So far, The Guardian has a decent update on what happened yesterday in London. The really short version is that an assailant drove a car into a crowd near the British Parliament building and then started stabbing people. Metropolitan police eventually shot and killed the assailant. As of this writing, a man named Khalid Masood has been identified as the assailant.
Like other tragedies in recent memory, this is getting its own publicity circus.
I don’t mind hearing about the victims’ lives, celebrating who they were as people and how they’ve positively affected others. I also don’t mind hearing about how police handled the situation, as those evaluations help police departments everywhere plan for unexpected spree killings like this one was. The outpouring of support for Londoners is also a good thing. While I can’t imagine what the families of the lost and the people who live there are going through right now, I know that place has managed to bounce back from all sorts of tragedy in the past. I want to think that this will be no different.
What I do mind hearing about are the people who are already using this as an excuse to make baseless assertions about people they don’t know. Some outlets (like Fox, unsurprisingly) are already preparing the field for talking about terror attacks, needing to conquer a criminal organization masquerading as a state, and fighting the dark specter of Islam. No, I don’t have a crystal ball, but I’m already expecting this stuff is going to take over the conversation in the near future as soon as it’s socially acceptable to neglect the actual people directly affected by this criminal act.
News agencies nowadays go for the sensational facts before relevant facts.
Consider this news report of one police officer and three other people dead in a shooting spree near Green Bay, Wisconsin. It happened the same day as the London spree, but absent in the report is any claim of terrorism. News reports aren’t even calling it an attack. Of course, this is because there are no sensational claims to be had, and those involved don’t have Middle Eastern names.
To be clear, both of these crimes are tragic. The communities in Wisconsin probably stand a better chance of healing faster than the ones in London for no other reason than one can get sensationalized better. My hope is that I’m wrong, but if Orlando, Paris, and Bakersfield are any indication of how this goes, the people of London will have to endure news agencies trying to scare them into downloading articles, watching videos, and paying for content. Instead of hearing about how Metropolitan Police saved Parliament and innocent bystanders from a murderer, they’ll get to hear a tale about a terrorist attacking freedom and democracy.
At times like this, I like to think about the good things people do that go unreported.
I’m pretty sure a lot of people in London went home and hugged their loved ones, called people they’d lost touch with, and took a moment to reflect on what they have. If they’re anything like communities anywhere else, they probably expressed support for the victims and their families and let their neighbors know they’ve got their backs. That sort of resilience goes on every day, in places all over the world. London will be no different.
Despite the tragedy and heartbreak this one person caused, the people of London will carry on. I, for one, look forward to seeing them triumph and stand tall.