Wednesday, June 06, 2007 

Britain's most racist newspaper.

Keeping an eye on the tabloids, you get rather jaded with the general sensationalism, lack of critical voices and downright lies and distortions which are routinely printed. Even I however was shocked by an article in today's Express, so blatantly scaremongering and blunt in its terminology, that I think like 5cc, who also covers the item and picks holes in it, it's the most overtly racist article I've seen in the British press.


RACE trouble is being predicted because of an ethnic baby boom in one of Britain’s major cities.

A third of babies being born in Sheffield are to ethnic minority families, an official report has revealed.

This is creating a major population shift in the South Yorkshire city, raising concern among community leaders that simmering tensions could erupt in riots similar to those that have blighted Bradford and Oldham.

Just to rub it even further in, the photograph chosen to illustrate the report is of two young Muslim women wearing the niqab.

Let's just take a look at the words used. It shorthands ethnic minorities for the simple pejorative, "ethnic". As many will no doubt be aware, this is the exact word that has become the favourite of the British National Party to describe the non-white population of this country, having moved on from being openly racist to covering its rhetoric in slightly less abusive and offensive terms. It then suggests that because a third of all babies being born in the city are now from an ethnic minority background, that this constitutes a "crisis", with race trouble being feared because of this baby "boom". It's openly playing on the politics of fear and far-right propaganda, that a mass increase in the non-white population will lead to inevitable rioting and unrest.

As is often the case with articles based on such regional developments, the Express article is heavily influenced by a similar one in Sheffield's own Star newspaper. Spot the difference:

Race relations action call

RAPID changes in Sheffield's population are revealed in a city council report published today - with almost a third of all babies currently being born to ethnic minority families.

Urgent action is being recommended by the city's leaders to avert community tensions which have blighted Lancashire towns like Oldham and Blackburn.

Latest figures show 13 per cent of Sheffield's population is made up of minorities from all races and backgrounds - including migrants from new European Community countries like Poland and Romania.

See what they've done? The Express has taken concerns that tensions between communities might arise, that's might, and sexed it up into race trouble. Nowhere in the Star article does it use such a blunt term as "ethnic", it doesn't refer to the rise of births within ethnic minority families as a "boom" nor is there any suggestion that riots might occur, simply that the council has noted that problems could happen in the future, which is why it's now encouraging an open debate on how to improve cohesion, as well as on the values which people in Sheffield share. More subtly, while the Star article refers to problems in Oldham - where there were riots in 2001 - and Blackburn, where there have not, the Express substitutes Blackburn for Bradford, where there were also riots in 2001.

It should be noted that the Star report also uses a photograph of a woman wearing a niqab, but rather than using it in a sensationalist, frightening, almost sinister way like the Express has done, it's presented it as the changing face of the city, with another (white) woman talking to her.

Both the Express and Star articles are additionally based on a report to Sheffield council's cabinet, entitled Community Cohesion: Developing a new Strategy (.doc), which as you'd expect is the usual staid local government document. Race isn't used once in the whole thing, let alone is there any reference to riots. The whole strategy is reacting to a hypothetical problem which might occur, and stresses that Sheffield has in actual fact a strong identity, and that communities already have a sense of pride and place. The consultation and debate, entitled Our Sheffield, is designed to build on that; the Express, it seems, wants to turn it into something which it most definitely is not.

The whole issue is one of both tone and language. The Star and Express articles are almost identical in places, yet the first few paragraphs of the Express report change it from one which is about a city undergoing changes which are happening around the country, to one where a city is facing a crisis that requires immediate action to prevent riots from taking place, putting the blame squarely on "ethnics" and their "booming" birthrate.

As I rather glibly stated on a previous post, while Margaret Hodge helps the BNP once a year, the right-wing tabloids tend to do it day after day. Of the 6 comments that the Express report has attracted, one suggests that the "white english man" is becoming an endangered species; another to send "them" back; Gary1 thinks that it's all about Muslims and Christians; byteback talks of ethnics in much the same way as the article does; spaniel_lover calls for all immigrants from the last 15 years to be repatriated, or failing that, the sterilisation of women from ethnic "minorities" after their second child, something that even the BNP would blanch at, while finally The_Way_I_See_It goes off on a tangent about those of loose morals.

The Sheffield Star, commenting on the plans the council has set out, says:

However, one of the most important features which makes people 'British' is our deep-grained live-and-let-live attitude towards others.

One of the very attitudes which the Express is doing its utmost to do away with. Not bad from a newspaper that claims, in its advertising, to stand for "traditional values".

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