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Published on May 23rd, 2013 | by Joe Lo
Image © Minnesota Historical Society


Woolwich: Murder and the Media

A man was murdered in South London yesterday. Like all deaths this was a tragedy and like all murders it was a terrible crime. There is no debate on these facts and the point doesn’t need to be labored. What is debatable and worth exploring is the reaction to the murders from the press, public and politicians; all feeding off one another.

My girlfriend is a South Londoner and when I told her there had been a murder there her reaction was “oh no, not again” and carried on cooking. I told her it seemed to have made national news. “Really? Why?” she asked. A good question. 152 teenagers have been murdered in London since 2005, none of them have made national news so why has this one?

Perhaps it was the gruesomeness, the fact the man was killed with a machete and not the usual knife or gun. However this isn’t unique. A few weeks ago a 75-year old man from Birmingham was killed with a machete while walking home one evening. The difference was that, in Birmingham, the victim was Pakistani and the killer was white, whereas, in Woolwich, the victim was white and the killer  was African (and apparently a Muslim). The press reported the Birmingham murder as an “unprovoked attack” and the Woolwich murder as driven by a hatred of white people. The Woolwich murders were reported to be “Muslim-looking” whereas the Birmingham murderers ethnicity and religion were ignored. Other white killers include Stuart Hazell, Dale Cregan, Raoul Moat, and Peter Sutcliffe. A British soldier was jailed in 2011 for drunkenly stabbing an 11-year old Afghan boy. Has anyone every suggested there’s a problem in the White community or that Christianity isn’t a religion of peace? No, because elements of the media have an agenda against Muslims and immigrants which it has used this tragedy to pursue, in the same way that the recent Philpott murder was used to further their agenda against those receiving social security.

Another way in which the media have sought to further this agenda is by labeling the murder, a “terrorist act”. None of the other murders I’ve mentioned were defined in this way.  There is no easy definition of terrorism but most people agree that it is something that is an act of violence, carried out against civilians, intended to create fear to achieve a political goal. Whether the victim of the Woolwich murder counts as a civilian is debatable, he was a serving soldier but was not on active duty. Whether the killers really had an intended political goal, such as the withdrawal of British troops from foreign countries, in mind is also debatable. However, what does fit the definition of terrorism, is the two attempted attacks on two mosques last night. A man attempted to burn down a mosque in Braintree, Essex and another group of men vandalised a mosque in Gillingham, Kent. This was a clear attempt to create more fear amongst the Muslim community and I suspect to intimidate them into emigrating. As such it is reminiscent of Kristallnacht, the night of the broken glass, when, in Germany in 1938, a German soldier was killed by a Jew, riots broke out, synagogues were attacked and the Jews were told to leave. Let’s hope this comparison is hysterical and unjustified.

Why does the media have an agenda against Muslims? This is a complicated question and impossible to answer without oversimplifying (Chomsky’s manufacture of consent provides a fantastic fuller answer). So I’ll oversimplify and say that private media is owned by the rich. Their readers are feeling the pinch from austerity and cuts and are looking for someone to blame. An obvious group of people to blame are the rich, people who have more than their fair share of the wealth. As our system has elements of democracy, if people blame the rich, politicians may be moved to act against the rich. The Murdochs of this world seek to avoid this by blaming anyone else. “Immigrants!” They say, “the country’s full and we’ve got to look after our own first”. They use tragedies like this to further demonise immigrants, which they’ve linked to Muslims in the public imagination, by saying “they’re a violent threat to our way of life, how ungrateful, get them out!”.

We need to stand up against these hearse-chasing attempts to divide our communities. Violence is wrong. Hatred is wrong. Bigotry is wrong. Justice is right. Let’s bring the murderers and terrorists to justice, calmly but forcefully, regardless of their religion or the colour of their skin and not let them divide us.

Please note that all blog posts do not represent the views of Catch21 but only of the individual writers. We also aim to be factually accurate and balanced across all content taken as a whole.

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About the Author

Joe Lo

Joe is a 22-year old recent Politics graduate from the University of Sheffield and is currently job-seeking in London. He is now volunteering at Campaign Against the Arms Trade and Catch21 and is most interested in domestic social justice and the plight of the Palestinians. Follow him on twitter @jlo5739

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