As I suggested yesterday, the morning after Labour MP Jo Cox’s murderer was handed a whole life sentence and shown to be neither the loner painted by so many in the press, nor someone with mental health problems, the tabloid and right-leaning part of the Fourth Estate has decided that, whatever coverage they give to the killing, they will not have done anything wrong. It was just a one-off, something that could not have been predicted.
So while the Murdoch Times, to its credit, runs the front page headline “Warning over far right after MP’s killer jailed”, and the Guardian tells readers “Racist terrorist who killed Jo Cox in ‘act of supreme cowardice’ will never be freed”, the Mail, Sun and Express, those great proponents of migrant and Muslim bashing, have all instructed their readers to “look over there” at how wonderful the post-Brexit world is going to be.
Never mind that even that story is substantially untrue - the National Debt, for instance, is set to reach eye-watering levels, which may not be such good news for Sterling, and therefore inflation down the line - it’s all about diverting attention. Thomas Mair gets the obligatory mental health smearing from the Sun - which dismisses him as a “Nazi Nut” - but what he did, he did of his own volition. No-one else made him do it.
And the Sun’s take is typical: “Jo Cox’s killer nicknamed Marigold by neighbours amused by his love of coloured gloves and unaware of Nazi double life … Families on Thomas Mair's Birstall Estate had no idea the quiet loner who volunteered and looked after disabled children was harbouring an evil plan behind closed doors”. No mention of Britain First. And no mention of the Springbok Club, either.
The Mail tries to blame the MP: “Did Neo-Nazi murder Jo over fear he'd lose council house he grew up in? Terrorist thought property could end up being occupied by an immigrant family - and the MP wouldn't help him … Thomas Mair had been asked to consider leaving his three-bedroom home … He’d lived in the council house for 40 years and was considered a recluse … He had been in house by himself for 20 years after his grandmother died … Murderer suspected foreign family were going to be given his house”.
Proper Daily Mail mealy-mouthed nudge-and-wink headline construction there: Thomas Mair may have suspected his MP would not help him, but in the Mail’s retelling, readers are given the impression Jo Cox did something unhelpful, although no request was made to her. It is once again left to the Guardian to spell it out.
“25 years before he killed the MP, Mair told a far-right magazine that the ‘white race’ faced a long and very bloody struggle … The seeds of the hatred that drove him to murder his appear to have been sown years earlier, when he began to acquire the means to kill. They germinated during the febrile countdown to the EU referendum … Brexit campaigners were claiming that a remain vote would result in ‘swarms’ of immigrants entering the UK”.
An editorial tells that Mair “was a committed lifelong member of the extreme, white racist right … He had direct connections with hard-right white racist groups in the United States and South Africa”. Yet for the worst of the rabble-rousers, nobody could have foreseen it. He was a one-off. A “nut”. He filled his own head with all that hate. Look over there.
The tabloid press are incapable of manning up and owning their problem. End of story.