Media Alert: Windrush Scandal – An Elephant in the Room?
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Windrush Scandal: An Elephant in the Room?
The Windrush scandal only blew up after 6 months of The Guardian covering cases of British citizens being detained, deported, denied work, housing, and benefits, or charged cast amount for NHS treatment, which they were fully entitled to.
In recent weeks the issue has been a top reporting priority, with some quarters of the media justifiably scathing of the government. The risk now is that issue and its severe implications will slide back down the agenda, as establishment media moves on to the next things while avoiding one of the most severe implications of all.
This week, Theresa May announced an annual Stephen Lawrence Day to commemorate the teenager who was murdered by racists 25 years ago. As repugnant as the killing was, the case was made especially notorious by the shoddy (at best) efforts of the Metropolitan Police to bring the murderers to justice. The Met was subsequently found to be “institutionally racist” by The Macpherson Report. Twenty years on from that report, the irony of May’s unveiling Stephen Lawrence Day just when her government has shown to be institutionally racist seems lost on many.
It is a matter of record that May sought to establish a “hostile environment for immigrants, and it was both predictable and known for years that people who were here entirely legally would suffer, not least on the basis of their ancestry.
As Aaron Bastani succinctly states for Novara Media, had most of those persecuted been white, the outrage would have happened sooner and with more ferocity.
The “Deport now, appeal later” provisions of legislation are a total inversion of what we suppose to be a founding principle of British justice: people were to be treated as guilty in the first instance, they could act on their innocence later. Hostile indeed.
In a few years under Theresa May (at the Home Office and as Prime Minister) “Go home” has gone from BNP slogan to the side of Home Office vans and converted to policy in practice.
In fact, May had wanted that can campaign to be even harsher, with an attempt to cover this up falling flat on its face.
For British citizens to be treated as guilty on the basis of ancestry is as slam-dunk a case of racist as it gets.
Reluctance to Use the “r-word”
Yet much of the media coverage has focused instead on bureaucratic matters, implying (as the government seeks to) that this is all some horrid red-tape mistake that is now being rectified. Blaming civil servants just for enacting policy is often an easy sell. Anyway, there’s been an apology now, case closed, move on.
Despite being slack on underlying ideology, the right-wing media have at least been sympathetic to the cause. Elderly people from Jamacia are fortunate enough to be deemed “good immigrants” in contrast to the regular victims of that media’s hate-preaching. Standing up for the Windrush Generation is a chance for a racist media to show how racist they aren’t.
Demands for some form of “amnesty” also have nefarious undertones. They invoke a sense of victim-blaming and the idea that we are doing people a favor, overlooking a transgression that didn’t take place.
Historical amnesia runs through this story like a stick of rock, as detailed in this Sundeep Lidher piece from the Runnymede Trust.
Racism is also prevalent in the saga, though saying so is clearly a bit too much for some. The likes of The Guardian, Independent, Scottish Herald, LBC’s James O’Brien and others have raised the issue. When Labour MPs like Dawn Butler have mentioned the “r-word” they have often been given an airing. But generally, The Conservatives have escaped the relentless degree of hostile scrutiny that Labour and the broad left are still exposed to in regard to anti-semitism. If coverage were balanced and proportionate, the question of institutional racism in government wouldn’t be absent from front pages for several weeks at least.
If the majority of establishment media act like there’s nothing more to see here and fail to hold this government to account for institutional racism, minorities and their allies in this country won’t be fooled. The gap between elite propaganda and everyday people will continue to grow, and it could fall to independent media to perform the basic role supposedly played by their richer and more professional counterparts.
Time to Celebrate the Art of Protest as The Festival of Debate Returns to Sheffield
Now in its fourth year, Festival of Debate is set to present its biggest programme yet. One of the largest politics festivals in the UK, the festival is run by Opus Independent with support from many partners, including Museums Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University and The University of Sheffield. 2018 headliners include Greek economist Yanis Varoufakis, ex-Labour Leader Ed Miliband, and bestselling writer and feminist Reni Eddo-Lodge. It’s sure to facilitate some brilliant debate in the steel city.
This year the Festival includes over 75 events with 10,000 tickets on sale. There really is something for everyone, from the ex-Labour and Green Party Leaders Ed Miliband and Natalie Bennet to great British Bake Off star Ruby Tandoh, a musical about the embattled American president entitled ‘Trump! The Musical!’ and a closing party marking 100 years of women’s suffrage with activist Helen Pankhurst and poet Hollie McNish.
The Media Fund Team will be there with our inaugural News Club Live event. A topical debate panel on the pressing issues facing the UK media, News Club Live will feature UK Hip-Hop star and activist Lowkey, Real Media’s Kam Sandhu, Guardian writer Lisa Mackenzie and Maya Goodfellow of Media Diversified.
Festival of Debate opens on 18th April and runs until 29th June. For the full Festival line-up and ticket information, please see: www.festivalofdebate.com
Picks of the Week
Our hand-picked selections from some of the best independent journalism around
After the University Strikes: Ideas for Pension Reform – Christine Berry, Open Democracy
The recent university strikes against proposed pension “reforms’ (now dropped for the time being at least) have gone under the radar for many. But the issue raises serious questions about pensions and the world of financialization more generally. Christine Berry argues for more democratization.
Amusing Ourselves to Death (podcast) – Real Media
Professor Bev Skeggs in conversation with Kam Sandhu about the increasing rise of surveillance using technology. This is often sold to us under the guise of improving health, environment, workplace efficiency and the natural appeal of gimmicky. But the implications of our rights can be terrifying
Find Real Media on Twitter @RealMediaGB
Worldbeater: Mohammed bin Salman – New Internationalist
Saudia Arabia: sponsor of terror, virtually genocidal in Yemen and as medieval as Islamic states get. Also firm UK allies. Is the change of guard as promising as some claim?
Find New Internationalist on Twitter @newint
Media Alert is a weekly bulletin discussing issues impacting on the UK independent media and highlighting some of the best recent work from the sector.
It’s brought to you by The Media Fund, a co-operative of over 30 partners seeking to raise funds and advocate for quality independent journalism.