The first in a series commenting on media stories about terrorist and public order 'threats' to the 2012 Olympics in London.
An impressive one to start with from the Sunday Telegraph of 1 April (and no it was not an April fool). Firstly the Telegraph's David Barrett did have the basis of an actual story. He reports that MI5 believe Akhmed Zakayev, who styles himself as the exiled Prime Minister of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, is under threat of assassination in London. They understand his death has been ordered by Chechnya's Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, and are attempting to deport a suspect, named only as E1, who was also involved in the plot.
Then it gets silly. Firstly we have the move to attach Venessa Redgrave to the story, as she is apparently friends with Mr Zakayev. This leads to the tabloid style heading "MI5 warns of death plot against Redgrave friend", and a picture of Zakayev and Redgrave that corresponds nicely with Telegraph policy of having posh totty on the front cover at least once a week.
As a general rule of thumb I adopt the political position that it is nearly always correct to be on the opposite side, on any issue, to Vanessa Redgrave, so will say no more about the politics of Zakayev. What is noticeable however is that despite this being an explicity Chechen story - all those directly involved - Zakayev, E1 and Kadyrov being Chechens, Barrett decides that this is a story about Russia, and Russians in London.
This gets particularly silly when Barrett not only connects (albeit loosely) this alleged plot with the actual shooting of Russian banker German Gorbuntsov in east London last month, but worse, the Olympics. Try this nonsense on for size:
"And it comes amid growing concern among the security services over the number of Russians in Britain who could present a danger to security, particularly with the London Olympics, identified as the biggest single target for terrorists in British history, fast approaching".
No suggestion is actually made that Russian gunmen (or Chechen?) pose a direct threat to the Olympics - probably because to attempt to do so would make Barrett look even more silly. Instead possible targetted acts of violence amongst one or two exile communities in London are placed in proximity to an entirely seperate issue - that of Olympic security - with the hope that readers will put two and two together and get 76.
There is now 114 days left until the Olympics. I am going to do my best to log and comment upon silly stories of this type - it surely cannot be long until the Evening Standard dusts off its usual scare stories about Anarchists and public order and places them somewhere in the direction of Stratford - and we can no doubt expect an English Defence League 'threat' to be hyped out of all proportion.
I would be grateful if readers could send me examples of silly season stories that you spot. David Barrett and the Sunday Telegraph have made the early running - plenty of other lame old nags will no doubt follow.