Every time there’s a terrorist attack, the more skittish of my friends set about panicking. Marking themselves safe on Facebook, making dramatic social media posts, and generally creating the hysteria and alarm that follows a terrorist attack.
If a chemical weapon had been used, or if the numbers affected were large, then a response of this kind would be more logical. But your friends and family are far more likely to be killed on their commute than in an attack, and you don’t wish everyone good luck on their travels every morning. It’s not rational to be paralysed by fear. You probably don’t know one of the very few people who died: there are millions of people in London. If you are affected, you have my earnest sympathies, but for the vast majority of people who won’t personally know anyone who has been impacted by this recent spate of attacks, save your energy.
Social media starts buzzing with hysteria, macabre fascination, and – face it – excitement. Among the posts about prayers for London and Facebook safety checks, messages appear offering rooms to those who are stranded away from home. These posts – to friends – are entirely self-indulgent. Anyone in need of help will let you know, keeping their plight as private as they would like it to be. #RoomForLondon can help people who may not know anyone in the city, but posting on Facebook – reaching a small network of your friends – serves only to draw admiration. Demanding reassurance and declaring your benevolence makes these attacks all about you.
We should talk about these attacks. We should honour the victims – their suffering is real and tragic and should not be in vain – but we should not pretend that they are anything other than what they really are: a drop in the ocean of people who die before their time, an outlying occurrence, a freak incident. We can’t completely prevent attacks, but in a city where the situation was resolved within eight minutes, we don’t need to lose our minds.
Perhaps I lack empathy, but I just don’t get it. Did you previously lack the understanding that there was a very real threat? London is safer than just about any other large metropolitan area. The threat is real, but it is minuscule. You’re entitled to be afraid; it’s good to empathise with the victims and the families of the people who have died and suffered life-changing injuries. But don’t act like we’re in any more danger now, don’t talk about how it could have been you because you passed through London Bridge on the tube three days earlier.
You are as safe as you always were, so stop acting like this changes anything.