I’ve never been in a mosque, but I’ve never been in a synagogue either. Although I was raised in a secular household, I am familiar with one branch of the House of God on account of having to attend endless childhood weddings and christenings; these were churches of the austere Protestant variety, however, rather than the camp Catholic model. I’ve no idea if the ambience is as chilly and, frankly, boring in the showrooms of other denominations, but with all my C-of-E education coming via the dullest lessons at school, I think my agnostic outlook was sealed from an early age. Drawing a picture of Pinky and Perky at the Crucifixion in the infants was probably a telling indication that I recognised a fairy tale when I heard one.

On last night’s edition of ‘Question Time’, a member of the audience brandished a leaflet he swore blind he’d been handed at an open day at Didsbury Mosque, at which the father of Salman Ramadan Abedi, the Manchester bomber, was once a regular. What he read from the leaflet sounded like classic Radical Islamic propaganda, denouncing western immorality in a language that implied such immorality was deserving of severe punishment. A veteran of the same mosque sitting a few rows down denied he could have received such literature at Didsbury, but the man was adamant.

The general impression given is that there does seem to be something of an ‘It weren’t me, guv; I weren’t even there’ culture prevailing through many of the mosques that have harboured the hate preachers and fundamentalist shit-stirrers in the UK over recent years. Either nobody saw or heard anything or their eyes turned blind through choice; however, not knowing the interior structure of mosques, I’ve no idea if the guilty parties retreat into special recruitment rooms. But the climate of fear when it comes to informing in many Muslim communities seems almost reminiscent of Sicily or even Belfast during the Troubles; events in Rotherham and Rochdale appear to back up this Mafia-like control the worst offenders have over the populace and why the police steer clear.

Then again, it has emerged that Salman Ramadan Abedi’s extremist views and support for ISIS had aroused enough suspicion within his own community that he had been reported to an anti-terrorism hotline, something I imagine would put those who reported him at considerable risk should they be identified. As a result of these calls, Abedi was known to the security services; but police manpower being deployed to keep an eye on potential Jihadists would severely stretch the police manpower required for historic fishing parties into the sex lives of dead celebrities and politicians, so it’s no wonder the likes of Salman Ramadan Abedi could further his ambitions free from surveillance. Many police officers may have been laid off in the wake of Government cuts to the country’s forces, but deciding the priorities for those that remain is something the police themselves have to answer for.

The internet has also resurfaced in the blame game this week. Online outlets such as Facebook and Twitter certainly operate on curious moral grounds. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine had her FB account suspended after posting a photo of herself holding a Supertramp LP over her chest; the sleeve of said album featured nothing but a pair of tits on it. Similarly, the entertaining Twitter ‘Whores of Yore’ account initially had a profile pic which was a portrait of Nell Gwyn showing a nipple; the painting hangs in the National Gallery for all age-groups to see, but was evidently too outrageous for cyberspace, and the offending nipple had to be removed for the account to continue. On the other hand, Facebook and Twitter don’t appear to have similar problems with inflammatory language or violent videos promoting opinions that somewhat contradict the Utopian New Age worldview shared by Mark Zuckerberg and his fellow visionaries.

So, yes, mosques and websites have been under the spotlight yet again this week, though few have mentioned HM prisons, which seem to be the real recruitment centres when it comes to home-grown terrorists. The escalating convictions for those planning terrorist attacks since 7/7 means many prisons have a far higher Muslim population today than has been the case in the past, and the brutally alienating regime behind bars means birds of a feather naturally flock together.

A young Muslim prisoner who may be serving a sentence that has no Radical Islamic element to it is befriended by another Muslim prisoner who recommends one way to stay safe from the psychos, the druggies and those who take a shine to a pretty face is to spend his time exclusively with other Muslim prisoners. Segregation and indoctrination ensue, and said prisoner is released with a head pumped full of Paradise and those oh-so alluring virgins.

Armed police and even bloody soldiers – both of whom have had their numbers severely depleted by the same Government that now requires their services to enhance ‘Project Fear’ for the public – are currently highly visible on the streets of Britain; but they’re guarding the stable door when the proverbial horse has already bolted. No wannabe Jihadist would contemplate an ‘incident’ when there’s such a show of force; better to strike when nobody is looking. No matter how heavy an armed presence Bobby and Tommy present this weekend, the only strike I expect to see at Wembley tomorrow will emanate from the foot of Diego Costa.

