An altercation between two men at a central London Tube station yesterday afternoon soon developed, through a little creative retelling, into a fully-fledged terrorist incident. The Metropolitan Police cleared the area around Oxford Circus amid reports of shots being fired. And then came the all-clear: it had been a false alarm.
That news came after some media outlets and their staff had engaged in some of the most irresponsible reporting since, well, the last such incident. The idea that press and broadcasters should only report what was known, avoid speculation, and bother to check their sources, was once again thrown out the window.
So it was that Matthew Champion of BuzzFeed News warned “TOTALLY UNCONFIRMED Mail Online report that a lorry crashed in Oxford Circus is based on a tweet from 14 NOVEMBER”. His colleague Mark Di Stefano added “The Mail Online’s Oxford Circus coverage was about a ‘lorry’ and pedestrians with blood everywhere. Their story was shared more than 1,000 times”. And Kay “surly” Burley of Sky News just panicked: “Man with a gun in Oxford Street. Stay away from the area. Tune to @SkyNews NOW”.
That was irresponsible enough. But then came Stephen Yaxley Lennon, who styles himself Tommy Robinson, who clearly wanted this to be an Islamist attack so he could stir up the mob against all those Scary Muslims (tm). “Here we going [sic] again” he began, followed by the totally untrue “Gun shots heard at Oxford Circus”. And there was more.
“Looks like they are running from Jihad. Whatever it turns out to be, this video shows how deeply Jihadis have affected our society. Let us crush Jihadism in the UK and all over the world”. Hark at the Reverend Robinson sermonising. “How long until we find out that today’s attack in Oxford Circus was by a Muslim Who [sic] was again known to our security services”. There was no attack. By now he was just scaremongering.
That eventually dawned on him, as did the realisation that he had to use the situation to play the victim. “Just be careful what you all say in response to what looks like another Jihad attack in London as it’s Islamophobia month & Police will kick your door down quicker over a Tweet than they will follow or arrest Jihadists”. And on he droned, whipping up his mob. “Oxford Street alert: Police urge people to ‘go into a building’ after gunmen fire shots at pedestrians in Oxford Circus underground station … gunmen on loose”.
There were no gunmen. But still he went on: “Reports of shots fired at Oxford Circus”. See, someone else was reporting it, so it must be true! “Witnesses are saying that gunshots have been fired at Oxford Circus Tube in London”. There were no shots fired.
So all that was left was to somehow salvage his reputation, claim he had been right all along. “Everyone making a bigger deal about the fact I wrongly presumed because of reports that it was a jihadist attack than they are about how on edge & terrified the british public are because of Islam”. No, it’s because of scaremongering idiots like him. “Looks to me like Islam has petrified the whole bloody country so you can stick your islamaphobia month!” Looks to me like Lennon has been scaremongering again so he can stick his dishonest rabble-rousing. And he has the brass neck to call “liar” on others.
Singer Olly Murs, who was shopping in Selfridges, told his 7.8m followers on Twitter: "Get out of Selfridges now gun shots!! I'm inside."
Attention seeking. Since when was Twitter a suitable medium for organising an emergency evacuation? I can't believe that all 7.8m were in Selfridges either.
I only visit Sky "News" if (a) My finger slipped on the remote control, or (b) My boredom threshold at the time is at a particularly high level.
At such times the appearance of the wretched empty-headed Burley has all the fascination of a car crash in slo mo: Can this be true? What actually caused this disastrous mess of the human species?
One of the great unrehearsed moments of TV came when Chris Bryant MP told her live, "You seem a bit dim." Brilliant stuff. Great scenes. I'll bet the trauma traveled all the way down her ear phone and exploded in the head of the controlling arse head in the Sky Murdoch producer box. Not that it mattered one jot to her......where there's no sense there's no feeling. It was a well nigh perfect example of how and why politicians of good will and motivation should, like John McDonnell, treat "presenters" and "journalists" - particularly the Murdoch/Rothermere version - like a piece of dogshit that got onto your shoe.
"Tommy Robinson"?......Pfffttt......A tenth rate gobbo racist. Perfect "presenter" material for Sky TV.
Olly Murs was in the middle of the panic. He made a point of warning people of what he was being told by other people at the scene. If he hadn't, people would now be complaining that 'he's famous, so why didn't he use that to try and help. Selfish!'
Focus should be on the two men who started this with their moronic fight. Not just a public nuisance. Not surprising when our society reinforces that this sort of 'toxic masculinity' is okay, like Clarkson's defenders in the right wing press.
Tommy Robinson is a dangerous loon and a terrorist. Making up an attack like he does often is a process of creating terrorism.
nParker. He wasn't warning anyone. He was spreading a rumour on Twitter. I wouldn't stop to send a tweet in an emergency. Would you?
Even if any of his followers were in the store, how many would have read the tweet in time to act on it? Word of mouth in a store is far faster than social media. It's hardly likely that there were two reports of shots (in the tube station and Selfridges), so one such claim or hoax was enough to cause all that disruption.
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