From a far-right magazine linking Islam with violence, to a degreading immigrant front-page story with no legitimate sources, these September highlights are an overview of the most significant results of our monitoring of traditional and new media in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, and the United Kingdom.
Greece – Newspaper runs degrading immigrant story with no legitimate sources
Date of publication: 27 September 2018
Media Outlet: Makeleio, daily Greek newspaper run by the conspiracist and anti-establishment journalist Stefanos Chios.
Headline: “An atrocious spectacle of cannibalism – Illegals butcher cats and dogs, they skewer them and eat them.”
Description of the anti-migrant content: This story was published on Makeleio’s front page, and accused a group of migrants of butchering cats and dogs, and subsequently eating them. The newspaper branded these men as cannibals, pedalling an ideology that migrants are ‘dangerous’ and do not belong in their host countries. Apart from the headline on the front page, there is a brief piece on the 10th page of the newspaper, explaining that a single anonymous source saw this incident take place.
Myth debunked: This article has no reliable sources. Running a front page story based on one anonymous source is not good journalism, as there is no way of verifying the source’s claims. The source is not named and very little information is actually given about the incident. The article also follows the narrative frequently used in relation to immigrants, mainly Muslim immigrants, as being savages. The reference to cannibalism in the headline highlights this. In this example, Makeleio ran an extremely provocative headline and front page without providing any real background or facts about the case. This is not the first time Makeleio has published an article of this calibre; the publication is known for its sensationalist and often misinformed media reports.
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France – TV commentator claims minorities have an easy road to success
Date of publication: 22 September 2018
Media Outlet: TV show “On n’est pas couché” (“We are not sleeping yet”) broadcast on the public TV channel France 2.
Author: Young TV commentator, Charles Consigny. He is already known for conservative polemics and discourse.
Description of the anti-migrant content: During an interview on the show “We are not sleeping yet”, Consigny stated: "Today, in fact, it is almost easier to succeed when you are a son of migrants, black and faggot than when you are a ‘native’ white French and heterosexual.” He went on further to say that “media kindness” and “political correctness” are very common in today’s world. His guest on the show, singer Kiddy Smile, immediately reacted to the statement saying that he found Consigny’s remarks “horrible”. Fellow commentator Christine Angot also made her disapproval clear.
Myth debunked: The idea that minorities are given an easier path in today’s world over those from non-minority groups is a claim often made by those opposing immigration and the integration of minorities. It is true that in some countries in recent years, more attention is paid to making work environments more inclusive. This includes selecting candidates from a more diverse ethnic pool, and therefore creating a more diverse workforce. However, this does not mean that it is easier for minorities to succeed than it is for ‘native’ candidates. What is actually happening is equality. The situation that Consigny seems to be describing matches this well-known quote perfectly: “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” What is happening is that slowly, minorities are getting an equal playing field when it comes to issues like employment; this is not privilege, but equality.
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Belgium – Politician retweets anti-migrant content from a known Holocaust-denier
Date of publication: 10 September 2018
Author: Theo Francken, Belgian N-VA (New Flemish Alliance) politician. He is the Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration in the Michel Government. Francken has attracted criticism in the past for spreading anti-migrant ideas.
Description of the anti-migrant content: Francken retweeted two tweets by Peter Imanuelsen in relation to recent elections in Sweden. Imanuelsen is a far-right internet personality who has denied the Holocaust and spread homophobic messages in the past. The first tweet, which Francken re-tweeted without comment, stated that the Social Democrats were having their worst election result since 1908. The second tweet was about the election results from the Swedish area of Rinkeby, which Imanuelsen alleges to be a no-go zone with a 90% migrant population. Along with this tweet, Francken said “electoral gold”. After receiving criticism over the tweets, Francken deleted both, claiming he thought the tweets were from a journalist.
Myth debunked: There are two main issues here; the author of the original tweets and the message behind the actual content of the tweets, Peter Imanuelsen has published content in the past denying the Holocaust and regularly posts degrading and hateful words about Islam and immigration. Theo Francken is a Belgian politician with a large online following; he should not be republishing content from a well-known alt-right conspiracy theorist. Even though he did delete the tweets after receiving negative feedback, and claims he thought Peter Imanuelsen was a journalist, Francken should have checked his source before retweeting. The tweet shared by Francken also implies and reinforces the narrative that the Left is importing immigrants to vote for them. The fact that he agrees to call Rinkeby a no go-zone reinforces the stigma that zones with a high percentage of migrants are dangerous.
