A Professional Class of Hatred Fuels Right-Wing Terrorism – Labour Article
Where were you when Jo Cox was murdered? I was 15 or so. I remember an unusually grey June day, coming home from secondary school and seeing the whole affair coldly reported on the evening news after she had died in hospital. 15 was about the age my friends and I were starting to get politically involved. Brexit was the major issue of the day. Although I was pro-leave at the time (a stick it to my liberal parent) this murder made me feel deeply uneasy. I had to reason at a pretty young age whether people like the murderer Thomas Mair, a right-wing neo-nazi, were to be my political peers.
Political polarization only seems to have grown since then, despite our efforts to fairly discuss and mediate our views. What has actually changed? I remember a conversation about Boris Johnson’s rhetoric in the commons for about a week before being dropped. But is that really all we can do? A correct proposition would be that we are getting more extreme as a society. A wrong one would be that both sides of the political spectrum are a problem.
The murderer of Jo Cox, Thomas Mair, was a neo-nazi. An associate of the National Front, the 53-year-old had given his name on the dock as “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain.” He is hardly an outlier. The London Met Police have stated that far-right extremism is the fastest-growing threat in the country.
Lone wolf terrorist attacks aren’t the only issue either. State institutions are often unprepared to vet extremists in their ranks. Over a dozen members of the armed forces have had to be referred to extremism prevention schemes for far-right views. And it doesn’t stop there. There was the case of Ben Hannam this year, the only police officer in the UK to be tried for terrorism. Hannam was only found out because of online anti-fascist activists. They were able to match his visible face in neo nazi terrorist propaganda to his identity. Hannam had only evaded the London Met police because he had ticked a form when applying to become a police officer saying that he had never been a BNP member. That was all he had to do.
Thomas Mair’s conviction appeared on page 30 of the Daily Mail for that day, the only newspaper not to feature the story on the front page. The article in question talked about his mental problems rather than his ideology. Hannam’s case was similarly barely picked up. The media at the time was too focused on the Sewel report debunking Britain as systemically racist to pay attention to the racists that had been a part of the system.
The word “institutional” in the term “institutional racism” is always going to be a point of contention. In the Sewel report, the institution in focus was the government. However, the government does not make up the entirety of a country’s existence. Whichever government is in Westminster, we are still subject to a class of media that is ultimately a massive influence on the way people think. The newspapers we read and the channels we watch are as much of a British institution as any government that comes and goes.
Our media has a serious bias that fuels a never-ending spiral of hatred and terror attacks. I am not talking about this happening in theory. If we do not act, we are well past that point. We need to acknowledge the role our media has in making the world worse.
The main tabloids, such as the Daily Mail and Daily Express, are famous now for their constant baiting of immigrant and Muslim communities. They go so far as to publish the complete lie that whole cities and towns in the UK were “no go” areas for white people. But it was never just them. The Muslim grooming gang craze in the press was started by The Times, using evidence of only 56 convictions over 13 years they claimed that Muslim men were preying on white girls.
Further bogus findings by think tanks, such as the Quilliam Foundation, fueled these prejudices in the UK press even more. Where high profile select cases of Asian men were referred to as “Grooming Gangs”, despite the term having absolutely no legal definition. In actual fact, Asian men were underrepresented as the perpetrators of child sex crimes. But the data and facts don’t matter, because the damage has already been done.
In 2019, a gunman walked into a Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand and massacred 51 people. The shooter had published a white supremacist manifesto and had clear links to neo nazis online. A less well-known fact is that in one of his clips that day the words “For Rotherham” were inscribed. This is a reference to the town where a so-called “grooming gang” case happened.
In 2011, Anders Behring Breivik committed two sequential terrorist attacks to target members of the Labour Party in Norway. 77 people were killed in the deadliest attack on Norwegian soil since World War 2. Among them, 50 were children. Andres too had a manifesto that talked among everything else, admiration for the EDL and directly quoted British Journalist Melanie Phillips, famous for her anti-Islamic views.
Now it’s impossible to say whether these attacks wouldn’t have happened if our media hadn’t pushed anti-Islam ideas. But we have to seriously ask ourselves what role our media and politicians play in normalising extreme right-wing views like these. Bigotry in this profession is constant. As I was writing this, Julia Burchill was just sacked for a racist tweet about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s mixed-race baby, Lillibet. While Islamic terrorism is a problem in this country, the fact of the matter is that the ideas believed by far-right terrorists are being spread further and have billions of pounds of backing. Extremism comes from everywhere, even our own prime minister. Lest we forget his “letterbox” comments caused a 350% spike in anti-Islam hate crimes the week he said it.
The UK media has no incentive to change. Why would they? Selling Islamophobia to millions has made them incredible amounts of money. Who cares if a few terrorist attacks happen because of it? This is what we will see forever unless we change. The same prejudice, the same attacks and the same silence about racism in our media.
