I was a student at London University in 1973, just a few minutes walk from the Old Bailey, where the IRA detonated the first car bomb ever used on the British mainland. Some of my friends were in the College at the time, and actually heard the explosion. I remember how we all gathered around the television in the evening, stunned and incredulous at the images of the damage.
There were fewer pundits in those days, and most of them were as stunned as everybody else. It took them a few days to start punditing again, with ritual calls for the re-introduction of the death penalty and the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Londonderry.
My first thought on hearing about the Brussels explosions this week, like everybody else I suppose, was sorrow for the victims. But my second, I have to say, was, Oh my God, now the pundits will be out in force. And the blood was still drying as the pundits invaded the airwaves. Self-style experts on “terrorism” and “islamic extremism” were deployed in minutes, and hogged the radio and TV, as well as the internet sites and the print media, for days afterwards. And it’s always the same people, always the same simplistic ideas, always the same dumb questions. I know that money and careers are at stake here, but can’t the assembled punditocracy, unless it actually has something interesting and useful to say, just go away, and leave the dead, and for that matter the living, in peace for once?