The Morning After
From the Times' "revulsion and resolve" to the Sun's call for internment camps.
The phlegmatic mood of wartime London was much in evidence when four bombs rocked the city's mass-transit system Thursday, and Friday's editorial writers dug deep into the big book of Churchill quotes to evoke that indomitable spirit. The Daily Mirror's rhetoric was typical: "We survived the Blitz. We lived through 30 years of IRA outrages. We will defy and defeat today's terrorists, too." The Sun upped the ante, promising, "In the name of New York, Washington, Bali, Nairobi, Madrid and now London, we shall have vengeance and justice." The down-market Daily Star went with a simpler sentiment: Over a picture of the bombed-out double-decker bus, its front page screamed, "BASTARDS."
How will the attacks change British life? The Daily Mail warned that security will come at a price: "Britain will almost certainly have to sacrifice some of our ancient legal rights if we wish to protect our citizens." Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mark Steyn warned that the government must not allow concerns about " 'Islamophobia' and other pseudo-crises" to cloud its thinking: "[I]f the governing class goes about business as usual, that's not a stiff upper lip but a death wish." Rupert Murdoch's Sun made the most open threat to civil liberties, making a call that will surely concern Asian communities: "Britain is crawling with suspected terrorists and those who give them succour. The Government must act without delay, round up this enemy in our midst and lock them in internment camps. Our safety must not play second fiddle to their supposed 'rights.' "
Other papers counseled tolerance. The Daily Telegraph declared, "Through a combination of vigilance, tolerance of religious diversity and sheer grit, the rest of us must now show that cowardly attacks on soft targets will strengthen, rather than undermine, our belief in humane and democratic values."
Is Britain's participation in the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan to blame for the attacks? Definitely, said the Mirror's Kevin Maguire: "Responsibility of course lies firmly with the butchers who mercilessly killed and maimed. However, when the inquest starts, the Iraq War will also be in the dock." In the Guardian, Tariq Ali called 7/7's carnage "the price for the re-election of Blair and a continuation of the war." And in an op-ed in the Independent, Robert Fisk expressed certainty that Britain's participation in "George Bush's 'war on terror' and his invasion of Iraq" had made London a target. "If we are fighting an insurgency in Iraq, what makes us believe insurgency won't come to us?"
Not everyone was so sure. In an editorial headlined "Revulsion and Resolve," the Times dismissed such notions as "flawed thinking"; what the extremists want, the paper said, is "to ignite a 'holy war' between themselves and democratic societies." The Independent, which opposes British involvement in Iraq, said the attacks must not affect decisions about withdrawing from the conflict—"policy towards that country now cannot be determined by fear of the bomb."
June Thomas is a Slate culture critic. Follow her on Twitter.