2007 - 2021

Media, Terrorism, Democracy

So the European Broadcasting Union [@EBU_HQ] has found the UK press the least trusted out of 33 countries. Again. This wouldn’t matter much, we’re used to it, it’s not a surprise. But then suddenly in times like these, when people are genuinely scared, and we suddenly have the army on the streets, and our democratic process has been put on hold, it matters more.


With the likes of toxic Katie Hopkins thriving on bile and hate, and the Daily Mail competing with The Sun to see who can produce the most offensive exploitation of tragedy,  the failure of the British press is a dire cultural and political problem we’ve just become used to. We now just take it for granted that our press is shit and is dominated by offensive, ridiculous high-profile figures free to spread hate.

Andrew O Hagan’s review of  ‘Mail Men: The Unauthorised Story of the ‘Daily Mail’, the Paper that Divided and Conquered Britain‘ (Who’s the Real Cunt?) captures the spirit of the press:

“Dacre’s paper is like the drunken lout at a party who can’t get anyone to like him. Suddenly all the girls are sluts and all the men are poofs and he’s swinging at the chandelier before being huckled outside to vomit on the lawn. The Mail desecrates the holy places where it likes to stake its claim, and would be a laughable rag, really, were it not for our degraded political culture taking it seriously. Look at the paper itself and you see it is not the real voice of England, but a dark distortion of it, a post-truth version that shouts about decency but doesn’t exhibit any, that praises aspiration but only certain sorts. Every day in Dacre’s paper, the people who make up the population of Britain, the people who teach your children and bandage your wounds, drive your trains or clean your floors, are described as aliens and forgers and scum.”

As the twitter feed The SunApologies wrote:

“Who knows whether it was last night’s events or legal jitters that prompted the edit but this was The Sun’s disgraceful leader this morning…”

Now Corbyn is neatly aligned with terrorism and Theresa May is steadfast and strong.

The election is over.

There are soldiers on the streets and propaganda in your newspapers.

There is little more to say.

I have no idea whether, as Paul Mason says: “Tomorrow we will see troops on streets helping police. Very unusual. We should all support them. This is *not* a political gesture.”

How can we know?

I can think that practically this doesn’t seem to be a move that will help things, and I’m pretty sure it’s a symbolic, psychological rather than a strategic response.

The complete lack of faith and trust in the media matters in this situation.

There is very little that can be said in the wake of Manchester that isn’t either platitude or hysteria.

But into this vacuum comes the likes of Morrissey, Tommy Robinson, Piers Morgan or whatever gobby little racist is filling your timelines and your headspace with their ignorance and hate.

We can try and not be cynical or we can imbibe cynicism. We can point to police cuts and we can take solace in individual acts of bravery and humanity. We can try and foster solidarity, we can show care and compassion for those grieving and we can ‘spread love not hate’. We can do these things but the reality is:

The election is over.

There are soldiers on the streets and propaganda in your newspapers.



Comments (23)

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  1. 3Rensho says:

    Altogether a true analysis. The churn of conspiracy theories, anarchist troops-off-our-streets rhetoric, apologism for Islam, Islamophobia, naive blaming of foreign policy, appropriate blaming of foreign policy is all ultimately a giant political distraction. The elephant in the room: the UK is now a post-democratic country where elections and referenda are decided, intentionally or not, in an increasingly regular fashion, by bullets, bombs and the spectre of foreign threats, and our neighbours to the South, as a body politic, think this is perfectly reasonable.

  2. Richard Bijster says:

    Troops on UK streets. Even at the height of the IRA bombing campaigns on the mainland, we never had this nonsense. This is a cynical political move by May and her advisors. Paul Mason is wrong.

