03.24.17 Terrorism in the era of ‘Black Mirror’: ‘It’s like we’re all living in a movie’

For your perspective consideration, please.

I interviewed Charlie Brooker, the creator of “Black Mirror,” the anthology series about the dark forces in ourselves and our technology (catch it on Netflix), Thursday afternoon for an article I’m working on about technophobia in TV series. Needless to say, I was delighted: I’m a big fan of what he’s doing both on “Mirror” and in other areas.

But I couldn’t start the official conversation without addressing the terror attack in London on the 22nd; I just wanted to express my hopes that he and his loved ones were OK. They were, and it turns out his brother-in-law is an MP and was in Parliament at the time it happened. But he wasn’t one to get maudlin about any of it — in fact, he took a very been-there-done-that approach to the whole thing.

I didn’t transcribe all of it, as it was part of a conversation and only part fit in the interview, but he noted first of all that really, they had been there. And done that. And not all that long ago: It was only a few decades ago that London was the regular site of IRA bomb attacks; he specifically mentioned that the IRA launched homemade mortars at 10 Downing Street, for example.

Charlie Brooker.

“If you look up Wikipedia, 1991 you’ll see how many terror incidents there were then,” he told me. “Today we feel a lot more afraid, because it’s more accessible — it’s in the palm of your hand [via social media].”

I was in London for my study abroad program in the first half of 1990, just a short time before the year he’s referring to. And of all the memories I bring back from that visit — exactly one has to do with anything related to terror attacks. That’s because I went, on my spring break, to Belfast (which was still heavily divided and filled with armed-to-the-teeth British soldiers). Other than the uneasiness of seeing them stationed around town, or the interesting shared-cab ride we took into the Fells neighborhood in that city specifically — there was no sense of life lived as an exclamation point in London.

Contrast this with 2017, and London remains a target, though the attackers are from a different venue (I am assuming at this point; I don’t know if it’s definitively been said where the attacker was from, only that it’s being treated as a terrorist incident). But people are now seeing it through the lens of social media, where we all get wrapped up in yet another assault on the West. Yes, it is. Yes, it is tragic. But if you see images of Londoners wandering around normally — take that as a message. It isn’t necessary to go batshit every time something like this happens.

“It’s all like we’re living in a movie,” Brooker told me. “And it has to do also with the way events are covered — the news is brought to you today like ‘The World is Crazy.’ And there’s something about that that slightly detaches us from where we are.”

Sometimes, you just have to keep calm, and carry on. Something Londoners have been doing quite well for a very long time.



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