Written by Junior Labour Writer, Joseph McLaughlin
Point of Information
A flawed, but nonetheless important piece – A Conservative Response
Joseph’s article poses strong and interesting points about how Islamic views are part of the media, pointing to specific tabloids and events to further their point. However, their example of the Rotherham scandal somewhat misses the mark of portraying the media as racist. That event was largely driven by a specific community. This does not offer any justification for any of the far-right extremist attacks that followed. And I believe that, with better examples, they could illustrate better the points they make.
I am somewhat surprised, for example, that the Islamaphobia report into the Conservative Party that found the party to have “anti-Muslim attitudes” (though have so far have not been found to have broken the Equality Act of 2010, unlike Labour) was not mentioned.
Firstly, in their opening few paragraphs, they retell the horrific murder of Jo Cox. Joseph adds that they themselves were turned away from the pro-leave position because they thought Thomas Mair would be part of their political peers. To that, I would like to reassure Joseph that the majority of leave voters (myself included) are not part of their peers. This has all to do with the fact I and many other people completely disagree with murder, and also neo-nazism.
Voting for Brexit does not make you a nazi. Although I would hope that is something I don’t have to remind everyone. I would also like to add that the people chanting “Soubry is a nazi” during an interview she was doing with the BBC are not part of my political peers either. They, like Thomas Mair, are radicals. Calling people nazis as soon as you disagree with them is an awful use of the term. It also downplays the risk of actual nazis like Thomas Mair pose.
Secondly, Joseph argues that, as the term “Rotherham grooming gangs” is not a legal one, the right-wing press should not be using it. However, this leaves out the reality that left-wing papers such as The Guardian and The Daily Mirror also used the term.
The term is not used in a racist fashion, merely to describe the gang and the horrific acts they were doing. Terms don’t have to be legally defined for the media to use them, provided they are not misleading. These men were objectively part of groups that used to groom, sexually exploit, and rape young girls. I’m not sure what terms Joseph would prefer, perhaps rapists, groomers, and other similar descriptions.
Furthermore, Joseph points that the Asian community are underrepresented in sex crimes. Yet, in the specific incident they are citing this is not the case. An independent report by Professor Alexis Jay found that those in the Asian community were the majority of the perpetrators in the Rotherham scandal. Police and councillors were afraid of identifying the ethnic origins of the perpetrators. This thus led to the silence of the issue. And, in turn, led to more victims, something which is not acknowledged.
This is not to justify the horrific terror attacks conducted in Rotherham’s name however as, again, this is clearly extremist behaviour. However, arguing that it is solely the media’s fault for such attacks, is wrong. There is no one cause to these events. The media is certainly not without blame. But laying it solely at their feet ignores other factors. Joseph claims it is impossible to know if these attacks would have occurred without the media. While this is pure speculation, I would confidently say that yes, there would still be Islamophobic attacks. There is not solely one cause for them. However, this does not mean steps should be taken to condemn their racism when it occurs.
Overall, this article does make a strong point about Islamophobia in the media. However, it fails to fully drive the point home with the example of the Rotherham gangs. The speculation that, if there is no media Islamophobia, then radical attacks will somehow stop is wrong. This also misses the fact that media coverage isn’t the sole cause of Islamophobic attacks.
Written by Senior Conservative Writer, Kieran Burt
Far right-wing ideology is individual, and this article misses the point – A Liberal Response
My colleague has written a powerful and well-argued article outlining how the media contribute to right-wing terrorism. I completely agree with their take on how our press has an institutional Islamophobia problem. A recent report by Signal AI found that Muslim extremists are three times more likely to be labelled as terrorists by the media than far-right extremists. This positive feedback loop of chalking up white right-wing terrorism predominantly due to mental health issues illustrates the vast influence of the media.
Though, having said this, the way Joseph refers to the Rotherham child sexual abuse case comes off as slightly dismissive of the victims. Their focus veers away from their original point. This is because the ‘shock value’ from the case is the fact that the authorities knew about it for a decade and failed to act. It is not because of the ethnic background of the attackers, in my opinion.
What could be used as a loose explanation as to why Islamic extremism has been overshadowed. Aside from the obvious racial undertones, it is also the lack of coherent and consistent group ideology. Far-right ideology is actually hyper individual. Moreover, the prevent strategy in how to educate teachers on spotting far-right extremists is short-term based. It encourages teachers to “educate themselves” on new media platforms, memes and online phenomena. This negligent when we are talking about a nationwide problem that is continuing to worsen.
Overall, Joseph puts forward a strong case, with which I mostly agree with. However, the breadth of examples used can detract from the powerful point they are making.
Written by Junior Liberal Writer, Lucy Severn