Wednesday, 7 June 2017

A Dangerous Election Game.

Let’s start with today’s headline in The Sun newspaper. For those who don’t know, The Sun is one of Britain’s leading tabloids:

Jezza’s Jihadi

‘Jezza’ refers to Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party and the man with a very slim chance of becoming Prime Minister on Friday. The Sun doesn’t want him to become Prime Minister on Friday, so they put this headline out in reference to his views on terrorism, a highly emotive subject. OK, let’s go back a step.

Terrorism is a relatively easy way to strike at a perceived enemy. Bombs can be made in a domestic kitchen, knives are very easy to get, and even guns can be obtained if you know where to look and have some ready cash. It isn’t quite as difficult, therefore, as sinking an aircraft carrier. Which means that however clever and diligent the security services are, there will always be people able to slip through the net. It’s been tragically proved several times already this year and may well be proved again before the year is out. The war against terror obviously has to be fought – nobody is denying that – but relying solely on preventative measures applied by the security services will never win it.

So let’s state a fact which should be obvious to everybody with a functioning mind. Terrorists don’t do what they do for the fun of it. Terrorism isn’t a hobby. As unpalatable as the fact might be to the majority of us, they do it because they believe in the rightness of it, and many of them are prepared to give their own lives for a cause to which they have become dedicated. That’s radicalisation, and that’s what has to be eroded if terrorism is to be beaten. You need to stop people wanting to do it.

Corbyn is an intelligent man who understands this, and so that’s the sort of language he speaks. I think it likely that the editor of The Sun understands it, too, but he knows it isn’t what people want to hear. Most people want revenge; a good many people want Muslims vilified and tightly controlled; and there are people who want all the brown faces loaded onto a ship and sent somewhere else. They don’t want reason and a carefully considered approach, even when that approach is ultimately the only way to stop innocent people having their lives and limbs scattered to the winds.

And here’s the really bad bit: when tabloids use the kind of headlines quoted above, they’re tapping into and feeding the prejudice and bigotry of the hate merchants down at the lower levels of the intellectual spectrum. In so doing, they’re driving the wedge even further into the gap between Us and the Others and exacerbating the conditions which encourage radicalisation to flourish. As such, it wouldn’t be fanciful to suggest that tabloids are partly responsible for the spread of terrorism. And that’s what makes them dangerous.

Ah, but The Sun needs to sell copy in order to attract advertising, and The Sun doesn’t want Jeremy Corbyn (or Jezza, as he might be known to a user of colloquial street-speak and reader of tabloids) to become Prime Minister on Friday…

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