After the adverse reaction to Kelvin McFilth’s nasty slice of Islamophobic bigotry in his Sun column today, many observers might have thought that other media outlets would steer clear of his attack on Channel 4 News presenter Fatima Manji. But deep in the bowels of the Northcliffe House bunker, the plus side of the Sun’s borderline racism had also been observed, and that was the potential for clickbait.
But how to climb aboard this particular bandwagon without indulging in the kind of unpleasant bar-room braggadocio exhibited by the repellant Kel? Simples. There had to be a new angle generated, one which would keep the punters clicking. And so it came to pass that Mail readers were told “Channel 4 accused of 'tokenism' after putting hijab-wearing Muslim Fatima Manji in anchor's chair the day after Bastille Day truck terror attack”.
There was more. “Channel 4 News used presenter Fatima Manji to front Bastille Day coverage … Minority of viewers took offence to female Muslim presenter wearing hijab … Some said it was 'tokenism' on the part of the channel following massacre … But hundreds of people have now taken to social media to defend Manji”. Freely translated, this means the Mail is, not for the first time, playing both sides of the field.
Instead of the Sun pundit saying Ms Manji should not have been presenting the day after the Nice attacks, the Mail is saying it was mere tokenism, humanising Muslims and perhaps patronising its audience. Then they throw in those who rallied to Ms Manji’s cause, just to cover all the bases. And this is accomplished - no mean feat this - without even a mention of the controversy generated by Kelvin McFilth.
Instead, we are told “A row has broken out over Channel 4's decision to use a Muslim reporter to front its coverage of the Bastille Day terror attack, with some accusing the show of 'tokenism' and others leaping to the presenter's defence … a minority of viewers took exception to a woman in a hijab hosting the show and took to Twitter to voice their complaints”. Yes, the story was sourced by scouring social media.
So that’s Real Proper Journalism, then. Worse, many of the Tweets that are displayed with the Mail article are clearly reactions to the Sun article, such as “sorry to see what you’re having to deal with today”, “[Fatima Manji] … happens to be Muslim. Fact she wears Hijab does not impact on her reporting”, and “Solidarity with [Fatima Manji] and all other Muslims who choose journalism in such a nasty climate”.
And even with this inserted into the article, the comments show a disturbing proportion of bigots, including “Shame on Channel 4”, “Channel 4 should be ashamed. This is England”, and “I’m boycotting Channel 4”. The motivation behind the piece is clear: tap into some of the clicks the Sun is getting for Kel’s bigotry, but make the article look a little less unacceptable. In any case, why is a Muslim woman presenter even news?
The Mail’s attempt to climb on this bandwagon is cheap and crude. No change there, then.