September 18, 2009

The tabloids and right wing extremism

Just who are these blackshirted fellows?
The relationship between tabloid reporting and the increase in the BNP's popularity is an interesting one to look at. We know tabloid nonsense gets churnalised over on the BNP's website, we know that the party advertises and sells Melanie Phillips' book via its website, and we know the policy of attacking Muslims rather than any other group is based on the prominence of negative stories in the news media, so it seems the tabloids are at least contributing to an environment where far right ideas may seem more attractive to some.

There is still a little bit of ambiguity between cause and effect here though. Does tabloid coverage cause people to vote for the BNP, or are the tabloids merely reflecting a rightward shift in public opinion? I know what I think, but you know what? I'm not going to bother arguing it right now. And that's because it's much much easier to show how the tabloids contribute to support for the campaign of new ball-'eds on the block, the English Defence League, to kick off violent confrontations with brown people Muslims. (More on the EDL at Bartholomew's Notes on Religion, and the BBC).

The EDL have produced a video to drum up support for their campaign to stir up violent trouble and drag the country back to the seventies and 40 odd years further back with their black shirts and stiff armed 'seig heils' march for freedom by supporting the restriction of religious, er, freedom. Or something. It's geared toward an upcoming event in Manchester.

The video's a bit rubbish, and amounts to a series of still images juxtaposed against each other to stirring music. Rumbold at Pickled Politics has pointed out the pisspoor crusader imagery, but there is a series of 22 images in the video that are of particular interest to this blog.

These 22 images are of headlines from the news media and around the internet - headlines to negative stories about Muslims. Only three of these stories are not from the mainstream media. Here's a league table of where the 19 that are left come from:
  1. The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday (8)
  2. The Daily/Sunday Express (4)
  3. The Daily/Sunday Telegraph (3)
  4. The BBC (1)
  5. The (DGMT owned) Evening Standard (1)
Here's the surprising thing. Only six of those stories are about specific terrorist plots, and none are about 9/11 or 7/7. Rather than stories including emotive images of the twin towers exploding or the Russell Square bus with the roof blown off, the remaining 12 articles pictured are examples of scaremongering about sharia law, the number of schoolchildren speaking English as a second language and so on. It would probably be useful to go through them and give quick and dirty rundown of the 'ooga-booga look at the scary brown people mainstream articles' used for recruitment to the EDL cause.

Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday
Will Britain one day be Muslim? - an opinion piece (in the 'News' section and not flagged as opinion), which mentions 'the enemy within', scaremongers with guff about birth rates and bigs up Mark Steyn.

Britain has 85 sharia courts: The astonishing spread of the Islamic justice behind closed doors - from our old friend, Steve Doughty. While the article does manage to bury the fact that the law allowing the courts to operate also covers Jewish Beth Din courts, it includes a lovely big box headlined 'The elders who dole out justice in secret'. Ooh, spooky.

Schoolboys punished with detention for refusing to kneel down and pray to Allah - a story that fails to explain or link to later information about the case that revealed that the boys were not given detention for failing to kneel and pray to Allah. You might have thought that would be relevant. It wouldn't have mattered much if the EDL had included screenshots from the story that revealed that the teacher had never made pupils kneel and pray to Allah or put anyone in detention for refusing to do so anyway, as it was still headlined Teacher sacked after 'making pupils kneel and pray to Allah' during RE lesson. Hurrah for truth and honesty.

English-speaking pupils are a minority in inner-city London primary schools - the headline there is a lie. Pupils who speak English as their first language are a minority in inner London primaries. Hurrah. Truth and honesty.

The Pope must die, says Muslim - now, Anjem Choudhary is a prick, and there are better ways do describe him than merely by his religion. Like, er, 'prick'.

Government renames Islamic terrorism as 'anti-Islamic activity' to woo Muslims - a James Slack classic. The headline makes the value judgment that terrorism carried out by Muslims is 'Islamic' at the same time as offering a false reason for the change in the way such terrorism is referenced. The article later reveals that the change is because "Security officials believe that directly linking terrorism to Islam is inflammatory, and risks alienating mainstream Muslim opinion" - and that Jaqui Smith used the term once rather than it becoming the official government label for such activity. Truth and honesty?

Daily/Sunday Express
HATE PREACHER: I WANT SHARIA LAW IN BRITAIN - there's a better description of Anjem Choudhary than 'Muslim'. Or 'prick', for newspaper purposes at least.

NOW MUSLIM CLERICS TO TEACH OUR CHILDREN - a repeat of scaremongering stories from March 2008, in which the paper expressed outrage that schools should be considering allowing 'Muslim clerics' to talk about Islam in school religious education. I covered these earlier stories in Fury over children being taught together and learning about one another and Fury over paper printing nonsense front page headlines.


