Days after the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, Nadia, a resident in the area, asked a reporter at Press TV why the media is refusing to report the real number of deaths from the tragedy. “Everyone’s died and no one wants to say it,” says Nadia, pointing out that the media reported ten were dead when the figure was probably closer to 500.
Many believe that the figures were too shocking to announce, especially given that authorities dealt so badly with the tragedy in the days that followed. But if that’s the government’s position, why are the press echoing it rather than challenging it?
Because the press have never been more out of touch with “real people”.
Not long ago Brits expected to emerge from a snap election with a Tory-majority. “It’s a foregone conclusion,” said just about every observer who was asked to predict the outcome.
But it wasn’t and it’s now clear that those observers were simply repeating what they had read in the papers. In what is now being called one of the most remarkable achievements in modern politics, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn outperformed each and every one of his predecessors since 1945 gaining a total of 30 seats.
The Tories, who were predicted to win 83 seats, lost 13 including Canterbury which they have held since 1918. If the press were really reporting voices on the ground they would have covered Corbyn’s large and rapidly expanding support base.
The media has long been against Corbyn and his inner circle. Here are just three of a long list of Guardian – the UK’s left-wing liberal voice – headlines which capture the mood against Corbyn:
Jonathan Freedland: “Copeland shows Corbyn must go. But only Labour’s left can remove him”; Owen Jones: “Jeremy Corbyn says he’s staying. That’s not good enough”; Mayor of London and Labour member, Sadiq Khan: “We cannot win with Corbyn… so I will vote for Owen Smith.”
This is farcical when you consider what Corbyn stood for – reduced income and wealth inequality, more funding for the NHS and a foreign policy based on peace and social justice.
Thanks to the snap election Corbyn’s supporters were able to prove what they have been saying for a long time: that he has a wealth of support which just isn’t being reflected in our newspapers. Either they completely misread the mood of the people or they are purposefully not reporting public support for Corbyn. Both smack of incompetence.
Remember Malia Bouattia? The former president of the National Union of Students was the first black Muslim woman to be elected yet throughout her tenure she suffered Islamophobic and other attacks. Bouattia later admitted she was hospitalised for stress-related illnesses five times and was taking medication for a stomach ulcer.
“This country prides itself on democracy. My daughter followed your democratic process and won, so how can you not accept it?” said Bouattia’s mother, capturing in a single quote how ridiculous the campaign against her daughter was. Bouattia pledged to fight racism, persecution, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and xenophobia.
Never has it been clearer that the media is reporting what they want to say rather than what the people want to say. After Sunday night’s horrific terrorist attack on worshippers at the Finsbury Park Mosque the Daily Mail’s headline read:
“White van driver injures at least 10 people after ploughing into a crowd outside London’s Finsbury Park mosque where hate cleric Abu Hamza once preached as Muslims finish their evening prayers.”
The Mail’s headline implies that the victims of this attack are somehow to blame for what happened – and they forgot to write that this was a terror attack, confirming that “terrorism” is a word used for Muslim attackers alone.
The Muslim community has tried time and time again to draw attention to Islamophobic attacks. Women’s headscarves are pulled at, they are abused on the tube and demonised in popular culture yet the press have shown minimal interest.
A 2014 YouGov poll showed that 16 per cent of Brits say their sympathies lie with Israelis and 22 per cent with Palestinians; 25 per cent said that media coverage is pro-Israeli. Civil society activists have said they need the support of the international community to help bring an end to the daily injustices of occupation – what would happen if the UK media reflected the public mood and reported more on Palestine?
Between October 2015 and May 2017 83 Palestinian minors have been killed by Israeli forces including an eight-month-old baby who died of gas inhalation. Little of this makes it into mainstream press yet when news sites like MEMO publish these stories they get thousands of shares.
We must ask ourselves in Britain how we got to a state where our media is standing in the way of equality, social justice and peace.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.