Following the Westminster terror attack, I felt that there was a slightly more emotionally diluted response than to attacks previously – it is almost as if with every attack, terrorism is slowly losing its power to terrify. The ‘War on Terror’ decorates George W. Bush’s legacy following its inauguration in the face of Al Qaeda after 9/11. But it’s not a war anymore. It’s just what happens now. Our parents had the IRA, before them children were trained in schools how to react to Russian nuclear bombs – every generation has its terror, ours is just more wrapped up in narratives and prejudices than previously.
One thing I have learned from growing up with terrorism prevalent is that terrorism doesn’t create change. It just allows everyone to carry on doing what they do already, but more. More police with guns, more bigoted racists, more ‘#PrayForLondon’, more cynicism, more sensationalism, more watermarks on Facebook – we all already know the drill. A bloodstained Westminster bridge is merely a means to an end – the end is a slightly more closed, more unsympathetic, more unwelcoming Britain. Britain has always had these qualities – terrorism simply brings them out.
Our usual systematic response to terror attacks is perfect – perfect for the terrorist cause. This is because very few terrorists deal with actions; most deal with reactions – hours of rolling news coverage, sensational journalist stories, half the population engaging in social media activism to exclaim “what has our world come to?” – and what has it? When acts like the Westminster attack happen on a daily basis on the streets of Aleppo and Baghdad. Let us not forget that Western bombs kill more innocent civilians in a week than die in Europe in a year. The difference is that these deaths don’t make front-page news. What could possibly support ISIS’ cause more than flashing horrific scenes across our screens continually for 48 hours, accompanied by talk of “terror”, “threat” and “fear” – a perfect scenario for our ‘easily punctured’, ‘weak liberal’ governments to tighten surveillance controls and restrict our liberty even further as we rapidly accelerate down an authoritarian trajectory. Along with the increased persecution and harassment of Muslims – there is no better breeding ground for reactionary hatred and extremism than separation, oppression and tyranny.
It seems impossible to imagine reacting to terrorist attacks differently from our current mechanical, narrational responses, reacting in ways that do not aid terrorism’s very aim seems hard. There is a lot of money to be made in extravagant reporting, as journalists have no problem in admitting – the more shocking, the more graphic, the more brutal the front-page - the more sales. But this is not the only way – quiet sympathy and dignity do not need the approval of the media for us all to subscribe to it. To quietly acknowledge, understand and respect something is not to ignore it – it is to avoid inflammatory hysteria, to show courage and awareness, not to change laws, not to infringe our freedom, not to persecute Muslims. Living in a free state has a price – the price is risk, and secretly most people know that, really, life in Britain has never been safer than it is right now and although it might suit some politician’s agendas, or some newspaper editor’s pockets to suggest otherwise – it does not alter the reality.
Image Credits: http://www.irishnews.com/magazine/daily/2017/03/22/news/westminster-attack-what-we-know-so-far-974242/