  3. Paul Codd says:

    Cui bono? The murder of Jo Cox didn’t swing Brexit. This might not work either. Who knows? International elements who stand to loose the most if the next PM is not Theresa May are hoping it will. But many people are less gullible every day. It’s hard not to hate those that treat life so cheaply but they see the world as if it were at war already. For them it is an endless war. 19 innocents is a small number. Just like 56 was a small number in London in 2005 and 3000 innocents was a small number on 9/11. In their sterile world the end justifies the means. Instead of giving in to rage which will make us predictable and easy to deal with, we have to focus on the outcomes we want to see. Focus with a passion, and every day we will see a new positive world coming into being. In your darker moments remember t’was always thus – critical mass is achieved one person at a time. Our journey to find the courage to face uncomfortable realities about the way power and governance is currently structured and gamed asks us to take responsibility for our complicity in its results and is therefore a personal one which happens slowly at first. One thing is clear, every day more people are choosing to wake up to the costs of having stayed asleep.

  4. bringiton says:

    The troops on the streets may have something to do with cuts to police numbers but it certainly isn’t going to hurt the strong and stable message and we should ask what is significantly different about this atrocity compared to previous ones?
    Call me cynical but Maggie had her Falkands moment just when she needed it…..

  5. Wul says:

    After the tears and sadness yesterday, when I heard about this attack, I thought about the damage that was about to be inflicted on our democracy, in this election and beyond. I find it frightening.

    The bomb killed and injured those it reached and has destroyed the lives of many families, but our government and media’s response to this latest shock will hurt us all in ways we can’t even measure.

    When Sweden was attacked, its leaders responded by saying that the only way to fight terrorism was with even more democracy. Would that our society was as sane as theirs.

  6. Brian MacLeod says:

    Isn’t the next step a Reichstag fire?

    Then we can have an Enabling Act….

    1. douglas clark says:

      I’d have thought so.

    2. Paul Carline says:

      It seems there’s the equivalent of an Enabling Act in the pipeline – a draft law that would give the PM dictatorial powers without reference to Parliament. It’s called the Armed Forces Deployment (Royal Prerogative) Bill. It refers to approval for a “conflict decision” and says that the PM can make that decision single-handedly.
      I found this here: http://21stcenturywire.com/2017/05/24/todays-column-troops-on-the-streets-of-britain-more-rightwing-anger-towards-muslims/ (about 13 minutes in).

  7. Redgauntlet says:

    So much sympathy and sadness for those affected by this sick and terrible atrocity in Manchester, that first and foremost. Poor people.

    But yet again, nobody in the British media, or anywhere almost, is asking the pertinent questions about an attack which was carried out on the anniversary of the murder of poor Lee Rigby, and which is clearly political in nature. The Nazis were sick bastrds, but no serious historian would try to explain their existence away by writing them off as just a bunch of lunatics.

    The Nazis got to power due to a set of circumstances. Mass unemployment and rampant inflation. A feeling of national humiliation after Versailles. The advent of new technologies which allowed demagogues like Hitler to reach millions they would have never reached fifty years before. The same is true of ISIS and others like them today…

    Our rotten media and arrogant and fatuous politicians come out with their hollow slogans, about “our values” – while we sell arms to Saudi Arabia, used to bomb and maim children in Yemen – our “way of life and the rule of law”, except, of course, when it comes to illegally bombing and invading Muslim countries, starving children there with sanctions in Iraq for years, and destroying the infrastructure of, in the last two decades, and just off the top of my head, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, while simultaneously supporting corrupt and draconian regimes like Al-Sisi in Egypt.

    The mainstream narrative remains unchallenged and it goes something like this: Islam is a sick religion, unlike, say Christianity, these atrocities have nothing to do with politics, they are about the sick religion of Islam and a “clash of civilizations”. (Morrissey believes this complete shit. If anybody wants to check out a book choc full of extreme violence, try the Old Testament.)

    “We” are under attack (not Muslims, despite the fact we have invaded them and bombed them for decades and they have never invaded us).

    “We” are civilization and they are “barbarians”, they are “terrorists” while we carry out “military operations”.

    And yes, the “spirit of old Blighty” will see us through, it all comes down to our plucky little island spirit as usual and how, as that oaf David Cameron said, “Britain is a great country”. We’re the best, eh?

