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How churnalists become friends to the BNP


9:05 am - May 27th 2009

by Sarah Ditum    


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The BNP is a repugnant, racist organisation that is somehow able to present itself as a legitimate political party despite having a leader with a conviction for distributing Holocast-denying literature, a London Assembly member who spouts made-up crime stories and a track-record of misogyny that could keep Jim Davidson in material for the rest of his life.

The BNP is detestable, and it knows as much – which is why the party has been making exerted attempts to rebrand itself, dressing up racism as a culture war and claiming to stand up for the white man on the street against political correctness, immigration, and all those other half-lit monsters that loom from the national press.

There’s a commonly-made argument that the BNP thrive on being ostracised, that presenting them as bigots is playing into their hands. This is rubbish, of course.

What they want is for people to join them, vote for them and extend their power – and for that to happen, they need to be seen as an active political proposition comprised of people that voters can bear to be associated with. That’s why their current campaign for the European and council elections uses the slogan “People like you voting BNP” (even if the people do turn out to be stock images of white people rather than actual voters).

And that’s why every mention of the BNP in the media should be given the most severe editorial scrutiny. The normal rules of bodging through on “balance” rather than factual accuracy are hopelessly exposed when it comes to coverage of extremist politics. Operate an editorial policy that allows BNP supporters to expound their beliefs on the radio, and broadcasting a few opposing points of view won’t be enough to protect you from the charge of inciting racial hatred.

Or, in the case of my local paper (the Bath Chronicle) publishing a soft ‘family’ story about a mother, father and son all standing for the BNP which uses BNP language as part of the editorial (uncritically referring to “white ethnic indigenous British people”) doesn’t become journalism because the last paragraph states that the BNP “has long been criticised” without outlining any of the things they’ve been criticised for.

No other candidate in the region has been given the same extensive and flattering coverage as the BNP got in the family story, because no other candidate combines the shock-quality of the BNP with the cosy angle of the three united generations. And while it’s all very well to say that the BNP should be allowed to damn itself out of its own mouth, in this case the words were presented as the newspaper’s own: by omitting the quote marks, the Chron inadvertently put its own voice behind the BNP’s racial interpretation of Britishness.

Not a great example of the local press as a democratic force, really. (Much better was the Bath Chronicle’s attendance at and reporting on a local hustings meeting featuring a BNP candidate.)

In fact, none of the faults with the story originated with the Chron. The copy and the picture originally appeared as a feature in a sister paper, the Western Daily Press (complete with that hateful little unattributed phrase, “white ethnic indigenous British people”) and was picked up as shared copy. The BNP candidate profiled was so satisfied with the piece, he blogged about looking forward to it appearing on the wire services – the Western Daily Press had supplied a piece so soft, the BNP were viewing it in the light of a press release.

This is churnalism at work. The BNP’s claims about ethnicity slipped into the editorial unchecked and unopposed, and were then dispersed among the other Daily Mail And General Trust journals in the area.

This isn’t evidence of racist sympathies within the newspapers, but it is evidence of reporting so damaged that it allows the impression of racist sympathies to appear on the page, which allows latent racists to feel justified in their unjustifiable views. Reporting on extremists is necessary – but reporting means making judgements as well as accurately repeating what other people say.

Churnalism about the BNP is about the most depressingly dangerous error a reporter can get into.

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About the author
Sarah is a regular contributor and a freelance journalist and critic. She blogs at Paperhouse.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Media ,Race relations

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Reader comments


And who was the journalist in question?

I named him in a blog post, but I wanted this piece to focus on the issue of weak of journalism rather than the individual practitioners – and because I think the problems with this family profile don’t come just from the writer, but from the sub-editor and the editor and anyone else who looked at that piece and let it through. The name is out there if you want to find it, though.

There was another example of “OMG the BNP the BNP the BNP” in the Indy this week, with the usual “BNP dominate the Internets – more popular than all the other parties AND Guido Fawkes” gush, based on … Alexa. One or two caveats, but still swallowing the line.

Sigh.

Well I do visit the BNP website more than any other political party’s but that’s because I want to see what crap they are putting forward now.

Great article!

I think the BBC is also at fault here. The coverage around the Queen’s Palace invitation was so cringingly bad, a journalist actually asked something like, ‘But what do you say to people who think you’re not the sort of person who should be invited to the Queen’s palace‘. As far as I’ve seen, they’ve not mentioned anywhere the fake people used in the BNP flyer and asked them to respond to that.

