Who always starts the race row?

There's a story in today's Mail that gives us a nice example of how the paper covers any kind of 'community tension', and offers a nice point of comparision with the article I covered almost a year ago in 'Firebombed Muslims 'Asking for it''.

The article then was 'Race clashes hit Windsor', today's is 'Immigrant mother 'battered boy, 10, with a pipe' after he 'told her to go back to her own country'' (or 'Boy, 10,‘battered by woman in race row at his school’ in the print version).

Both cover tensions that seem to have spilled over into violence, and both include details of a violent act that could be used as a focal point for the articles. In one story, that event is only revealed in a throwaway sentence and phrased in the passive voice, removing the acting agent from it and giving the impression that the event spontaneously happened on its own. In the other story, the event actually is the focal point of the article and used in the headline, and the actor is explicitly referred to from the start. In one, the victims of the action were the non white-British people involved, and in the other the victim was white-British.

I can't do a 'spot the difference' with this story, since the difference is immediately obvious from the headlines, but here is how the earlier story reported the firebombing of a Muslim owned dairy:
Gangs have fought battles in the streets using baseball bats and pitchforks. A Muslim-run dairy which wants to build a mosque was petrol bombed.
Here's how the paper reported the trouble starting:
Despite a lack of planning permission to use Technor House as a place of worship, workers and visitors have been praying there.

Violence flared for the first time on Monday outside the building in Vale Road in the Dedworth area of Windsor.

There was an altercation between a teenage boy and dairy staff during prayers. It escalated and the windows of several vehicles were smashed.

Amid claims that the boy, his mother and teenage sister were assaulted, up to 50 young people clashed on Tuesday night.

Windows of the makeshift mosque and dairy vehicles were smashed. Residents said gangs of Asian youths travelled from Slough to fight the white gang. One youth was reportedly arrested for carrying a 12-inch knife.
It's clear from this that we're meant to infer that the trouble is all the Muslims' fault. They've been using a building for prayers without permission. Although the teenage boy was outside the dairy when the 'altercation' took place and 'the windows of several vehicles were smashed', he's not blamed for anything. Those crazy Muslims must have smashed their own car windows. Although the violence seems to be centred around the dairy, meaning the non-Muslim locals would have had to go there to be involved, the word of residents claiming that Asian gangs travelled from Slough is taken at face value. It's implied that the youth arrested for having the knife was Asian.

Here's how the second story reports the event of a boy being beaten:
A boy of ten claims he was beaten around the head with a pipe by a Slovakian immigrant after he threw a berry at her and told her to 'go back to her own country'.

Jake Stedman was found in a pool of blood after insulting the woman in her 20s, who is believed to have a child at the same primary school.

He says she chased him down an alleyway before repeatedly striking him on the head and back with the 2ft pipe as he cowered on the floor, leaving him with two black eyes.

His mother, Amanda Stedman, 29, from Chatham, Kent, said: "I came running out the house and saw him lying in a pool of blood crying.

"He was completely in shock - he's just a little boy.

"I know he can misbehave and he's easily led but for this to happen is outrageous."
Let's make no bones about it - this is a horrible, vicious attack on a child. I'm not criticising the paper for reporting on it or for its description above of what happened, which is far more measured than some local papers have been, and probably much better than the other tabloids will manage if they get hold of the story. The print version of the headline is actually much better than the online version too. (The difference is quite probably because the story is part of the wider anti-immigration narrative the paper is pushing at the moment, and 'race clash' doesn't signal that clearly enough in a medium where the reader often only sees the headline without the context and might not click through and make the connection).

What I want to do here is contrast it with the other coverage. Why wasn't the dairy being firebombed - arguably the single stand out violent act - the focal point of the 'race clashes' article? Why were the other acts of violence explicitly mentioned reduced only to the passive voice, as if they happened all on their own? It couldn't have been because that would make it look as though the Muslims weren't the aggressors would it? Surely not.

Beyond the reporting of the beating in the new one, the story leaves a lot to be desired, and there are telling differences and similarities between the two articles. Some of those differences and similarities make the newer article worse.

The main difference is that in the earlier article, at least one of the Muslims was quoted. This one doesn't directly quote even one of the Slovakian people involved. We're only told one side of the apparent tensions that led up to the attack.

And there's the main similarity. Even though the 'Race clashes' article quoted one of the Muslim residents, the article focuses mainly on repeating the claims of the non-Muslims without comment. One great quote that goes unchallenged is this:
"On Monday three young lads, about 15 or so, were in Shirley Avenue when the men came out of prayers and attacked them with pitchforks, baseball bats and iron bars," she said. "Whether they were provoked or not I don't know.

"I'm worried that if they allow the mosque things will get worse."
Yeah. I'm sure it was completely unprovoked. And it stands to reason that a mosque will make things worse, since Muslims are given to attacking people with baseball bats and pitchforks for no reason.

This is what we learn from the new article:
British children had complained of being bullied by the Slovakian pupils, who they said had told them: "We only play with our own kind."

One parent at the school, who did not wish to be named, said: "When the parents come and collect their children, the Slovakians stand on one side of the playground and we stand on the other.

"It is a bit like a stand-off."

Another, mother- of-three Carla Spanton, said parents are already pulling their children out of the school following a large intake of Slovakian pupils over the summer.

"There's been trouble ever since," she said. "Our kids are being threatened with having their throats slit.

"It's happening every day but no one is taking any notice.

"This used to be a good school but it's not any more." Father-of-one Shane Treeby added: "The trouble is going to spill over and it's going to happen soon.

"There's been a load of attacks recently in and around the school with gangs of Slovakians going round beating up the local kids.

"That boy getting hit was just one example, but there's stabbings and all sorts round here which is not getting reported." Police last night confirmed they had made an arrest in connection with the alleged pipe attack.
Do you think this reporting might be, oh I dunno, just a tad one sided? Just a teensy bit? Evil, feral East Europeans refusing to mix, threatening throat slittings every day and stabbing people and all sorts, and all that happens in return is a ten year old throws a berry and shouts, 'Go back to your own country,' - and he gets beaten with a metal bar for it. Doesn't it sound like something's missing from this account?

I mean, if a ten year old boy feels confident enough to throw things and jeer at adults in the street (which it must be repeated doesn't warrant being beaten up), doesn't that suggest that the environment is slightly different from the one of fear and intimidation created by Eastern Europeans we've been given? Even if he did end up beaten for his trouble.

Like the Windsor dairy story, there are two sides to this one. It would have been nice if the relatively measured language reporting the attack were carried over into the rest of the story. But that was never going to happen, given the wider narrative this story was always going to be slotted into, and given that the white-British people are almost never to blame for 'race clashes' in the press. And here's what it's being slotted into, tacked on the end:
The incident comes after last week's admission by police that the influx of immigrants to Britain is placing a huge strain on resources.

Leading the warnings was Cambridgeshire's chief constable Julie Spence.
So, Chief Constable Spence's calls for more funding to police a growing population who have different customs - like carrying knives for protection and more lax attitudes to drink-driving - becomes a call for extra funding because Eastern Europeans beat ten year old kids with iron bars.


1 comment:

septicisle said...

Nothing really to add except to mention this very Guardian article that certainly does cover both sides: