Archive for the ‘migrants’ tag

Economic hardship + media stoked resentment

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Thanks in part to the downturn in the economy, this week’s spat between the newspapers about whether the rise in immigration has led to a significant increase in crime, is more than an academic exercise.

It is one thing to demonise foreigners when economic conditions are good. It is something quite different to do so when they are bad (or going in that direction).

When times are bad, feelings of resentment towards other communities – particularly immigrants, are more likely to spill over into latent aggression. Tolerance of difference is likely to be lower, and anger is more likely to be directed at specific communities.

Which means that the current press battle is not just a fight over ACPO reports and statistics. An argument over whether to generalise about criminal behaviour on the basis of a small sample can quickly turn into an indictment of a whole ethnic or national group.

Take Harriet Sargeant’s piece, for example, in yesterday’s Daily Mail:

“Just under a third of those charged with a criminal offence in the capital last year were foreign. Jamaicans, Poles, Romanians and Lithuanians topped the list”

“Around a third of all sex offences and a half of all frauds in the London area are carried out by non-British citizens”

“Romanian gangs were behind an astonishing 80 to 85 per cent of cash machine crimes in Britain and responsible for a sharp rise in street violence, people-trafficking, prostitution, theft and fraud”

Notice that the first two of these examples are based only on London statistics (even though the main police complaints have come from outside London), and the last one, while starting specific, goes on to accuse Romanian gangs of virtually all rises in crime (despite the police report saying crime had actually fallen). But the impression one is left with, from these and other generalisations in Sargeant’s piece, is that anyone Romanian is a criminal and you should at all costs steer clear of foreigners.

Of course migration leads to change and upheaval. Any movement of people is bound to. But to create a narrative of ‘British good foreigner bad’; British do not commit crimes, foreigners do;’ is not simply inaccurate and misleading but dangerous.

There have been alot of recent comparisons between our current economic situation and the Great Depression following 1929. Perhaps it would be worth comparing not just our economic but our social situation. Economic hardship in 1930s Europe, combined with social resentment, didn’t just lead to unemployment and hunger, it led to violence and persecution, particularly of minorities.

Written by Martin Moore

April 18th, 2008 at 2:09 pm

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The missing crimewave that didn't hit the papers

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When Julie Spence said last September that influx of migrants to Cambridgeshire had ‘been coupled with an increase in drink-driving, knife carrying, and feuding’ few papers could resist splashing the story. ‘Migrant workers importing crime’ The Telegraph reported. ‘Rumanians carry out 1,000 crimes here in six months’ said the Daily Mail.

Many commentators then congratulated Spence for breaking the rules of political correctness, for ‘saying the unsayable’ (Minette Marrin) and rejoiced that ‘it might [now] be possible to have an informed and balanced debate about immigration without charges of racism being chucked around’ (Stephen Glover).

Following Spence’s report and the accompanying headlines the Association of Chief Police Officers launched an investigation. Understandably they wanted to know if Spence’s claims were true and, if so, if they applied to the whole country.

They discovered, we learnt today, that they weren’t true. The evidence, their report says, ‘does not support theories of a large scale crime wave generated through migration. In fact, crime has been falling across the country over the past year’.

And what coverage does this report get in the press? Well, The Guardian leads with it on the front page. The Telegraph has a straight report on page 10. And… and… that’s it. Nothing at all in the Mail. Nothing in the Express (though the paper finds space on page 22 to report that ’3 out of 4 UK Poles “will stay”‘). Nothing in the Times. Nor, curiously, in the Independent.

It’s a great shame not only that many papers will not report news that doesn’t fit their editorial line, but that they won’t even seek to challenge the study’s findings. If these papers really do believe there is a migrant crime wave then surely they should pore over this report and challenge it. Ignoring it suggests they are happier misleading their readers then rethinking their own position.

Written by Martin Moore

April 16th, 2008 at 10:45 am

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Dog whistle journalism

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As the Clintons are accused of playing the race card – and losing – in South Carolina, so the Daily Express once again plays the race card – with yet more virulence – on its front page today.

‘Migrants send our crime rate soaring’ is emblazoned across the front of the paper. This is topped by a non-news story about Madeleine McCann (‘Amazing lookalike: “I did not kidnap and kill her”‘), and tailed by ‘outrage’ about the news that – according to the Express – Maxine Carr is expecting a baby. Together these must represent a new low in the paper’s desperate scramble for dog whistle populism.

The main story picks up on a leaked letter from the Chief Constable of Kent, Mike Fuller, who is asking the government for more money. When the letter was leaked, Fuller was presumably not unconscious of the fact that, by using phrases like ‘migration surges’, his request for more money should earn a certain amount of publicity.

Yet given Fuller focused on population increase rather than migrants per se, he might have been slightly surprised by the rampantly xenophobic headlines the letter elicited. Three newspapers ran with the story: the Sunday Times (‘Police chief: “migrant tide adds to crime”‘), the Daily Mail (‘Top black officer warns of “migrant crime surge”‘) and the Daily Express.

The Sunday Times story was reported by Jonathan Oliver – recently headhunted from the Mail after his David Abrahams scoop at the end of last year. Nick Fagge meanwhile, the author of today’s Expess piece, had to take time out from reporting on the McCann’s – having written over 20 articles about the McCanns since the beginning of November (including ‘Is Madeleine a child slave in Morocco?’, and ‘Maddy: mum faces ten years in jail’).

The Express story itself is based entirely on Mike Fuller’s statistics, a reaction from the Shadow Immigration Minister Damian Green, and a quote from the anti-immigration spokesman Sir Andrew Green. In other words it is almost entirely lacking any actual journalism. It has been spread across the paper simply to appeal to public fears of migration and latent xenophobia.

When Roy Greenslade wrote critically about the Sunday Express’ reporting on the McCann’s a couple of weeks ago, one commenter asked him why he was wasting his time on a paper no-one read. But that’s the problem, over 700,000 people are still buying the Daily Express, and over 650,000 buying the Sunday Express, according to the latest ABCs.

Sales are dropping, but the further the drop, the more aggressive and downright nasty the paper becomes. One can only hope that, as some point, they go into freefall.

Written by Martin Moore

January 28th, 2008 at 5:19 pm

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Seeing patterns through news headlines

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One of the joys of the internet is being able to see patterns that were previously difficult to spot. Such as patterns in a journalist’s output simply by glancing at an archive of his/her articles.

This is particularly true if a reporter’s articles appear to show a distinct singularity of viewpoint, such that one can’t help but wonder if that reporter’s own views might be slightly obscuring his/her balance…

This occurred to me when glancing at some of James Slack’s articles for the Daily Mail over the last couple of months:
Immigrants ‘must pay extra for health care and education’
Labour hands out work permits to 1m non-EU migrants
‘We’re struggling to cope with influx of migrants’ warns police chief
Romanians living in UK carry out 1,000 crimes in six months
EU chiefs want to let in an extra 20 million immigrants from Africa and Asia
Escalating cost of Eastern Europeans living off the state hits £125m
Immigrants have taken four in ten homes since 1997
Breakout of a thousand migrants with nothing to lose
Churchill called for quotas on influx of ‘coloured people’

And that’s just since the beginning of August. One can’t help but get the impression Slack is not entirely open-minded about the impact of immigration.

Written by Martin Moore

September 24th, 2007 at 5:10 pm

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