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Sunday 3 April 2011

Media Reaction to EDL Blackburn Protest: implicit and explicit Messages

On this occasion I thought that it would be of interest for some readers to provide a quick roundup of mainstream media coverage of yesterday’s EDL protest and UAF counterdemonstration. As, thankfully, there was little violence in Blackburn, most of the press seems not to have bothered with running a story in its wake, with the notable exceptions of the Daily Mail and the Daily Star. If any of the mainstream papers possess a readership likely to sympathise with at least some aspects of the EDL’s cause, it is these two, so the manner in which they report EDL demonstrations is particularly salient.

Although there is not time to cover all reports, I have chosen what I consider to be the most significant on a national level – the BBC website, Daily Mail and Daily Star – combined with two local papers – the Lancashire Evening Post and Pendle Today – as well as the Socialist Worker online, to span the compass of conventional news sources that most people are likely to encounter. Radio and television however fall beyond the purview of this piece. I decided to examine the SWP’s reporting of the day, for it after all, is the animating intelligence behind the UAF; what it has to say on this matter is thus of particular pertinence, for it allows us a glimpse into the alternative worldview of the EDL’s most rabid opponents, and the manner in which this is processed and operationalised as mobilising propaganda for its counterdemonstrations.

In reading any report, it is of course important to note the nuances of phraseology, the juxtaposition of information to imply certain things or suggest associations where none may exist, and the general tenor given to articles by their headlines. What I present here will be my own general impressions synthesised from having read and digested all of the aforementioned sources, but for the sake of comparison, I thought that it might be useful to introduce what I shall term a ‘demonising buzzword tally’, which will enable us to assess the degree of bias or objectivity in each of the reports. However, simply counting the number of demonising buzzwords doesn’t tell us everything, as articles vary considerably in length and the words may cluster around certain instances of activity. So, with that caveat, I shall proceed.

Negative buzzwords commonly employed by the media in relation to the EDL include ‘racist’, ‘far-right’ and ‘extremist’. Likewise, even if such reports were to be stripped of this language, they would still display a general bias through their uncritical reporting of the UAF and the routine regurgitation of what its representatives claim to be ‘the truth’ about ‘the racist EDL’. Indeed, simply by referring to the UAF as ‘anti-fascist protesters’, this implies that whatever or whoever it is protesting against must by definition therefore be ‘fascists’ or ‘fascistic’. This is a very clever ploy.

Taking the headlines first of all, in order of descending objectivity they are:
Interestingly, it is the Daily Mail and Daily Star which carry the most negative headlines about the demonstration and which single out the EDL for condemnation without any reference to the UAF. This should be seen as significant, for both papers, as mentioned earlier, possess readerships that can to a certain extent be considered as potentially sympathetic to the EDL. Only a few weeks ago, the Daily Star had a brief flirtation with the EDL during which it ran a succession of stories which were either neutrally worded or inclined slightly in favour of the protest group. The furore surrounding that phase however appears to have precipitated an editorial volte-face, and the Star has now gone into full attack mode against the street movement.

Likewise, the fact that the Mail has turned the full weight of its guns on the EDL (a decision unpopular with the majority of its readers if the associated comments section is anything to go by) suggests that this is actually a recognition of the EDL’s growing strength, and that our political masters in Whitehall have given the paper a nudge and instructed it to take a certain editorial line in an effort to take the wind out of the sails of public support. The Star article contained two uses of demonising terms: ‘thugs’ and ‘far-right’, whereas the tally for the Mail was rather higher with six words/terms overall: ‘vile’, ‘thugs’, ‘far-right’, ‘extremists’, ‘hate protest’ and ‘sinister’.

The headlines from the local press, although seemingly bland, likewise provide the critical reader with some key information: don’t upset the locals as this could lose us readers. There is thus an unwillingness to write overly disparaging pieces about the EDL, which is interesting, as it is suggestive of significant local support. Moving onto the ‘demonising buzzword tally’ for a moment, there are no such words in the Lancashire Evening Post article, and only one ‘far-right’ in the Pendle Today piece. Almost as neutral as these local reports was the one produced by the BBC website, which is a surprise, for previously it has provided some very unbalanced coverage of EDL protests which has made liberal use of demonising terminology. On this occasion however, its report has been commendably balanced and contained no demonising buzzwords. It’s not often that I say this, but on this occasion: well done BBC!

Lastly, we move to the Socialist Worker Online, and it doesn’t fail to disappoint in its generous usage of demonising buzzwords which are liberally employed throughout the length of the piece. It thus yields up the following impressive tally of stigmatising terms in referring to the EDL: 
  • Racist/racists – 8 
  • Racism – 1 
  • Fascism – 1 
  • Scum – 1  
Morevoer, just to sledgehammer the message home that they’re ‘fighting racism’ because you might not have caught on to their subtle allusions to it in the text, they also pepper the article with four instances of ‘anti-racist’ and ‘anti-racists’. It is a risibly poor piece of journalism, and could have been written by a revolutionary Marxist random text generator. I would certainly encourage you to read their article though, as it does give a wonderful insight into the curious minds of our opponents and the alternative reality within which they operate.


  1. The use of demonising terminolgy can only be tackled by organising complaints so that - 'Socialist Worker' aside - a more neutral and objective coverage of nationalist and patriotic organisations becomes the norm in the media. %This might be achievable for TV and radio who at least in theory have charters compelling them to operate with balance and impartiality, newspapers are less likely to be neutral however. I complained to Sky News about their use of the pejorative term 'extremist' and 'far-right' to describe the EDL as well of their use of the misleading term 'anti-fascist demonstators' . As you have stated above, I pointed out to Sky that the use of the term 'anti-fascist' was to adopt partiality in their reporting, as the assertion that the EDL or BNP are 'fascist' is one which opponents of these organisations wish to assert, but which is not only contestable but has no basis in fact. Sky was therefore acting to endorse the UAF case. I didn't see any Sky News coverage of the EDL Blackburn demonstration but I would be interested to know if a neutral position has bow been adopted. I doubt it as the NUJ Codes on "reporting" 'racist' oganisations probably still holds sway.

    As for The Daily Mail and Express, I have long held the view that their function is to coralle a politically disenchanted,nationalistic inclined readership so as to control and ultimately direct the natural political sympathies of this same readership away from natioanalistic organisations and back to the Tory Party and,also, in the case of The Express a nudge in the direction of UKIP thrown in for good measure.

  2. You're right, and I'm wondering whether the recent slight toning down in BBC reporting of the EDL might reflect the fact that the broadcaster has already received a considerable number of complaints with respect to the language that it has employed.

    With respect to your opinion of the Daily Mail and Express, I am also in agreement. They do shunt people into the dead end of voting Tory. Given that the contemporary Conservative Party is nothing of the sort, but instead a globalist, politically correct multiculturalist party, this is suicidal (speaking from a nationalist perspective of course).


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