Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. UK Politics
22 June 2020

Why we should deny the Reading attacker the prominence he seeks

Tracing attackers’ ideologies and radicalisation journeys doesn’t require us to widely name them.

By Stephen Bush

Two of the victims of the Reading attacker have been named as James Furlong, a teacher at the Holt School, and Joe Ritchie-Bennett, born in Philadelphia but who made his home here in the United Kingdom. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of both. 

In Morning Call, since the Christchurch attack in New Zealand, where possible we’ve avoided naming the suspect in terror attacks. In the event that other criminal acts become politically salient, we’ll follow the same approach. 

The political questions that should occupy us – whether he was radicalised in person, in prison or online, his legal status in the UK, if it is reasonable to expect that more could have been done to prevent this or another attack – don’t, in my view, require us to give the perpetrator of this crime, or any other, the distinction of being widely named.

There are times when that becomes impossible – when, for example, the former prime minister of Lesotho is accused of hiring a hitman to kill his first wife, Lipothelo Thabane, we cannot avoid naming him. Figures at the centre of global terror and criminal networks, such as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, similarly do have to be named from time to time. 

But for the most part, the terrorists who attacked London Bridge in 2019 and 2017, who attacked the congregations in Christchurch and Pittsburgh, and who bombed the Manchester Arena, don’t need to be named. Their ideologies and their radicalisation journeys need to be understood so they can be defeated – but their names, and the criminals themselves, ought to be denied the prominence they sought in committing atrocities.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy