An enormous amount about the hopes and expectations of a society can be learned from the news that people want to report and the stories its readers apparently want to hear. An equally large amount — perhaps even more — can be learned from the stories they would most likely rather not hear and the facts they would probably prefer not to know about.
The former situation can be seen after any Islamist terrorist attack in the West, when people are immediately given ‘good news stories’ either to dampen any rage they might be feeling or distract from any difficult questions they might be asking. On New Year’s Eve in Manchester, England, for instance, a 25-year-old man began stabbing people at random on a platform at the city’s Victoria Metrolink station. It appears that the venue was chosen because it is near the Manchester Arena, where Salman Abedi murdered 22 people in a suicide-bombing at a pop concert in May 2017.
Before a nearby police officer and his colleagues could stop him, the New Year’s Eve attacker left a couple in their 50s seriously injured in what was described as a ‘frenzied’ attack. He has subsequently been detained under the Mental Health Act. What seemed clear from the outset, however, was that the attack was in some way Islamist, specifically ISIS-inspired. The man was reportedly shouting ISIS slogans during the attack; and footage of him after he was detained by police show him shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ [‘Allah is the greatest’].