© The Editor


There’s an uncannily accurate episode of ‘Steptoe and Son’ in which one of Albert’s aged siblings snuffs it and the extended Steptoe family gather like ghouls to see which of the deceased’s possessions they can get their hands on. Each is arguing that they’re more deserving of recognition in the last will and testament than the other as they took more time out to wait upon the deathbed beforehand. We’ve all been there and we’ve all seen how such occasions can bring out the worst in people; but there’s no denying that many present at these events really enjoy a good funeral, especially when they’re getting on and the options for funerals re family and friends increase. For some, it’s the highlight of their diminishing social calendar.

I only bring this up in that I was reminded of it when trawling through social media yesterday, with Facebook in particular clogged-up with glib virtue signalling as FB folk fell over each other to see who could shout the loudest as to how much they cared about what had happened in Manchester. One could be generous and say that this is the only method of expressing sympathy for those who have never known a time without the medium, although most of the posts I saw were from people not much younger than me; equally, one could say it serves a purpose in stating the bleedin’ obvious for an echo-chamber audience that otherwise have no other means of agreeing that Manchester was a pretty bloody horrible tragedy, end of.

But whatever genuine feelings of sorrow in some cases provoke the need to advertise one’s upset, it was hard to escape the feeling that many were doing what was expected of them, living by the unwritten rules of Facebook etiquette whenever a good terrorist incident occurs; and I couldn’t help come to the conclusion that a vast amount of FB members love a good terrorist incident. As long as there’s a hash-tag attached, the opportunities to promote one’s empathy and humanity are abundant.

Slogans of solidarity with Manchester; FB profile pictures redesigned to demonstrate this solidarity – even though (unlike Paris 2015) few incorporated the national flag into the imagery (bit racist, perhaps?); endless token ‘our thoughts go out to…’ posts; a few ‘Bring back our girls’-type photos of DIY placards being held aloft, which must come as comfort to those who lost loved ones at the Arena; and a discernible sigh of relief that something major and horrible had happened that gave the Facebook army the chance to relive the Diana hysteria yet again, hi-jacking the grief of the people who were actually bereaved. The excess of wallowing in it all I found quite nauseating, though even this was superseded by some suggestions by the most pathetically paranoid Corbynistas that the whole event was somehow timed to derail the upsurge in Labour support that had occurred in the days leading up to it. Give me strength.

No better, however, was the behaviour of Fleet Street’s finest, with tales of the Telegraph ruthlessly pursuing the sibling of someone killed in Manchester; the lines from Elvis Costello’s peerless ‘Pills and Soap’ sprang to mind – ‘They talked to the sister/the father and the mother/with a microphone in one hand/and a chequebook in the other/and the camera noses in to the tears on her face.’ Pretty reprehensible, though we don’t expect anything else from the press, even if it wasn’t from the tabloid end of the market this time round. And as for the boringly obvious Katie Hopkins on Twitter – yes, dear; we know you’re a professional contrarian by now, so stop being so bloody predictable.

Not great timing in terms of receiving the kind of coverage one would expect, but the death of Sir Roger Moore coming when it did provided an interesting contrast with social media’s response to events in Manchester. I feel compelled to comment on his passing because he was somebody I knew of from an early age, someone I watched in ‘The Saint’ and ‘The Persuaders’ as a small child, and someone whose seven films as 007 spanned the mid-70s to the mid-80s, still the longest run of any Bond. The last three movies might not be up to much, but the first four remain amongst the most entertaining outings for a character the likes of which the nation could do with for real right now.

I never met Roger Moore in person, but as with many of the personalities we encounter on the big or small screen, he played a minor albeit enjoyable part in my life via his career as an actor whose action man roles were always served-up in an arch dressing; he never took himself too seriously and he acknowledged the ludicrousness of James Bond by sending him up as his run in the part was extended. His Bond movies might be too tongue-in-cheek for some, but they’re a hell of a lot more fun than any starring Daniel Craig.

Anyone who never met Roger Moore in person, but who spent ninety minutes in his company when he was doing his job, is understandably prompted to express sadness at his death or comment upon it online. It’s a natural reaction when a public figure we were fond of dies; they may remind us of childhood or a happy period of our lives; if they’re a musician, we might associate one of their songs with a cherished moment that hearing a snatch of the key melody again might briefly return us to if only in mind rather than body. However, when it comes to multiple deaths of people we’d never heard of while they were alive, whose contribution to our lives wasn’t even of a minor nature, who cares what we think?

‘Our thoughts go out to…’ may indicate one is ‘on side’ and part of a virtual community that cares, but it means f**k all to those who have suffered as a result of what happened in Manchester. The mass craving for mourning that now has a vintage of 20 years has been expanded by social media to the point whereby one wonders how its most vocal and visible proponents would cope if they themselves experienced personal bereavement. One wouldn’t wish that on anybody, but the difference between mourning for someone you never knew and someone you did is vast; until that happens, on they’ll go, endlessly recycling long-distance grief in a circle of vicarious cyberspace sharing, too preoccupied with narcissistic point-scoring to notice soldiers taking up permanent positions on the street in the transformation of Britain from elected democracy to armed camp.

