After the Manchester bombing attack, political campaigning was suspended for several days. Each leader of the main political parties assiduously avoided trying to say anything political whatsoever in the aftermath of the attack. It was felt that any mention of anything that could be interpreted as electioneering would be extremely frowned upon and the politicians complied with the national mood.
It’s been interesting to watch how different things have been since the London Bridge attacks. There was a call for election campaigning to be suspended, again, only this time it was much more loosely observed, to put it mildly. Theresa May gave a speech that was highly political – it was hard to see how a speech that contains actual policy in it can be described as not campaigning for an election, but what do I know. Corbyn struck back with a highly political speech of his own, saying that May should step down over the attacks and essentially laying the blame for the whole thing on police cuts. In spite of the police being on the scene in eight minutes.
The reason for this is simple but very sad: the London Bridge attack was less shocking to us all in the shadow of the Manchester bombing and thus, we’ve all normalised terrorist attacks in ways we aren’t totally consciously aware of. It’s all very subtle in a way, but notable; the responses to London Bridge were different from those immediately following Manchester, and I really think that’s down to cumulative effect. If the Manchester bombing hadn’t happened (in a much nicer parallel universe, say), the shock we would have had from London Bridge, particularly coming less than a week before a general election would have meant there’s no way May would have made the speech she made, or had Corbyn talking about the whole thing being down to police cuts. So having two attacks in the last month instead of one changed our reaction to terror in a way that was reflected in politicians’ behaviour directly.
I don’t know, perhaps there is some good in this normalisation: we can’t all go on being scared all the time. Yet I think that living in a society in which we come to think of terror attacks as, well not run of the mill, but just one of those things we all have to live with, isn’t a society I’m all that comfortable with. But if they continue to happen – and we can hope they might not as much as we like – I can’t see how to avoid this problem. It’s part of human nature – when something happens enough, it loses its shock value, however horrible the thing in question actually is.
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