On Monday night, a suicide bomber blew himself up in the foyer of the second largest indoor music venue in Europe. The MEN Arena in Manchester, UK, had just hosted a night of entertainment by performer Ariana Grande, and the bomb went off as scores of people left, excited about the night they had just enjoyed.
To target an event that primarily attracted children, especially girls, seems especially callous. But when the first person whose death was announced was an 18-year-old woman; and the second, a girl aged just 8, it is hard to imagine any motivation that could possibly justify it. Ariana Grande has many young fans, thanks to a former career in children’s television, so there was never any doubt of the demographics of an audience at one of her concerts.
Targeting an event that would be predominantly full of girls and young women – and a not insignificant number of gay men – was no accident. Abedi could have chosen any event at that venue, or elsewhere, so we need to look at what happened to make it a Grande concert that he decided upon. We have to acknowledge the misogyny behind his decision, his goal of punishing women purely for having a good time, and tackle the idea that men can or should control women’s lives.
17 of the 22 people who died were women and girls and an innocent night of fun, dancing and singing along to a favourite pop star’s best songs, was brought to a horrific halt by Abedi’s actions. His ability to walk into a crowd of excited young people and set off a bomb is unimaginable, and the fear he created in children across the country has been addressed by children’s BBC and other outlets.
As with nearly every mass attack, the perpetrator of this crime was a man. This is far more prevalent than mass killers (including those attacking pupils in American schools) being Muslims, but it is rarely addressed in the mainstream media analysis of huge killings like that in Manchester.
Maximising the damage
It appears that nails, nuts and bolts had been added to the improvised explosive device, as if the bomb itself was not going to have a strong enough impact. The weaponised pieces of metal were found around the area the bomb had gone off and a homeless man reported removing nails from a child’s face while waiting for emergency services personnel to arrive.
The bomber, Abedi, was a British-born man, so those who were hoping to pin the blame on refugees or others who had migrated to the UK will have been disappointed. Concerned youth workers who had worked with Abedi when he was a little younger had reported him to the police for having extremist views, but little seems to have happened as a result.
Politicians report that Abedi had been on the radar of security services and that he is unlikely to have acted alone. If he was indeed part of a network of dangerous men, it can only be hoped that his contacts are quickly identified and dealt with within the law.
Daesh has claimed responsibility for the attack but you suspect they might claim responsibility for a fight in a pizza shop if they could see some leverage in it. In this case, there could be good reason to believe that they may actually be behind the bombing, but more evidence will become apparent over time.
Looking for the helpers
Taxi drivers drove people home without asking for a fare, nearby hotels took in unaccompanied children until they could be reunited with their parents, locals offered a place to sleep to people who could not get home, and Steve Jones, a homeless man, comforted a gravely injured woman until help arrived. Mancunians queued up to donate blood until no more was needed, and tattoo artists quickly lined up to ink memorial tattoos of the iconic Manchester bee and donate all the funds raised to the victims and their families.
The Boston Globe had pizza delivered to the overworked Manchester Evening News, and an American hospital had pizza sent to a hospital in Manchester that was dealing with some of the victims of the attack. The Manchester local community has come together to remember and mark the deaths, and to demonstrate their solidarity with the city.
Condemnation of the attack
As is the norm following a situation like this, the Prime Minister and local politicians in Manchester spoke out against the attack, reassuring people that it will be fully investigated and that they will be safer in the future. Muslim groups are always under pressure to condemn attacks on these occasions, and the Muslim Council of Britain gave a moving response. Local religious leaders and international political leaders spoke eloquently to condemn the events that had taken place.
Celebrities, too, including Grande herself, spoke out about their devastation over the attacks. Many who would likely share an audience with the star, such as Harry Styles and Katy Perry, also talked of their sadness and upset.
Photo: Ian Livesy/Creative Commons