The Super Soaraway Currant Bun no longer dabbles in explicit racism - well, not much, anyway. But when management deems that the occasion demands it, the inmates of the Baby Shard bunker are as good as any other bunch of smear merchants at getting out the dog whistle while claiming to have rather more noble motives for going after people who are not white. Which brings us to footballer Raheem Sterling.
Sterling lost his father when he was around two years old; his dad was gunned down in his native Jamaica. So when the Manchester City player appeared with a gun-like tattoo on his right leg, it should have been glaringly obvious to all concerned that he was not about to join the NRA. But the Sun was not going to wait to find out.
Having already gone after Sterling for allegedly turning up a day late for a training session, and invented the hostile headline “England manager Gareth Southgate furious with Raheem Sterling after turning up late for World Cup duty” (Southgate, sensibly, has not commented publicly), the agenda had clearly been set.
So after merely commenting on that tattoo - “England ace Raheem Sterling shows off new leg tattoo as he prepares for World Cup in Russia” - out came the smear merchants in search of clickbait. “England ace Raheem Sterling sparks fury by unveiling M16 assault rifle tattoo on his leg … Sterling, 23, triggered fury among anti-gun campaigners who called for the striker to be axed from the World Cup squad over 'sick' tattoo”.
Well, one anti-gun campaigner. And Piers Morgan, to no surprise at all (Piers is still big pals with Rebekah Brooks, so the story gets amplified by him too). Was the tattoo of an M16? What was it really about? But Sun readers don’t get to find out. Instead, it was on to “Damilola Taylor’s dad slams Raheem Sterling for reckless gun tattoo and demands he apologises to families of gun victims”. Er, WHAT?
What happened to Damilola was terrible. But it had nothing to do with guns. Nor did the bizarre “Stabbed teens die on streets” article, which told “TWO more teenagers were killed over the weekend as Sterling revealed his controversial gun tattoo”. What the hell has his tattoo got to do with someone getting fatally stabbed?
As Maurice Mcleod has observed, “Raheem has money now and some parts of the media don’t like how he spends it”. He goes on to bring the inconvenient truth that the Sun would rather not confront: “When Stormzy has the cheek to comment on Grenfell or when Mario Ballotelli gives money to a homeless person they are not pleasing some middle-class commentators. The subtext seems to be, ‘your talents may have earned you some cash, but don’t get uppity – know your place’”. And the targets are rarely white men.
The problem is that those shouting the loudest are, like Piers Morgan, those in commend of the largest megaphone. Those like former England footballer Gary Lineker, who has accused the Sun of unfairly targeting Sterling, do not have the privilege of being able to rock up to Good Morning Britain and shout the odds about the issue.
And that issue is, as so often, racism going under another name, defended by white men ready to shout down anyone and everyone who calls them out. No change there, then.