In the wake of a terrorist attack like Monday’s in Manchester—and the far too many others around the world recently—press coverage can follow a particular pattern. There’s the immediate scramble for detail; the death toll that ticks gradually upward; the testimonies pouring in from the scene and the descriptions of the truly brave and compassionate members of the community who pull together to support total strangers in their suffering. There are the searing biographies of the innocents cut down, which somehow always seem to command less attention than that of the killer or killers and his troubled life, centered as it is on the fascinating question of “how could he do such a thing?”
Then there are the urgings for calm, from politicians as well as faraway essayists. “I would urge all Londoners and visitors to remain calm and vigilant, and to report anything suspicious to the police,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan said Wednesday, as the U.K. raised its terror-alert level to critical. Writing in the South China Morning Post, Rachel Blundy said, “The road to healing is long and unsteady, but I know that Manchester’s spirit is ultimately unbreakable.” And in The Guardian, Owen Jones wrote:
And, inevitably, there are vultures driven by hatred already circling over this atrocity, and they will respond just as the terrorist wanted them to. But we have a choice. When the names of the dead emerge, and the loved ones share with us who they were and what they were like, let’s all remember just one. Let’s celebrate the warmth and talent of Manchester. Let’s emphasise all the things that unite this diverse society, and reject those who urge us to do otherwise. And let’s be mindful that whatever twisted motive was used to rationalise slaughtering laughing teenagers and children, Manchester will always overcome.
These messages, which have emerged following the attacks in Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino, Orlando, various German cities, London, and now Manchester, are rooted in goodwill and concern, but they generally give too little weight to the very basic emotions terrorism can inspire in its victims: fear, anger, and often justifiable hatred for the terrorists.