After terrorism brutally hits Britain again, Theresa May’s response discussing “cyberspace” and “tolerance of extremism” sits awkwardly
The UK has suffered its third terrorist attack in as many months, with seven people killed and over 40 more admitted to hospital with injuries after three armed men went on a rampage at London Bridge yesterday, attacking members of the public who were enjoying a summer night out. It was a brutal, senseless act of violence – the type of which we’ve seen before in this country, while our neighbours in France have suffered greatly at the hands of similar attacks in recent years.
Consequently, if we’re fortunate not to be caught up in it, the way a lot of us respond to these atrocities in the age of the internet feels almost normal, or semi-scripted. In amongst the horror there’s comfort in seeing people send messages of love and warmth, offering up their houses to those stranded; to see free taxi rides being given out, grieving people rallying around their home city, or marking themselves as safe. They’re important, unifying reactions that have sadly become routine.
“A lot of politicans and commentators look to use it to strengthen their own agendas, namely Donald Trump”
For the most part these are fortunately the messages that dominate feeds, but of course there are creeps who deliberately share false information or post fake missing person links, while a lot of politicans and commentators look to use it to strengthen their own agendas, namely Donald Trump and his bot-like followers, who actually appeared excited by watching the events at London Bridge unfold. The reliably ill-informed world leader instantly began retweeting unreliable news sources while the situation was still “live” and then started discussing his ill-fated travel ban, before remembering to offer condolences.
In the aftermath of the murders at London Bridge, which fell under a week before a general election, British political parties agreed to stop campaigning. Shortly afterwards, our Prime Minister gave a speech in which she hinted at increasing surveillance, said there was “far too much tolerance of extremism in our country” and called for a need to be “far more robust” in stamping it out. This is political campaigning – Conservatives have long wanted to ramp up surveillance. It’s also worth noting that May held the position of Home Secretary for six years before becoming Prime Minister – it’s uncomfortable to listen to her ask the public to have “difficult, embarrassing conversations”, while she’s presided over an opaque, unsuccessful war on terror, marked by a lack of honesty.
Her claim that there is “too much tolerance of extremism” in our country, and her request for the public to help stamp it out, is bizarre. Who is she referring to as “tolerating extremism”? Who tolerates it? She’s blaming the people for the government’s failures. There is an extremely small amount of people in this country who “tolerate extremism”, and they’ll likely be extremists themselves. It’s rhetoric constructed to stoke a fire – to encourage people to see mosques as mysterious, clandestine headquarters – and her talking up of British values is deliberate too. Values is a loaded, messy term, when ascribed to or dictated simply by birth nation. Myself and Theresa May are both British but I think we’d agree that we our outlooks on life are radically different and that we don’t share the same “values”.
“The way terror is defined seems to have a lot to do with geography”
So what constitutes terror? The killing of “innocent, unarmed civilians”, as described by May herself? The way it’s defined seems to have a lot to do with geography. As of March 2017, Britain’s arms deal with Saudi Arabia was worth ten times what we gave Yemen in aid, the country that the Saudis have helped to decimate, in what’s described by human rights groups as one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, one that’s seen 10,000 civilians killed and 40,000 injured. I’d argue that constitutes terror. We’ve made £3.3billion from that war since 2015 and it’s not a stretch to imagine that some of the weaponry that we’ve sold to the Saudis has ended up in the hands of Isis. Tory members of Parliament have received up to £100,000 in gifts from the Saudis, a country that reserves the right to imprison homosexuals, with some calling for the death penalty. That’s terror, too.
The attack at London Bridge comes during a week where political campaigning has been bizarrely dominated by which political leader would or wouldn’t fire a nuclear weapon (those things that should never have been invented because the result of firing one is mass destruction and potential extinction). Foreign Secretary and conversational landmine Boris Johnson expressed disappointment that Jeremy Corbyn may not use nuclear weapons that cost £31 billion, as if it’s somehow a waste of money not to press the button on something that would cause the death of thousands.
In the absence of any genuine vision for this country, the Tories are relying on fear to convince the electorate, whether it be warheads or the war on terror. A glance at Theresa May’s Facebook page reveals a plethora of comments underneath her statement supporting the “shoot to kill” policy or imprisoning people without trial.
London is a beautiful, thrilling city, one that thrives because of its multiculturalism, not in spite of it. What happened at London Bridge was awful, but the Prime Minister’s determination to instantly start talking about controlling “cyberspace”, about ending “segregated communities”, about restricting freedom in a bid to create it, feels opportunistic at a time when London seems, for the most part, intent on sharing love. As someone said, “we have very little way to control vehicles and knives being used this way. We have a lot of control over how we react.”