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Last Updated: Monday, 22 August 2005, 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK
Blog in haste, repent at leisure?
The Magazine's review of weblogs
By Alan Connor

Soon after his death, Jean Charles de Menezes was described by Richard Littlejohn in The Sun as "suicidally reckless". More recently, the columnist has acknowledged that initial reports were inaccurate and turned his derision on the policemen.

Jean Charles de Menezes
Mr Menezes was shot a day after the failed London bombings
On the blogs, we're seeing a more thoughtful response to the same problem. There's a temptation to comment on an event straight away, but it sometimes takes a while for all the facts to emerge.

And those who'd defended either the shoot-to-kill policy or the shooting itself are sometimes angrier than critics of the police.

Some were surprised to see the libertarian group-blog Samizdata giving the initial benefit of the doubt to the police. Perry de Havilland has since posted again, and is not mincing his words:

    "There had damn well better be a very heavy accounting for this with a lot of abruptly and dishonourably ended careers and jail sentences."

Likewise, Chris at Optimus In Omnis wrote a thoughtful post in July concluding that there was "no other way that the police could have handled the situation".


His more recent post describes the edginess many Londoners feel, in order to make the point that losing trust in the police has not made this any better:

    "I am afraid. I am really, very afraid and these turn of events have made me into a worse person. I get a twinge of guilt every time I look for a second longer at someone who is acting suspiciously, not because I think it is unnecessary but because with each glance I sink lower and lower into moral depravity."

As you might expect, American bloggers have had plenty to say on this. Among them is one called Ann Althouse, whose characteristic tough talk on Menezes ("a further good has been created") provoked much response, and who has since added more thoughts, maintaining that "terrorists need to get the message that this one mistake isn't going to make life easier for them".

And as Smart Shade Of Blue shows, the debate remains animated in the Brazilian blogosphere. It's heavy going, even if your Portuguese doesn't extend much beyond phrases like Blogico's "Incompetencia maxima".

Weblog Watch is the BBC News Magazine's weekly digest of bloggers' views on the news

Despite a flurry of posts in July, the police blogs are - perhaps understandably - quiet for the moment, except for a passing mention in PC Copperfield's post on the IPCC.

But in the rest of the blogosphere, policing practice is of course coming in for a great deal of scrutiny. The overall tone is one of sympathy for individual officers, but concern over procedure. Commenting at The Underground Blog, Ian of Who Knows Where The Thoughts Come From? writes:

    "It's a strange contrast between the treatment of the leaker (suspended from work) to the treatment of the assassin (distinctly not suspended; given an expenses paid holiday though). It would make you think that exposing the truth is a worse crime than killing an innocent man."
Similar observations are made at Western Resistance and in Blood & Treasure's post on Sir Ian Blair:
    "The worst week of his professional life wasn't when his force shot an innocent man. It was when his force got caught out in public lying about it. What precisely does he think his profession is?"

Stronger words yet come from former diplomat Craig Murray, who questions the legality of the killing of Menezes and calls for more names to be named.

And, given that the facts as we understand them keep changing, it was inevitable that the words "cover" and "up" would appear: one example in a restrained context is at Owen Barder's blog.

Trust in short supply

And it's not just the police: Annie Mole is one among many highlighting the unreliability of eyewitness statements, which were relied on by the media, including the BBC.

Because, as with so many of the issues involved in terrorism and the war thereon, the picture is rarely clear and the questions rarely few.

Among much incredulity at the lack of CCTV footage, for example, some people have found useful Arkady's account of working as a Line Controller on the Tube:

    "It's no surprise at all that the cameras weren't working; I'd be more surprised if they were working. CCTV on the Underground is carried by badly degraded wiring with signals from half a dozen different systems piggybacking on the same wire."

And so it goes on. Michael Lawrence sees parallels with the Israeli Defense Forces. Johnathan Pearce fears the arrival of "the grievance mongering industry". Talk Politics is alarmed by the lack of debate before the Inquiries Act was passed.

The mood is dark - though seldom darker than Prof. Booty's "maybe Londoners should run from the police" - and one can only hope that whatever facts emerge over the next few days make things clearer. Trust is in short supply.

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