The 'Wilful misreporting' of Immigration

Tabloid Watch has already covered this, but I think it is worth repeating on this blog – in fact it is worth repeating on every blog until it starts to sink in: tabloid coverage of immigration is a dishonest disgrace. Panorama reporter Paul Kenyon has written an article for the latest issue of British Journalism Review, which has been cut down and published in the MediaGuardian today. Kenyon’s conclusion of his experience of tabloid coverage of immigration is clear:

the seemingly non-stop campaign against asylum- seekers, and the wilful misreporting of the issue among some tabloid newspapers, is getting worse.

‘Wilful’ is a strong allegation, but it’s a fair one.

Important distinctions, such as that between asylum-seekers and economic migrants, are often fudged or overlooked; the language is inflammatory; there seems to be a lazy hostility towards them, implying a universal acceptance that what asylum -seekers represent, what they are, is wrong.

Kelvin MacKenzie tried to argue on Question Time recently that the tabloid media was never responsible for whipping-up outrage, they merely reflected the outrage that the public already felt. I beg to differ. Likewise, when I post something on Twitter about Richard Littlejohn writing a disgraceful column full of lies and hate, I sometimes get replies saying simply: ‘who cares?’. Well I do for starters, and as I have argued before: we should all care because tabloid lies infect the lives of all of us, whether we read tabloid newspapers or not.

Most of us will have had the same leaflet from the BNP (or, indeed, the Conservatives) during the election campaign, a leaflet that just happened to neatly parrot the tabloid narrative of immigrants getting a better deal than pensioners. Something which is a complete lie, one driven forward by utterly dishonest journalists – none more so than the Richard Littlejohn that I’m supposed to ignore.

We also might happen to work in an area like Blaenau Gwent, in which 92% of residents were born in Wales (the highest proportion of any local authority in Wales) and less than 1% of people living in the local area were born outside of the UK and Ireland. The ethnic population in Blaenau Gwent is comparably small, making up less than 1% of the overall population (Wales 2%). So, this population, despite living in one of the least diverse areas in the UK, had a BNP turnout of 1,211 along with 488 voting for UKIP.

As research has shown, the BNP get significantly less votes in areas with a high immigrant population, and more votes in areas with low immigration. This research demonstrates that the tabloid narrative that it is ‘uncontrolled immigration’ feeds the BNP is false; and it instead points to the tabloid media as the real culprits for boosting BNP support in areas that have no experience with the reality of immigration (areas such as Blaenau Gwent).

When I deal with students and they repeat tabloids lies about immigration and express their hatred of immigrants it makes me even more determined to not just ‘look the other way’ as some commenters seem to suggest occasionally. There are real consequences to dishonest tabloid narratives, I see it in the people I meet and the students I teach. I don’t think I am strange or indeed alone in wanting a better tabloid media; one that doesn’t continually distort reality to create hatred and anger in groups that don’t know better and even some that really should.

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