Gutless Media Hacks Avoid Serious Questions about Manchester Bombing

Tom Secker
Jun 2, 2017 · 15 min read
CCTV of supposed Manchester Bomber Salman Abedi

The cropped, photoshopped picture of Salman Abedi which we’re all familiar with by now perfectly represents the media coverage of the Manchester bombing. There are no surroundings, no context, simply a low-resolution image of one man against whom we pointlessly direct our anger and fear — pointless because he’s now dead. But what if Abedi isn’t the sole guilty party we’re told he is? And why do so many ball-less masturbators pretending to be journalists avoid asking the serious questions about terrorist attacks?

Did Abedi Do It?

Already we’re seeing numerous reports emerging that contradict or provide problems for the official story. Credit goes to Keelan Balderson for bringing much of this to my attention.

The police have so far released no evidence whatsoever demonstrating that Abedi knowingly and deliberately blew himself up at the Manchester Arena. While we might assume they have CCTV of the incident (there are certainly cameras both inside and outside the Arena) we have not seen that. Instead we’ve been given one image apparently from the night of the bombing itself, but with no date or timecode and no background identifying the location. In essence, that picture could be from anywhere. Maybe it is from the lift that takes you to the concourse leading into the Arena, maybe it is not.

Diagram of Abedi’s supposed final route

Contradictions between two early and critical witnesses

Meanwhile, only two witnesses claim to have seen the bomber — one before the explosion, one after.

Emma Johnson was waiting for her daughter to come out from the Arena when she says she saw the suicide bomber. In interviews with BBC Radio and The Sun newspaper she gave these accounts:

I was about 15 feet away from the blast. We were waiting for our children to come out and we stood at the top of the foyer — you go up some stairs and we were protected by glass on a barrier.

As the doors all opened — it was just before the end of the Dangerous Woman song — it hadn’t quite finished and obviously people were leaving to miss the traffic.

So we said we’d stand up there so the children could see us. As people were coming out they were wearing the clothes of Ariana — you know the white, the black, the pink, because they all sold the merchandise.

But for one split second I turned and saw what I can only describe as a bright red — that’s why it stood out — it was bright red, with a grey panel down the front with risen bits all over it.

It was that that stood out because it was so intense, the colour, in this crowd of people.

As quick as I saw it, the explosion happened.


I saw a person in a red vest with a grey panel by the merchandising stalls.

He had only just stepped in through the doors from outside a second earlier.

On the front of his top he had what appeared to be a large raised zipper, the width of his chest.

I was thinking, ‘What a bizarre thing to wear’. He looked so out of place. Now I know the zipper must have been nuts and bolts attached to the suicide vest.

A split second later the explosion came. It was a huge flash of light. There was fire and smoke.

The glass balcony barriers exploded around us but incredibly not one piece hit us.

Aside from the strange situation of being 10–15 feet away from the bomber, being thrown 10 feet into the air but surviving completely unharmed and ready to give media interviews the following day, there are significant problems here. In one interview she says she turned for a split second and saw the bomber. In the other she describes him having just stepped in through the doors. Which is it? Either she only saw him for a split second before the explosion, or she saw him come through the doors and then blow himself up.

She also claims that the man stood out because he wasn’t wearing the black, white and pink outfits of Ariana Grande fans but instead was wearing:

a bright red — that’s why it stood out — it was bright red, with a grey panel down the front with risen bits all over it

Given that the foyer was full of parents of Ariana Grande fans, who would not have been wearing black, white and pink, this makes no sense at all. Why did this man stand out over all the others who weren’t dressed like playboy bunnies?

Catwoman meets playboy bunny?

More importantly, according to the CCTV images of Abedi in the lift he wasn’t wearing anything red or even close to that colour:

‘a bright red — that’s why it stood out — bright red, with a grey panel down the front’?

Naturally, no ‘journalist’ has bothered to take these images to Emma Johnson and ask her if this is the man she says she saw. Because that would involve these ‘journalists’ actually doing their democratic duty and helping the pursuit of justice.

