Friday, July 08, 2005

A Short Guide to Commentary on the Recent London Bombings

Don't mistake my disdain for cascades of commentary with any lack of sympathy for the victims -- the actual victims, not the vicarious thrill-seekers or panickers -- of the attacks, or with deep concern for real issues.

1. Brief expressions of sympathy and concern, remembrances of London, etc. are fine. "We are all Londoners now" is a cheap imitation of post-9/11 sentiment, and, unless you've actually recently converted to a universalist faith like Baha'i, you might as well stick with "we feel your pain" or "sorry for your loss" or something a bit less fraught with bathos.

2. If the words "as I said before" appear anywhere in the piece it's repetition. Nothing's changed, at least not in their own mind. "I told you so" is not a pretty thing to read, and it doesn't really advance the discussion much, particularly since we don't actually know very much yet.
2a. Odds are pretty good that this is an excuse to flog an agenda or an opponent, and may not actually have anything to do with terrorism, London, or any other matter at hand. Particularly since we don't know very much yet.
2b. Any mention of political parties, affiliations or elections should result in an immediate shift of your attention towards something more productive. Snacking, or online gambling, or something.

3. If the words "alleged," "suspected," "probably," or other qualifiers appear, then it's probably repetition, and it's certainly speculation. They don't know anything you don't, but they want to say something. And they're trying to avoid having to apologize for something later. They are thinking out loud, and either are paid to fill space, or don't have anything better to do with their time. If you get paid to read this stuff, fine; otherwise, find something better.
3a. Trying to interpret motives of an unknown actor from a single act is absurd.
3b. It could mean almost anything; only more facts will allow us to figure out what it was supposed to mean and only what we and others do in response to it will determine what effect it has.

4. Nothing said by a politician or other public figure, unless they actually know something and reveal it, is worth much of anything except a bit of inspiration. Fine, if that's what you're looking for, but don't waste our time "analyzing" what are basically content-free exercises in emotional showmanship.

Now, I'm perfectly happy to read original, interesting, coherent new ideas. But until we have a damned good idea of what happened, don't jump to conclusions and try to avoid running (your mouth) in place. Please.

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