MSM, Praying Hashtags CJW Criticism Gone Too Far?
So Thursday morning a terrible act was committed on the streets of London. At Russell Square (near the site of one of the most heinous terrorist bombings on 7/7/2005 on the No53 bus on Tavistock Square ) a 19 year old Norwegian-Somali man stabbed to death an American woman in her 60’s with a knife and then went into a frenzy, stabbing 5 others (2 women and 3 men from Australia, America, Israel and the UK). The Main Stream Media outlets (MSM) were quick to jump on the “terrorism bandwagon” when the Metropolitan police spokesperson quite honestly admitted that “terrorism hadn’t been ruled out but they were investigating all possibilities.” The Wall to wall coverage saga with evidence from mostly US based terrorist commenters and numerous live links to the scene then ensued. When the police later confirmed it was a knife attack carried out by someone with “mental health issues” the MSM, especially CNN downgraded the narrative and cooled the rhetoric. Why was this?
What made the crime in Russell Square go viral was 3 things: 1) the presumption that at least one of the victims was a white American or European citizen, 2) that the perpetrator was intent on causing as many deaths as possible and 3) that the perpetrator was assumed automatically to be a Muslim because of his appearance (and later his nationality or the nationalities of those he chose to attack). Now I’m not sure you can’t call making a spot judgement based on a person’s skin colour or look isn’t an example of racial profiling. I know there have been increased instances of Islamic terrorism in Western Europe. Yet the MSM and social media jumping to conclusions is far from helpful.
What is helpful and what was great to see was the numerous instances of Muslim twitter users from London coming out within minutes of the act being labelled as “potential terrorism” to condemn it in their strongest terms. Sadiq Khan, the first Muslim mayor of London equally asked for “calm and vigilance” in light of the attack regardless of how it had been labelled by media networks. It is in the very fabric of the British collective socio-historical psyche to act in a rational manner after such attacks have been committed. “Keep Calm and Carry On” is one of the most reprinted slogans in British homes and has been with us since the dark days of the Blitz!
Knife crime is an all too regular occurrence on the streets of UK cities and generally falls under the MSM radar. Black Life Matter activists in the UK have been trying to highlight this bias in reporting for the past few years. In 2014/15 there were 26,370 recorded incidents in knife crime in England and Wales (according to Office for National Statistics). Knife crime charities such as Victim Support would have been glad to have gotten the wall to wall coverage this one attack was getting on social media platforms and CNN!
So what angered me was the large number of Trumpian racists on their moral high horse to try and drag Londoners onto their anti-Muslim crusade bandwagon without having full knowledge of the facts. Or even wanting to believe the facts being presented to them by the MSM or via police spokespeople. They made no attempt to acknowledge the excellent response of our armed Met police who managed to attend the scene and help those injured and apprehending the attacker within 6 minutes of the attack commencement. A 6 minute response time is relatively rare in many other parts of the UK so it makes me shudder what might have happened if it had taken place in smaller towns such as Boston or Spalding where the volume of police officers who are armed or “on the beat” in the evening is much smaller! For anyone who wants to know, in Lincolnshire there are 1,100 police officers, 200 Special Constables and 149 Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) to cover an area of 2,284 square miles with a population of 731,500 (according to the Police Workforce, England Wales March 2013 table published by the Office For National Statistics), whereas the Metropolitan London area has 31,000 officers together with 2,600 PCSOs.
Some have mocked our brave policemen for daring to use a tazer instead of shooting the attacker on the spot. They said “oh it (tazer) didn’t work first time” or “why show mercy to a terrorist?” Well don’t you know we’re meant to have “policing by consent” as a fundamental tenet of the Common Law in the UK and thus shooting an attacker is their last resort because few people support “shoot to kill” policies that may be more popular in the US. The police want information from him on his motives, to find out if he had been part of a cell etc.
