Tuesday, January 08, 2008

alarming news

As any GCSE media student would be able to tell you, the Daily Express newspaper falls neatly into the category of British right-of-centre tabloid. I'd never read it, but I too knew that's where it political instincts lay. Along with The Daily Mail the Express acts as a news source to an ageing section of white middle class, mostly suburban middle-England. It virtually says so on the tin. The Express has also been much ridiculed for its formulaic approach of giving its readers the news. We've all seen the countless 'Princess Di' front-pages and more recently the obsession with the disappearance of Madeline McCann, stories of whom are now presented in red capitals.

Despite being armed with all this knowledge, I was shocked whilst flicking through a copy of yesterdays paper bought by a housemate and left on the coffee table in my lounge. Under the headline 'FURY AT 'NO-GO' AREAS RULED BY THE FANATICS' the Express yesterday (Monday) lead with a story that the Christian convert, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, had voiced personally-held concerns that Islamic characteristics are being imposed without consent in parts of the country. The Bishop's concerns apparently stem from his worry that communities are separating and that religion may be the cause. The sub header of this front page article written by the paper’s Political editor, Macer Hall, read 'Non-Muslims afraid to visit parts of Britain'.

Is this to lead the reader into thinking this is what Bishop Nazir-Ali said? Or is this a statement of fact based on some undisclosed survey? In either case it is not qualified. Neither is the claim of where this 'Fury' comes from. Is this just the Express's editorial privilege at work, and what tabloids do all the time?

Aside from a guarded welcome from the Shadow Home Secretary David Davis to parts of what the Bishop reportedly said, Macer Hall could find little to support this story and it fizzles out on page seven with rebuttals from other leading Tories and an eloquent dismissal from the Muslim Council of Britain. This is not before, however, the reader is shown a picture of veiled Muslim women in Blackburn, the caption of which simply reads, 'Warning'.

Readers are also encouraged to phone or text the Express and answer the question, 'Are you fed up with fanatics changing Britain'. I wonder if they count the fanatics in their midst at Express HQ?

One of these is surely Express columnist Leo McKinstry, who begins his column "At last a blast has been sounded against the creeping Islamification of Britain". Now the Express can really let rip with what's pent up inside it. McKinstry hits all the right notes for the readership of this paper who, according to him, are a powerless entity in multi cultural Britain run by an elite in denial. His language is provocative and at times racist as he uses the perceived protest by Bishop Nazir-Ali to lambaste the "politically correct brigade" and idealise his father's generation who fought to "protect our nation from foreign occupation". He despairs at state funded Muslim schools and housing projects and as an aside picks up on an earlier Express story about hospital beds being turned towards Mecca so that their occupants are able to observe their religion. Elderly people, we are told, are dying of neglect as apparently nurses are spending all their time turning every Muslim's bed to face Mecca five times a day. Another claim made, of course, without any apparent investigation or I suspect real conviction, but it is what we are lead to think Mr McKinstry truly believes.

Alas perhaps years of reading this nonsense has taken its toll on the Daily Express readership. Like all modern papers the Express has an online presence and whilst not as developed as many papers, still acts as a repository for its readers comments. This, I was to find, was the most worrying aspect of this journey into the world of the Express. In the paper's 'Have your say' section, under yesterday's question 'Are you fed up with fanatics changing Britain?' the responses were more shocking than I had thought possible for the publication of a supposedly mainstream British paper.

They have, I assume, been cleared by a moderator. StuartM619, for example, starts with "it's about time someone spoke out about the ways Muslims are being able to undermine our whole society and get away with it..." and ends with an eerie "God save the Queen". There is much support for the BNP amongst the 23 (at time of writing) comments on the forum, including this from a well-rounded chap calling himself Dylan: "The BNP is doing everything it can for the indigenous people of this country. It's time for the people to do their part and support them in every way they can". Dylan, however, is mild in comparison to RobbyEnglishman, who wants "my country back from multi-culti do gooders".

