Bloggers On The UK Terror Story

    August 11, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

The aftermath of a number of arrests in the United Kingdom, and the revelation of a massive plot to destroy US-bound airliners with explosives, may be the point where New and Old Media begin to work in cooperation instead of competition.

Political theories abound on the Internet regarding the audacious terrorist plot uncovered in England, with Heathrow nearly the setting for the launch of the worst attack on civilians in five years. No matter what beliefs one subscribes to, there is probably a blog or three, from Malkin to Kos and in between, that hosts people who think the same way.

Those are out there for anyone with a few minutes to spare on Technorati or Sphere to find. We’re going to look at something many probably missed (myself included) as the situation at Heathrow developed.

Dave Winer made the observation on his site that the first inklings of the news came not from a blow-dried talking head on one of the 700 or so cable channels, but from a notable tech figure and blogger, Doc Searls.

Our readers who followed coverage of Searls’ Syndicate Conference earlier in 2006 may not know the breadth and depth of his technology acumen (long-time Linux Journal subscribers excepted). It’s not surprising in retrospect that he was the one to first break the news by blogging it live while at Boston’s Logan Airport as the story trickled in from across the ocean:

Something bad happened (they won’t tell us), and now the TSA won’t let you carry any liquids, gels, pastes or fluids of any kind (pens?) through security checkpoints. Gotta check your medicines, sunblock, water bottels, whatever. This directive went down this morning (it’s 4:30am here at Logan in Boston) and has caused a huge backup at the ticket counters and the security checkpoints. I’m sure it’s just as bad everywhere, though I haven’t looked at any of the news sources yet. (I think I’m at the leading edge of the news, sort of, right here.)

I’m writing this now while standing in line, waiting for the checkpoints to open. Been here awhile. The line is getting longer and the checkpoints still aren’t open (now almost 5am). My flight to LAX is at 6:45am and I’m near the front of the line; so I’m one of the lucky ones. I can see that, for most folks flying in the U.S. (and maybe elsewhere), it’s going to be a long day today.

(To give some perspective on the long travel day, our Mike McDonald and Doug Caverly arrived from SES 2006 at the San Jose airport at about 5 am PDT that day. They made it to Cincinnati and a cab ride to Lexington almost 30 hours later.)

Winer commented on Searls’s blogging and took it from there with his observations:

(B)logging is just beginning to come into its own. Yesterday we got the scoop on the news of the terrorist threat from a blogger, Doc Searls. He beat the mainstream reporters, who were (presumably) waiting for official word from the governments, because he was there, at Logan Airport, experiencing the event first-hand.

And as the day went on, bloggers posted their accounts of the human view of the events, the eye witnesses, while the pros were (importantly) reporting on the governments. See how the two complement each other? We need both views, and it would do us all good if the pros would stop predicting the demise of blogging, and get busy learning to use blogging in their reporting.

Blogging even helps spread some nuggets of information that might otherwise be lost in the onrushing torrent of news. Paul Kedrosky borrowed a phrase in calling the thwarted attacks a “tipping point” for air travel. Why fly when you can video-conference?

Later in his post, Kedrosky linked to a video demonstrating the effect of one scenario should it have taken place on an aircraft:

Relatedly, while this plot seems have centered on liquid nitroglycerin, there is ample reason to believe that would-be airborne suicide bombers’s use of Semtex (a kind of explosive Silly Putty) would be even more difficult to detect — and even more catastrophic. See video here of a mere 200g of Semtex detonating on a pressurized Boeing 747.

Safe travels, everyone.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.