Propaganda is the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behaviour to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist. - Garth S. Jowett, Victoria O'Donnell - Propaganda and Persuasion.
This is just the latest in a very long line of anti-Muslim headlines in the Express. Like many of the others, its worthiness of a front page scream headline is dubious, and like most (if not all) of the others, it uses dodgy techniques to further demonise Muslims.
Before I go any further, I should probably point out that the twats who were sent down should have been sent down. Incitement to murder - it's not big, and it's not clever. I'm not defending those buffons, nor am I defending the goons in the picture.
What I do want to do is quickly point out the shoddy techniques the Express uses here. Firstly, note the use of the term 'these Muslims'. That could mean one of two things - these Muslims here in this article, or Muslims generally. Three guesses as to which one the Express expects its readers to go away with, and three more as to which one it'll pretend it's using if there are any complaints.
Next, there's the use of 'our hospitality'. These Muslims are not us. And 'we're' offering hospitality. Muslims are somehow receiving hospitality from the paper that does little but smear and lie about them. They should be grateful for that, apparently. The article goes further, acting incredulous that 'these Muslims' should have "poured scorn on the nation that guarantees their freedoms," as if this paper doesn't lament the fact that their freedoms are granted every sodding week. And as if it's impossible that any of these people are actually citizens protesting about the running of their own country.
The article uses the old familiar dehumanising techniques - they're 'swarming' apparently.
Is this really worthy of a front page? Sure, the story's newsworthy - but a front page? Forty people at a demonstration? A number that represents a quarter of one hundredth of one percent of the Muslim population of the UK? A number that represents a fraction of the number of Muslims who support the police enough to actually be police officers? (There are an estimated 300 Muslim police officers in the UK. More than seven times the number of protesters here).
Dodgy headlines and negative articles
Back in October 2006, the paper kicked off a campaign to ban the veil. Taking 6 October 2006 as an arbitrary starting point, there have been at least 22 Express front pages with negative headlines about Muslims (there are 21 on MailWatch. Since the collection is incomplete, there could well be more).
Of those, two are just calls to ban the veil, and five are about the failed attacks of a few weeks ago, and one deals with the shonky claims about the plot to behead a Muslim soldier. That leaves thirteen negative stories about Muslims. All but one of those thirteen are false, or head misleading articles.
Over the same time period, there are around 109 articles that show up in a search for the word 'Muslim' on the Express website. Of those, about 11 are either positive or neutral. That leaves 98 negative articles about Muslims, including the 21 that made the front page.
Here are three randomly chosen front page ones:
16 October 2006: 'The veil is banned in hospitals'. Not true. One medical school had stopped female students from wearing veils when they had contact with patients.
30 November 2006: 'Muslim law reaches Britain'. Not true. Some cases can be arbitrated outside court if both parties agree to be bound by the decision of a third party. While this article was about the case of some teenagers who'd attacked another kid and had been ordered to pay compensation by the arbitrator (after the kid didn't press charges officially), it included gems like, "The hardline Islamic law allows people to be stoned to death, beheaded or have their limbs amputated." In Britain? Me arse it does!
7 May 2007: 'At last the veil banned in class'. Not true. Lord Falconer said headteachers could stop pupils wearing veils if they wanted. That's all.
The headlines tend to fall into two broad categories - ones that are designed to rally support for banning veils, commonly employing the 'bandwagon' propaganda technique, pretending loads and loads of people want it - and ones that are designed to highlight the supposed liberties they're taking and extra consideration Muslims want.
Some of the articles themselves go on to withdraw the nonsense statement of the headline, like the three above. Others go on to further demonise and distort in the body of the article. The front page of the arbitrarily chosen start date, 6 October 2006, is 'Riots over Mosque on Queen's doorstep'. It covers the same story I examined the Sun and Mail coverage of in 'Firebobmed Muslims 'asking for it''.
At the time, I was hacked off because the Mail had seemed to take a case of Muslims being attacked and twist it until the Muslims were the attackers. I wouldn't have been as hacked off if I'd seen the Express coverage at that point. It opens describing the clashes as happening between 'race hate thugs', depicting the people the Sun had regarded as victims as race hate thugs from the outset. The Mail at least left things ambiguous, and only implid things to make readers draw their own conclusions.
The Mail completely uncritically quotes locals who claimed that three young men had been attacked, by men coming out of the prayer room with pitchforks, baseball bats and iron bars, 'Whether [...] provoked or not I don't know.' This was after reporting:
There was an altercation between a teenage boy and dairy staff during prayers. It escalated and the windows of several vehicles were smashed.That was bad enough. But note the qualifiers in there. It's only 'claimed' that the mother and daughter were attacked. The claim that the attacks might have been unprovoked are attributed to a witness, and not in the words pf the paper. There's doubt in the Mail's version, even if it is minimised.
Amid claims that the boy, his mother and teenage sister were assaulted, up to 50 young people clashed on Tuesday night.
Here's how the Express covered the same incident:
The outbreak of disorder began after a mother and her daughter were set upon by a gang of 20 Asian youths armed with baseball bats, iron bars and pitchforks.Never thought you'd ever see the day when Daily Mail coverage of anything seemed balanced, eh?
The shaven-headed thugs – all dressed in white robes – launched the attack after pouring out of a former office building which is being used as an unofficial mosque.
