope - because work canteens are exactly the kind of places where international terrorist organisations do their plotting, aren't they? - and whether it would have received the same kind of attention. Not just from the people who overheard, but from the cops, and from the media as well. We're all pretty keen, it would seem, to buy into this narrative of the bad brown Muslim man as the face of evil.
Terrorist arrests do involve a kind of code, wherever these things happen. To be fair to Sky it's not just them who do it - the BBC and Channel 4 are happy enough to have run with the ethnicity of this terror suspect:
A man 'of Somali descent', just so you understand why he was marked out as a terror suspect. Who knows - maybe he was having a laugh with his mates in the work canteen; maybe he's a real terror suspect. Is ethnicity always mentioned when it comes to people being arrested for crimes? No. Obviously when cops are looking for someone then it makes perfect sense to issue a description - but revealing the ethnicity of someone once they've been arrested? I think that only happens with suspected terror offences.
It might be important to recognise that a terror arrest isn't the same thing as a terror conviction. Maybe I am alone in feeling a bit uncomfortable with all this attention being given to the origins of terror suspects - and there was a time when 'a man of Irish descent' would be used as code for the same kind of thing, I suppose - but it strikes me as being a little clumsy. Maybe more than clumsy, actually.