Likewise Darron Coster, a former Royal Military Police staff sergeant, was waiting down at the station for his son who was enjoying the concert. After hearing the explosion he ‘walked’ up to the foyer to help. He describes helping victims, organising tourniquets and water and providing first aid. However, when it comes to his description of having seen Abedi’s body there are problems:

I sort of guessed it was a suicide bombing. Then I tried to close the doors because I could see the suicide bomber’s body.

I could see half of his body halfway inside. I went over and closed the doors because I didn’t want anyone seeing that.

It looked like he had been blown inside the doors. I didn’t want to look. His torso was through the doors and he had no legs. I couldn’t see a rucksack.

Firstly, why assume that a legless body was necessarily the bomber? Victims also lost limbs, but no one seems to have mistaken them for the potential culprit. Second, was the body halfway through the doors, or all the way through thus allowing him to close the doors?

Thirdly, his description of the body as a ‘torso’ that ‘had no legs’ almost fits with what Emma Johnson said about seeing the body after the bombing:

Then I saw the torso. There were no arms or legs.

However, neither witness mentioned the body being decapitated, as claimed in another Sun article. This claim makes little sense, as if Abedi was the bomber then the bomb was in his backpack, not strapped to his chest (which is what causes decapitation in some suicide bombings).

Typical suicide bomb vest

Likewise, it has been widely reported that Abedi was identified first by a bank card in his pocket. Other reports say this identification was confirmed via facial recognition technology. So the bomb ripped off his limbs but left his clothing intact enough to protect his bank card, crucially enabling the police to identify him within hours? And it also blasted his head off, but two witnesses who saw the body didn’t notice this and his decapitated head was intact enough to use facial recognition technology?

Clearly, this is bullshit. Somewhere in all this there is a lie or multiple lies. Either Emma Johnson is suffering from a fake memory, or she saw someone else not dressed like Abedi is in the CCTV, or that picture of Abedi isn’t from a camera showing him approaching the Arena before the bombing. Either he was decapitated, in which case the body described by Emma Johnson and Darron Castor wasn’t the bomber’s body, or he wasn’t decapitated, in which case the Sun is lying about that.

The problem is, this is pretty much all the evidence that has so far been presented that it was a suicide bombing and that Abedi was the culprit — a contradictory mess of details that simply don’t add up to a consistent conclusion. So every ‘journalist’ writing that Abedi was without question a suicide bomber and that he set off that bomb is either a) stupid or b) ignorant of these details and simply accepting the official story at face value.

The Air Wick Suicide Bomber

Instead of any analysis of these contradictions or anyone asking the serious question of whether Abedi did this or not, we’ve been given a few distractions. The most ludicrous so far is the ‘where is the blue suitcase?’ story, which is laughably irrelevant compared to the contradictions above.

In the CCTV showing Abedi’s movements in the days before the bombing he is often seen with a large blue suitcase on wheels. Some media outlets have helpfully published CCTV images of Abedi alongside pictures of similar suitcases, just so you know you’re watching the real CSI: Miami.

Blue suitcase = obvious terrorist

Some of the stories covering the vital mystery of the blue suitcase include the detail that other CCTV from just hours before the blast shows Abedi shopping. Apparently he bought cleaning products, almonds, tinned tuna and two air fresheners.

This is not the behaviour of a suicide bomber. Or at least it makes absolutely no sense for a man who intends to commit mass-murder-suicide that evening to give a fuck that his bomb factory smells of Air Wick Pure Purple Lavender and that he’d made sure to clean the grill before he left. Once again, these details are reported without anyone asking the obvious fucking question — how do we reconcile this information with the claim he blew himself up a few hours later and murdered 22 innocent people in the process?

Where is the evidence that Abedi was a suicide bomber?

The Kill Switch

One further story begs yet more questions. After pictures leaked to American intelligence were in turn leaked to the American media we started seeing reports saying that:

Photographs of bomb remnants found at the Manchester Arena show a trigger switch with a tiny circuit board soldered into the end, which experts say could point to a remote-control or timer built into the bomb to ensure an accomplice could detonate it if Abedi lost his nerve.

If this is true then how do we know whether it was Abedi or someone else who set off the bomb? How can the police be sure it wasn’t detonated by remote? Given his behaviour only hours earlier, how can we be sure Abedi even knew that he was carrying a bomb?

