Democracy, freedom, human rights, the rule of law are the target of terrorism, the Prime Minister said in a heartfelt speech after Khalid Masood’s savage assault on Westminster on Wednesday, which left Constable Keith Palmer and three others dead and many more terribly injured.
Any attempt to defeat those values through violence and terror, she went on, is doomed to failure. We sympathise with the sentiment; what else could a politician be expected to say? But the truth is that grandstanding commentary on how ‘terrorism can never win’ is just that, however well meaning – it is grandstanding.
Our lives and liberties have already been deeply affected by terror. Each new attack brings more body and identity checks, more security barriers, more gates and more concrete. Freedom of movement – bar that promoted by Schengen – no longer exists in Britain. Trust is a concept of the past. So too are many once taken for granted freedoms.
Nothing symbolises our modern state – indeed culture – of siege more than the concrete barriers first erected round the Houses of Parliament after the Twin Towers were attacked in 2001. Grosvenor Square then changed beyond recognition too. We hoped these would be short-term measures. But after the 7/7 atrocity in 2005 they were reinforced. Now our latter-day motte and bailey safeguards are to be strengthened again. We are promised yet another ring of steel around Westminster.
If this is not an infringement of liberty – actual as well as emblematic – what, we wonder, is? They mark our defensive acquiescence to terror.
Since 2005 terror attacks on Western targets – 50 attacks (bombings, shootings, knifings) in ten years up to 2015 – have just got more frequent. A further 13 attacks have wreaked havoc and fear in Western countries in the last two years.
At best, we have become inured to terror, at worst our responses to these atrocities have taken on the trappings of a sick news drama. Acted out live on television is what we have come to expect, as coverage of the massacres at Sousse in Tunisia, Orlando and elsewhere show. Atrocities have become a public commodity to be traded, vied over and exploited – and more sickeningly to be ‘got off’ on.
Yesterday was no different. With an hour of the news of the attack, the BBC was busy reporting virtue signaling tweets from David Cameron and Brendan Cox as of equal news importance – as a story development. More public grief reporting felt imminent.
Our concern is that public emoting is not just a deeply inappropriate response to atrocity, it is a dishonest and dangerous one too. Telling people ‘not to be afraid’ is sanctimonious pap. We don’t get to control our emotions and we should acknowledge our fear. The police on the Westminster beat today must reasonably be fearful.
Telling us that the terrorist did not win and terrorism does not win sounds virtuous but try telling that to PC’s Palmer’s family or the families of others who died and are injured, including those poor French school boys. It is insulting.
As for the nonsense perpetuated by the likes of Brendan Cox that this fanatic wanted to divide us – are they all mind readers? No, he wanted to kill people – as many as possible. Loose and emotive talk like this is what divides society not terror. Terror should make us stand side by side.
The idea that touchy feely talk helps fight terror is delusional as we have remarked before on TCW.
Taking responsibility for it, however, would. That applies to anyone who refuses to face the fact that each and every attack over the last 16 years has been Islamist inspired. Not Christian. Not secular.
Of course, most Muslims have little sympathy for these attacks and understandably are fearful that of such atrocities may bring down hatred on their heads. But there is a very clear way that Muslims representatives and leaders – including Sadiq Khan – could deal with this if their response was more than general words of condemnation or bland but unsubstantiated assertions that every Muslim group in the country has condemned the attack. If they have, can we know who they are?
Muslim spokespeople need to do more than complain about the inadequacy of Prevent, whatever the truth of its efficacy or otherwise of this programme is. They need to publicly denunciate anyone in their communities with any terrorist sympathies at all, in every mosque across the country as well as to the general public through the news media.
Theirs has to be an unflinching commitment to put themselves at the forefront of rooting terrorism out. They have to put the all the force of their religious authority behind an uncompromising stance of non-toleration. This is time neither for emoting, silence or compromise. It is time for everyone to stand up, be counted and to be at the disposal of the authorities in the defeat of terrorism.