BROWN: DON'T SAY TERRORISTS ARE MUSLIMS - the headline isn't actually true. It refers to the same sort of thing as the Mail story above. Although that one came six months later.

The Daily/Sunday Telegraph
We want to offer Sharia Law in Britain - a more sober look at sharia courts from the Telegraph, which still manages to open with a negative vignette about the 'mundane' tasks they carry out.

CIA warns Barack Obama that British terrorists are the biggest threat to the US - a story actually about how a former CIA officer who had advised Obama told the Telegraph that the biggest threat was from Britain. Not, as the headline would suggest, a story about how Obama is currently being advised by the CIA that Britain is definitely the greatest terrorist threat to the US.

The Evening Standard
I want to see flag of Allah flying over Downing St - Anjem Choudhary again.

Now, although the EDL do further monkey around with these stories with the way they're juxtaposed (putting the more sober Telegraph story next to the fearmongering ones from the Express and Mail, or the one about children not being able to speak English next to ones about Muslim Schools 'banning our culture' for instance) most of their work has been done for them. Even the papers themselves create false impressions by monkeying around with the juxtaposition of images and words and even entire stories, just like the EDL. Look at the Mail story scaremongering and making false claims about the number of school pupils who can't speak English. It only tangentially involves Muslims, and yet it's included in an anti-Muslim video because the picture the paper used to illustrate it includes a girl in a headscarf.

But it's not just the careful placement of images and stories that the tabloids help out with.

Of the six Mail headlines that aren't about specific terrorist plots, three are false (I'm including the 'detention for not kneeling and praying to Allah' story because the updated version is false), one is opinion dressed as news, one is reporting the results of a right wing think-tank as absolute truth and the last labels a ridiculous extremist merely with his religion, which is about as useful as labelling him 'bearded man'.

Of the four Express headlines, three have been exaggerated beyond the recognition of the facts in the story itself, and two perform the famous Express trick of casting Muslims as not 'us' or 'ours'.

The rest (including the ones from the Telegraph and Standard) are either spun in a quietly negative manner or reporting something Anjem Choudhary has said. There's little wrong with those things by themselves, but when they're included alongside misleadingly exaggerated scaremongering - as they are in the papers themselves as well as the EDL video, they don't really help community relations very much.

I've left aside the ones about terrorist plots, because you can't really blame papers for reporting these. They have also been exaggerated, but not only by the papers. Obsolete has more about these, and they're not exactly straightforward themselves.

So there you have it. Tabloid distortion used directly to recruit for extreme right-wing activity. I'm not merely surmising that these stories might help in this aim - I'm showing recruiting material that deliberately uses direct screenshots of the stuff I write about here to stir up support for the goons we've seen trying to provoke violence - sometimes successfully - in recent months.

Here's the difficult question. Would the EDL exist to produce this video at all if it wasn't for the sort if dishonest coverage the video contains?

Five Chinese Crackers


Anonymous said...

Spinwatch has a disturbing article on the convergence and collusion of formerly disparate groups of Islamophobes, ranging from the academic neocons to the skinheads.

Mr Tea said...

Tabloid newspaper racism came onto the scene in a big way after 9/11, when the War Against Terror came into being.

La Di Da Gunner Graham said...

Great piece.

It's interesting to see the Daily Mail out in front with these articles of incitement considering their pedigree when it comes to supporting fascist movements.

As for the question "Would the EDL exist to produce this video at all if it wasn't for the sort of dishonest coverage the video contains?" I don't believe that they would.

Anonymous said...

"Schoolboys punished with detention for refusing to kneel down and pray to Allah - a story that fails to explain or link to later information about the case that revealed that the boys were not given detention for failing to kneel and pray to Allah. You might have thought that would be relevant. It wouldn't have mattered much if the EDL had included screenshots from the story that revealed that the teacher had never made pupils kneel and pray to Allah or put anyone in detention for refusing to do so anyway, as it was still headlined Teacher sacked after 'making pupils kneel and pray to Allah' during RE lesson. Hurrah for truth and honesty."

Truth and honesty indeed. I used to think the media had some kind of integrity.

iliacus said...

English was my second language when I was at primary school (NOT in inner London).

Are the EDL coming to get me?


Pig Prother said...

If Leeds Counci continue not to give a monkeys, the EDL will get driven out of Leeds by a broad alliance of anarchists, anti-fascists, revolutionary socialists (Revo), Christians, Muslims and Jews.

Anonymous said...

The twats in the photo obviously have a UVF fetish!

The far-right have been wanking over images of Loyalist terrorists since the 70's.

Somebody said...