A proper response to any incident of crime or terror is to let the authorities in charge do their job. Rather than asking for the perpetrator’s name so you can go on a search vendetta to dig up facts which could be twisted to suit either a extreme left or right agenda, let the police access that information first so they can make informed judgements and ensure they have managed to follow up all leads to create a watertight prosecution. Why should the media be the ones who know a person’s identity first? Trial by media isn’t going to bring the elderly lady who died in the attack back. It isn’t going to soothe the feelings of the 5 injured in the attack who may be left emotionally as well as physically scarred for the rest of their lives.
Yet nope, the Trumpian Alt Righters wanted to focus their entire attention on the attacker’s identity and how the UK had been unable to control Islamist terrorism threats despite the tens of terror attacks and attackers that we know our intelligence services had been foiled since 2005 etc. They offered no real condolences for the woman killed in the attack, no thanks to God given that there had been more survivors than deaths in the incident. No acknowledgment that the Met police had actually increased the armed presence on the streets by 600 officers the day before to deal with the fears of tourists and citizens created as a result of terrorist attacks in France and Germany.
Now I’m not a massive fan of useless hashtagging on Twitter. The endless number of comments that come out if a vlogger seems to be “kidnapped” yet turns it into a social media stunt to gain followers and sympathy or the numerous “ban parties” with manic memes and gifs probably give Twitter a bad name. I do believe that #Praying hashtags are a legitimate way for tweeters who want to express
their genuine condolences and to show their regret that so many hateful acts are being committed in the world for seemingly inexplicable reasons. Deep down I’d hope every human being regardless of religious preference wants to espouse peace rather than be a warmonger, to unite, rather than divide people on basic emotions expressed as a basic essence of being human.
So that’s why I’m partly annoyed that the Alt-Right crash the Prayer hashtags to use them as a platform for their xenophobic and Islamophobic rhetoric. When I click on a hashtag such as #PrayForLondon I don’t want to see the same old people making comments such as “deport all Muslim refugees” or to see compassionate tweet users being attacked for merely daring to express condolences in the form of prayer because of their own religion. It’s not right to attack people for their compassion and humanity. One of Jesus’s core teachings was to show compassion to those that differ from us in terms of preferences.
I get that many in the AltRight media as well as on the left are looking for “suitable answers” to the Islamic terrorist attacks that have been increasing on Western Europe. If you want to debate such answers why not set up a separate hashtag to try and come up with appropriate, reasoned solutions. Let those who wish to express their grief do so on the Prayer hashtag. You might think I’m trying to censor people for how they wish to express their thoughts- that somehow I prefer “safe spaces” to honest debate. Well I’m sorry but not every area of social media platforms should be open to constant abuse and negative rhetoric. There is no entirety of free speech in this world; it is an illusion. There are always consequences to your actions. Speaking/ harking on about an idea/ideology is an act, writing a tweet referring to such ideology, even “indirectly” or “accidentally” is an act. You have the right to act whatever way you see fit even if there are laws and social mores to tell you not to do it. But once you have carried out the speech act, be prepared to be judged for those actions and be prepared to defend them especially if they breach the laws/mores of the country you happen to reside in at the time. In the same way that young man will have to face the consequences of the crime he committed, you should have to face the consequences of the hate filled tweet you put out. Especially if the opinion you have expressed turns out to be proven false and you are unprepared to accept or apologise for putting it out there in the first place.
Equally, if you are not prepared to say what you have tweeted out loud to family, friends or the people it is directed at, don’t bother tweeting it at all. Stand up for the strength of your convictions by all means but do not feel you are immune from ridicule/ judgement/ legal consequences if you do it. As a satirist I know this all too well; not everything I say will be palatable for everyone, including my own supposed target audience but I am prepared to say it to people’s faces and to face the consequences for saying it and apologise when I have caused genuine offence. Is Trump and his motley crue prepared to do the same? I’m not convinced! Because showing humility and modesty seems to be seen as the ultimate sign of weakness for his hate-filled campaign. Yet showing that humility and modesty is part of the very essence of being human. Time to start showing more of it in the future!