Today marks the first anniversary of the worst atrocity committed on British soil in living memory: the murder of 22 innocents, most of them young girls, and the wounding or maiming of dozens more by a Muslim suicide bomber at a pop concert in Manchester.
I call it the ‘worst’ atrocity because though there have been many incidents that claimed more lives – everything from Nazi V2 rocket attacks to IRA bombings – none was deliberately aimed at slaughtering little girls when they were having fun.
When Salman Abedi blew himself up at the Manchester Arena, he knew was going to hit Western Civilisation at its most tender and vulnerable spot: that’s why he chose a concert by Ariana Grande rather than, say, another comeback tour by the Rolling Stones or the Grateful Dead.
Those girls – the youngest victim, Saffie Rose Roussos, was aged just eight – died for the crime of being carefree young females in a culture which chooses not to hide its womenfolk behind veils or hack off bits of their genitalia at puberty so that they are less likely to enjoy sexual pleasure when they reach adulthood.
Their massacre, let it be stressed, was not just one of those random events that happens from time to time whose explanation remains an utter mystery. Like 9/11 and 7/7, like the destruction of Palmyra and the Buddhas of Bamiyan, like the killing and near-beheading on the London streets of the soldier Lee Rigby (today is the anniversary of that too), it was a calculated act of war by Islamic fundamentalists who are perfectly open about their plans for the world: they want us all to submit to the will of Allah, following the example of such paradises on earth as Islamic-state controlled-Syria and Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.
So, a pretty big deal then, for Western Civilisation, you might think: a watershed moment in which radical Islam upped the ante to a hideous new pitch of awfulness.
“From now on, even your kids are fair game!” it told us.
And how did we rise to this challenge?
Well we didn’t.
Instead we did what the wildebeest do after one or two of their calves have been taken by a croc: move on, nothing to see here.
This is shameful. I remember discussing this on the podcasts I did with the editor of Spiked, Brendan O’Neill – here and here – and we agreed that there was something deeply weird, even suicidally bent, about a culture which responds to the murder of its children with an embarrassed shrug.
OK, so there has been the odd voice of outrage expressed here and there. Recently, there were a couple of TV documentaries about the experiences of some of the victims.
But over all, the reticence of our politicians and media on this issue has been truly shocking.
Compare and contrast the coverage in the UK media afforded the Grenfell Tower disaster (where a London tower block burned down killing many of its occupants) and the Manchester Arena bombing.
Since Grenfell, not one day has gone by without some breastbeating lament for the victims or excoriating diatribe against the people allegedly responsible (invariably ‘heartless Tories’).
Sure the Grenfell stuff is canting and political – whipped up by Jeremy Corbyn’s hard left mob in order to make their opponents, who in fact bear little direct responsibility for the disaster, look uncaring and incompetent – but that hasn’t stopped the media cheerfully regurgitating it (not just the left wing media but conservative imprints too), nor the government from making out like Grenfell was one of the defining tragedies of our era.
But it wasn’t. And we shouldn’t allow the left the propaganda victory of collectively pretending it was. Grenfell was the unfortunate result of a combination of failings, all of which came into alignment on one terrible night with horrific consequences for the 70 who died, the 72 who were injured and their friends and relatives…
These failings included: inappropriate exterior cladding which should have been fire-retardant but wasn’t; an overweening obsession with EU-driven climate change policy at the expense of health and safety; overcrowded apartments; a faulty fridge; poor advice from the emergency authorities; bad behaviour by whichever idiot it was who caused the fire and then apparently didn’t go around warning everyone; etc.
No single person was to blame, though. It wasn’t deliberate. And though with luck steps will be taken to minimise the likelihood of something similar happening in future, it certainly won’t be the last such freak accident to happen because that after all is the nature of freak accidents.
The Manchester Arena, by contrast, was not a freak accident. It was part of a very recognisable pattern. It was deliberate. And if the security services (who, admittedly, have an impossible job trying to keep tabs on every jihadist bent on mischief) had been more thorough it could probably have been avoided.
So why has there been so little discussion of these issues?
Quite simply because Britain’s spineless liberal Establishment – which currently includes the government, local government, the civil authorities and large swathes of the media, most especially the BBC – has decided it would be better if we looked the other way.
This sounds like it ought to be a conspiracy theory. If only it were. But the evidence to the contrary is hard to refute. As Brendan O’Neill argues in an excellent comment piece for the Sun, the “political establishment seems hell-bent on gagging public discussion about Islamist extremism.”
He gives some examples:
Things got so bad that in June last year, a month after the bombing, then Ukip leader Paul Nuttall was booed in a General Election TV debate simply for saying that the problem is “Islamist extremism”. You can’t utter the I-word, it seems.
Manchester music legend Morrissey summed it up.
In response to city mayor Andy Burnham’s assertion that the attack on Manchester was the work of an “extremist”, Morrissey asked: “An extreme what? An extreme rabbit?”
You can also add to this category the all-star concert the BBC staged at the same venue, less than two weeks after the bombing, supposedly as a healing gesture under the banner One Love. The key moment was when Ariana Grande and Coldplay sang “Don’t Look Back In Anger” – so as to remind the kids of the vitally important truth that a song Noel Gallagher wrote while under the influence of drugs, ripping off a David Bowie title here and a John Lennon melody there, is all the proof you need against being blown to bits by a terrorist bomb.
As Douglas Murray argued in the Spectator at the time, there are serious problems with such concerted attempts to airbrush terrorist events out of history by recasting them as vital learning lessons on the importance of peace and love:
But what we seem most likely to dodge yet again is the possibility of learning any proper lessons at all from this.
Theresa May and other politicians stress we will never give in. And they are right to do so. But beneath the defiance lie deep, and deeply unanswered, questions. Questions which people across Europe are increasingly dwelling on, but which their political representatives dare not address.
In Piccadilly Gardens, at lunchtime on the day after the attacks, crowds of people listened to a busker play the usual post-massacre playlist: ‘All You Need Is Love’ and ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Alright’. But just like the renditions of ‘Imagine’, the buskers are wrong. We need to do more than imagine. We need more than love. Everything is not all right. We need to address this problem, and start at the roots. Otherwise our societies will continue to be caught between people who mean what they say and a society which won’t even listen. And so they’ll keep meeting violently, these two worlds.
Indeed. This problem isn’t going to go away if only we stop ourselves from thinking too much about the horror.
On the contrary, we should be staring at it unflinchingly.
Those innocent young lives cut short. Those boys and girls devastated by what are euphemistically known as “life changing injuries.”
Do they not matter?
Are we just going to have to accept them as what Mayor of London Sadiq Khan once called “part and parcel of living in a big city”?
Is that the new rule: that x number of limbs; y number of eyes; z number of lives must be freely sacrificed every now and again – and buried as soon as is decently possible because the underlying cause is just too tricky to deal with and anyway someone might get upset and commit a ‘hate crime’?
And if so, who made that rule?
Not us – the silent majority of people in Britain, that’s for sure.