I just happened to come across BNP pantie waste David Strickson's neo-Nazi blog site. This Eastern BNP organiser and racist songwriter's blogspot is vile abusing disabled and gay as well as Black people and Asians.

His blog promotes a white supremacist record label called Guilty Records which carries skinhead music which praises the Waffen SS.

Is Guilty Records (a record label that presumably he helps run) another Gri££in enterprise like Great White Records, or is it run by LePen, as it is based in France?

Anonymous said...

The EDL are not (yet) a political party. However they do seem to be modeling themselves on the successful formula employed by Geert Wilders P V V, which consists of rampant Islamophobia but without the overt racism, sexism, homophobia and generalised xenophobia of the traditional far-right parties.

It remains to be seen whether the EDL make the transition to politics and if so whether they are an alter ego of the BNP or a rival/replacement outfit.

Anonymous said...

These EDL Casual pricks remind me of Unionist terrorists with their balaclavas on. They resemble a paramilitary private army, which is obviously their intention.

Bet these losers wouldn't say boo to a goose without their butch masks on, the cowardly racist arseholes.

When youths with hoodies on are forced to remove their masks in public areas for the sake of security cameras, how come these cocksucking "would-be paramilitaries" are allowed to swan around the UK's main cities inciting trouble while masking their identities from the police?

Couch Potato said...

I must disagree with the recent analysis which suggests that the EDL Casuals are "broad-ranging and not racist or homophobic".

I smell a troll, foll-di-roll.......

This is 100% pro-EDL spin.

The raw hate might be the same, but EDL are nothing like Wilders middle class far right party.

Wilders doesn't appeal to boneheaded racist, drunken masked working class football hooligan types who make-up the EDL, and his followers don't make as many Hitler salutes in-front of cameras as the EDL Casuals.

This is an extremely false comparison which plays down the racism and clear neo-Nazi pedigree of the average EDL white supremacist.

The EDL leaders recently went to America to visit one of the world's leading homophobes, which suggests that these working class white thugs are fervently homophobic as well as overtly racist.

The EDL Casuals thugs when they visit Manchester, won't be calling down Canal Street for a gay-friendly pint!

Not nazi my arse, lol!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Wilders followers don't make Hitler straight-arm salutes or get pissed ready for a ounch-up.

This is a very bad comparison indeed!

Jamie The Antifascist said...

"The far-right have been wanking over images of Loyalist terrorists since the 70's"

I was only talking about that with my mate on Youtube a few days ago. I wouldn't be surpised if a few of their members have links within the U.D.A... we all know the connection between the N.I loyalists and Neo Nazism. Neo-Nazis in a Germany have a shrine of Johnny Addair underneath their main building of operations.

Yes, I wish I was joking...

Anonymous said...

Certainly these EDL nutters have their wires crossed?

Police keep far right away from Muslim marchers

By Leon Symons, September 18, 2009 Jewish Chronicle.

Fears of violent clashes between far-right demonstrators and Muslims on a march in central London proved unfounded after a massive police operation kept them apart.
About 1,000 people took part in the annual Iranian-backed Al Quds (Jerusalem) Day march on Sunday.

The far-right groups March for England, Stop The Islamification of Europe and the English Defence League said they would mount a counter-demonstration. The EDL was involved in ugly scenes in Birmingham two weeks ago, when 90 people were arrested, and demonstrated at a mosque in Harrow last Friday.

Police initially responded by lining up the small number of EDL demonstrators who appeared at the march and searching them. They were then marched into a fenced-off area around the statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus.

Bizarrely, they shared this makeshift pen with a group of Iranians demonstrating against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. At one point the two groups joined their banners together.

The marchers started at Marble Arch, wound their way down Park Lane, into Piccadilly and Piccadilly Circus. Police lined both sides of the road as the two groups exchanged taunts and insults.

A rally and speeches at the end of the march was moved by the Greater London Authority from Trafalgar Square to Waterloo Place on Pall Mall. The march organisers accused the Greater London Authority of bowing to pressure from the far-right groups.

As the Al Quds marchers drew level with the Eros statue, far-right demonstrators unfurled an Israel flag and waved it at the people walking past, who responded by waving a variety of pro-Palestinian flags and placards.

Joe Chapman said...

Something just occurred to me about the EDL's decision to have a uniform unlike other fascist organisations:

They'd be easier to infiltrate.

Anonymous said...

It's such a shame that tabloid circulation is dropping like a stone. Pretty soon their readership will consist entirely of old ladies and prematurely balding beer-bellied louts, if that isn't the case already :)

Kareem said...

What A weird bastard that Dave Strickson is. A racist that likes black people and their music.

What is the world coming to?