While our free and fearless press continues to trowel on accusations of anti-Semitism against the Labour Party, and Jeremy Corbyn in particular, the heat is taken off the Tories, and their rather more widespread racism problem, this time with Islamophobia. But here the press, rather than holding them to account, is giving The Blue Team a free pass, because, whisper it quietly, the press has a serious racism problem of its own.
How serious that problem is could be seen when the Daily Mail, then under the editorship of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre, launched a vicious and blatantly ant-Semitic attack on the memory of the late Ralph Miliband. Calling him “The man who hated Britain” used a well-known anti-Semitic trope, the concept of the “Disloyal Jew”.
Dacre was alert to the obvious anti-Semitic nature of the attack, and so it was that the story appeared under the by-line of Geoffrey Levy was then defended on BBC Newsnight by Jon Steafel, and in print by Alex Brummer. This, it was declared, cannot have been anti-Semitic because all these Jewish journalists were defending it.
Sayeeda Warsi - concerned
It was not an isolated incident: as Nick Davies recalls in Flat Earth News, the Mail sent their only black reporter, Hal Austin, to interview Neville Lawrence prior to what was intended to be a hostile piece on demands for an inquiry into Police conduct in the wake of Stephen Lawrence’s murder. Mail watchers will know that it turned out rather differently after Dacre was reminded that he knew Neville Lawrence.
The Mail was ready to use the “We can’t possibly be racist, we sent a black reporter” response, but other papers are yet cruder in their bigotry. The Murdoch Sun does not even try to mask its rabid Islamophobia, even pretending that Anders Behring Breivik was a “Muslim Convert”, or that he had been turned by al-Qaeda.
Brandon Lewis - what's he doing about it?
And the increasingly alt-right Spectator is yet worse, with Rod Liddle suggesting there was not enough Islamophobia in the Tory Party. The magazine gives a berth to rabid anti-Semite Taki Theodoracopulos, and also Doug Murray The K, he of “Conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board”. It’s worse than bad. It’s unforgivable.
Small wonder, then, that Hope Not Hate’s “State of Hate” report for 2019 saw Sayeeda Warsi musing “‘ ..those who voted Conservative in the 2017 general election are among the most likely to hold anti-Muslim sentiments’ … Deeply troubling findings in this report -we must ask ourselves why are we @Conservatives an attractive proposition to #Islamophobes?” And why are the press so quiet on the issue?
Well, the first part is not helped by all those returning from UKIP to the Tories, and the second comes back once more to the press’ tendency to low-level racism, whether it’s Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, or plain old-fashioned bigotry of the kind that always manifests itself whenever anyone says Diane Abbott.
As Owen Jones has concluded, “The reason most the media keep ignoring the testimonies and evidence and warnings of the most senior Tory Muslim woman is institutional racism. There is literally no other explanation … Once again for those at the back: The media ignoring the rampant racism within the Tory Party underlines the fact that the media is institutionally racist”. The press part of it certainly is - for the most part, anyway.
And the press will continue to get away with it, as press non-regulator IPSO offers no protection to targeted groups - like Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists - and Jews.
As campaigning group Hacked Off has once again had to point out, “It is now commonplace to find racist, faith and identity-based attacks against communities splashed across our national newspapers - it has become a dangerous normality.” And why?
“Currently IPSO refuses to take complaints about articles which discriminate against a group of people, meaning that divisive and offensive language directed at Muslims, the trans community, women, refugees or migrants can NEVER be a breach. Already marginalised communities are without recourse to deal with relentless and deliberate discriminatory reporting”. That means some really nasty stuff goes unpunished.
Like, oh I dunno, Trevor Kavanagh asking “What shall we do about the Muslim Problem?” IPSO did nothing about that. Or when pro-am motormouth Katie Hopkins, in her thankfully no longer extant Sun column, referred to migrants as “Cockroaches”. Or Rod Liddle (again) suggesting Canary Wharf be targeted in a terrorist attack.
The Tories are getting a free pass on their racism. Because the larger part of the press, which is substantially and institutionally racist, covers for them. And it’s not good enough.
[You can sign Hacked Off’s petition demanding action on racism in the press HERE]
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