So, we have had an attack on Muslims as they left a mosque in North London, a van driving at people, reports of at least one dead and several injured and one male arrested. No official details released yet but reports that the driver had been heard shouting ‘death to all Muslims’.
We have become locked into this cycle of labeling crimes, such as occurred in Manchester, on London Bridge, on Westminster Bridge and, likely, now in Finsbury Park, as ‘terror attacks’; it gives the crimes a greater kudos than merely labeling it for what it is, a criminal act. That is not diminish the impact on the crime’s victims but it is an odd phenomena that elevates the import of the crime and, subsequently, the criminal.
During the London Bridge attack, another incident of a stabbing was initially reported in Vauxhall and it was unclear whether the incidents were related. Later, the incident in Vauxhall was reported as not being connected to the attack on London Bridge. The stabbing in Vauxhall was then downgraded in the interests of the media, the victim relegated to being just an unfortunate victim of a common or garden street crime.
I could not tell you the outcome for the Vauxhall victim, I could not tell you whether the attacker was arrested, whether the public are still at risk from an attacker still at-large. I cannot tell you what the impact has been on the victim’s family, on whether they had children or whether they were a child. In fact, it is not even clear from the media whether there had actually been a stabbing in Vauxhall at all, details are so thin on the ground, but a 17 year old child was stabbed and killed on the Friday night before the London Bridge attack. That child was the 11th teenage homicide in London so far in 2017 and the crime occurred less than three miles from London Bridge. I don’t see any reason why we should elevate the crimes of the London Bridge attackers above those of the attacker of a 17 year old child.
The crimes are not necessarily any less random, the victims any less innocent, the loss to the families of the victims any less a terrible burden. My instinct is to say that I do not want to know the names of the attackers, I do not want to know why they committed their crimes, I do not want hours and days of TV coverage and family histories unless any of that information could aid me in staying safe. I want the authorities to do their jobs and police these crimes. It is not, because the victims in this latest attack are Muslims, that I do not want the attack labeled as a terror attack, I do not want any of these attacks labeled as such. These are murders or attempted murders and their perpetrators should be dealt with as such, they are criminals. We should stop making a spectacle of them. Who does the label ‘terror’ serve?
But maybe we should know details about the attacker. If the Finsbury Park attacker is a person motivated by Right Wing politics, maybe we should know what newspapers they read, what websites they visit. If the Finsbury Park attacker has been motivated by some form of anti Muslim feelings, will media who have stoked anti Muslim sentiments be held to account? Will Daily Mail and Sun readers be called upon to do more to stop the radicalisation of fellow Daily Mail and Sun readers? Maybe we should be going after anti Muslim hate preachers or politicians who stir such hate. The murderer of MP Jo Cox cited similar language to what we witness on the front pages of the Right Wing media, maybe we should know more about such figures.