During tragedies, focus on heroes


During tragedies, focus on heroes

By James Firkins

A man drove his car onto the sidewalk and into several people. He then walked along Westminster Bridge in London, toward the Houses of Parliament, where he stabbed police officer Keith Palmer, who later died. In total, 50 people were injured and five have died from the March 22 attack, including the attacker, who was shot by police.

The media reported the event before much was confirmed, using buzzwords often heard in these situations. It was treated as a “terrorist attack,” with ISIS later claiming the attacker was “a soldier of Islamic State.” These claims are under investigation but still unverified. Somehow, with no clear link, ISIS has claimed an individual act of abhorrent violence. It was unable to offer the name of its “soldier” and yet, because of knee-jerk responses, many might think ISIS calculated the attack.

The faults of the media don’t end there. Within minutes of the attack, British tabloid The Sun posted graphic images of victims before they were identified correctly—potentially upsetting families, whose confirmation that loved ones were affected could have been through a link on social media designed as clickbait. Only minutes prior, Metropolitan Police tweeted to people: “Please use common sense and restraint in circulating pictures and videos of those that have been injured during the incident in #Westminster.” 

The Sun has since published several exposés on the attacker, initially labeling him a terrorist but more recently calling him psychotic and having no discernible link to terrorist organizations. This quick-fire, sensationalist approach confuses the truth rather than revealing it. It feeds into the rhetoric of “otherness” that keeps communities at odds—offering confirmation bias to bigots, and perhaps more dangerously fosters alienation, which then proliferates the indoctrination of marginalized individuals.

It is important to note, among the ignorant call for Muslims to condemn the attack—a call that assumes one cannot be both a Muslim and someone who would abhor this lone-wolf attack—that though the man in question was Muslim he was a 52-year-old from Kent, England, and not an immigrant as many reports of terrorism seem to suggest.

Minutes after the attack, European Parliament member Nigel Farage—a professional troll who spearheaded Brexit and uses any opportunity to spout his anti-immigration rhetoric—graced Fox News to further his agenda when he said, “The problem with multiculturalism is that it leads to divided communities.” 

It is horrible that Farage—also a 52-year-old man from Kent—can appear on worldwide TV and paint a picture of a divided, intolerant London. 

The London Underground displayed the mindset of the average London citizen. Across its many stations stand boards, which serves as a platform for inspirational quotes for commuters, they displayed nothing other than British stoicism a day after the attack. One read, “Bad things do happen in the world… but out of those situations always arise stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”

Extraordinary things did happen in the wake of the event, such as Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood attempting to save Palmer’s life by administering CPR, as reported March 22 by The Telegraph. Here is a gentleman who attempted to help, and whose look of sheer defeat will be lost on commentaries about the killer and his now unknowable motives.

Ellwood’s and Palmer’s are the stories we should be told. These are the stories that unite us as human beings, who—no matter our faith, color or background—just want a happy, comfortable life.

When news outlets offer airtime to the criminals or politicians, propagating an agenda that helps line their pockets, the media  simply stokes tension and fear. The tensions these narratives create only serve to widen divisions that might otherwise be bridged, should they even exist.