Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery.
Religious texts are full of support for those in trauma, both individual and national trauma. This is not surprising as religion was invented at a time when misery was for the vast majority a regular and possibly daily event.
Possibly the worst trauma is that of death as it spreads out from the victim or victims to those who loved and cared for them. And so touches many. Untimely death comes in the form of accident, neglect and deliberate. Such death quite rightly attracts the attention of the authorities; most attention being focused on deliberate, often violent death. With variants of that attracting the media and politicians, both of which seek to pursue their own agendas. The variant that is certain to attract both media and politicians, because it attracts the general population is that which is the most unexpected. Expected levels of murder, in the UK of over 1 a day, and expected victims, a standard member of the public, will probably attract the attention of local media but only the national media when that expected number or victim becomes unexpected.
Violent death since WWII has been reduced dramatically in Europe, a continent that saw violent death on a hitherto unimaginable scale between 1914 and 1945, estimated to be in the order of 78m. As of 2014, homicide rates ranged from Cyprus at 1.29 murders per hundred thousand to Austria at 0.51, the UK rate being 0.92. The USA is 4.88 per hundred thousand.
Over the course of 74 days between March and June 2017 there were three terrorist attacks that resulted in the murder of 35 people in London and Manchester. In the wake of the second attack in London in June 2017, the BBC presenter Martha Kearney described the situation as being one of a ‘national emergency’. The murder rate in England having risen from 0.92 per 100,000 to 0.99 per 100,000. Still far safer than most countries and most certainly not a ‘national emergency’. Media hyperbole having taken over. Not that surprising as bad news sells.
Being unusual, unexpected and dramatic are not sufficient criteria to warrant storing tinned foods and building barricades. Over the same period it would be expected that 99 ‘expected’ murders would have been committed. Nearly three times the number as in the Manchester and London attacks that, however, seemingly do not constitute a ‘national emergency’. All those murders causing as much distress to the victims’ families and those who loved and cared for them as those murdered in Manchester and London.
The broadcaster Andrew Neill contributing with a ‘Churchillian’ monologue that claimed civilisation itself was under attack. When the reality was that it was one man with a van, a knife and a bunch of personal issues.
Of course, wherever the media is, politicians are never far behind. Whereas the media relies on hyperbole to attract an audience politicians have agendas to push to an audience that has been attracted by the drama.
The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, claimed UK foreign policy over many years influenced such attacks. As a left-wing Labour MP who regards Labour’s ex-leader Tony Blair as the devil-incarnate for having engaged with a right-wing, Republican President from Texas, George W. Bush, in the invasion of Iraq, every opportunity should be taken to attack Blair, directly or indirectly.
Mohammad Sidique Khan, the suspected leader of four suicide bombers who murdered 56 people in July 2007, does, in his suicide video, link the attack of 7/7 with UK foreign policy. However, the perpetrators of the attacks in Manchester and London in 2017 leave behind no such statements.
Furthermore, Corbyn, as Labour leader, aspires to be the UK’s Prime Minister. The only time Article 5 of the NATO treaty (mutual defence) has been invoked is with the US invasion of Afghanistan. If the US made a future request for British troops under Article 5 would Corbyn refuse? If so, he would seriously undermine the cornerstone of UK foreign policy and defence since the late 1940s.
This cannot be considered a serious contribution as to what, in general, motivates such attackers.
Of course Corbyn is not unique in this regard. The UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, was quick to advance her own agenda that the Internet was the issue. As Home Secretary she introduced the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (aka the ‘Snoopers’ Charter’) that enabled general surveillance on a mass scale. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) declared such behaviour illegal in a case brought, by Labour MP Tom Watson and, ironically enough, David Davis when a Tory backbench MP, Davis then went on to become, when Theresa May succeeded David Cameron as PM after the UK voted to leave the EU, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. You have to wonder how they get on as May has a very strong autocratic streak about her and is more than happy with her reputation as a ‘bloody difficult woman’. Theresa May’s autocratic streak being shown in her decision to fight (and lose) two court cases that finally enabled the UK Parliament to decide whether to accept the advice of the electorate over the EU referendum decision to leave the EU, the referendum being only advisory. El Presidente May has the instincts of the dictator of a South American banana republic.
So, she is more than happy to connect such attacks with the need for Internet surveillance despite there being no evidence that communication via the Internet or access to Internet based resources played any part in any or all of the attacks.
David Davis’ use of the ECJ is noteworthy at this point. Clearly he and Watson found something so objectionable in May’s bill that they sought legal redress. Presumably British courts were felt so unsuitable that an appeal had to be made to a court in Luxembourg. The ECJ having in the past shown itself a better defender of the rights of the individual than UK courts, e.g. the McLibel case. Davis is now in charge of removing the UK from the EU with one of the main objectives being to deny the British access to the ECJ.
Watson, who is deputy leader of the UK Labour party, is also deserving of criticism as the Labour manifesto for the 2017 UK General Election also pledged to take the UK out of the single market and so out of the jurisdiction of the ECJ.
These people are beyond contempt.
The only relevant politician that showed himself to be a mature person over these attacks has been the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. Khan’s reaction to the second attack of June 3rd was measured and re-assuring
“My message to Londoners and visitors to our great city is to be calm and vigilant today. You will see an increased police presence today, including armed officers and uniformed officers. There is no reason to be alarmed by this. We are the safest global city in the world. You saw last night as a consequence of our planning, our preparation, the rehearsals that take place, the swift response from the emergency services tackling the terrorists and also helping the injured.”