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Germany – Far-right magazine links Islam with violence
Date of publication: 17 September 2018
Media Outlet: Compact Magazine, a far-right magazine and part of the so-called "alternative media"
Author: Christian Schwochert
Headline: “Nine-year-old migrant attacks fellow pupil with a knife in Chemnitz”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: This article is about an incident in which a nine-year-old migrant attacked a fellow pupil with a knife. The author says that "especially in countries shaped by Islam" it is common for young children to be forced to attend the ritual slaughter of animals and "apparently, in these places [Muslim countries] people are of the opinion that one cannot learn to use any weapon used to stab early enough". The author also claims that cases such as these are occurring more frequently in Germany and that they are a "consequence of an over-dose of early childhood Islamic/Muslim indoctrination", thus drawing a connection between an upbringing with Islam and a propensity to violence.
Myth debunked: Linking Islam with violence is a technique often used by the far-right media, in order to scare the public about Muslim communities. This case is an example of taking an isolated incident and applying it to an entire community; one violent act by a Muslim means all Muslims are violent. It is a common narrative used following terrorist attacks, even though such terrible events do not reflect Islam. It has to be noted that this case is about a nine-year-old immigrant child; there is a lot of background information missing here, such as what trauma this child might have experienced and whether he is receiving support in his host country. The incident took place in Chemnitz, an area which has seen a steep rise in anti-Muslim hate and antisemitism in recent weeks. The Compact Magazine article reached a large audience, with 7449 Facebook interactions and 2544 Facebook comments. Given the provocative way the piece was written, this article could add more fuel to the flames in a place like Chemnitz. Journalists have a responsibility to be aware of exacerbating tensions and how it journalism can impact on communities.
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UK – Islamophobic Scout leader given a free rein in daily newspaper
Date of publication: 9 September 2018
Media Outlet: Daily Mail, conservative British tabloid
Author: Sarah Oliver and Jonathan Petre
Headline: "Can you give Scouts canoe lessons while wearing a full Islamic veil? Absolutely not, says Brian, who devoted a lifetime to the Scouts but was kicked out after saying a Muslim Scout leader looked like Darth Vader"
Description of the anti-Muslim content: This article is an interview with Brian Walker, a Scout master who was permanently excluded after comparing fellow Scout leader Zainab Kothdiwala to Darth Vader, because she was wearing a niqab. In the article, Brian is painted in a favourable light by the Daily Mail journalists saying that Walker “dared to suggest” she might endanger children by wearing a niqab and that it was “an outburst which may be considered incendiary in our politically correct times”. The authors downplay the comments and seem to suggest that the measures taken following the remarks were over-the-top and unnecessary. The article also republished Walker’s original hateful remarks, including comments such as: “how sad and disappointed I am that the whole Scout mission is to push a politically correct agenda of multi-faith brain washing, anything that denigrates Christianity.” Lastly, the authors show bias towards Walker by outlining his life achievements, including building an orphanage in Uganda and serving in the Special Air Service without giving an equal voice to Zainab Kothdiwala.
Myth debunked: The main issue here is the editorial methods used in the article. The original incident happened several months ago and at the time, Walker received a lot of criticism and was expelled from the Scouts. The authors of this Daily Mail article seem to be of the opinion that Walker was wrongly punished, and that his Islamophobic remarks were only brought to light because we live in a politically-correct world. The authors are also guilty of giving the spotlight to an individual who is guilty of hate speech; they give Walker space to explain and defend himself without giving another party a chance to properly respond. This, in combination with elaborately outlining Walker’s life achievements, guides the reader to conclude that Walker was wrongly fired for hate speech and that in fact; he is just an upstanding Scout leader with concern for children’s safety. It is an extremely unprofessional way to cover this incident. Moreover, at a time where the Muslim veil is a sensitive topic due to Boris Johnson’s recent comments, journalists should be particularly careful about how they construct such stories.
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