Once again, I cannot see a single ‘journalist’ asking these questions. Not one. They are all just accepting this part of the story — that Abedi did it and he was a suicide bomber — as gospel.

Blowhards, Blowback and Bullshit

When it comes to the wider context ‘journalists’ have been just as cowardly. In seeking to distinguish themselves from the right wing media, many ‘left wing’ ‘journalists’ have adopted the ‘blowback’ narrative — that the Manchester bombing is somehow the natural consequence of NATO invasions and interventions.

Not one of these ‘journalists’ has actually cited any evidence that this is a case of ‘blowback’, that Abedi was motivated by revenge. It is simply a generic interpretation of events based on no specific facts whatsoever.

They ignore, for example, that NATO invaded Afghanistan in 2001. In the intervening 16 years not a single Afghan has come to Britain and bombed it in revenge. The same is true of Iraq. The same is true of Syria. So where’s the ‘blowback’?

The truth is that the ‘blowback’ is almost entirely visited upon the countries being invaded. There are Islamist insurgencies in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan who have been attacking the occupying forces, the governments and the general public in those countries. Literally tens of thousands (possibly hundreds of thousands) have been killed by these insurgencies, but this ‘blowback’ from the invasions is almost entirely ignored.

Instead, the ‘journalists’ only talk about ‘blowback’ when it’s a much smaller number of mostly white British people being blown up. Because clearly those lives matter much more to these ‘left wing’ commentators. This is how the ‘blowback’ interpretation repeats and is based on the same racist, imperialist attitudes as the conventional right wing view of the War on Terror. ‘Blowback’ only matters when it affects us here in these countries — the much larger, more lethal ‘blowback’ in the countries targeted by our foreign policy is not discussed. It is reduced not just to an irrelevance, but to a state of non-existence.

One particularly snivelling and evasive shitstain is Jonathan Cook, a former Guardian journalist who now criticises the Guardian a lot for not being left wing enough. A fair position to adopt, to be sure, but when it comes to terrorism he’s as useless as a bag of dicks with no handle.

An entirely random image representing Jonathan Cook

Cook recently posted on his facebook page an article by Media Lens — another faux left outlet who marginally differ from the right wing while maintaining all the same assumptions and prejudices. Media Lens claim that:

In the wake of yet another horrendous atrocity, this time in Manchester claiming 23 lives, ‘respectable’ media once again refused to seriously discuss the extent to which violent attacks against ‘us’ are linked to ‘our’ violent attacks against ‘them’. Instead, howls of disgust typically arise when anyone mentions terms like ‘blowback’ and ‘reaping the whirlwind’.

The reality — that ‘blowback’ is the default, generic response of all faux-left media organs to terrorist attacks on the West — is conveniently ignored. Much easier to make out like you’re saying something radical, when all it comes down to is ‘they bombed us because we bombed them’, thus maintaining the racist ‘us’ vs ‘them divide that underpins our entire foreign policy.

I told Cook that blowback is bullshit and that the real subjects that no ‘journalist’ will touch are:

1) 40 years of sponsoring jihadis, to the extent that the resulting terrorist attacks in the West are either intentional on the part of our governments or cynically seen as the cost of doing business.

2) The notion that Abedi might be either innocent, or an unwitting pawn in a larger plot. Recent news stories say that the detonator seems to have been wired so that it could be set of manually or by remote, but everyone just assumes Abedi set it off manually without any evidence of that. Similarly, they release CCTV of Abedi hours before the blast where he’s buying tinned tuna and air freshener — not the behaviour of a suicide bomber.

Even the fringe/independent/alt media don’t want to discuss these things. By comparison the notion that ‘they bombed us because we bombed them’ is a misleading, racist simplification.

Cook’s response was to simply avoid any question of Abedi’s complete and total guilt and to deny the content of the article he posted and endorsed:

“The notion that ‘they bombed us because we bombed them’ is a misleading, racist simplification “ — that’s probably the reason no one is making it.

The problem for Cook is that the Media Lens article is making this argument. They happily quote Professor Jake Lynch of the University of Sydney, who wrote:

Blowback theory is most definitely relevant. It is not confined to “blam[ing] Islamist terrorism directly on western expeditionary warfare”, as Mason incorrectly states. Islamic State germinated in the scorched earth left behind when we removed the regime of Saddam Hussein. If we had not invaded Iraq, the organisation that is now attacking us would not exist. That is blowback.

