Something that a friend said to me a few days ago got me to thinking about a few things; we were talking about the murder of Lee Rigby and how the public and media reacted. Obviously, there is absolutely no denying that the event was horrific – a disgusting and senseless act of violence, spurred on by misplaced hatred that had no business being present; but even so, the reactions of the British public, as well as a few acts of ‘vengeance’ have been, to my mind, equally shameful. The English Defence League led marches, people attacked mosques, arson, degradation, threats, insults and every other possible form of cultural exclusion and attack have taken place since the events in Woolwich on May 22nd.
In truth I have felt shame as I have watched these events unfold, shame for being a part of a society that has allowed itself to resort to this kind of racist, ignorant and hideous activity; I have felt a shame that we, as a country that preaches multi-culturalism, still have to put up with this minority of society that takes it upon itself to deal out punishment for the wrongs that they feel have been done to them or to our nation; I feel a shame that these dregs of society still represent any percentage of our modern British population.
Unfortunately, the events that I have listed above are not a part of a phenomena restricted only to racial and cultural issues; every facet of human emotion – from sexual orientation to personal musical preference – is scrutinised and ostracised under the microscope of the collective human psyche. Every part of society feels prejudice in one way or another: from the rich to the poor, from the Goth to the Chav – ours is a society in which our every choice, opinion or personal inclination can be subject to a thorough investigation.
…within religion; before physics and biology, before the internet and television…
As well anything else and as well all of the above, mine and my friend’s conversation got me asking myself one key question: How do we as a society interact with our media?
The early media, I would argue, was largely a product, or rather largely evident, within religion; before physics and biology, before the internet and television people relied on their preachers, or priests, or Holy Scripture as the only truth in society that they could truly trust. Today we live in a society that is, however you look at it or feel about it, governed by a history based on religion. In modern society, to me, religion is an umbrella term for a system of political and bureaucratic authorities that aim to maintain power through the promise of death and torture in Hell if the Holy Being is defied, and the promised of everlasting life in Heaven if the Holy Being is appeased; to me modern religion it is a vast and outdated system of financial gain through psychological manipulation. And so it was throughout history: Henry VIII did not dissolve the monasteries and create the Church of England just so that he could divorce, annul and otherwise decapitate as he wished, and nor did Emperor Constantine begin Roman Catholicism so that he could pray in peace – both men used religion, Marx’s opiate of the masses, as a tool of power and control. Their legacy was cemented in the foundations of churches and temples to Christ – it is in this that I feel the modern media has seen its predecessor: Rupert Murdoch’s, for example, legacy is one of social control through fear-mongering newspapers and hate preaching television networks.
…would you want to hear more than a single, possibly biased, side of the story?…
Ignorance and miscommunication – the misinformation of the masses – in history through religion and today through television and the internet.
The media is a funny thing; for the vast majority of people there is almost a selective element to the process of receiving our news, whether it be conscious or subconscious; in youth we see our parents reading a particular paper or turning to a specific channel, so as we age we too read those papers and turn to those channels. How many people read The Sun or The Daily Mail simply because it was the paper that always sat upon their parents’ coffee table? Think about it though, and the selection process just listed seems littered with illogic. If you heard about a fight on the street for example would you believe the first person that told you about it? Or would you want to hear more than a single, possibly biased, side of the story? Why wouldn’t you look further, try and examine the event from every possible perspective? Those are the questions that have occurred to me when I’ve been thinking about our modern relationship with the media.
…a press that is strictly filtered by an all imposing and controlling government…
Why is it that modern society is so willing to accept only one side of a story? It almost seems to me that by following a story from only one point of view we restrict our own potential to take in the story in its fullest form. In Britain, our view of the Middle East or of the Global Economy is funnelled through to us through only a handful of media corporations – consider how many people will actually look beyond what they are told by the BBC when they see a story on the TV or internet and maybe you will start to see what I mean. The freedom of the press is a limited right, constrained and held back by national bias, assumptions and perspective.
Imagine North Korea or Nazi Germany; two nations where the population was, or is, limited in its knowledge by a press that is strictly filtered by an all imposing and controlling government. During Hitler’s reign the German population was alienated against Jews by a long and thorough campaign of anti-Semitic propaganda; today in North Korea, the population’s understanding of the outside world is entirely limited by a system of government fairy-tales and mythology that cover up any possible truth from beyond the borders of their nation.
…if you cut a dead body out of an image of a garden then the picture just becomes a pretty garden again…
We see these two nations and we find it strange – in history classes we comment upon how easily the German populations fell under Hitler’s spell and how strange it is that in Korea they do not question the authority of their leaders – but it is not strange at all to trust the only sources of media that we are exposed to. In Britain we do it every day.
We do not receive the local news from Syria or from Iraq; we do not live under the Korean regime. Maybe some of you might cite Al Jazeera or other similar news networks as an opposition to my argument, but then, if you think about it, what is Al Jazeera? It is government run network of media outlets that is, in every way, entirely derivative of Western media. You might argue that within the Medias that we do follow we see eye-witness reports and first-hand accounts from people that live in those places affected by whatever tragedy that we are following. But now consider how easily a producer or a director or an editor can manipulate a conversation or image – if you cut a dead body out of an image of a garden then the picture just becomes a pretty garden again – that, if it chose, could be the reality for any media outlet in the world, and for all we know it could be.
…they just believe what they are told…
Perhaps what I am trying to get at with this article is that we, as a nation, are a society that is entirely willing to accept and to trust the accounts that are readily available to us – every one of us has been guilty of accepting the first story we read as the ultimate truth without doing our own research to back the story up. So often we see something on the internet or on TV and we assume that what we have seen has to be true because it has been published upon a media outlet that we trust – but today with all of the resources that are so readily available to us, that should not be the case.
Perhaps the EDL are members of the public that never learnt this truth – perhaps they just read the newspapers that their parents read and they switch to the channels that their parents watched, and they just believe what they are told. When a person begins to trust the first thing that they see and the article that they see is written by a man biased by an inherent racism then can they be blamed? If this is the case and if we continue to find racist, homophobic and fear-mongering slants on the front covers of our national newspapers then can we ever hope to rise above the prejudices that continue to be thread into our society?
…just as the Bible and the Torah and every other Holy Scripture contains scenes of similar violence…
Lee Rigby was murdered by two men: British men of Nigerian descent, both had been to university and both claimed to be Muslim. The Qur’an does mention violence – but modern mainstream Islam does not preach it, just as the Bible and the Torah and every other Holy Scripture contains scenes of similar violence – in the past wars were waged for religion, but do they still need to be fought today?
Lee Rigby’s killers were labelled as Muslim by the media, and so the public reacted – his killers did not act for all of Islam, but certain members of the British public have reacted as if they did. On both sides of this coin we find minorities that have somehow found themselves wronged, and on both sides of this coin we find minorities that have committed heinous and unimaginable acts. So could the media be to blame?
The acts that we have heard so much about have been committed by a minute percentage of the population and so I ask myself the same question that I did when I wrote about America’s Gun Crisis: is the media acting as a catalyst for the continuation of violence by building the infamy of those that have committed the acts? And if this is the case, then are the media, in some small way, to blame for the revenge attacks upon Muslim communities that have taken place since Lee Rigby’s death on the 22nd of May?