What do the words grab bag mean to you? My first thought is a giant bag of crisps or sweets placed by the till in a shop. Just me?

On Sunday (8 September) tweets started to appear using #grabbag. A competition to win a giant bag of crisps? Nope. They were tweets from various police forces around the UK and also used #30Days30WaysUK and #beprepared.

Is be prepared something to do with the Scout movement? And 30 ways to do what exactly?

OK, I bit. I looked. The source appeared to be an account @30Days30WaysUK set up in July 2017 – yet stating in its bio ‘Welcome to #30days30waysUK 2019 the 5th anniversary edition of the ‘September is #Preparedness Month’ games on social media. Huh? I stepped away.

I watched some telly and then came back to Twitter. The source account was now busy replying to people with a stock standard tweet, like a bot.

Tweeters talking about it were mainly dubious and often a bit panicky.

So what exactly is it? Well, it seems like an established American thing that has tried to cross the pond without much explanation or translation into UK English.

I don’t want to trash the campaign but I do want to point out some flaws.

  • Where is the story? They could/should be saying this is who we are, this is what we do, this is why we do it, this is why it’s important and this is how it helps people. With no context they are just creating fear.
  • “An emergency plan” – one of the items to be included in the grab pack is way too vague. How you can have a plan when you don’t know what you are planning for? What are you running from?
  • #Beprepared – we all need to be prepared, but in order to be prepared we need to know what we are preparing for.
  • Use of the word flashlight (in the graphic of what to include in your grab pack) tells us the campaign is not aimed at Brits. We are still using torches as far as I’m aware. The cuffs have to match the collar to be relevant and relatable.
  • Use of a gmail address – no legitimacy.

We are a more cynical society in these unprecedented times. The excellent Fullfact helps us decipher and dispel content from the ministry of disinformation. There are enough red flags in this campaign (thus far) to make it seem like a hoax or fake news. However, it does appear to be actually legit, just not well executed for a UK audience.

Amidst the backdrop of Brexit uncertainty (and the huge ramifications of all that that entails) all the campaign has done in 24 hours is create unnecessary fear and anxiety – which is the exact opposite of the campaign’s aims – one assumes.