I haven’t got time to go into all of the Muslim related stories on the Mail website today, but I have singled out this ‘story’ for particular attention: ‘Censored! Bikini advert blacked out with spray paint by ‘Muslim extremists who object to women in swimsuits‘ [istyosty.com link]. Now, given the racial tension in the UK caused by ignorance, recession and incessant media stories like this, if we had a responsible and regulated press in the UK this ‘story’ would never have been published.
It is based on a photo of one advertising boarding in Birmingham being partly sprayed with black paint. Now, this boarding happens to be in an area the Mail describes as having ‘a large Muslim population’ and the poster is situated across the road from a ‘”Muslim Students House Masjeed”, an education centre’. The Mail’s opening claims is that ‘the model on this poster, in Birmingham, has been defaced in an act of vandalism blamed on militant Muslims who were offended by her flesh’.
The Mail’s reasoning for this is that:
Similar acts of vandalism have been carried out in the London borough of Tower Hamlets. Police there also believe extremists are responsible.
No further details are given in this article to the Tower Hamlets incidents – but the Mail does have an entire article dedicated to the ‘Tower Hamlet Taliban’ elsewhere on the website – but the opening is worded to imply that this incident in Birmingham is also being linked by the police to Muslim extremists. But this does not seem to be the case when you assess the ‘evidence’ upon which the Mail is basing its claims:
The fact that almost all of the model’s flesh has been covered has led local residents to speculate that the vandalism was not random, but a religiously-motivated targeted attack.
Delivery driver Robert Tonkins, 45, said: “You see a lot of women wearing the hijab around here, and what’s been done to that poster looks very similar to it.
‘I don’t think it’s just kids messing around – they’ve spray-painted specific areas and covered up anything that might be offensive to very religious people.
‘It’s a bit worrying, I don’t think it’s up to other people to decide what can and can’t be displayed on our streets, especially because we’re a Christian country.’
And that’s it. That is the end of the article. No further evidence, no contact with the police or the council or anyone in the area, just the suspicions of one man. This isn’t journalism – it is barely even gossip – but it is of course serving an important purpose: the continued demonisation of Muslims for things we don’t even know that ‘they’ (I dislike having to refer to ‘them’ as a group as if ‘they’ are somehow all the same and very different to me or you) are responsible for.
As much as the Daily Mail may claim to dislike the EDL this is the sort of article that unleashes a torrent of racist abuse on EDL Facebook pages. What’s more worrying is that people who aren’t inherently racist see this kind of story most days in mainstream, supposedly respectable newspapers and they start to have doubts about the way in which religious relations are conducted in this country. These people then say things like this:
I’m not racist, but I do think that we have gone to far in pandering to Muslims. I mean, they do seem to get away with an awful lot, don’t they?
And, in fairness, if you only had the world delivered to you through the Daily Mail or any of its tabloid chums then you cannot be overly criticised for having this kind of view. If Muslims were banning extractor fans, defacing advertising boardings, banning Christmas, banning Easter, demanding Muslim-only hole in the ground toilets from local councils, demanding Sharia Law and all the while the government was rolling out the red carpet with housing, benefits and widescreen TVs, then we’d all have reasons to question the fairness of the system.
But of course the above stories are all an invention of our unregulated media. The above is a powerful media narrative that today’s story feeds into. It is a campaign of disinformation that not only feeds the EDL, but also creates division in more mainstream individuals by convincing them that a real unfairness does exist. Therefore the Mail can denigrate the EDL for being racist, whilst at the same time offering such stories as a massive BUT for all readers to realise that there is a real problem.
In many ways this is a clever way of the Mail removing racism (I know Islam is a religion, but racism is behind much of the sentiment aimed as you will see shortly) from the debate. Essentially what the Mail is doing is saying:
We do not support the EDL or the BNP because we are not racist, we do not have any issues with Muslims on racial or religious grounds. However, we do believe that there is a real issue in which extremist Muslims have began to politically and culturally dominate parts of the UK.
It’s all about maintaining the veneer of respectability for the ‘debate’ which they supposedly want to have. It’s exactly the same as the media narrative on immigration: ‘we’re not racist, we hate the EDL and the BNP, we just want a proper debate on the real issues surrounding immigration’.
But the Mail (or any other tabloid) cannot maintain the pretence of not being a deeply racist newspaper when they frame the ‘debate’ (note: there is no real debate) with a series of offensive lies about Muslims – or immigrants. Newspapers may have pretty low journalistic standards these days, but they would not go to print with this story if the perpetrators were suspected of being extremist Christians (who can be just as puritanical as anybody). They’d probably want insignificant stuff like ‘evidence’ before they went ahead and covered that – if, of course, they covered it at all.
The appetite for Muslim-bashing articles is obviously healthy otherwise the newspaper business would not keep printing them. What the Mail should be constantly reminded of is that whilst making their core readership a little bit more racist might only lead to a few more UKIP / Tory votes and more ignorant gossiping over garden fences across Middle England; at the same time they are feeding a completely different readership in the EDL. As you can see, the consequences of feeding this group is going to be a whole lot more serious: