Tommy Robinson, Caolan Robertson and I were filming in a Chelsea studio for Rebel Media. We were recording videos about the imminent threat of Islam and Jihad in Britain, and discussing how MI5 had foiled twelve Islamic attacks since June 2013. As Tommy was recording, we heard the BBC Breaking News alert on our phones. ; Shots Fired at Parliament’ it read. Within moments, we had decided to grab our camera equipment and microphones, hail a cab and head to Westminster to report on what was happening. There was no word on Twitter or the networks about who the attacker was. All we knew was that a man had driven a 4×4 across Westminster bridge, mounted the kerb and mowed down 50 people. On leaving the vehicle, the attacker had stabbed an unarmed policeman to death.
The journey to Parliament was almost hypnagogic. In the sky, I saw police helicopters circling, but through the window, hundreds of tourists snapped photos of Buckingham Palace as if nothing had changed. To them, Britain was still the great country it was some centuries ago – the historic homeland for freedom, democracy, and enlightenment. Just minutes away, the reality was stark and consuming. At the scene, the BBC had set up opposite the Battle of Britain memorial, while other journalists crowded around the police line to get a glimpse of what was happening. Soon, they recognised Tommy, and surrounded him as he ranted about the nature of the attack on camera. By now, we’d come to the conclusion that this must have been an Islamic terror attack. Despite media silence, it was clear the attacker had followed the instructions of Inspire magazine – a booklet produced by Al Qaeda which told its readers to use cars and knives to perform effective, yet low-tech attacks.
I’ll never forget what a tall, empty-eyed journalist asked Tommy. ‘Aren’t you also concerned about the threat of far-right terrorism?’ he said. An Asian reporter chuckled as Tommy answered honestly about the real nature of these attacks being carried out throughout Europe, while others in the media scrum shouted ‘How do you know this is Islamic?’.
We were just yards away from dead bodies, and yet the media were more concerned about defending the Religion of Peace, and speculating that this could, in fact, have been a far-right attack. It wasn’t. The media, the politicians and the police seem unwilling to recognise patterns, and acknowledge the imminent threat that Islam poses in Europe. The police investigating the attack concluded that Khalid Masood, the perpetrator, had acted alone and that his ‘motives may never be known’.
A day later, Home Secretary Amber Rudd took the stage at a Trafalgar Square vigil, and exclaimed that ‘We are all connected, and today we showed that by coming together, going to work and by getting about our normal business, because the terrorists will not defeat us’. At the same vigil, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan told us ‘Londoners will never be cowed by terrorism’. And yet, they already are. If London’s only response to terrorism is going to work and getting about their daily lives, then they are, by definition, cowed by terrorism. London is submitting to these attacks and to the people that hate them, accepting these incidents as, in Khan’s words, ‘part and parcel’ of living in a big city.
As I was leaving London that night, walking through Chelsea to reach the nearby Underground station, I studied the attitudes and behavior of everyone around me. Three professionals were holding bouquets of flowers and muttering quietly about the best route to Westminster station. An old lady with a walking stick just peered at the ground as she crossed the road, and the usually-busy high street was eerily silent. During my journey on the Underground, I saw a middle-aged man, his top button open, his tie pulled loose. As he held the railing and stared into space, you could almost hear his brain reciting ‘I am not racist, I am not racist’. Middle class leftists were evidently battling their own ‘problematic’ thoughts. They won’t be cowed by terrorism, they tell themselves, and yet they had no clue what they hoped the government would even do about it. What if, next time, they were the victim of these attacks? What if the offices of their millennial PR companies, or the hip music venues they attend become the focus of the next attacker, in a Bataclan-style massacre? Will they be cowed then? Or will their families go about their lives as normal and chuckle at the futility of these brutal strikes? These burdensome thoughts are unquestionably the reason the middle class are so quick to compare Islamic terrorism with far-right terrorism – whatever that’s meant to mean. Acknowledging patterns is racist, and making the assumption that such attacks are inspired by Islam is simply beyond the pale. To worry about future attacks is Islamophobic, and the only cure is a hefty dose of virtue signaling.
If our only response to these atrocities is to ignore them, to stand silent on trains battling our own racist thoughts, to lay flowers in the street and loudly exclaim ‘we are not defeated!’, then what does a victory really look like? Will we be winning every time our own blood is let on our own soil?
In the wake of the attack on the 22nd March, London is neither united nor strong. The community spirit and strength seen in New York City after 9/11 wasn’t seen here. Instead, London was despondent, sunk in an air of quiet defeatism. They were not a people angered, but a mass of tired moderates accepting that this is their life now. And it is.