    Nobody mentions the war in Yemen. Nobody is talking about the catastrophe of Iraq, Libya, Palestine and Syria. Nobody talks, with the exception of people like Robert Fisk, of over 100 years of foreign intervention, war, and dirty tricks in the Middle East. Nobody talks of the systematic oppression of the peoples of the Middle East by the West for decades…

    The US and the UK declared “a war on terror”. Where is the surprise, then, that the terrorists declare a war on us? All of us…

    It’s bad news for democracy, and it’s bad news for human rights. I fear for democracy in Britain, which came about, let’s not forget, only thanks to the activities and huge sacrifice of organized labour. If you destroy the trade union movement, you seriously undermine democracy…

    As for the MSM, unwatchable crap. Never have we need sites like Bella Caledonia more.

    1. John says:

      Agreed , I also would agree we need more sites like Bella . I am being encouraged by not seeing so many people buying papers these days , however they will just continue their malice online .

  8. florian albert says:

    ‘There are soldiers on the streets’

    And there are 22 people dead in a Manchester mortuary, with another 50 or so in hospital.
    Yet, for Mike Small, this is just another occasion to denounce the Daily Mail and Sun.

    1. douglas clark says:


      What would the correct reaction be in the circumstances?

      You say:

      “And there are 22 people dead in a Manchester mortuary, with another 50 or so in hospital.
      Yet, for Mike Small, this is just another occasion to denounce the Daily Mail and Sun.”

      What is your answer to this?

      You are cognate, whereas the Daily Mail and the Sun are not. At least use your brain and advise us of a forward course.

      I am as offended, perhaps more so, about kids being killed in something they are probably unaware of, than you.

      I have really no idea how to solve, resolve, this situation, beyond stopping funding the bad guys in the middle east as opposed to funding the good guys in the middle east. Perhaps you can help me resolve this moral dillema?

      Thought not.

    2. Graeme Purves says:

      Go on, Florian, instruct us on the correct response to this atrocity. Dinna be blate.

      1. florian albert says:

        ‘the correct response to this atrocity’

        By whom ?

        Bella Caledonia; perhaps, no response might have been best.
        Since the atrocity, a vast amount has been said and written. Little of it was of much value. There are times when saying nothing is the best option.

        the public; their response has been excellent; getting on with life and failing to be intimidated. The media, led by the BBC, would do well to note how the public has reacted.

        the government; its response is better than for many previous atrocities. From the 1970s on, there was a knee jerk promise of ill-thought out, draconian new laws. Promising more troops/police on the streets, strikes me as an OK short term response. If this proves to have been a one off, this can be quietly scaled back.

    3. John says:

      There are very very few occasions when you can defend “The Sun ” , “The Daily Mail ” , “The Daily Express ” , their daily tripe should have been shut down decades ago !

    4. Kevin Williamson says:

      If yer not condemning The Sun & Mail for the antiCorbyn filth on their front pages the morning after the attack then you my friend are part of the problem.

      1. Remember ‘there’s nothing toxic about The Sun”.

  9. John O'Dowd says:

    A dress rehearsal for Martial Law. The ratchet is tightening around the neck of democracy.

    What is it they say? “We must not allow terrorists to change how we live”. Aye right!

    Who are the terrorists?

  10. Mark Devine says:

    Sow, reap …

    Empirical xenophobic jingoism.

  11. Gail Gyi says:

    If we are not very careful May will lead us all to our untimely deaths. Remind me again who the last Home Secretary was……how many years did it take to get rid of one vitriolic voice. I will give her an ‘F’ for Failure.

  12. William Davidson says:

    As I understand it the army are not being deployed “on the streets,” they are being used to guard specific locations so that more police can be freed up to be “on the streets.”

  13. Wul says:

    As a small business owner, today I got a poster by email via the Business Gateway from “Protect Scotland”. It advises on security measures and briefings for employees, so that they are ready for “attacks” or “threats”.

    It’s covered in various logos from Counter Terrorism Policing, Police Scotland, Cross Sector Safety & Security, Business Resilience etc.
    It has the bold message: “Firearms & Weapons Attack: Run, Hide, Tell”.

    I’m finding this rather sinister and not at all “reassuring”, which is presumably its intent.

    It makes me wonder if we might need strong & stable government more than we need democracy in Scotland?

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