A Very Specific Risk

Despite the fact that their interpretation of last Saturday evening is demonstrably, provably untrue, they have stood by it because the alternative is unpalatable: Admitting that the French security services got this one wrong would mean admitting that they have also got their approach to policing French domestic soccer wrong and that they are probably going to get next year’s Rugby World Cup and the 2024 Paris Olympics wrong, too.

Most of all, they have stood by it because, deep down, they know it will work. They know, at least, that it might create the illusion of an alternative set of facts. They know, too, that much of the heavy lifting will be done by prejudice, by those who would point out, archly, that this does seem to happen to Liverpool fans or England fans or just soccer fans as a whole an awful lot.

They know that while social media allowed all of those images and videos and firsthand accounts to be surfaced and to be spread, citizen journalism is a much less potent force online than deep-rooted partisanship. They know that the latter will overpower the former at some point, at least enough to muddy the waters, to obscure not only this specific truth but also the idea of truth, to ensure that some blame is apportioned elsewhere.

Plenty, certainly, have seized on the opportunity to assume that Liverpool fans, or English fans, or even a certain stripe of soccer fans as a whole must be at fault. Plenty have decided that this must be the first time that anyone has ever tried to gain access to an event by using a fake ticket, without wondering whether perhaps some of those people were victims, rather than perpetrators, of a crime, without asking if perhaps that is the sort of thing the authorities should be prepared to encounter.

And yet the temptation to side with the authorities, in the aftermath of an event like this, rather than those who are different from you only in terms of the team they support is a dangerous one.

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