…. that hateful little unattributed phrase, “white ethnic indigenous British people”

clumsy little phrase, perhaps – we’re all ethnic, aren’t we ?

But what’s so hateful about the rest, other than the redundancy of ‘white’ ? For good or ill, the indigenous British ARE white – or pink, to be more exact. Nothing to be proud (or ashamed) of in that, it’s just the historical reality.

(I’m hoping, not with any great optimism, that you won’t start the ‘what’s indigenous British’ game. I know we all came from Africa a very long time ago. But I wouldn’t, for example, in the context of European immigration to America, call the Native Americans just another set of immigrants because they came from Siberia more than ten thousand years ago. They’d been there a long time. As have the Native Brits. Though not as long, excepting (maybe) the Celts).

Because it’s a phrase direct from BNP literature. Google it, and the only direct uses (without quote marks and without qualification) are from BNP or other white-rights sources. And because it overturns the whole tradition of citizenship being granted to people because they’re born in a state or because they choose to live in that state in favour of the idea that your citizenship is predicated on ethnicity.

See? I didn’t even have to mention that the whole idea of discrete, concrete races is bunk.

A preference for one’s own racial group appears to be universal, though it is often implicit, expressing itself in the form of voluntary segregation – e.g. liberal whites fleeing the inner cities as soon as their children reach school age.

it’s hateful “Because it’s a phrase direct from BNP literature.”

But it might still be true, even if it’s in BNP literature. I know it’s an awful thought but all the same …

“it overturns the whole tradition of citizenship being granted to people because they’re born in a state or because they choose to live in that state”

I’m not in favour of overturning tradition either. But I don’t think UK tradition HAS been to grant citizenship based either on birth or on someone choosing – without reference to the wishes of that state’s citizens – to live in a particular state.

And after all, don’t the people who live in a state have any right to decide who they offer to share it with ? Do Palestinians not have a right ? Or are they racist bigots if they oppose Israeli settlements on the West Bank ? Did the Native Americans, the Aboriginal Australians, not have a right ? Or does a piece of land belong to whoever can maintain themselves on it by whatever means and whoever the previous inhabitants were ? Doesn’t sound very liberal to me.

A more accuracte headline would be “how cutbacks by large newspaper companies, often run by foreign businessmen, have resulted in fewer local reporters having to desperately still fill large swathes of their paper and foolishly chucking out gumpf which allow psuedo-reporters-cum-bloggers to point the finger and accuse the piss-poorly paid hacks to being ‘friends’ of the BNP”.

Your title’s definitely snappier. Oh, and as this isn’t your blog Sarah, it appears this time you can’t “moderate” this comment into blog-oblivion or call a halt to comments as and when you see fit.

But then hey, that’s free speech, eh? What an irony.

Carl, the word churnalism implies all the cutbacks that make it happen – like I said, this is about a broken process, not a jab at one person. And I don’t think free speech is worth much without responsibility, which is why I have a problem with the original article. Deleting your ninth incredibly long comment was a moderation decision on my own blog (think of me as the Paperhouse editor and you as the hack who went over his wordcount), but by all means knock yourself out here.

12. Carl Eve

Ah, the “my blog, my rules” explanation… how very Iain Dale of you.

As I recall, the ninth comment was pretty concise. Something about me asking you a question.

What I shouldn’t have asked you was have you ever worked in a newsroom or do you understand the rules a local reporter has to work from.

As for the it wasn’t a jab at one person jibe? So, you put the reporter’s e-mail up on your site just to encourage people to send him birthday greetings then? How charming.

Let’s just leave it with I agree with the initial article being a bit wet and their approach being a bit flacid, but we won’t ever agree on the way you think local papers should criticise the BNP on every single article during the run up to an election. That’s not the way local papers work, which is what I think the real editor of that real paper pointed out to you.

Meanwhile, keep on coming with those critical articles about your local “friends of the BNP” rag and hope the PSP and knitting world mags don’t fold.

Consider myself knocked out.

13. just visiting

Laban

Excellent question – and one that folks seem reluctant to grasp.

The answer being avoided is I guess obvious but politically incorrect for those who consider enmity with BNP as more important than anything else (like those who here have said that fascists should not have freedom of speech unlike the rest of us).

