REPORTING THE BRITISH RIOTS

A great deal has been said about the recent riots but before adding my own comments I thought I would indulge myself by imagining how the British media might have reported the riots if they had happened not in Britain but in some other country of whose political system the British media disapproves.

The media would begin by reporting that the riots were triggered by the gunning down in public of a man in circumstances different from those initially claimed by the police.  There would be commentary about the poor reputation of the police, who the media would say are seen by the population not as impartial upholders of law and order but rather as the instrument of the ruling class, which is widely hated by the population.  Reference would be made to the police’s brutal suppression of student protests.  The fact that the chief and deputy chief of the police had recently been forced to resign amidst allegations of bribe taking and corruption would be given special prominence.  There would be reminders of the way in which the police had previously gunned down or killed protesters and even innocent bystanders with special reference made to the cases of Ian Tomlinson and Charles de Menezes. Particular concern would be expressed about the proven use by the police of agents provocateurs and informers to infiltrate opposition and civil rights groups with speculation that some or even most of the violence was actually the work of these agents provocateurs and informers aiming to discredit the protests.  

The reporting would then go on to discuss the angry demonstration that followed the killing and the overwhelming force used to suppress the protests that followed.  Concern would be expressed about the summary treatment of the “protesters” (as the rioters would be called) both by the police and by the courts.  There would be particular alarm at the way in which the authorities were threatening draconian action against the protesters and were proposing to impose censorship by banning or controlling social networks sights.  There would be angry interviews with protesters or with persons who claimed to be protesters or who said they were leaders of the protesters in which these persons would fiercely denounce in the strongest possible language the savage behaviour of the authorities and their cruel suppression of the protests.  Stress would be given to the law abiding and respectable nature of these persons and to their impeccable democratic credentials and this “fact” would be contrasted with the abusive language directed at these persons and at the protesters by members of the government and by the pro government media with its free use of words such as “morons”, “cretins”, “thugs” etc to describe them. 

The protests would be explained by the bad economic conditions in the country caused by the mismanagement of its economy by a greedy, corrupt and venal ruling class, which buys and sells honours, allows parliamentary deputies to steal expenses and bails out prominent businessmen with government money when their businesses go bust.  The general impression would be that the country is a brutal and corrupt dictatorship whose people have risen in protest against their oppressors only to be crushed by overwhelming force.  Stern editorials would follow demanding that the government of the country carry out unspecified “reforms” to clean up the political system with warnings of more unrest to follow if it does not. 

Needless to say the British media have not and will not report the riots in this way.  Nor indeed should they.  I have been careful in this post to cite facts that are true and there are occasional points in this post where some might feel that it touches on the truth.  Nonetheless to report the riots in this way would be grossly misleading and indeed a travesty.  However when reporting unrest in countries whose governments  it disapproves of it is a travesty that the British media indulges in on a pretty regular basis.

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