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PSA: If You Exploit The Death of Children, You Are Literal Human Garbage

On Monday evening, a bomb exploded at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, in what is now being described as a terrorist attack. 22 people perished, with several more injured, in the most deadly incident of terror to strike the U.K. since 2005.Heartbreakingly, several of those targeted and injured were young girls out to enjoy an unforgettable evening of pop music, many with their families. In a message posted online, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.

The event struck a sorrowful chord with the entire world, and solidarity, grief and support were quick to pour in. However, with the hurt and heartbreak also came the inevitable ugly reactions from hate-mongers on the right, who were eager immediately to turn the deaths of young concert-goers into political capital. Piers Morgan, Britain’s bigot-in-chief, took less than twenty-four hours after the attack to condemn the ‘Muslim community’ for not ‘weeding out’ those whose brains had been ‘warped.’ Vitriolic newspaper columnist Katie Hopkins, meanwhile, took it two rungs up on the Pyramid of Hate from discrimination to a call for genocide, tweeting that the U.K. needed a “final solution“—  you read that right— to the problem of Muslim terrorism. Hopkins has been reported to the police for her words. Meanwhile, another newspaper columnist, Allison Pearson, called for a Japanese internment style mass internment of Muslims in response to the attack. And because Fox News can never be left out of the fun, anchor Geraldo Rivera chose to use the grief of families losing teenage girls to paint the entire city of Manchester as a ‘hotbed of Islamic radicals.’

We’ve been reminded time and again that such dramatic, bigoted and sweeping remarks feed right into the strategies employed by terrorist groups, and are exactly the kind of divisive reaction they seek from their attacks. We’ve been consistently told that Islamophobia plays right into the terrorist narrative, and makes the soil fertile for further growth of domestic and international terrorism.

But it isn’t just strategic choices that must guide our response to the attacks. It must be our sense of empathy, for the victims and the grieving families, and the city of Manchester — one of England’s most diverse. It must be our sense of ethics, from refraining from using violence to feed convenient political narratives at the helm of a general election. It must be our sense of basic human decency, to recognize the humanity of the victims who deserve to be cherished and not used, and to recognize the humanity of the Muslim community who form an integral part of Manchester and who were quick to condemn the attack, help people back to safety, raise money for those affected, and live now in fear of additional hatred, violence and backlash.

It is the lowest, basest form of reactionary political cowardice to exploit the slaughter of young girls to further a narrow-minded political agenda.

This argument is not to say that no political analysis should be given to the causes of any tragic incident, or that we should not be thinking about the ways in which further violence can be stopped. Large scale violence that targets women, for example, must be analyzed for the links it has to toxic masculinity. We cannot ignore how the lessons that we teach young men can influence the ways in which they grow up to enact violence on to women. Mass shootings must prompt a discussion on gun ownership because we must understand how easy access to guns is directly, statistically and verifiably correlated to increased deaths. That fix is legislative and relatively uncomplicated.

What we face here is an entirely different situation. What chauvinists like Hopkins or Morgan desire is not an honest analysis of the complex geopolitical roots of terrorism, but an excuse to demonize an entire ethnicity of people. There’s no analogy between asking for a cultural change in patriarchal attitudes, or for laws regulating the purchase of an item, and asking for multiple communities of people — who only have a religion in common — to be incarcerated, increasingly surveilled and discriminated against.

The use of young girls is especially vile. Not only are young women always exploited to be an excuse for bigotry — see for example transphobic bathroom policies — but the policies that these right wing commentators push for have a direct impact on the lives of other young girls — the women and children who suffer under Islamophobic policies. To pit the lives of some young girls against others and in the name of some sort of feminist protection of these girls is both divisive and disgusting.

The good news is that the city of Manchester seems to have overwhelmingly rejected this divisive, bigoted and hateful politics. When protestors from the English Defense League  — a xenophobic ‘Britain First’ right-wing group — attempted to hold a display in the city following the attack, they were outnumbered by Mancunians condemning their message. Reuters recorded one man saying to the protesters, ‘‘The people of Manchester don’t stand with your xenophobia and racism.’ Messages of #standtogether abound on social media, while faith leaders are planning a unified action to reassure and console their respective communities.

It is in times of deep despair that the character of society is truly tested. We must ask ourselves not only how we will emerge after an incident like this, but also how we will quell hate in the wake of such horror. We must condemn, banish and exile the likes of Piers Morgan, Katie Hopkins and Geraldo Rivera from the public eye. There must be consequences for callously exploiting the death of children, and we cannot let them do so in vain and throw it in our faces. In the wake of Monday evening in Manchester, we cannot stand for any forms of terrorism that follow.

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Meg is a law student in California. She's interested in law and politics, intersectional feminism, criminal justice, human rights, freedom of the press, the law and feminism, and the politics of South Asia.

Meg is a law student in California. She's interested in law and gender, race and criminal justice, human rights, cats, and sports.

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