A few nights ago I watched the Munich horror unfold as a breaking news story on Sky. It didn't take so very long for me to feel the urge to scream at the TV. It was pretty damned obvious all of the emerging clues were suggesting the perpetrator was some kind of right wing nut as opposed to a fundamentalist ISIS nut. Social media photos showed a lad dressed more for MTV than the mosque. People had already clocked the fact it was the anniversary of the Anders Brevik massacre. And then there was the phone filmed footage of the perp on a car park roof shouting to the skies the fact he was a born and bred German.
Despite all of this emerging truth, the studio anchor continued to quiz his guests about Angela Merkel's catastrophic decision to let in hundreds of thousands of migrants. No doubt the anchor guy had been through hundreds and hundreds of hours of the best media training Rupert Murdoch could lay his hands on. Keep well apart from the breaking story. Sit back and wait. Don't jump to any conclusions you might regret later. In the cold light of day. Once the dust has settled. Once the true facts have emerged.
The lad was well and truly wrapped in the fairytale post 9/11, post Brexit world.
There's a nutter on the streets. Let's talk migrants. Because night follows day, right?
And as the thing unfolded, the usual procession of politicians and experts were rolled on and off the screen to peddle the all too familiar party line. Our thoughts are with the families of the victims. Nice and safe. Thank God for the wonderful men and women of the security services who do so much brilliant work to keep us safe. Nice and safe. And of course we will do all we can to help our German/French/American/Belgian allies on this dark, dark day.
Well then opinions start to divide up a bit. Some will square off their jaws and turn determined faces straight to the camera. Then they will tell us like we are all seven years old how we all need to be tough and find some more buildings in the desert to reduce to rubble. We need to fight with fire. We need nice black and white shots with digital information in the top corner of the screen. This is an arial view of a building in the desert before. Then.... pooooofffffff.... and here is an arial view of a building in the desert after. Bang and the building is gone.
Others take a more considered line than the bomb the bastards back into the Stone Age brigade. They tell us we need more of our taxes to be poured into MI5 and MI6 and GCHQ and Langley and the Pentagon and all those places filled with the heroic spooks who flog themselves 24/7 to keep us safe. And if only we can have more spooks and more satellites and more CCTV and more tapped phones and more intercepted e mails everything will be all right. Course it will. It has to be.
And all the while the serious faced anchors nod their serious nods and they wouldn't in a million years dream of questioning such absolute wisdom. It all just sounds so very, very good and the guys who tell it like it is always have such a lot of letters after their names.
It's just gotta be right, hasn't it? Surely.
Or maybe not.
Take the nutter who drove the truck along the Nice waterfront. Would more spooks and more surveillance really have pegged him as an ISIS main man? Well I presume the spooks must look for a number of key indicators when they are trying to guess who will be the next murderous maniac.
Maybe something like this.
So where's he from?
Is that a Moslem country?
You bet it is.
OK. So far so good. Maybe we have a live one here. He's from a Muslim country. He's male and he's young. He has brown skin. So let's look deeper.
Has he been to fight in Syria?
Does he go to the Mosque every Friday without fail to chant like a Holywood bad guy?
Well does he at least go sometimes?
Well let's check him out another way. Let's imagine him turning up at an Al Queda recruiting office. Let's see if he is their kind of lad. What kind of questions might they ask to check the cut of his jib?
Maybe something like these.
Do you go to mosque every Friday?
Do you go most Fridays?
Do you go sometimes?
You you EVER go?
Do you eat pork?
Do you drink alcohol?
Do you take drugs?
Do you have friends who are unbelievers?
Do you like infidel music?
Do you watch the television and movies of the infidels?
Do you like to wear the clothes of the infidel?
Oh dear oh dear. Not a good set of answers for a wannabe Jihadist. He would be more likely to get himself beheaded than invited along for an all expenses paid stay at a desert training camp.
Any spook worth his salt would assess all the above information and conclude that here is a lad who is about as likely to be accepted into a Jihadist group as a black lad is likely to be clutched to the bosom of the Ku Klux Klan.
So all the spooking in the world couldn't have done a damn thing to prevent the carnage of the Promenades Des Anglais.
Maybe we all should be building up a very different kind of profile which better describes the nutters who are causing so much death.
Tend to be loners.
Not popular at school.
Not very good at school work.
All kinds of mental health issues, especially anxiety, paranoia and depression.
Plenty of time on the dole.
Desperate to find a place to belong, usually street gangs who usually kick them out because they are deemed to be sad losers.
Attempts to self- medicate their ongoing mental health issues by taking every drug they can lay their hands on.
Too much time in their bedroom on their computers.
A growing desperation to be noticed. By anyone. For anything. A gnawing need for attention. Any attention.
Years worth of online cries for help, all of them ignored.
Lads who nobody wants to have a pint with. Lads who never get invited to any parties. Lads who lost every shred of self worth and self confidence in the school playground when all the cool lads took the piss and then took the piss again. Lads who can's find a girl to say yes. Lads who can't find an employer to say yes.
No and no and no and no and no.
Until they come up with the nuclear option for attention seeking. Go kill and bunch of people and then kill yourself. Be someone. Be huge. Show all those bastards who took the piss in the playground. Show all the bitches who laughed and walked away giggling at the very thought. Show all those bastards on the other side of the desks who said thanks but no thanks.
All of them.
Every last one.
Drown rejection and anonymity in an ocean of blood.
But do we know these people?
Of course we do. Because at some stage they find their way to the mental health services only to find cuts and staff shortages. They are given some pills and then forgotten. Then we see them again when their drug use puts them into the justice system. They are given some community service and forgotten.
Like so much junk into an overflowing bin complete with hovering wasps.
In my 13 years at First Base I have met at least five of these individuals. They tend to have the same common denominators. Desperate childhoods dominated by violence, usually domestic violence. No mates at school. Bullying and piss taking at school. Rubbish at school. Finding the company of fellow serial losers in the ever welcoming world of drugs. Petty crimes and lousy CV's and not a chance of a job. Mental health problems made a little bit worse every day with constant Skunk and valium use. Right on the edge with brains like a bowl of spaghetti and a raging anger in their bellies. Right on the edge with nothing in their dismal lives they are remotely bothered about losing.
And if one night the rolling news had told the story of one of these guys doing something unspeakable I would not be overly surprised. They are the unexploded bombs.
Thankfully in each case we were able to shout loud enough for mental health treatment to be provided. And with good psychiatry and the right medication, the clear and present danger was slowly but surely pushed back. They were eased back from the edge. They were diffused. They were made safe.
And so we arrive at the inconvenient truth nobody seems to want to speak of much. What is the best thing we can do to stop future acts of horror from appearing on our screens as breaking news?
Stop spending so much on spooking and bombing buildings in the desert. Start spending a whole lot more money on mental health services and drug clinics.
But that seems really crap and boring. I mean where's the Jason Bourne in some poxy drug clinic? We are all desperate for the right kind of Holywood bad guys. We want them to hide in those desert buildings so that we can blow them into a millions pieces. We don't want sad misfits who completely flip their lids in the bottomless loneliness of their bedrooms.
At the end of the day the truth is so inconvenient that we just don't want to know it. How can sad places like First Base ever compete with something as completely hip and cool as a Hellfire missile?