After a major tragedy, it's always interesting to see how long it is until political opportunists try to turn it to their political advantage. Generally, if the event is terrible enough, there will be some period of shocked silence on the matter, but, at the periphery, you can always see the jackals waiting to rush in. Great tragedies can be powerful political tools. Sometimes they can strike home a particular point and motivate people to do what they should have been doing all along. However, what makes them really valuable to the political opportunist is not their power for rational persuasion, but that the overwhelming fear, sadness, anger, or guilt can temporarily overcome people's faculties of reason, and they can be persuaded to do things or take stances they would not normally if thinking rationally. Once you have someone thinking or behaving in a certain way, it's much easier to keep them on that path than it would have been to get them there in the first place. So, to the opportunist, the value of a tragedy is to bypass the normal safeguards of reason. That is why it is so vital for him to make his move before people can calm down and collect themselves, and this is what makes it reprehensible.

You can see this pattern after almost any tragedy, whether it is a school shooting, a riot, or just a poor woman in a coma. Predictably, the incident used most in this way in recent times was the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. As I recall, people didn't say much about politics immediately, other than to say "we stand strong" and "we'll get the people who did this", which were more a statement of common conviction than an attempt at persuasion. Not long after, however, the jackals had descended to prey on the plight of the people for their own ends. It was ludicrous the myriad purposes that people tried to use the attacks as political fodder for, from seemingly reasonable things like defense to things like gay rights and abortion. What's more, you could see how each group would twist the attack to their end, no matter what that end was. In the time leading up to the attacks, the construction of a missile defense shield, ostensibly to protect against a missile attack by terrorists or a "rogue state", had been a popular topic of debate. People who advocated the missile shield used the attack as evidence of how great a threat terror posed, how the terrorists were determined, well organized, and willing to use horrific means. People against the missile shield pointed to the fact that the terrorists had attacked using plane tickets and box cutters, not ICBMs, so, they argued, the missile shield was defending against a cold war type threat when we faced a new enemy with different tactics. The point is that the event didn't seem to change the mind of anyone on either side; instead, each side felt it obvious that this event bolstered their argument. It's times like that that one begins to lose faith in the ability of people to rationally discuss things and come to consensus. But then again, politicians and pundits are hardly honest, rational people.

So now we have this attack on London, and no doubt the political opportunists will again flock in to try to twist grief and anger to their advantage. I say let's let the doctors, police, and intelligence agencies do their jobs in dealing with the situation at hand, but let's at least wait until the bodies are in their graves before we move on to the business of punditry and political debate. That will reflect a decent respect for both the dead and the survivors, and it will allow us to clear our heads and think rationally about things. In this way, we will neither be manipulated nor reward the jackals for their behavior. Until the time when it is appropriate, we will have to suffer and ignore these people. They can be recognized by their shrill tone, and the repeated appeals like "won't somebody think of the ______". They will be the ones who have lost nothing directly, yet the complain most loudly as they invade the mourning of the actual victims. They will use made up terms like "Islamofacist" or "Narco-guerrilla" to attempt to overcome reason by making people associate one thing with something different they dislike, rather than directly arguing why it is bad. Most importantly, they will decry those who disagree, treat complex matters as if they are exceedingly simple, and admit no uncertainty. When you hear these things, you may be moved argue against them; I can't say that arguing is wrong, but to me it certainly seems decent to wait for the proper time and place. This doesn't affect me directly, but if it did, I think that's what I would want. For the next few days, what can be done is being done, and discussion of large scale policy can wait for the appropriate time.