BLAISE TAPP: Murs was doing what we do best in an age of panic

Olly Murs and the words 'terror' and 'scare' are ones which I am sure have never before found their way into the same sentence. Until last Friday.

Saturday, 2nd June 2018, 11:38 am
Updated Tuesday, 19th June 2018, 2:28 pm

The singer, famed for the hit Troublemaker, was accused of stirring all kinds of bother when he sent a series of tweets following a bizarre incident in central London during rush hour.

Emergency services, including armed police, were called to Oxford Circus after reports of gunshots. The huge crowds of people, who had been drawn to the busiest shopping district in the country for Black Friday, were sent into panic and some of them '“ Murs included '“ did what comes naturally to folk these days and took to their smartphones.

The only trouble with this particular incident is that everybody's favourite cheeky Essex boy has an army of nearly 8m followers on social media '“ a bigger potential audience than many major media organisations.

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This helped to amplify the drama and within minutes the news of the unfolding drama was being reported by '˜mainstream' media with a tone of dread.

As we know now, there weren't any gunshots and it appears that it all began as a result of an altercation between two men on an Underground platform.

Murs, who was in Selfridges at the time, was given a rough ride by many, including the pugnacious Piers Morgan, who reminded the singer that he ought to think before he tweets.

But Murs is only human and was merely doing what 21st century human beings do best '“ they share everything.

The fact is that Murs, like many people in London that evening, didn't have a clue what was going on and given that 2017 has been a particularly grim year with 35 people dying in six terror-related incidents in the UK since March, who can blame him?

It is not the first time this year that onlookers have got hold of the wrong end of the stick '“ back in October the internet and the media was whipped into a frenzy when a car crashed into crowds outside the Natural History Museum.

So-called experts took to social media to inform us that terror on the streets was happening all over again, only for the Metropolitan Police to confirm a couple of hours later that the crash wasn't terror-related.

But this is more than simply daft sods on their mobile phones '“ this is about how jumpy we have become as nation in the past few months.

Whenever terror atrocities occur, it has become convention for the general population to repeat the mantra '˜we won't let the terrorists win' but it seems we are in danger of doing just that if the aforementioned recent events in London are anything to go by.

I imagine that, like me, you will know people who have avoided city centres and major events since the attacks in Manchester and London earlier this year. This is evidence of some people changing their behaviour as a result of terror.

While self-preservation is human nature, it is important that we don't become a nation that descends into blind panic whenever a car backfires.

Much of the responsibility rests on the shoulders of the media, because the way they report such incidents influences large swathes of the population.

But what is certain is that Brits don't deserve to live their lives in fear.