They attacked Karen Hayes, 46, and her 18-year-old daughter Emily before turning their weapons on the teenager's car. The pair had gone to help after Karen's 15-year-old son Sean and a friend were beaten up by the gang. Police have said it is unlikely the mob will be brought to justice.
Another of the Express distortions I covered at the time was 'Surge in Muslim youth who want Islamic rule', which I looked at in 'Eat your greens or MULTICULTURALISM will get you'. Quote from my post:
The Express article probably warrants most scrutiny. The second sentence includes an outright lie. It says:Also notable is 'Now Muslims tell us how to run our schools', which prompted me to complain to the PCC. The Muslim Council of Britain complained at the time too, and although the PCC agreed that the article was misleading, it ruled only that the MCB should have a letter published, which it declined.
"Three-quarters of Muslims aged 16-24 believe women should be forced to wear veils or headscarves [...]"
The study does not say that at all. It says:
"74% of 16-24 year olds would prefer Muslim women to choose to wear the veil, compared to only 28% of 55+ year olds."
Spot the difference. 'Would prefer someone to choose' is not the same as 'should be forced'. Before I met my girlfriend, I would have preferred the women I fancied to choose to sleep with me. I didn't want them to be forced to. That's the difference between an ordinary bloke and a rapist. Plus, the study specifies 'Muslim women' and the Express does not.
When I complained, the article's online version was headlined 'Muslims: Ban un-Islamic schools'. One of the elements of my complaint was that the MCB report the article was supposed to be about didn't actually say anything about un-Islamic schools, let alone that they should be banned.
I also complained that the term 'un-Islamic schools' could be misleading, and lead people to believe the MCB wanted to ban non-Islamic schools. Since my complaint (not sure if it's since the PCC's ruling) a second version of the article has appeared on the Express website, which I've just discovered. The headline? 'Muslims: ban non-Islamic schools'.
There's also a quote box directly attributing a quote to the MCB that didn't appear anywhere in their report at all. It says '"Swimming should be banned during Ramadan" - Muslim Council of Britain.' One of the specific complaints of the MCB is that the article erroneously gave the impression that they wanted to ban swimming. Now there's a new online version of the article with that specifically in a quote box.
Special treatment of Muslim symbols
Muslims also appear in a subcategory of articles that has appeared in pretty much all the tabloids recently - stories about how Christian symbols have been 'banned' while Muslim scarves are allowed. There are three notable recent cases - the Nadia Ewedia case, in which she was allowed to wear a cross, but had to cover it - one where schools had 'banned' crosses, in which crosses hadn't been banned but left out of Council literature explaining what religious symbols were since the Council assumed headteachers would know what crosses were - and the recent 'silver ring thing' flap, in which rings were disallowed jewellery in a school because they're not recognised Christian symbols. Crosses were permitted, however. A scarf isn't even jewellery and wouldn't have been included in the same rules anyway.
Pictures of Muslims in negative articles not about Muslims
Muslims pop up in stories that aren't about Muslims or religion at all. The Express has a habit of using their pictures in other negative articles too. Who said the paper wasn't inclusive!
Back in the article where the Express slipped over into racism, 'Ethnic baby boom 'crisis'', the paper exaggerated the content of a Council report, pretending it had characterised a large number of ethnic minority births as a crisis, and pretending it said that there were racial tensions about to bubble over into full scale rioting in Sheffield at any minute. It said nothing of the sort. The paper also used a picture of people in a niqab (that looks decidedly dodgy, as if the paper used a couple of staffers in the car park) to illustrate the article.
Another article from around the same time 'Is the scale of immigration changing Britain for the worse?' (as if the conclusion to that question wasn't foregone) is illustrated by the familiar 'two fingered salute' picture of veiled Muslims.
The article 'Schools where children don't speak English' lied about the number of Britain's biggest cities had over half of their school pupils speaking English as a second language (Express says 'many', real figures say 'none'). It also used a picture of veiled Muslim girls to illustrate it. Muslim girls facing away from the camera, so you can't see their faces.
The campaign is working too. Check out the responses to the article I opened by talking about.
"All, the BNP have done so far is break a few sculls unlike your Muslim brothers who have already signalled their deadly intent, as we know to our cost."
"my sons a copper why the hell should they have to put with the shit these people seem to dish at us in our own country bring in BNP and i think alot of these silly bastards will take a hike we dont want you. get it through its an enlish country and Christian not muslim"This is ENLAND goddammit! We're ENLISH!
"Muslims are growing in strength both in Britain and throughout the whole of the Christian world, and as they grow they are becoming more defiant, agressive and demanding. They are a clever (crafty) and deceitful race who on the one hand are constantly protesting that all Islamic people are both peaceful, loving, law abiding peoples but on the other hand are preparing to stab us all in the back!"One of the things I mentioned in my complaint to the PCC is that this kind of article can whip up negative feeling in two very violent minorities. Violent extremist Muslims on the one hand, and far right nutters on the other. Exaggerating how much British society in general marginalises and vilifies Muslims on the one hand, and demonising Muslims as 'race hate thugs' to the other race hate thugs on the other.
Here's the question. Is the Express deliberately trying to disseminate this kind of hate, or is it merely pandering to it to make money? What behaviour is the paper trying to illicit with its campaign? Hatred of Muslims, or just the urge to buy the paper in people who already hate them?
Either way, it's a despicable, hate filled bogroll of a paper.