It was only to be expected that Trump, a man who has no concept of a measured comment — everything is the best possible if he does it and the worst if someone else, especially Barack Obama, does it — attacked Khan. Yet, on average, someone with a gun murders 11,564 people in the USA each year, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. The equivalent number in England, which has a population one-seventh that of the USA, would be 1652. Far, far greater than the 35 people killed in three attacks in England in 2017. Yet if gun owners in the USA were considered to be the same threat to the USA as Trump considers Muslims his supporters and members of the National Rifle Association would be very, very angry. Trump himself would be very likely to find someway of Tweeting something quite extreme.
Both the media and politicians are fully aware of the power of the words and tone they use; that’s why they use them. However, they then disregard the fact that any society contains people that will take these words to heart and, as a consequence, form the opinion that their society and their country is under a threat of immense (or at least significant) proportions.
The Daily Mail headline that described the judges who handed down a verdict that it was Parliament not the government that had to decide whether or not to invoke Article 50 so as to leave the EU as ‘enemies of the people’ is a genuine attack on the rule of law and so civilisation.
With such a headline it is not surprising that the businesswoman who brought the case, Gina Miller, received volumes of abuse including death threats. That she had to defend rights MPs wouldn’t so as not to be put on the spot over a decision where their views, in the main, ran counter to the electorate’s is an even bigger blow to civilisation.
The role of an MP is, as Edmund Burke put it,
But his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living.
The day job is to take informed, well-judged decisions that a large part, even a majority, of the electorate disagree with, e.g. over the death penalty.
During the EU referendum, the Leave campaign focused heavily on immigration at a time when Germany, Sweden and others were sharing the burden placed on Greece by refugees fleeing Syria through Turkey. This focus formed the argument that the UK remaining in the EU would result in the UK being ‘deluged’ with refugees. A tactic that clearly worked as the UK voted to leave the EU and Lord Ashcroft’s polling reported that those voting to leave cited immigration as the second most important issue.
The MP Jo Cox had been an advocate of refugee rights for many years and was campaigning for the UK to remain. She was murdered by Thomas Mair who, during the attack, was heard to say: “This is for Britain”, “keep Britain independent”, and “Britain first”. When he appeared in Westminster magistrates court on multiple charges over killing of the MP he gave his name as “death to traitors, freedom for Britain”.
Clearly he regarded Jo Cox as a traitor.
Following the second attack in London in June 2017, a van was driven into a group of worshippers leaving a mosque in London. Darren Osborne is currently in custody facing charges of murder due to the attack. Osborne had lived in Cardiff and hired the van in Wales in order to drive to London and commit the offence. So no momentary lapse of reason but a planned attack by someone well motivated. However, he appears to not belong to any far-right organisation but has been described as being an aggressive person that had developed a hatred for Muslims. No doubt feeling they were a threat to civilisation.
Whilst it cannot be said that all these killers, Muslim and non-Muslim, share a common characteristic one characteristic frequently occurs — a disturbed personality. And this is one that also appears in mass shootings in the USA. The plan appearing to be to go out in a blaze of ‘glory’ taking others with them. As Osborne was being restrained after his attack of worshippers leaving the Finsbury Park mosque he is reported to have been shouting “Kill me”.
And that is the prism through which these attacks should be seen. Not some agents working to an international, sophisticated plan to subvert and overturn western civilisation and controlled/supported by a network but actions of people with issues that have fermented over many years and then suddenly burst out due to a trigger that most people would simply gloss over. Such factors mean that these attacks are a rarity. Clearly to be stopped if at all possible, and some are not going to be, but less likely to actually impact the vast majority of people than violence in society that is taken for granted.
- 2005, 7 July: 7/7 central London bombings conducted by four separate Islamist extremist suicide bombers, 56 people were killed and 700 were injured.
- 2013, 29 April to 12 July: Pavlo Lapshyn attacks. Lapshyn, a Ukrainian student and right-wing extremist, stabbed Mohammed Saleem, a Birmingham resident to death on 29 April.
22 May: A British soldier, Lee Rigby, was murdered in an attack in Woolwich by Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, two Islamist extremists
- 2016, 16 June. Labour MP Jo Cox, aged 41, was killed by Thomas Mair, The Crown Prosecution Service described it as an act of terror. The judge, in his sentencing remarks, said that Mair’s violence was politically-motivated
- 2017, 22 March: 2017 Westminster attack — Khalid Masood, a 52-year-old British man, born in Kent as Adrian Elms. Six, including the perpetrator and the officer, were killed in the incident, and 49 people were injured.
2017, 22 May: 2017 Manchester Arena bombing — A large explosion caused by Salmen Abedi, a British suicide attacker with a bomb at the Manchester Arena, Manchester, killing 22 individuals and injuring 120.
2017, 3 June: June 2017 London attack. 8 people were confirmed dead and at least 48 injured, some critically. .
2017, 19 June: A van was rammed into people walking near Finsbury Park Mosque in London after tarawih prayers. Local authorities have said that there are eleven injuries. One person died near the time of the attack. The police declared the incident a terrorist attack.