It’s arguable that whenever there is a protest of significance the press ought to cover it. It makes sure that people throughout the locality, region, nation or world here about it and that there can be no argument about suppression. Sometimes, however, I think there should be exceptions.
The protesters identified themselves as being from a group called “Muslims Against Crusades”, an organisation believed to be a splinter group from Islam4UK. Islam4UK is notorious Islamic extremist group that was proscribed recently, i.e. banned from existing. Before this, however, they were a group that believed in a very fundamentalist interpretation of Islam believing in Sharia Law, for instance.
What’s funny about their organisation is the way they conducted themselves in public. They were massive PR whores, feeding off the hatred that they stoked in a seemingly symbiotic relationship with the media. The now famous Wootten Bassett non-incident is worth finding out about, especially if you look at how satirist Charlie Brooker reported on it (see the Newswipe with Charlie Brooker episode for this).
In short, they announced that they were going to stage a protest at a place where people publicly mourn the deaths of servicemen and women who have died on public duty. Naturally, this caused public outrage with the usual vitriol of “it’s disgusting” and “it’s an outrage” spurting from whatever vox pop reporters could find on the streets.
After a media frenzy lasting only a week, Islam4UK called it off. The police said that they never even received an application from them to hold a protest there. The whole thing was a hoax. Of course, this didn’t stop a 400,000 strong anti-Islam4UK Facebook group from being created and anti-Muslim sentiments being poured out across the nation in newspapers and the internet.
The media loved it. It was controversial. It riled up everybody. It sold copy. For them, this was a good news story as it meant that people would want to read their paper and people would be spending time talking about. Fantastic.
The problem with this, of course, is that this is exactly what Islam4UK wanted. It was a PR stunt. Imagine T-Mobile shooting kittens on live TV or Simon Cowell literally flinging his turds at an X-Factor contestant. This stuff would be all over the news. AND EVERYBODY WOULD BE TALKING ABOUT IT. Of course, for Cowell and T-Mobile it would damage their careers but for Islam4UK, who have no reputation, this was a gold mine.
Furthermore, Islam4UK are a group of Islamic extremists. What they want is animosity towards Muslims. There are many, many moderate Muslims in the world – ordinary people who are religious but are happy to live in the society that they do, enjoying their faith and letting others do the same. What extremists want are people to join their side and the only way they can do this is by polarising people, by getting these moderate Muslims on their side. Of course, the moderates aren’t going to be convinced that they should commit extreme acts without a good reason and the best reason of all seems to be “because non-Muslims hate you”.
By getting non-Muslims to attack Muslims it will make moderate Muslims feel threatened, make them feel that they don’t belong to the community as a whole and, instead, can only trust their Muslim brothers and sisters. Such a move would galvanise all Muslims against anti-Muslim sentiments, thus creating the army that Islam4UK needs to seriously challenge the established laws and practices of the UK.
Thus, we find ourselves in an odd position. The more extreme things Islam4UK do, the more the press reports it. The more the press reports it, the more people make stupid generalised comments about Muslims. The more Muslims feel threatened the more likely they are to join extremist organisations. The more members extremist organisations have the more likely they are to do extremist activities. The more they do these extremist activities the more likely they are to feature in the press. Do you see the circle?
The Press Is Not Helping
The press want to sell copy. People buying their paper is good for them and the way to get people to buy it is to either to make them angry or scare the shit out of them. Extremist Muslims tick both of those boxes. Good for them and the press, bad for us.
The weird thing about this story in particular is that they use the headline “Muslims clash with police after burning poppy in anti-Armistice Day protest” rather than using the term “Islamists” (usually used to denote the political side of Islam, i.e. those who believe in the establishment of Sharia Law) or “Muslim Extremists” (Muslims that typically hold ‘fundamental’ or otherwise unorthodox views about Islam).
Both of these terms seem far more accurate. Andy Bloxham, the author of the article, probably didn’t write the headline (they seldom do) but he uses the phrase “Islamic protesters” in the first sentence of the article, thus clearly stating their views on Islam. The headline writer, however, either didn’t see that bit or, and this is far more likely, believed that the generalised term “Muslims” would sell more copy than the more accurate alternatives.
Personally, I think the press coverage that these groups get in the press should be stopped. One of my friends said to me that all protests should be covered by the press. They have a right to protest and the world has a right to know that they did so. But with groups like these, ones much like the ‘proscribed’ groups, the benefit of reporting their protest is surely greatly shadowed by the damage this does to Muslims and our society.
If the urge to cover these protests is too much then coverage should be short, concise and matter-of-fact. There was a protest by some Islamist group, 35 people turned up and that’s it. Headlines that seem to say “Muslims hate fallen soldiers” are no help to anybody and are merely inflammatory. Those sorts of remarks exist simply to create controversy where it does not reside and create debate on topics that aren’t even worth debating. There are people with strange and evil views but they don’t make the paper, why report this? Because it sells copy.
On a side note, I am aware of the irony of this post. I’m arguing that the press shouldn’t report on it because it brings it to people’s attention and yet here I am writing about it myself, thus joining it. Perhaps, but if the Telegraph hadn’t done it in the first place I wouldn’t be writing about it now. I’d be asleep, not worrying about what stupid thing the media was going to do next.