Yes, the native Brits surely ought to have a say in how the country is expanded and what sort of culture shifts are desireable.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Adam Vaughan

    RT @louisebolotin: RT: @MartinSFP: This is a worry – “How churnalists become friends to the BNP”: http://is.gd/Gzta

  2. Tim Beadle

    “Churnalism about the BNP is about the most depressingly dangerous error a reporter can get into.” http://bit.ly/PA5Rb (via @tanepiper)

  3. silverserver

    I love the phrase churnalism http://bit.ly/UPDT0

  4. katsegal

    I love the phrase churnalism http://bit.ly/UPDT0

  5. sunny hundal

    Great article by @sarahditum on Libcon: How churnalists become friends to the BNP – http://bit.ly/UPDT0

  6. Adam Vaughan

    RT @louisebolotin: RT: @MartinSFP: This is a worry – “How churnalists become friends to the BNP”: http://is.gd/Gzta

  7. Tim Beadle

    “Churnalism about the BNP is about the most depressingly dangerous error a reporter can get into.” http://bit.ly/PA5Rb (via @tanepiper)

  8. Tim Beadle

    "Churnalism about the BNP is about the most depressingly dangerous error a reporter can get into." http://bit.ly/PA5Rb (via @tanepiper)

  9. BNP reporting: the wrap-up at Liberal Conspiracy « Paperhouse

    […] journalism, Liberal Conspiracy, local, local papers, racism, reporting by Sarah Over at Liberal Conspiracy, I’ve wrapped up my recent adventures in local news: The BNP is a repugnant, racist […]

  10. katsegal

    I love the phrase churnalism http://bit.ly/UPDT0

  11. silverserver

    I love the phrase churnalism http://bit.ly/UPDT0

  12. sunny hundal

    Great article by @sarahditum on Libcon: How churnalists become friends to the BNP – http://bit.ly/UPDT0

  13. links for 2009-05-27 « Embololalia

    […] Liberal Conspiracy » How churnalists become friends to the BNP | creating a new liberal-left allian… This is churnalism at work. The BNP’s claims about ethnicity slipped into the editorial unchecked and unopposed, and were then dispersed among the other Daily Mail And General Trust journals in the area. […]

  14. Anthony Dhanendran

    “Claims slipped in unchecked and unopposed”: how lazy journalism is helping the fascists http://sn.im/ixki5 http://sn.im/ixkgl

  15. Sarah Ditum

    http://tinyurl.com/r244xf I have a troll now. Feel almost proud of him. Like a bit of blogger flair.

  16. Anthony Dhanendran

    “Claims slipped in unchecked and unopposed”: how lazy journalism is helping the fascists http://sn.im/ixki5 http://sn.im/ixkgl

  17. Anthony Dhanendran

    "Claims slipped in unchecked and unopposed": how lazy journalism is helping the fascists http://sn.im/ixki5 http://sn.im/ixkgl

  18. Owen Gerrard

    RT @adreviews: "Claims slipped in unchecked & unopposed": how lazy journalism is helping the fascists http://sn.im/ixki5 http://sn.im/ixkgl

  19. Sarah Ditum

    http://tinyurl.com/r244xf I have a troll know. Feel almost proud of him. Like a bit of blogger flair.

  20. Owen Gerrard

    RT @adreviews: "Claims slipped in unchecked & unopposed": how lazy journalism is helping the fascists http://sn.im/ixki5 http://sn.im/ixkgl

  21. Twitted by Andrew_Taylor

    […] This post was Twitted by Andrew_Taylor – Real-url.org […]

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    […] journalists don’t do their job. When they say “aww, look at the BNP supporters, they’re not so bad,” they are saying “vote […]

  25. James Williams

    Churnalism playing in to the hands of the BNP – http://bit.ly/UPDT0

  26. Now we can expose the real BNP - Front Page News - NewsSpotz

    […] not have to come at the expense of my dreams".5. It might force the media to re-evaluate how their churnalism aids the BNP. Rather than simply asking them inane questions about whether it is the racist party, […]

  27. Now we can expose the real BNP | Newpapers Collected

    […] It might force the media to re-evaluate how their churnalism aids the BNP. Rather than simply asking them inane questions about whether it is the racist party, […]





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