The people of Britain woke up to the shocking news this morning that a terrorist attack had taken place in London, with one person dead and many others injured. The government confirmed it was being treated as a terrorist attack but, unlike the other attacks which have happened in England over the past couple of months, Muslims were the victims. A Welsh man had driven a van into a group of Muslims outside of a mosque before getting out of the van, reportedly shouting, “Kill all Muslims” whilst he was restrained and held down until the police arrived to arrest him.
Of course, it doesn’t play well into the narrative that we are the victims and “they” are the baddies – they, of course, meaning Muslims as a whole – so the Daily Mail staff had to be creative in their retelling of this particular incident. After all, it would be highly irresponsible to allow their readers to believe Muslims were anything other than illegal immigrants in six-bedroom council mansions who all want to bomb “us” and groom our daughters.
Let’s deconstruct the entire headline.
White van driver
Not terrorist, as the government described him, but white van driver – and was the van white, or the man? Intentional ambiguity, perhaps.
After the Westminster Bridge attack, where a driver intentionally drove a van into a number of pedestrians, the media as a whole collectively began to use the phrase “mowed down”. It was an unsightly mental image and arguably inappropriate, but demonstrated the seriousness of the attack. It shows what language can achieve, when two similar attacks can be described in different ways.
“Mowed down” suggests a malicious attempt to end life, to crush a human being under the weight of the vehicle. “Ploughs into” doesn’t have the same effect, instead suggesting the people would be knocked over or pushed out of the way.
and hurts at least 10 people
Most media sources were already reporting a fatality at this point. The Daily Mail use the soft term “hurts”, which could mean a grazed knee or a bruised elbow.
As of yet, the Daily Mail hasn’t suggested any intent from the “white van driver”, thus potentially downplaying the terrorist hate crime into a genuine, careless accident.
outside hate cleric Abu Hamza’s former mosque in London’s Finsbury Park
This entirely unnecessary tidbit of information pertains in no way to the attack. This specific mosque has achieved and participated in many noble community actions over the past few years, offering outright condemnation of all acts of extremism and generally being open to diversity, and also won an award for “being a community asset seeking to divert the young away from extremism“.
Yes, Abu Hamza used to preach there – this isn’t an inaccuracy. But he preached there over a decade ago, and the mosque has undergone serious changes since then.
It’s like making the title of an attack on Theresa May: “outside war-criminal Tony Blair’s former house in Downing Street”. Government has changed a lot since then and this mosque has changed too.
before Muslims finishing evening prayers tackle suspect to the ground
Let’s admit it. If the attack had happened outside a church, and a group of Christians had tackled a terrorist to the ground, the word “hero” would be in there somewhere. After the terrorist attack on London Bridge a few weeks ago, people were labelled heroes for locking doors or returning the following day to pay their restaurant tabs. This isn’t my attempt to diminish the bravery of those people, but instead to point out the huge disparity in reporting.
A man, shouting about killing people after crashing his van into as many of them as he could, was tackled to the ground by a few people, and they aren’t worthy of “hero” status. And again, the white van driver is not a terrorist, hate criminal or a scumbag, but a “suspect”.