| ||We’ve already noted the anomaly of media disinterest in something as alarming as a cache of weapons being found during the search and arrests of suspected far right extremists in the UK. And even as Commander Shaun Sawyer tells us that the police fear an attack of ‘spectacular’ proportions planned by far right extremists to destabilize community relations, it would seem that the British media are less than willing to give these stories their due attention and critical focus. |
Mehdi Hasan, (pictured), senior politics editor at the New Statesman, writes of the current trial of Neil Lewington, who is charged with plotting a ‘campaign of terrorism’ using tennis ball bombs. Hasan remarks:
‘Imagine, for a moment, that Neil Lewington … was a British Muslim. The story would be splashed across the front page of every newspaper in Britain, and Sky News would be rolling a loop of images of his scowling, bearded, dark face.
‘The reality, however, is that you’ve probably never heard of Lewington (who denies all eight charges of terrorism) because he is not Muslim, or black, or of Asian origin. He is white. And our gloriously impartial, truth-seeking, “colour-blind” media don’t seem to care. The coverage of the Lewington trial has been negligible – a few short stories buried deep inside a handful of newspapers, but, as I write, no rolling coverage on Sky News, and not a peep on the main BBC news bulletins or on Newsnight.'
'Lewington is only the latest in a long line of white terror suspects who have “disappeared” from the mainstream media. Have you heard of Robert Cottage? He is the former British National Party candidate jailed in July 2007 for possessing explosive chemicals in his home – described by police at the time of his arrest as the largest amount of chemical explosive of its type ever found in this country. The national coverage of Cottage’s arrest in October 2006 amounted to exactly 56 words in a single “news in brief” item in the Sunday Times.
'There is, too, the case of Martyn Gilleard, the Nazi sympathiser jailed in June 2008 after police found nail bombs, bullets, swords, axes and knives in his flat, as well as a note in which he had written, “I am so sick and tired of hearing nationalists talk of killing Muslims, of blowing up mosques, of fighting back. Only to see these acts of resistance fail to appear. The time has come to stop the talk and start to act.” What about Nathan Worrell? This neo-Nazi, described by police as a “dangerous individual”, hoarded bomb-making materials in his home, and was found guilty in December 2008 of possessing material for terrorist purposes and for racially aggravated harassment. His trial attracted two passing references in the popular national press, in the Daily Star and the Sun. And in February this year, not a single national newspaper reported on the self-professed racist Neil MacGregor’s guilty plea to threatening to blow up Glasgow Central Mosque and behead a Muslim every week until every mosque in Scotland was closed.
'It is as if these crimes had never happened. For most British journalists today, the idea of non-Muslim terrorism perpetrated by non-Irish white folk is inconceivable. Why? Because too many of them reflexively subscribe to the notion that maybe not all Muslims are terrorists, but certainly all terrorists are Muslims.
'Compared to Islamists, who have been subjected to a battery of punitive measures – from detention without charge to control orders to torture abroad – white supremacists seem to be given preferential treatment by our criminal justice system. Robert Cottage was charged under the Explosive Substances Act 1883, not the panoply of modern anti-terror laws now at the disposal of the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. Neil MacGregor was tried in a sheriff’s court, rather than the high court where such cases normally go, and where he would have faced a much more severe sentence. He was also tried on the ludicrously lenient charge of breaching the peace. It seems that in Britain, a white racist threatening to behead a Muslim a week is taken no more seriously than a man who is drunk and disorderly in public, or who keeps waking his neighbours with loud music.
'Terrorists – those who deploy illegitimate violence against civilians for political purposes – should be ruthlessly identified, relentlessly pursued, arrested, prosecuted and punished, regardless of race or creed. Justice must be colour-blind, and seen to be colour-blind. Any other approach, by the authorities or the media, risks further alienating and stigmatising Muslim communities in Britain.
‘Terrorism, we know, is not the exclusive preserve or franchise of dark-skinned, bearded Muslims. But nowadays you might not know it from following the news.’
Hat tip: Islamophobia Watch
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