Last night’s bombing in Manchester was on a soft target – young teenagers enjoying the music of pop idol Ariana. The survivors and their parents will never forget the scenes of horror at Britain’s worst terror attack since 2005.
Whoever carried out the attack – now being claimed by Islamic State – it was an assault on what ISIS ideology considers an “immoral” culture. It is in line with the Paris Bataclan music stadium, football club and café atrocities in November 2015, and in the United States, the June 2016 shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando.
The perpetrator(s) picked an event featuring an artist known for celebrating the right of young women to express themselves. Ariana Grande, who turns just 24 this week, is wildly popular for her vocal skills and assertive performances. Brought up as a Catholic she broke with the church over its stance on homosexuality. A number of her songs openly support LGBT rights.
The timing was chosen to out-manouevre screening efforts by security personnel. The bomb was detonated in a public space while people were buying souvenirs after the concert. Many young girls were waiting for their parents to collect them.
It is a politically sensitive moment 16 days before the General Election. As history shows, all terrorist attacks – whether by deranged individuals or organised groups – benefit the state. They can influence and even derail election processes.
France has been under a state of emergency since July 2015, renewed several times and still in force. The Macro-Le Pen polling took place under extraordinary security measures, including the French army’s Operation Sentinel with 50,000 police deployed around the country.
There is no doubt that states will exploit such atrocities to enforce “law and order” in order to clamp down on democratic rights. This has happened around the world: in France, Britain, the United States as well as India, Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey, Indonesia and other countries.
Islamic State feeds off the present global political atmosphere. Trump’s visit to East Jerusalem’s Western Wall, the first by a US president, is a clear act of provocation against Palestinians and Muslims.
It’s clear that Islamic State sympathisers – and other terror groups – have been bombing around the world. But, nonetheless, a shocking number of conspiracy theorists claim that such events are “false flag” actions, organised by the state. There are suggestions on Facebook that the Tory party was in some way involved in the Manchester bombing.
The truth is is that the state has no need to organise “false flag” attacks while there are groups like Islamic State prepared to influence weak, unstable and frustrated people, including some with learning difficulties, which it can send them out as suicide bombers.
The Manchester attack is a cruel and cowardly assault on young people, in particular girls and women. It is also an attack on our limited but still important democratic process. Rather than undermining the Tories, the state can use it to emphasise the need for “strong and stable government” – and seek to defuse opposition.
Whatever the limitations of the present system of representative democracy, we must reject the current atmosphere of fear, hatred and hopelessness. Real democracy, as we know, will not come about simply through elections. But without the right and freedom to engage in debate, to welcome and argue constructively with different political viewpoints, religions and beliefs, we will never find a way forward.
The “war on terror” decreed by governments from Bush to Blair to May has clearly been a disaster. Jeremy Corbyn’s call to end the “bomb then talk” approach to foreign policy and find peaceful instead of military solutions to the world’s problems deserves support at the election on June 8.