Two articles on the recent terrorist attempts in London and Glasgow make instructive reading when put side by side. One of them is by Anne Applebaum at Slate. This conclusion sums up her general attitude:
The London bombs are indeed an ominous reminder that the terrorist war on the West continues. They were also an excellent reminder that we - and our open societies and our liberal values - are still winning.The rest of the article comments on the lack of hysterical public reaction to what happened and the advantages enjoyed by open societies in combating terrorism: technological superiority, a supportive public, civic-mindedness. In any case, Applebaum combines the two perceptions, of the gravity of the threat and the hypothesis that we're winning.
Simon Jenkins in today's Guardian also thinks we're winning. His impression, he says, 'is that a richly resourced security apparatus is getting on top of the current bombing menace'. But in other respects his whole approach and tone could not be more different. Prefaced by a somewhat colourful evocation of media and other public reaction that is plainly designed by him to say 'What is all the fuss about?', his article does its best to belittle the entire matter: no one is dead, the threat is run-of-the-mill, everyone should just calm down. For the life of him Jenkins doesn't understand why anyone would take it more seriously than this, but that is only because his minimizing arguments are themselves wanting in moral seriousness.
First, he argues that terrorist attacks don't undermine the British way of life; no, '[t]hey kill people and damage property', or (as he says again) the 'worst' their perpetrators can manage is to 'kill people'. That organized attempts at mass murder - for this is what we're talking about - should be seen by the public, a responsible press and, above all, the government of the country, as a matter of the utmost gravity, is an elementary moral truth of citizenship in a democratic society. This is so whether or not such attempts also threaten a prevailing way of life.
Second, Jenkins can only write this article because the attempts in London and Glasgow failed. Had they succeeded, he would not have had the gall to frame it in the same terms, or at least I hope not. But, it might be said, the attempts did fail, so there was nothing wrong in his writing in such terms. I disagree; for the moral significance of the event should be viewed not only in the light of what did happen but also in the light of what could have happened - namely, carnage on a horrible scale, as London has already once witnessed.
Third, everyone is aware, and so Jenkins should be too, that the threat of terrorism has already been realized on a larger scale than in London in July 2005 - in New York, in Bali, in Madrid. There is reason to fear that large-scale attacks could take place again elsewhere, including here. To write, as he does, as if this is to be treated as 'normal crime-busting' shows a failed sense of proportion on his own part, rather than, as he alleges, on the part of others.
Finally, Jenkins uses a ludicrous analogy ('like linking a bank raid in the Old Kent Road "to the global mafia in motivation and ideology"') to dismiss the global significance of Islamist terrorism - as if those attacks in London, New York, Bali, Madrid, etc, had somehow all just happened willy-nilly without any ideological connection.
You'd do better to listen to this guy: 'Glasgow disnae accept this, d'ye know what I mean?'