According to NBC News, the Manchester attack may have been a suicide bomber. With the facts now becoming very familiar, our reaction to this news is what matters most.
As the news from Manchester slowly ekes toward the known facts, we’re stung with the familiarities of what we see. More blood pointlessly spilt in a public place. The general vibe around the office and online this morning was initially one of optimism, one of not letting it be another attack. Maybe we could will it enough to be a horrible accident. Enough with the terrorism already. Let’s not add the macabre overtones to Manchester as we have Westminster, Munich, Nice, Stockholm and Paris.
Early on, I spied a tweet that squarely placed the blame on an electrical fault, and another supposed eyewitness who claimed that it was all hype. There was no blood, no horror, and no terror. Works for me, works for everybody. This same impulse ran through the streets of the Internet last week when a man drove into a crowd in Times Square, his method consistent with the Islamic State-inspired lone wolf nutjobbery. Fortunately, and I use that term glibly, it turns out the antagonist was just an everyday drunk driver with a criminal record. In 2017, we took that as a win. I certainly did. And this is beside the fact that I know drink driving claims more people worldwide a year than terrorism, and the fact that drink driving took my father.
Our reaction makes no sense. We’re scared as fuck, and it skews our logic. The ancient survival gear kicks in, and we’re looking around corners for the towering murky knife-brandishing figure that will kill us for no good reason.
For about 20 minutes I clung to the “horrible accident” theory before the pale count was totalled, and consigned my optimism to the bin. So, terrorism again. At the time of print, 19 lay dead, 50 wounded, all harmed by the grimy guerrilla wrists of a nail bomb, lacerations upon their bodies earned for attending an Ariana Grande concert of all things. Even if you don’t pay too much attention to the machinations of modern day international terror bar the outpouring your grief, and changing your selfie to a tricolour, the process remains the same as those who analyse it.
A confused what gives way to a fearful how, and ultimately an angry who.
The facts are seemingly these, according to NBC News: forensic evidence indicates that the bloodletting in Manchester lay at the hands of a suicide bomber, with a partial ID on the way.
NBC News sources: Evidence suggests suicide bomber, possible ID https://t.co/o9qZgO2LVo
— Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) May 23, 2017
In less official circles, this post circulated on Twitter before NBC broke the above:
Here is part of my conversation with the guy who took this screenshot. Confirmation it was sent AFTER the attack in Manchester. pic.twitter.com/7WonEqXYBq
— PeterSweden (@PeterSweden7) May 23, 2017
Whether is it legitimate, or not, the picture is ornately framed, as the paint quickly dries. So, ISIS again.
However, there is something that we need to address in well-trudged times like these. Who to blame.
I know it hurts; yet more of our fellow innocents dead in a war we’re not involved in, and rage is an illogical beast by nature, but immediately flicking off the safety on our lip, allowing us to blame an entire religion instead of a minute number who use its name for their hideous purposes, will do nothing but walk us further into the pit.
To prove how broken the moral compass is, President Donald Trump uttered a sentence while in Saudi Arabia this week, one that gets to the crux of the issue. Trumples stated that the solution is crushing extremists, not Islam, then went even further by stating that woke Muslims should turf the extremists out of their religious institutions. I realise 45 is an odd bedfellow to have right now, but you should listen to that figure lazily smoking next to you, because he’s right.
This seems an obvious thing to type, but we live in un-obvious times. A time where fear colours our memories and assumption, turning a friendly face into that of our enemy. I realise that George Orwell’s book has been flogged to death with the leather whip of journalistic metaphor after Trump moved his polos into Barack’s cupboard, so forgive me, but our automatic reaction to terrorism reminds me of that quick tableau in the propagandised two minutes of hate, where the enemy of the state, Emmanuel Goldstein, turns into a braying goat, before morphing into a faceless machine-gun-wielding stormtrooper who fires into the crowd from a movie screen, as the crowd cowers. The lesson in that passage was to reeducate the flock to assume that every shadowy foreign figure conceals a Kalashnikov. The truth, as Winston discovers, is that they don’t.
So it goes with us, too. While is it that fear that divides us, can also unite us. For in the words of Yakoub – a friend of mine with whom I went to school – in response to what he sees: “fuck them, they’re giving us a bad name”.
As the headlines scream bloody murder, and the comment boxes shout one-dimensional hate, the lesson today is: look to catch the glance of one of our fellow citizens, the one with the sobered fear in their eyes, and a darker hue than us, and offer an arm, a shoulder, or a nod in support. As another republican once said: “a house divided against itself cannot stand”.
I’m with you, Yakoub.