James Innes-Smith

Hope vs hate: is grief manipulated for political purposes?

On the anniversary of the Manchester Arena bombing all the talk has been of hugs and hearts; of healing and hope; of handholding and heroism. Newsreaders have spoken in self-consciously faltering tones about the resilience and defiance of those who have suffered so much. A choir sang Somewhere over the Rainbow. A minute’s silence, followed by a mass sing-a-long. Trees were decked with messages of hope as Dr Rev David Walker, the bishop of Manchester observed, somewhat obtusely, that “Part of the horror … is that [the arena] appeared to have been deliberately chosen as a venue full of young people”. On Radio 4’s Today programme, Nick Robinson sounded in almost jovial mood as he spoke to grieving victims, Mancunian roots ratcheted up for maximum empathetic effect.

His platitudinous enquiries came to a head when he asked a brave doctor who had treated the wounded that night whether she was ‘finding the anniversary tough’. As with so many recent terrorist attacks we were told of the city’s determination to bring all communities together. A young survivor whose hand had been blown to bits in the blast spoke to Robinson about her wish to remain positive while her mother stated categorically that her daughter’s attacker ‘did not represent the whole of the community that he said that he did’. The on-message hope-not-hate narrative remained present and politically correct throughout.

But with the investigation into the horrors of that night still ongoing where were the dissenting voices; the voices of rage and doubt and existential despair? The voices of those who have yet to come to terms with what happened. Where was the seething sense of injustice; the fury that more had not been done to protect the innocent? Salman Ramadan Abedi, a 22-year-old local man of Libyan ancestry had been under active investigation before carrying out the attack and yet he still managed to disappear under the radar.

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