Daily Mail: Headlines fuel xenophobia
Introduction: In his first article for OBV Usman Butt takes a look at the Daily Mail headlines and deconstructs how it is trying to manipulate the reader which ultimately causes arm to all of us. Usman’s argument is very compelling, and forces us to be on our guard.
The Daily Mail headline reads: ‘4,000 foreign murders and rapists we can’t throw out… and, yes, you can blame human rights again’. It is headlines such as this that create misleading impressions: impressions which dangerously feed into public anxiety and fuel xenophobia which seems to be heightened at a time of economic crisis. The headline creates an image in the readers mind, that there are 4,000 murders and rapists ‘on the loose’ and that the Human rights act is detrimental to ‘our personal security’. The article comes with images of a Congolese man who molested two young girls, while he waited for the outcome of his deportation hearing.
Whilst this case is clearly troubling, it is unique to this particular case and does not represent the wider range of cases. The 4,000 figure was published in response to Tory MP Priti Patel raising the issue in Parliament. However, the figure refers to 4,000 criminals not 4,000 murders or rapists, whilst the figure includes murders and rapists, it also includes other crimes including petty crimes. The second problem is that the article does not tell us if any of the ‘criminals’ have been convicted or not.
The Third problem is the image of the ‘dark-skinned’ immigrant, which creates associations between skin colour and nationality. The report does not tell us, what the demographic breakdown of the ‘criminals’ are, which means that we do not their country of origins.
As the article use the word ‘foreign criminals’ this can be said to include Americans, Australians, Canadians, French, Germans as well as Africans or East Europeans. The figure itself does not give any indications as to where these ‘criminals’ are from. Whilst 4,000 foreign criminals may sound alarming, according to the 2011 census up to 7.5 million people in Britain were born abroad. Equally we should could also note that in 2011 there were 5,700 arrests of Britons abroad according to the foreign office.
There is an unspoken narrative here and that is ‘dark-skin’ symbolize criminality and foreignness. Despite perceptions, not all immigrants are ‘dark skinned’ and not all ‘dark skinned’ people are criminals. Yet, this is the subconscious image, which conjures up when an image of a ‘dark-skinned’ person, who has happened to have committed a crime, is used.
The other point here is that, not all the 4,000 criminals who are alleged to be in the UK have used the Human Rights act to stay in the country. The Human rights act is being held up as the chief culprit in allowing these criminals to stay.
The Human rights act only prevents return to a country of origin if there is evidence, that on return the person in question faces torture or execution. In most cases, the person in question will only face these punishments, if the crime in-which they are accused, was committed in that country. Many people have been deported successfully. In addition to this the Human rights act does not only deal with rights of ‘foreigners’, but is a universal legislation that deals with citizen rights.
It is important that this story is reported, however the context which is reported, needs to be re-adjusted to reflect the reality. The current context as presented feeds into a wider perception, which is based on anti-European, anti-immigration and anti-multiculturalism and it, serves to alienate minorities. There are many ‘dark-skinned’ immigrants in the country, most of whom are law-abiding people, who work hard in trying to earn-a-living. The association with criminality creates an atmosphere of mutual suspicions and divides society into ‘them’ and ‘us’.