If anyone needed to know why groups like Tell Mama (as in Monitoring Anti Muslim Attacks) not only exist, but so often register concern about the standards of reportage applied to anything that concerns followers of The Prophet, today’s especially dismal display from the right-leaning press, another in a long line of attempts to frighten the public, should prove instructive.
What’s the story? Four men have been arrested at addresses in west and central London. One may be connected to ISIS, or whatever it’s calling itself this week. On the other hand, he may not. But one of the four was subjected to a Tasering on arrest, so this tells those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet that these are Really Scary Muslims and they can say whatever they want.
So while the Guardian warns “However, some past high-profile terror arrests have been based on intelligence that turned out to be inaccurate, and have led to accusations that police and MI5 have ramped up the nature of possible plots”, and declines to specify any actual threat, those on the right are sure that there was going to be beheading. Because ISIS means beheading, right?
The Mail was as sure as it needed to be: “Officials swooped amid heightened fears that fanatics who have returned from Syria are planning a high-profile gun attack or a beheading. It is understood to be the first plot in Britain that is directly linked to the IS terrorists responsible for the murders of British hostages Alan Henning and David Haines”. You’ve seen our scary front pages? It’ll be like that, then.
Even the supposedly more upmarket Maily Telegraph was at it: “First alleged Isil terror plot on UK foiled amid growing fears of beheadings ... Four men arrested in London suspected of plotting ‘significant’ attack in UK with alleged links to Syria terror group Isil”. Yes, it was called ISIL the week when the Tel last looked. And “significant” still does not mean “beheading”.
And, as if the “beheading” rubbish was not bad enough, Sun readers were treated to an appallingly patronising front page: “As Police swoop on first suspected Islamic State terror cell in the UK, the Sun urges Brits of all faiths to stand up to extremists ... United Against IS”. A woman wearing a Union Flag headscarf is shown to supposedly illustrate this call to patriotism.
But what is really being said here is as plain as it is repellent: “I say, you Muslim chappies and chapesses out there ... you be good little Brits and don’t go anywhere near any of these terrorist types that we know you see down the Mosque. And don’t get uppity when Our Brave Rozzers break your door down and Taser you”. It’s as patronising and gratuitous to the Police as it is to its target.
The desperation of selling papers by frightening readers knows no bounds.