The London Underground Bombing
On the day of the July 7, 2005 bombings in London, The Guardian reported on the events with minute-by-minute updates. During its coverage on that day, the paper refrained from drawing conclusions about links to Islamic extremism.“Bomb Blasts Plunge London into Chaos,” Guardian (London), July 7, 2005, http://www.theguardian.com/news/blog/2005/jul/07/explosionsplun. The only piece of reporting that attributed the attacks to al-Qaeda was a quote from then-Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who said that the bombings bore the “hallmarks of an [al-Qaeda] related attack.”Sarah Left, Mark Oliver, “38 Dead in London Blasts,” Guardian (London), July 7, 2005, http://www.theguardian.com/society/2005/jul/07/terrorism.transportintheuk.
According to the International Herald Tribune, British media reacted cautiously while reporting the bombings. The BBC London talk-radio station reportedly urged callers to the station “not to speculate wildly, but to report only what they had seen.” The paper also noted that BBC News, “in order to report fairly what [was] happening,” also waited almost two and a half hours after the initial bomb exploded to report on “the possibility that the bombings might be the work of [al-Qaeda].” According to the BBC’s then head of television, “It was a terrible, dreadful event, but it wasn’t like 9/11, where you had this sense of all of America under attack…the fact is that much of London was functioning normally.”Eric Pfanner, “British News Media Reacted to Bombings with a Measure of Caution,” International Herald Tribune, July 11, 2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/11/business/media/11bomb.html.
The day after the bombing, the New York Times ran an op-ed piece by Peter Bergen, an expert on al-Qaeda and CNN terrorism analyst, who warned that “one of the greatest terrorist threats to the United States emanates not from domestic sleeper cells or, as is popularly imagined, from the graduates of Middle Eastern madrassas, but from some of the citizens of its closest ally, Britain.”Peter Bergen, “Our Ally, Our Problem,” New York Times, July 8, 2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/08/opinion/08bergen.html. The same day, another op-ed in the paper from Thomas Friedman discussed the likely fall out from the attacks. “When jihadist-style bombings happen in Riyadh, that is a Muslim-Muslim problem…But when Al-Qaeda-like bombings come to the London Underground, that becomes a civilizational problem. Every Muslim living in a Western society suddenly becomes a suspect, becomes a potential walking bomb.”Thomas L. Friedman, “If It’s a Muslim Problem, It Needs a Muslim Solution,” New York Times, July 8, 2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/08/opinion/08friedman.html.