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?


Jamie Sport said...

What an excellent, if depressing, post.

eric the fish said...

Tremendous stuff. A definite symbiotic relationship.
I actually read this on Lancaster Unity (now they'll definitely think i'm a UAF thug) and thought it was 5CCesque before seeing the namecheck at the foot. In years to come I willbe asked to pore over manuscripts to tell if it's a genuine Cracker or not.

IftikharA said...


Muslim community has been vicitim of ****-bashing for the last 60 years by the British society in every walk of life. Now it is vicitm of terrorism by the British Establishment. Thousands of Muslim youts are being searched in streets and hundreds of them are behind bar without any trial.

Bilingual muslim children need state funded Muslim schools with bilingual Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods. There is no place for a non-Muslim child or a teacher in a Muslim school.

There are hundreds of state and church schools where Muslim pupils are in majority. In my opinion, all such schools may be designated as Muslim community school.

A Muslim is a citizen of this tiny global village. He/she does not want to become notoriously monolingual Brit. A Muslim must learn and be well versed in standard English to follow the National Currciculum and go for higher studies and research to serve humanity. At the same time, he must learn and be well versed in Arabic, Urdu and other community languages to keep in touch with their cultural roots and enjoy the beauty of their literature and poetry.
Iftikhar Ahmad

Miss Suffragette said...

Ah! The old dilemma of what came first, the chicken or the egg.

Five Chinese Crackers said...


Couldn't disagree more about designating schools as Muslim schools, or that there's no place for non-Muslims in such schools. Splitting groups of people who are given to misunderstanding one another apart can only lead to further misunderstanding and alienate the smaller groups further. Since Muslims are the smaller group here, it's Muslims that would lose out the most from such an arrangement. Imagine how awful the coverage of Muslims in the press would be if the journalists and their audience had no first hand experience of Muslims.

Part of the reason I'm even here complaining about the unfair and negative treatment of Muslims in the press is because of the friends I made with Muslim kids at school and elsewhere. Without mixing with other kids at school, I have no idea where I'd be.

Further separating is the worst thing we could do right now.

Peter said...

Whatever I think about the fascist UAF thugs whipping vulnerable young Muslims into a foaming frenzy of perceived hatred against a UAF manufactured enemy is one thing, but what disturbs me more deeply is this comment from another commenter:

"Bilingual muslim children need state funded Muslim schools with bilingual Muslim teachers"

It's this kind of divisive self-ghettoising nonsense that community groups and both the secular and non-secular society is fighting against. State-sponsored ghettification (if there is such a word!) would be the worst of all possible worlds.

edit: update - that'll teach me for answering phone mid-post. Looks like 5cc beat me to the comment!

So, I shall add another comment to the main post, which is just to say that, regarding the views of Anjam Choudray, it might not surprise you to know that many moderate Muslims also regard him as a "prick". The recent youtube videos of him ranting should do the trick.

You can say "it was the Sun therefore tabloid journalism", but you can't hear it more clearly than from the horses mouth.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

To echo Jamie, although the photo makes me laugh.

mr bish said...

Outstanding stuff, bravo.

And - as someone who also attended incredibly culturally diverse primary and secondary schools - I'd just like to voice my opinion that Iftikhar's ideas about muslim schools are perhaps well-intentioned, but rather misguided. If there's a lack of bi-lingual muslim role models in the state schools, why not work to encourage more bi-lingual muslims to train to become teachers, and work in the state schools?

Personally, I've never found a need for my role models (those teachers that were) to share the same religion or first language as me, and any argument about languages not being taught effectively enough in the state schools (while a fair point) isn't solved by removing muslim students to special schools with special teachers - again, better to get those teachers into the state schools!

I'd go on, but 5cc has already made the most important point - separation breeds suspicion and distrust, and clearly isn't what the UK needs right now, what with lunatic fascist groups like the EDL gaining momentum.