The Sun – gutter journalism just sunk lower
Categories: Latest News
Monday July 18 2016
Kelvin MacKenzie in his column in The Sun today exemplifies all that is wrong with that paper’s editorial process when it sees for to publish a comment piece that decries the presence of Muslims in reporting and commenting on the Nice atrocity on Bastille Day.
MacKenzie’s column takes aim at Channel 4 for allowing Fatima Manji, a C4 news reporter, to “be on camera when there had been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim”.
“Was it done to stick one in the eye of the ordinary viewer who looks at the hijab as a sign of the slavery of Muslim women by a male- dominated and clearly violent religion?” he asks.
Quite why C4 should think Manji’s presence was provocative is unexplained other than by arguments that reinforce the worse stereotypes such as the collective guilt shared by all Muslims at an act of violence perpetrated by one who is conveniently identified as ‘Muslim’ by the media – never mind that Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the attacker, was described by a relative as someone “who drank alcohol, ate pork and took drugs.”
Or that other stereotype about Muslim women, that their head coverings are displays of patriarchy, not female agency, and of a religion that subdues all individual female expression in favour of a “male- dominated and clearly violent religion”.
Ignoring rules on independence and impartiality, MacKenzie posits Ms Manji’s reporting as ‘biased’ not by what she said but by her very presence. Were we to apply the same ridiculous argument to all other sections of the media, we would certainly have legitimate cause to write off much of it as biased against women and ethnic minorities.
MacKenzie argues that the French would view Ms Manji’s reporting from Nice as “massively provocative”, again displaying a mentality that reinforces the Islamophobic current that permeates some sections of the mainstream British media.
Why should a headscarf wearing British Muslim journalist provoke anyone, in the UK or in France?
To add insult to injury, MacKenzie rehearses the oft-repeated mantra that “all the major terrorist outrages in the world [are] currently being carried out by Muslims” and opines the views of a studio guest who spoke about French Muslim fears of an Islamophobic backlash.
It may surprise Mr Mackenzie to learn that the “major terrorist outrages in the world” are not, in fact, carried out by Muslims. The Global Terrorism Index 2015 report shows that “Islamic fundamentalism was not the main cause of terrorism in the West over the last nine years. Eighty per cent of deaths by lone wolf terrorists in the West were driven by right wing extremism, nationalism, anti-government sentiment and political extremism and other forms of supremacy.”
Indeed, the greater proportion of casualties arising from terrorist acts are suffered in Muslim majority countries, “Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria”.
MacKenzie also appears blind to statistics which denote an anti-Muslim backlash following terrorist incidents as real not imagined, such as after the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby. At a time when post-Brexit hate crime in the UK has reportedly risen by 42%, there can be no excuse for MacKenzie’s disgraceful dismissal of the fears expressed by French Muslims of a racist backlash.
But the facts are not likely to deter the former editor of The Sun who once signed off on the front page story claiming to disclose “The Truth” about the Hillsborough tragedy. A “truth” so far from reality that MacKenzie was made to apologise for his poor judgment and poorer taste.
And yet, despite this loathsome display of Islamophobic commentary, the press regulator is unlikely to censor the paper because MacKenzie’s remarks appear as commentary and not news.
In their analysis of media reporting on Islam and Muslims in the British nationals 1998-2009, Professors Tony McEnery and Paul Baker found that British newspapers “exploited” the press regulator’s leniency towards columns which it took to reflect nothing more than the “robust opinions” of the author.
Baker and McEnery observed: “[E]xpressly negative, and at times vituperative, were a few columnists, especially in The Sun newspaper. For example, Julie Burchill (The Sun June 24th, 2009), on Muslim women who wear the veil wrote: ‘We let shroud-swishing zombies flout OUR standards of freedom and tolerance every day.’ Jeremy Clarkson (The Sun, June 30th, 2007) wrote: ‘the “Muslim community” was allowed to parade through London urging passers-by to blow up a skyscraper and behead the infidels’ and John Gaunt (The Sun June 20th, 2008) wrote ‘we wasted thousands in legal aid on silly little misguided Muslim girls to take schools to court for the right to dress like a Dalek in a full veil’. Yet, in the past, complaints about patently Islamophobic columnists to the Press Complaints Commission have resulted in the response: ‘The column clearly represented a named columnist’s personal view and would be seen as no more than his robust opinions’ – a defence that some newspapers and columnists have clearly exploited.”
Two questions which follows: (a) would this sort of commentary be allowed if the target group were Jews, Blacks or gays; and (b) will the new press regulator, the Independent Press Standards Organisation, use its powers to “investigate serious standards failings” to initiate an inquiry into the use made by newspaper of columns which merely serve as convenient conduits for the dissemination of output which, as Lord Leveson put it, goes against the spirit of equalities legislation?