He's convinced that the BNP are the people for the job and, as a former state school teacher, RobbyEnglishman - who now is in the private sector - has "only English kids to teach, no African, no muslisms (sic), no eastern europeans, in fact, just real English kids". What a great man of learning Robby must be. He's using this knowledge, accumulated over a life of bitterness and resentment to recommend bringing the army back as, in his words, "we’re gonna need them..."

There were, in truth, some considered comments on the forum, but none challenged what had been written by the likes of Dylan and RobbyEnglishman directly. The Express would, I suspect, point out that free speech is an important virtue of any free society and indeed they would be right. However, I suspect that the editor would be uneasy with the content of some of the Forums on the Express website. That these comments come as collateral from the writing of columnist Leo McKinstry should also concern the paper. Would Mr McKinstry be happy to be associated with the BNP or some of the more hate filled irrational comments found on the Express website associated with him? What role and responsibility does the Political editor or indeed the Editor himself play?

Today's edition of the Daily Express is back on 'safe' familiar ground, with a lead story again on a perceived development in the Madeline McCann disappearance running alongside a picture of Princess Diana. I sometimes wonder if the Express's photo library is close to running out of pictures of the Princess to put on its front page. The paper calls itself the 'Greatest in the World'. It isn't anywhere near, and with declining numbers of readers, consistent displays of editorial bankruptcy (in the week beginning August 27th 2006 the paper had a picture of Princess Diana on the cover for every single day) and no need for its non-news as a viable internet news source, its days lets hope are numbered.

[Blogging by Dan]


British National Party member said...

Here's Leo on the radio,


And here is a write up of a bbc discussion about it;


Dan said...

Dear British National Party Member,

I wish I had written a more eloquent challenge to the column written by Leo McKinstry in the Daily Express on Monday. What I had being trying to do was write about how genuinely shocked I was that a mainstream newspaper had allowed itself to pander to the politics of ignorance in order to sell copies.

In the 21st Century, to still support a system of government that was intellectually challenged and beaten in the 19th Century and then crushed finally in the 20th is absurd. Nationalism in whatever form holds offers nothing to the world today. A world of increasing interdependence where the foundations are being laid for ever increasing and democratic systems in global governance. Globalisation has for the last 80 years meant the increased movements of goods and services across the world and more recently the increased movement of people too. It is not an invasion when people from across the globe and from parts of the world that this country had control over come to this country to work. Many were invited don’t forget. Each country will always maintain their fundamental culture, but these will be enhanced by the inclusion of others.

There will be problems with integration. They are not insurmountable however and the perceived threat from Islam and the supposed Islamification of Britain has more to do with the isolation felt in many communities than any inherent evil threat.

Whatever your frustrations with the current political system (frustrations held by many) the old BNP tactic of targeting poor white folks and explaining to them the reason that they are poor is because there is less of the cake to go around is never going to gain you power. Besides those tactics are based on those of the Nazi’s which many BNP supporters are familiar with and I suspect admire. A badly written book by a mad racist whilst in jail in the 1930’s does not a 21st Century ideology make.

Harking back to a past where Britain was all great and white and everyone else neatly stayed within their national boundaries is ignorant in the extreme and stupid. So take your Nazi uniform fetish, appalling bad music, misuse of the Union flag, and ignorance and don’t come back until you’ve had a good hard think and read some books and talked to a few people of all backgrounds. Why not go to Brick Lane and have a chat with some of the locals, hear about their hopes and fears and where they came from. Why not go travelling? Exposure to the real world will change your mind, you’ll see its great because its so diverse. Then come back and try and shape politics in a positive way. Don’t hate people, realise the world is changing, people move about and things are coming together. If people of whatever background or colour are excluded then work hard to champion their corner, but not with the lame argument that it’s the ‘other lots’ fault.

Ok lecture over.