Far right extremism is on the rise. So why aren't journalists up to speed?by Hussein Kesvani / June 20, 2017 / Leave a comment
In the aftermath of yesterday’s terror attack outside a Mosque in London, a number of reporters noted that worshippers in the local community were hostile towards the journalists who arrived to cover unfolding events. Tweeting outside the scene, BuzzFeed’s James Ball noted that many of the worshippers had “lots of mistrust for the BBC,” claiming that the news service “lied all the time.” This sentiment has held, with people continuing to criticise the national press coverage. On Facebook livestreams, worshippers outside the Mosque all said the same thing: that “the media will whitewash what happened because the guy who did it isn’t a Muslim.” Some have even accused newspapers and TV channels of humanising Darren Osborne, the perpetrator of the attack—a generosity that wasn’t granted to the dark-skinned Muslim men who carried out the Westminster and London Bridge attacks weeks earlier.
Like most people, I watch the fall out of terror attacks on social media. Like many people, I expected the same script that social media always follows to play out: a couple of hours of right-wing twitter personalities trolling left-wing journalists, tweeting about civilizational war, posting memes about the evils of Islam. The following day, the media would bring on some of these twitter personalities as pundits, and a conversation which ought to be about terrorism would somehow morph into a debate about immigration, asylum and the threat of Muslim refugees—all while Britain’s Muslim communities would be expected to publicly repent.
Yet the fallout from yesterday’s attacks felt very different. Partially because of the near pin-drop silence from the typical right-wing pundits and talk show commentators—but also because of the reaction from the media itself.
There are, of course, very practical reasons as to why the Finsbury Park attacker was treated differently. Firstly, counter-extremism experts are still getting to grips with the threat of far-right extremism—a threat that has soared in the past few years according to officials in the Prevent programme. Print news media are likely not to have expected an incident of far-right extremism, and would have to rely on information from the police as it came in. Similarly, broadcast journalists at the scene, under the watch of Ofcom, couldn’t report anything without it being confirmed.
But that’s not to say that the anger of those worshippers—as…