Yes, we’ve been here before, and not that long since either. As a matter of fact, the way in which I heard of events in London late last night was more or less identical to the way in which I heard of events in Manchester just under a fortnight ago, right at the point whereby I was winding down online for the evening. I won’t even use the word déjà vu because it seems such a cliché, but at the moment it feels as though we are living in a permanent rolling news channel, with atrocities on a loop; the media barely has time to get over blanket coverage of one incident before the next one comes along with all its attendant visual signposts recycled once again.
I actually avoided the real rolling news channels this time round because the manner of reportage is too close to the style I spoofed on a YT video a week or so ago. Part of me was also worried I was beginning to become jaded with it all, in the same way US television viewers did with the Moon Landings after Neil Armstrong’s one small step. But the pattern is well established now, as much for the media as for the perpetrators, and the worry is that we become so accustomed to terrorist attacks that they lose their power to shock. It would be sad if the kind of fatigue sets in that is often the response to the latest gun crime incident in the States, though incessant exposure to the same TV presentation and the same newspaper headlines can make this possible.
What happened on London Bridge and around Borough Market brought a disturbing new interpretation of the phrase ‘White Van Man’ to the colloquial table. Having been confronted by the considerably rarer tactic of the suicide bomber as a means of fast mass murder in Manchester, the public were reunited with the same haphazard approach to Jihadi brutality as occurred on Westminster Bridge in March – a vehicle deliberately driven into pedestrians, followed by knife-wielding lunatics emerging from it to wreak havoc in the name of Allah before being gunned down by armed police. What comes next we can already write the script for.
COBRA will reconvene; the PM will issue the same platitudes and promises from the Downing Street lectern; Fleet Street editorials will either preach tolerance or advocate internment; arrests around the country will be made; the terrorists will be named and FB profile pics of them will be unearthed as their road to martyrdom will raise few eyebrows; some on social media will question the timing of events and enter into conspiracy theories as to how they will benefit the Tories; we will be constantly reminded Islam is a peace-loving faith; and on and on it goes before the next attack.
Right now, it’s impossible to say if this is a co-ordinated sequence of assaults on the UK conducted by individuals in touch with each other at the planning process or if one attack inspires another in spontaneous copycat incidents, though the latter seems more likely; the chillingly clinical team effort that Paris experienced a couple of years ago was closer to a guerrilla operation; this still has the feel of DIY amateurishness. But it’s indisputable that after a decade of relative immunity to the bloodshed enacted on mainland European soil it now appears the twelve-year armistice since 7/7 is well and truly over. Are we in the thick of an Islamic equivalent of the IRA bombing campaign of the mid-70s or is it mere coincidence that all these attacks have taken place in such quick succession? Nobody knows yet; but whether the climate of fear one presumes the Jihadists intended to create will influence the thought processes of people going about their daily lives remains to be seen.
Of course, the timing of the incidents, so close to a General Election, means what began as the Brexit Election is in danger of becoming the Terror Election. National campaigning has been suspended by at least the Conservatives and Labour for today as a mark of respect for those who lost their lives last night, though business as usual will resume tomorrow; when we’re just four days away from the nation going to the polls, the campaign has no choice but to continue. It’s difficult to predict what kind of impact the current onslaught may or may not have on how the electorate decide to vote, for at the moment it seems whoever happens to be occupying No.10 on Friday is pretty powerless to prevent this from happening all over again.
I suppose it’s inevitable that the compulsory mouthpiece of social media is awash with opinions and reactions that reflect the confusion of the generations that have come of age with no memory of the last time this country was in a state of high alert. When the IRA were inflicting their own nihilistic ideology on mainland Britain, a large majority of the population had lived through the Second World War and didn’t scare easily. As far as the UK is concerned, the 1990s was a relatively peaceful decade to be born into when compared to the couple that preceded it; and even 9/11 as a game-changing event is something that now happened sixteen years ago; one would have to be at least twenty to have a clear memory of it.
Therefore, as easy (not to mention lazy) as it is for someone of my age – as well as slightly younger and slightly older – to react and respond differently to each incident, with less sense of feeling the world is going to Hell in a handcart, it’s worth acknowledging there are a lot of people out there who have no precedents to fall back on. These are indeed unsettling times, but they don’t alter my own personal outlook on the good, the bad and the ugly inherent in my fellow-man. Let’s just keep buggering on.
© The Editor