Firstly, I want to take a moment to talk about what really happened in Woolwich this week. A man was killed, brutally, by two other men. This is the important point to remember amongst all of the misinformation, thinly veiled racism, ramping up of security and terror rhetoric and outpourings of hatred. A man, a young man, with a family, had his life cut short by the entirely unjustified actions of two other men. His family and friends are mourning his death. Unfortunately, this simple fact seems to have been forgotten amongst the clamouring of hatred, idiocy and downright dangerous language coming from politicians, the media and the public.
So let’s begin with the ranting. The government and police decided that this was far more than a brutal murder pretty early on, by convening COBRA and calling this an ‘act of terror’. Clearly, they know more than I do. However, by immediately using such incendiary language as Theresa May did – saying such outlandish things as ‘This attack was an attack on everyone in the United Kingdom’ – doesn’t help anything. What do we gain from calling a murder an act of terrorism? Very little. It doesn’t change the murder itself and it doesn’t change the actions that police and security services take. It simply ramps up the politics of fear among the population, making everyone feel unsafe, and links – in the mind of people – this murder with the events of 9/11 and 7/7.
Perhaps the bastardisation of Islam by awful people has underpinned this attack (at the time of writing we still don’t know for sure) but this is an entirely separate event perpetrated by entirely different people and this use of incendiary language helps no-one. Terrorism is a loaded word, and it destroys any possibility of a nuanced discussion. It is used to strike fear into us, to allow police, government and security services to take any action it deems necessary – we saw this through the vast pieces of anti-terror legislation passed by the previous government.
Secondly, onto the media. Immediately after the attack news outlets were jumping over each other to get the ‘scoop’ on the situation. Talk about insensitive. Nick Robinson started by describing men of ‘Muslim appearance’ (I, for one, have no idea what that means) and the BBC News at Six started the segment with ‘A man has been hacked to death’. HACKED! Talk about sensationalist, brutal and insensitive. ITV then started showing a video of the alleged perpetrators with bloodied hands making political statements about the ‘War on Terror’. The media and Twitter went crazy, detailing unconfirmed reports and speculation as fact. Not only was this terrible journalism, it was dangerous and insensitive and managed to fan the flames of hatred that I will be covering next.
So onto the general public. I like to think most people are generally good and intelligent. And luckily, I found this to be the case, with people who felt the need to comment expressing horror at the murder and sympathy with the murdered man’s family. But then the idiots started swarming.
First, from the stories the man was a soldier, there were the usual comments about heroes that make my blood boil as they completely undermine any criticism of the military or military action. Then, and much worse, there was the disgusting and appalling racism and Islamophobia that followed. Let’s just clear this up; these people represent Islam as much as the KKK and Westboro Baptist Church represent Christianity. This is to say, not at all. Unfortunately, the thugs from the EDL got themselves involved, calling for action against Islam and organising a riot in Woolwich to ‘defend the streets’ – not mentioning that they brought even more fear into the lives of the residents of that area. We gain nothing through division, through attacking each other and through hatred.
Fear does terrible things to people. I can’t say I blame them. People are scared when such a seemingly random attack can happen on the streets. This isn’t helped by the rhetoric from the media and government, striking fear into the hearts of the population whilst at the same time calling for us to go about our daily lives. Putting thousands of extra police officers on the street to reassure people will just make people think there is even more of a threat. Fear is allowed, but fear doesn’t need to turn to hatred and division, not in the face of a threat which is minimal in comparison to our daily car journeys or those alcoholic drinks you knock back.
I know many people will be left wondering what kind of evil and horrible world it is that we live in. So I want to conclude with this. Some horribly bad things happen in this world, but so do so many good things. This is the world that gave us the opportunity to fall in love, to share in beautiful art and music, to celebrate something as wonderful as the Olympic Games and to experience the majesty of nature. Don’t hate the world because of the actions of a few; love the world because their actions are so few.