Image for Mincing my words ...

*Pic: Dave Ingram Flickr. Peter Dutton at protest

The alleged plot to bring down an aircraft in Australian airspace failed because the hand luggage carrying a meat grinder packed with explosives was deemed too heavy for cabin baggage.

It had all the clumsy and incompetent elements of one of those Hollywood high-flying farces but inept terror is still frightening and it has ongoing consequences for travellers.

Flying is about to get a whole lot more unpleasant. I bet I am not alone in thinking about giving it up completely. The truth is I cannot travel without my mincer.  But I fear thanks to the alleged plot of the Khayat brothers, the mincer is now prohibited. Not only will I now have to get to the airport days before I fly but I will risk irradiation and probably cancer from multiple scans and x-rays and other indignities including no mincer.

“Sir, there appears to be a meat-mincer here.”

“Oh bugger. I couldn’t find it this morning. I wondered where it was.”

“Sir, can you tell me the purpose of this meat mincer?”

“I’m a journalist. I’m lost without it.”

“But what is its purpose?”

“In these times of extreme political correctness I need it to mince my words.”

Without my trusty word mincer I couldn’t write how it is perfectly reasonable that an old blue-eyed white Anglo-Celtic Australian journalist (‘male, pale and stale’ the mincer tells me) should be a possible terrorist suspect in the eyes of the bloke who just frisked me and who looks a lot like Osama Bin Laden’s cousin.

Or what about the nice old granny from Huonville who repeatedly sends off the scan alarm and requires a good frisking. It seems absurd until you apply the grinder and mince the words. Then it becomes perfectly reasonable travellers with names like Charles and Edith might be every bit as likely to blow up a plane as a man called Hahmoud or Khaled. 

“It would be outrageously racist,” the mincer spits out, “to single out those men as any more suspicious than anyone else.” Listening to the ABC you might also notice the indispensible word-mincer seems to have quite correctly removed the words ‘of middle-eastern appearance’ from the journalistic language. Rightly so, because it is presumptive and racist and we should always remember, Martin Bryant was blue-eyed, blonde and not Islamic. Those lapsed Anglicans need to be much more thoroughly screened.

See how easy it is to write this stuff using the word-mincer. The awkward gristle and the bits otherwise too tough to swallow just disappear. No wonder I never leave home without it.

The word-mincer doesn’t like the words ‘racial profiling’, which makes the appalling and totally irrational supposition that a man from Syria might be just a tiny bit more likely to blow up a plane than a granny from Huonville.  Only people without word-mincers would suggest racial profiling be applied at airports. But the mincer so far does allow the terms “biometric ID check” and “facial recognition” with which Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton is now threatening to protect us.

At LA airport my biometric facial and eye scan reveals that I am the same guy who came and went last month causing no trouble. But if the US border security guys miss it, biometrics would still reveal within its computer system my likely racial origins. Americans love their freedom even more than we do. They fought a revolution for it and two hundred and fifty years later still refuse to give up their guns.

Yet, when travelling, Americans meekly submit to being herded, poked, prodded and x-rayed. And now so it seems must we. But if the word-mincer can grind this thought: the government says thirteen terror attacks have been so far thwarted but I’m not sure Australians have an infinite well of patience. If the attacks keep coming then what happens when the well runs dry? And what happens if or when an attack succeeds?

What happens when people start to say what they really think? 

The terrorists now in question, the brothers Khayat hail from another country, with a different culture and a different religious faith.

Through the word-mincer these differences present as immaterial and completely unrelated to the alleged offence. Which is why at Australian airports we must all now be equally treated as prospective terrorists.

The men in question are of course still only the subjects of allegations but at the same time they have provided justification for the government making our travelling lives even more miserable. It might all be for our own good but I don’t much like the Orwellian and scary sounding nature of ‘biometric and facial recognition scans’. Perhaps Mr Dutton could make it all sound so much nicer if he got himself one of those mincers. 

“Do you have anything sharp in your hand luggage, Sir?”

“Only my sense of irony.”

“Sir, please step back from the line!”

*Charles Wooley is a legend of Australian journalism, partly through his history with Sixty Minutes.  His columns on Tasmanian Times are HERE