War on Terror

Buying a Hammer? The U.K. Worries That Might Make You a Terrorist

Also suspicious: Recording police behavior.


The United Kingdom's counter-terrorism policing unit would like you to let them know if you see somebody doing something suspicious. Like buying a hammer.

No, that's it. Buying a hammer is suspicious and is potentially an indicator of criminal activity. That's literally the point of the ad below. Here's a tweet that's getting the U.K. Counter Terrorism Policing office some good mocking on Twitter:

It's hard to see in the Twitter ad, but the guy buying the hammer also has several knives in his basket. That's apparently supposed to be a context clue that he's maybe a very bad person. The U.K. has a borderline-comical campaign going on trying to convince young people not to carry knives around. He might be a chef doing some work on his restaurant, maybe? But the point of this ad campaign is that they actually don't want you to think of the most likely explanation. They want you to be suspicious of everyday activities with the scary "Life Has No Rewind Button" motto.

The full commercial actually has a bit more sinister tone, and I'm not talking about potential terrorists here. I'm talking about what the U.K counter-terror office wants you to find suspicious. Watch below:

Did you notice that third example? It's a guy recording U.K. police officers on his phone as they go about their business. This advertisement wants you to be suspicious of people who record the police.

They try to blow off the idea that people are going to end up reporting innocent activity with the statement "Reporting suspicious activity won't ruin lives, but it might save them." Do they really think there's no consequences to being investigated as a potential terrorist? Law enforcement in the United Kingdom goes after and prosecutes people for the content of their tweets, for heaven's sake. These investigations would most likely upend the lives of their subjects. This ad isn't just mockable, it's horrifying. For the love of God, do not go through life being suspicious of common daily occurrences. And be very wary of a law enforcement organization that tells you to treat people who record the behavior of law enforcement as potential threats.