The BBC and Sky News have reached a new low last week, preying on migrants crossing the English Channel in the hunt for a news story. In the footage posted by both outlets there is a clear cat and mouse scenario that is played out with a complete absence of self awareness on the parts of the broadcasters. The well-dressed white journalists, safe from peril and high up on ship decks, chase down crowded dinghies overflowing with brown people. This image alone seems almost too surreal to process, upon first viewing I struggled to believe the broadcast wasn’t an excerpt from a new Black Mirror series, or a new apocalyptic movie highlighting the recent immigration crisis in Europe in dramatic fashion. To my horror the images I was witnessing were indeed very real.
With Nigel Farage recently re-emerging from his middle England swamp and demanding a symbolic declaration of emergency in the Channel, the situation was clearly worsening. With record breaking numbers of migrant filled boats crossing over, deemed ‘illegal’ by the British government, it is clear that something needs to be done about the dangerous ways in which these people are entering the country.
Instead of a humanitarian response, or a pragmatic approach of helping people whose homes we destroy, the UK has taken the good old gung-ho approach with talk of deploying the Royal Navy, blaming the French, outlawing refugees and sending people back to their war-torn countries. The lack of a human response to such a complex human problem outlines the very nature of the issue. Creating fictitious enemies in the face of a humanitarian crisis only serves those in control of Britain. Once upon a time the ‘not our problem’ attitude could at least be considered, but this privilege was revoked the second that our government’s meddling in Middle Easter affairs directly resulted in countless people forcibly fleeing their homes and leaving in their millions for Europe. This is very much our problem, we assisted in creating the conditions abroad that lead to mass migration and we must help to resolve it.
The irony of blaming refugees for fleeing the raging bombs of Western countries is forever lost on our media. As opposed to pointing the finger inwards and contemplating our involvement in the destruction of the Middle East, we find an easy scapegoat in the brown faces washed ashore on our beaches. A dark shadow of threatening illegal immigrants is cast over Dover’s white cliffs, scaring the population and pushing them into the arms of hate and racism.
The Islamophobia created by the initial mass migration of those from largely Muslim countries was used as fuel for the Brexit movement, culminating in the success of the ‘Leave’ campaign, overseen by Farage and his questionable ‘British’ values. Since then the further race divide in the UK has caused many problems both internal and external. These issues again culminated in the media frenzy surrounding ISIS-groomed teenager Shamima Begum, who was endlessly hated and ridiculed. Using this individual case as a false indicator of a widespread problem threatening to rot the Western world to its core, inciting a new level of xenophobia in your average EDL geezer. Hate speech has no place in the modern world, pitting people against each other creates distance between people but does not work to solve any issues, whether the speech in question is made by a member of ISIS, or a ultra-nationalist Brit.
Now, to take a look at some of the more apparent and blatant attempts to stabilise the migrant fear in the UK, we can examine the two videos in question from Sky and the BBC. The vultures riding on high powered boats chasing down the rubber rafts as they struggle to stay afloat is an image that has really stuck with me. I find the blatant disregard of the fellow man deeply disturbing, as posh English accents attempt to interview people who are fighting for their survival. Even the camera angle of the clips sets a tone in the viewers mind, a downwards glance at the struggle of people fleeing terror from the comfort of our own homes.
Images of a would-be-Gogglebox-star family fill my head, gathering around their television set to snarl and mutter abuse about the immigrants who are supposedly ruining their beloved Britain one boatful at a time. The way in which these scenes are put together and the methods used to peer into the struggle of the refugees, are designed to dehumanise the subjects. The creation of media spectacle takes away any human reaction such as empathy and creates a disconnect between the viewer and the subjects, in these moments we are not meant to think of these people as our friends or neighbours, but foreign invaders here to threaten our way of life.
There is nothing good to come of the pure unadulterated voyeurism of the BBC and Sky here, it is turning human travesty into a magnificent spectacle plain and simple. The comparisons of the coverage to a sort of new age reality show are there to be made, as mundane wittering from fleets of spectators plays over the real-life pain of the ‘contestants’. In this nightmare situation, from the perspective of the refugees, the arrival of these useless observers merely acts as extra antagony to their already dire situation. The news staff offer no help, only questioning their motives as they try to clear water from their boat as to avoid drowning in plain view of the British public. The method of dark entertainment featured in series like ‘Benefits Street’ and ‘Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away’ has seeped through to the very fabric of our media. Even our favourite “impartial” BBC is joining in, like hunters on safari they foam at the mouth whilst chasing down their pray.
When I speak of the picture taken in Turkey of a small, lifeless body of a Syrian boy washed ashore trying to flee for his life but brutally killed in the treacherous conditions, you are sure to remember and recoil at the horror of the image. There is empathy inside all of us, we felt it then and we must feel it now. We are not being invaded; we are killing people by turning our backs on them. We cannot idly watch as thousands wash up on our beaches, we cannot recreate those haunting images on our own shores. Some charities, such as safepassage.org.uk are working hard to offer alternative routes into Britain, but are not at all helped by news broadcasters that portray migrants as perpetrators rather than victims. Opening our arms is the only appropriate response here, only by welcoming the migrants can we help them, or maybe consider committing less war crimes in the future, so that people will not have to run from homes now reduced to rubble.
The memory loss of the British people is stark, when the outrage felt in the wake of some of the tragic tales of escape cannot be recalled in order to prevent the exact same deaths from happening over and over again. We have become stuck in a very exact moment in time, around us moves the world but here we are. If it is possible to have any optimism towards this never ending crisis, it lies in any inherent good of the British people, and the tireless work of charities aiming to assist international victims of war seeking refuge. If the media continue succeeding in dividing us so that we can be conquered by hatred and racism, then we will not progress and will never learn from our mistakes. The targeting of immigrants by the British media is, yet again, distracting from internal threats and acting as a cynically calculated move designed to instil hate in the population. The pollution emitted from the British media machine is far more damaging to its people than any external threat of immigration. Remember that the power of media consumption lies in your hands. Start to hold such organisations accountable for their intrusive and dirty tactics, the plight of migrants should not act as our source of entertainment.
Words by Ewan Blacklaw