© The Editor


There are post-war precedents, though to be fair, mercifully not many. The highest number of fatalities during the brutal IRA mainland bombing campaign in the 1970s was the 21 killed in the Birmingham Pub Bombings of November 1974; this atrocity was topped by the 7/7 attacks in 2005, which claimed 52 lives – the highest number of fatalities on British soil since the Second World War. Now, added to the litany of mass murders in peacetime Britain is last night’s explosion at the Manchester Arena. As I started writing this around an hour after first hearing about it, 19 deaths had been reported; coming back to finish it off after a kip, the body-count had risen to 22. Echoes of the massacre that occurred in Paris in November 2015 are inevitable, coming as it did at a music venue packed with thousands seeking an entertaining night out.

During the ‘War on Terror’ we seem to have been living through ever since 9/11, Blighty has been fortunate in that incidents of this nature have been relatively minor, largely restricted to a small handful of deaths caused by amateur Jihadists lacking the ammunition to do damage on a large scale. The 7/7 bombings were unique in the level of their co-ordination and execution, but nothing comparable in terms of fatalities had been seen in over a decade until yesterday. Whether that suggests this country’s security forces are better at their jobs than their continental equivalents or that multicultural integration has been achieved with a greater success here than in any mainland European nation is open to debate. However, neither proposal prevented what happened in Manchester.

As I’m neither a 12-year-old girl nor the father of a 12-year-old daughter, I confess I’d never heard the name Ariana Grande until news of events at the US singer’s Manchester gig broke; I suppose that name will now be immortalised in the worst manner imaginable, forever associated with an incident that she herself had no hand in. From what I can gather, she sounds the type of production-line pop star that US showbiz specialises in, the kind of Miley Cyrus marionette that attracts young teenage girls to her shows, many of whom (it would seem) are amongst the dead in Manchester.

I suppose for some present the concert would have been their introduction to the live music experience and most will have been chaperoned there by a parent. For the same age group flocking to scream at The Osmonds or David Cassidy 45 years ago, the biggest worry would have been the possibility of being crushed at the front of the stage. Nobody back then envisaged this kind of horrific outcome when attending something as frivolous as a pop concert.

The suicide bomber, whilst a popular employment option in the Middle East, is an industry that has never really caught on in a big way outside of Islamic war-zones. It could be that job satisfaction resting upon the likelihood of death serves as a bit of a deterrent, despite the Paradise pension scheme and its appealing clause concerning available virgins. The suicide bomber business has done its best to establish European branches via online salesmen, though the UK’s response has mostly consisted of recruits travelling abroad as the brickies did in ‘Auf Wiedersehen Pet’ rather than working from home. The 7/7 bombers were the exception rather than the rule here, which is why the fact that the incident at the Manchester Arena being triggered by a deranged individual wearing the latest Middle Eastern explosive ensemble is such a shock.

From what is known so far, the suicide bomber pressed the detonator in the foyer of the Arena just as the audience was beginning to leave the concert; his presence as the cause of the chaos was backed-up by eyewitness reports of nuts and bolts scattered across the area and the unmistakable odour of explosives in the air. It’s possible he was operating alone, though the suspicion that he may be a member of a network whose other members may well be plotting a similar operation hasn’t been ruled out. Unlike 7/7, the majority of these incidents in the UK – whether the murder of Lee Rigby or recent events on Westminster Bridge – have been the handiwork of individuals as opposed to a team; this particular incident would have required considerable planning, though that doesn’t necessarily mean one wannabe Kamikaze couldn’t have done it on his own.

When one thinks of the large-scale public events that have taken place in this country since 2005 – Royal Weddings, Jubilees, the 2012 London Olympics – the fact they’ve passed by without any contribution from the suicide bomber sector could be viewed as a triumph over such nihilistic interventions. But perhaps these events were a tad too obvious, attracting an intense police presence and security service planning months in advance; a pop concert by a singer in Manchester that few over 30 have even heard of, on the other hand – well, who would have expected that? The element of surprise appears to be an essential aspect of this kind of project.

The General Election campaign has been temporarily suspended, flags are flying at half-mast, the TV news channels are replaying the same images and reporting the same stories on a loop again, social media is awash with virtue signalling, and world leaders have issued their commiserations and condemnations; the pick of the latter was undoubtedly Donald Trump’s description of the perpetrator in the plural as ‘evil losers’. And that’s about it at the moment; not a lot else to add other than it’s shit innit.

© The Editor