This is the second of two posts about Richard Barnbrook's potential suspension. This will look at Barnbrook's defence, and how the tabloids are relevant to it and the actions that made it necessary.
The most powerful elected BNP member is facing the possibility of suspension from both his elected posts. I had a look at his incredibly dishonest defence of the behaviour that led to his suspension in 'Richard Barnbrook's caught inventing 'facts' for his blog. Who'd have thunk it?' Some of his defence, laughable as it was, has a bearing on what I get up to on this here blog. And so does the whole incident.
Here are the two most relevant bits to this blog from Barnbrook's defence:
Mr Barnbrook has provided documents to demonstrate that people are murdered in London because of knife, gun or other weapons, and has provided newspaper articles that show the impact of such crimes. [Emphasis mine].And:
Mr Barnbrook provided the investigators with newspaper articles which suggested that violent crime statistics were in disarray as crime figures had been misreported (however this did not include murder rates), as well as newspaper articles about knife crime. [Mine again].If you can cast your mind back to last summer, you'll remember the newpapers being in the grip of a moral panic about the horrors of knife crime, which jumped the shark at this point 'Britain on alert for deadly new knife with exploding tip that freezes victims' organs'. It's from this environment of exaggerated panic that Barnbrook's newspaper stories undoubtedly come.
Of course, this is also the environment that led to Barnbrook inventing the murders in the first place. His Telegraph blog burst on the scene with the epic 'Tombstone Politics', which jumped on the tabloid bandwagon in the crass way he intended to carry on. By his third post, he was copying and pasting paragraphs wholesale from Melanie Phillips, and by August he was staging videos in which he 'accidentally' happened to bump into a whopping great News of the World 'Save Our Streets' hoarding. What a coincidence eh?
But the tabloids did more than provide a bandwagon for Barnbrook to latch onto with their scaremongering.
Infamously, Barnbrook's second blog post was headlined 'Blame the Immigrants'. It's been removed from the blog now, but you can still read it at 'Revleft forums' (with the usual caveats - don't know anything about the site, but the reproduction of the article is genuine), where it has been reproduced. Of course, it was obvious at the time that 'immigrants and the sons of immigrants' meant black people, but Barnbrook had to use euphemisms at the time. By June, he had started to ask questions about the 'Afro-Caribbean community' being involved in crimes with an offensive weapon. It wasn't until a month later that he was given the opportunity to link the knife crime figures with the BNP's common scare tactic of claiming that there's a 'race war' with 'white people as the victims'.
Just as the BNP was launching its 'Racism Cuts Both ways' campaign, the Mail helpfully reported 'Over half of young knife suspects are black, Scotland Yard figures reveal'. Of course, there's nothing wrong with the paper reporting those figures, but it presented them in the most irresponsible and misleading way.
The paper took the set of figures with the highest number of black perpetrators possible - under 18s - and shoved them together with the numbers of 'victims' on a big centrepiece table to make it look like the two sets of figures were connected rather than being two separate things.
What the paper actually had were two separate lists - one for people arrested and charged with knife offences, and another for people who had reported offences involving knives. It doesn't necessarily follow that the 'perpetrators' on the Mail's table were responsible for the crimes involving the 'victims' on the table. What the two sets of figures showed was that it's less likely for young people reporting crimes involving knives to identify themselves as black than white, and that the police arrest more young black people for knife related offences. The Mail's table created the impression that the table showed that black people were disproportionately involved in crimes with white victims.
The story also stated that white people were the largest group of victims, when in fact the largest group was of unknown origin. The paper explained this away by saying that 'one explanation' was that 'many of' the unknown people were black gang members being uncooperative - but still said most victims were white, paradoxically. It also neglected to mention that of the twenty young people murdered in the capital up until that point in the year, only two were white and murdered with knives. That figure would surely be relevant to deciding who is more likely to be the victim of serious violent knife crime in London.
Two days later, the table appeared on Barnbrook's blog with even the little context offered by the Mail story taken away. Barnbrook boasted:
Can I say how rewarding and satisfying it is that the pioneering stance that I have taken with regards the ethnic breakdown of knife crime is being replicated by the national media?Nice one, the Daily Mail. Even though your figures were different to the ones Barnbrook had been farting on about, they were used to justify his position.
With this apparent mainstream approval, Barnbrook went on to call for the banning of the Notting Hill Carnival until 'the African Carribean community learns to control its violent and aggressive young men.' So we have a direct line between an overblown panic created by the tabloids, some pretty serious tabloid mishandling of complex figures and the BNP calling for what it sees as collective punishment of black people.
With the momentum created by this pitiful bandwagon jumping gathering pace, Barnbrook inserted his three false murders into a video blog. This isn't that far removed from the Mail over simplifying complex figures to encourage a particular interpretation of them in its readers. It's not that different from the Metro, which at the time I originally blogged about the Mail's uncanny echo of a BNP campaign, had a 'London knife crime teenage fatalities 2008' list on its site which included one person who had been stabbed with glass, two people who had been shot, and two who had been beaten to death. It's not that different from the Mail straining until the veins popped in its forehead to create the impression that Nilanthan Murddi was the victim of a Sri Lankan gang turf war when it knew the man arrested was white. (As far as I know - and I did check for a while after the incident - this impression was never corrected in the print version of the paper even though the murder seemed to have been a racially motivated attack).
Why shouldn't Barnbrook argue that ,"If he had said three murders took place, that wouldn’t have been inaccurate because murders have happened in the Borough [sic - they hadn't at the time he was talking about]," when the newspapers he uses as evidence seem to have the same attitude to accuracy?