Here in the UK, in Westminster outside Parliament, another man with a sad history of family instability, drugs and violence ran amok. Adrian Elms used the excuse of Islamic fundamentalism to hurt and murder people in cold blood. At least that is one way of seeing it. Unfortunately, the increasingly ghoulish media coverage took a view parallel to the one simplified by the terrorists themselves. Terror groups, retrospectively, claimed Elms (aka Khalid Masood) as their soldier and the press also broadly painted him as a crazed Islamist fighter. Really? Without wishing to seem cynical, I would doubt he had time to absorb any meaningful teachings of the Koran in such a chaotic, drug addled, sad, violent and confused life.
Have we learnt nothing about giving the oxygen of dramatic, protracted publicity to those who crave melodrama and extended media coverage?
Then, hot on the heels of the deadly speeding car and this unhinged man were ex-UKIP leader, liar and racist Farage and deluded, lying, attention-seeking Katie Hopkins with their particular brands of vile rhetoric. And just as quick were the media outlets to report every word they said.
There is muddy bog here of untruth and a warped reality.
Those who play with this particular brand of toxic populism and fear, cunningly ignore the destabilising role of rampant global capitalism, wealth disparity and the increasing pressures of climate catastrophes. Instead they roll out the convenient two-dimensional platitudes - it’s all the fault of immigrants, refugees fleeing war or Muslims or (in the US) Mexicans or the Chinese. Broadly speaking, you could say brown skinned people are the problem. Unless you were trying to lever the UK out of the EU in which case EU nationals were in the mix too.
On the other hand, we have the lone attackers, often with violent backgrounds – often involved in drugs and often perpetrators of domestic abuse. Along comes a situation of utter confusion and political chaos where leaders behave like headless chickens and where these unhinged, disconnected individuals can vent their disturbed and violent natures – under the false guise of a cause.
And a lazy media with endless hours of air time to fill – with an apparently short memory – swings along behind this simplistic narrative. It is a dangerous and pervasive narrative that does not serve the public and does not serve peace or justice. Add to this the new enthusiasm for public service announcements on the radio, warning folk to be vigilant. Here in the UK they are set to the kind of music one would associate with cheap TV drama. It’s a recipe for hysteria and fear.
In relation to the murderer Elms and his kind, it is a view that enlarges and gives a false sheen to these small sad characters. At the other end of the spectrum, it is a line of thought which ignores the past – ignores inequality – ignores the fallout from illegal wars, vicious detention regimes, social, political and economic destabilisation and the failure of the rule of law.
Then everything is boiled down to an easily digestible soundbite – albeit one that will give us socio-political indigestion for decades. It is simple and self-righteous and less than half the truth - THEY just want to ruin OUR way of life – we are told.
Many seem to accept the strange irrational nature of this out-of-focus picture. Do so few people remember that in pre-invasion-of -Iraq world we did not have entrenched global terrorism?
Added to the disruption and destabilisation of the Middle East we have the ever increasing disparity in wealth. While people still starve and millions are affected by climate weirding, fleeing their homes and on the move across the globe - we have billionaires successfully avoiding tax, promoting the continuing use of climate-damaging fossil fuels and hoarding money mountains they could not use in 100 lifetimes.
The notion that this is simply a battle of ways of life is a dangerous. Them v us. The wrong v the right. The East v the West. This narrative is way too convenient for both extremes.
The reality is in the uncomfortable middle. The bare open ground. The no-man’s land of uncomfortable honesty. The world is unstable because too few people have way too much. Everyone else is edgy because they can see the waterhole they need to share with the majority shrinking and shrinking and shrinking.
What is truly bizarre is the way significant numbers have turned to the very architects of the inequality and destabilisation. So in America – we have a charlatan – a liar, an inept business man and corrupt ignoramus who promised to "drain the swamp". What he then did was to fill the swamp with crocodiles. This is what happens when the thinking is skewed and the easy narrative takes hold.
If you look round the world at stable countries, you will observe one interesting factor – they are the least divided economically and socially. They are often also the countries where the most vulnerable are given generous social and economic safety nets. And yes – the rich have to pay their fair share.
Unnerving and uncomfortable and energy draining as it is, we have to be honest. We have to look at the whole picture – not just the bits that suit a headline.
If you want something snappy but a wee bit closer to the truth – try this – Greedy Pigs are the problem, not Pigmentation…