Opinion

John Bird: Manchester attack shows the dark side of our super-connected world

Turning the Manchester Arena suicide bombing into a social media event plays right into the hands of the terrorists

Social media has now become the greatest force for doing the right thing and the wrong thing in the world. Jihadism in its modern form owes an enormous debt to those men and women who in Silicon Valley developed their social media platforms. The Arab Spring utilised the tools of the smartphone and social media to spread their message across the whole of the Arab world. And helped undo the Western-blessed oppressive regimes that had ruled for much of the previous 45 years.

Technology always creates opportunity. A hundred years ago if British engineers had not developed the railway half a century earlier then how could the German High Command have got Lenin into Revolutionary Russia to start the Communist Revolution?

How could the First World War have been such a death machine for the millions and millions of soldiers who were consumed by explosives and military technology that had been developing hand in hand with the motor car, the sewing machine, the electric elevator, the radio.

The technology of mass murder reached a new height with the Holocaust with millions of people murdered through the
developments of the German chemical industry being utilised in the death camps sited in Poland.

But murder and mayhem have a new ally in social media. For it presents the chance to recruit and radiate out the damage that a few people can make in the world.

We must not be blind to the role that crime and murder and mayhem play in the social media world

The informal anarchy of the social media structure, and its instant take on the world, have played into the hands of a desperate group of people who want more recruits, more exposure and more power to terrify and destroy. And that can take a man who straps on bombs and blows up himself and others in Manchester and be all over the world not long after he does it. And paraded as a success by people who hide and reside within social media itself.

Police officers near the scene after the terrorist attack at Manchester Arena.

Of course we have seen the fundraising opportunities created by social media, the chance to create new musical careers, the chance to spread the word about good things – like the homeless man who cradled the injured after the Manchester attacks. But we must not be blind to the role that crime and murder and mayhem play in the social media world we have now moved into. A world that did not exist 10 years ago, but now due to billionaires’ inventions, made billionaires by their inventions, has turned social media into the most lethal tool for murder imaginable.

Social media can take an obscure but respected senator like Bernie Sanders into national prominence in the recent US elections, but can also help Twitter and aid and abet a candidate into pole position and an unlikely winner, like Trump.

The masses that Lenin relied on to turn against capitalism can now be joined by billions of connectivities; and among them a very small group of people who earlier would have been an irritation can be centre-staged by social media.

Of course helped by every mad terrestrial media company who want to overwhelm us also with panic and fear.

Crime develops hand in hand with capitalism itself. There would have been no dismembered bodies left at London railway stations in the late 19th century if it were not for the development of railways and taxis, and the sensationalist newspapers to propagate the idea of doing such a thing and giving it a market place.

Crime, murder, radicalism turns to any opportunity and we should not be surprised. And social media is probably the most dangerous invention we have invented so far. For it makes everything seem so universally threatening.

Social media also sexually changes people by giving them the chance to consume pornography, make porn itself, and meet the person nearest to us who willingly wants to ‘make whoopee’.

The tragedy of Manchester is that the innocent once again suffer from poor political leadership in the world

When you see the terrible photos of the Manchester attack made by a lone man, and you realise how it is turned into a terrible media event you can only cry for the victims. In rage at the man who did it and in rage at those that then turn it into a social media extravaganza. And play right into the hands of the people who benefit from it.

Oxygen is what ISIL wants. And we are so connected together by social media that we give it to them. That needs to
be addressed.

But it is not just social media and their billionaire inventors who add to the strength of jihadism. It is the bumbling, fumbling, self-interested, narrow-minded gits who run the world’s policy-making, deciding when to support an oppressive regime, when to tear it down, when to intervene. It is as if our world leaders who line us up for these wars and campaigns had forgotten the simple rules of cause and effect.

In the First World War it was said that soldiers were lions led by donkeys. One can’t help feeling that the donkeys may still hold sway over our lives. And the tragedy of the Manchester outrage is that the innocent once again suffer from the poor quality of political leadership we get in the world. And its resultant harm. I hope we never forget those who died, nor all the long strands of cause and effect that led that murderous person to murder.

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