In the United Kingdom, in the wake of the Manchester arena attack, which killed 23 people and injured more than 200, Theresa May is being criticized for her lack of leadership in calling a terror attack, rather than the other way around. This is not unusual; there is a tendency for Americans to treat British leaders in the wake of foreign attacks with an excessive degree of defensiveness. But there is also a tendency in British media to describe the leaders as having been “too afraid to say ‘no’.” This is a bit of a double standard; it’s not that the American media have done the wrong thing when they describe President Trump as being “too afraid” to bomb a Syrian airbase, but it is the US media’s responsibility to be “tough” and assertively confront with the terrorists who attack the west, as opposed to being overly defensive.
Since the aftermath of that attack, the British media has tried to make a case that a government that was unwilling to call it an attack and too weak to say “we’re doing everything we can” is weak, and therefore should not be trusted to lead in the future. I would argue that this is not something to be taken on faith, because politicians like the ones Britain had before June 8 are far too likely to be prime ministers in the future, and we cannot expect a lot of that in a democratic country. And while I don’t know that the British public is going to let a lot of politicians like that get away with it, I think it is a good point that has gotten a fair amount of attention in the British media.
In the US, it was not the American government, but the media that said “no” to Trump following the attacks, rather than the other way around. This was the case not because they were “too scared” to call it the attacks, but that they were afraid to put that fact out there. Of course Americans want their leaders to be the best that they can be; a prime example is that the best leader America could have after 9/11 was Ronald Reagan. What was different in this case was the media’s insistence on putting out all these “warnings,” instead of saying “we’re doing everything we can,” because America’s own national security has proved itself capable of doing more than that.
This is why I think it is reasonable to question what the press’s own political biases are; the media’s own biases are far more important than the “toughness” of the media’s own