As such, when Cook says that no one is making the misleading, racist simplification that ‘they bombed us because we bombed them’ he is simply lying, or being an idiot.


Because the alternative would be to admit that he’s a faux left ‘journalist’ who endorses misleading, racist bullshit. And he’s not going to do that, because that would involve have a spine, some balls and some personal integrity. He is demonstrably lacking in all three, preferring to write about Israel’s oppression of Palestine than to acknowledge that he believes in the same racist horseshit that excuses Israel’s oppression of Palestine.

Notice also that Lynch assumes that Manchester was an attack by ISIS — an idea based entirely on a claim of responsibility made on a messaging app — a claim anyone could have made for any reason. There is no evidence ISIS had a damn thing to do with it, but even apparent critics of the war on terror just assume this because it fits in with the point they want to make. Pathetic intellectual dishonesty at its most crude and obvious.

The tiny handful of credible journalists

Bizarrely, the Media Lens article also cites three recent pieces by Nafeez Ahmed, John Pilger and Peter Oborne. All three articles depart radically from the racist simplification of the ‘blowback’ narrative and point to the direct collusion between British intelligence and the LIFG gang that includes Abedi’s father.

Curiously, Media Lens avoided the fact that none of these articles — even Oborne’s in the Daily Mail — were met with ‘howls of disgust’. And Oborne’s goes further than the ‘whoopsadaisy, some people got pissed off because we bombed their whole family’ blowback bullshit and accuses the government of criminal negligence:

MI6 officers were complicit in creating a generation of British-born jihadis who are prepared to do anything, and kill anyone — even young children — in their efforts to destroy this country.

However, Media Lens cites this article under the heading ‘Joining the Dots’, before systematically failing to join the dots.

Dickless nonsense from Media Lens, as per usual

Media Lens provided no distinction between what Oborne, Pilger, Ahmed and others are saying and the racist simplification of the ‘blowback’ narrative. They just lump it all in together in a vague way, failing to draw any of the obvious conclusions or ask any of the important questions.

So why did Cook endorse this article?

Because it endorsed him:

A human centipede of misleading racist bullshit

One faux left media organ praising another, only to then be praised back in an endless circlejerk of roundabout, evasive nonsense.

If you want to be popular then I guess this is the sort of complete lack of journalistic and personal integrity you have to embody, I suppose. But it has nothing to do with the truth. It has nothing to do with who really bombed Manchester and why. Cook and Media Lens and the rest of the faux left have no interest in such questions, which is why they write the same articles saying the same things after every terrorist attack. It’s just a ritual to appeal to their intellectually and emotionally spineless audiences who don’t want to have to deal with the notion that one way or another their government is criminally complicit in the murder of its own citizens.

When a conservative journalist writing in the arch-conservative Daily Mail is offering a more radical (but also more accurate) version of events to a supposedly left wing outlet like Media Lens, then we have problems. It puts the lie to Media Lens’ claims to credibility, their claim to asking the big, important questions that others dare not ask. In reality, they’re as centrist, racist and deceitful as CNN or the BBC. They are doing nothing to undermine the War on Terror because they’re simply repeating and reinforcing the ideas and attitudes behind it. However, unlike the openly imperialist Fox News, they pretend they’re doing something else, and so they manage to fool a lot of well-meaning but gullible readers into thinking they really are doing something else.

Meanwhile, if someone else did push the button in Manchester, Jonathan Cook and Media Lens do not give a fuck. It’s not their role in this to actually ask whether the official story is true, even when explicit evidence emerges that casts serious doubt on that conclusion. Their role is to repeat the official story, while putting a slightly alternative spin on events so they can lay claim to being a fringe outlet that’s opposed to the establishment while in reality they reinforce the establishment.

This dynamic of faux left ‘journalists’ pretending to be doing something different while actually doing the exact same things as the people they’re criticising is a common and wide-ranging problem. But in the wake of a terrorist attack we get a moment of sharp relief where you really get to see who has a spine and who just wants to pretend they are a journalist.

Tom Secker

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Journalist, Investigative historian, podcaster and author