How about a 12-month silence?

spiked editor Mick Hume's Notebook in The Times (London).

Mick Hume

Mick Hume

Topics Politics
  • After yesterday’s impressive two-minute silence, can we have a 12-month silence about any more state-sponsored memorials, vigils, floral shrines, religious services, books of condolence or pop concerts to mark the London bombings?

A week on from the display of human spirit and solidarity in response to the terrorist attacks, there is a danger of the mood turning morbid.

Even before we knew how many had died in the bombings, let alone who they might be, the authorities rushed to dedicate memorial gardens and books of condolence to the victims. Then Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, announced the two-minute silence, a vigil with prayers and poems in Trafalgar Square last night and a memorial pop concert in a park tomorrow. Not to be outdone, the Government pledged to build a permanent memorial, and the churches promised a service of remembrance with the Queen.

Yesterday’s silence should have marked a dignified conclusion to the public mourning, a two-minute interlude before we return to the business of getting on with life. But there seems little chance of that.

Where will it end? After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the EU held an unprecedented three-minute silence. In March this year, on the first anniversary of the Madrid train bombs, the Spanish capital stopped for an official five-minute silence. Any advance on five minutes?

Who exactly is supposed to benefit from such wallowing in suffering and grief? We are told it is to help us to ‘remember’. Yet few seem likely to have much trouble recalling the events of last week. Remembering is important. But if we are serious about ‘getting back to normal’, it is more important to push those horrors to the back of our minds.

The commemorations are advertised as important acts of defiance, to show the terrorists that we are against them. Let us remember, they blew up the London Underground in order to terrorise us, not to win any popularity contests. If you want to see a real demonstration of defiance, come to Liverpool Street station any morning and see the thousands of commuters marching together from trains to Tube and buses or walking to work regardless.

It is time to end the grisly harping on those terrible events, and all the morbid theatrics of public-mourning rituals. The authorities should stop acting as if we are all vulnerable victims, before they destroy the strength of spirit that was so uplifting last week. A witness from one train reports that, when the bomb went off there was screaming and panic. Then everybody calmed down, helped one another and even cracked jokes while they waited to be rescued. Yet some people seem determined to keep the rest of us trapped down those tunnels in the moment of terror for as long as possible.

  • ‘We are not afraid’ has become a popular slogan of the past week.

But if there is one thing that the Government, the police and others do seem afraid of today, it is free speech.

How do they propose to sort out relations between communities in Britain’s cities? By banning any speech deemed as ‘incitement to religious hatred’, and telling us not to ridicule Islam or even to use the words ‘Islamic’ and ‘terrorism’ in the same sentence. And how do they plan to tackle the spread of alienation among British-born Muslim youth? By outlawing words deemed to be ‘glorifying or condoning ‘ terrorism and kicking a few crank Islamic preachers out of the country.

But banning words and burying the sentiments behind them is not the same as doing something about a problem. These panic measures can only make matters worse. We are left with a polite public discussion about the correct etiquette that police commanders should adopt towards Islam, or whether the BBC should use the word ‘terrorists’. Meanwhile, deeper problems are left unresolved, to smoulder in silence under the surface. Then we are shocked when they suddenly and violently erupt into view, as they did last week.

What we surely need now is more speech, not less – an honest no-holds-barred debate about the sort of society we want to live in, and about what can bind us together beyond opposition to mass murder. All the promises about defending freedom after the bombs will be empty unless people are free to say what they think, whether others like it or not.

Mick Hume is editor of spiked
This article is republished from The Times (London)

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics


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