Racism and the tabloids

The hypocrisy of Question Time outrage

If you thought tabloid outrage over Nick Griffin's appearance on Question Time was hypocritical, you weren't alone. Anton Vowl at The Enemies of Reason blog has produced a very thorough picture essay on the subject, which we repost here in full.

NB: "Today" below refers to Friday 23 October, as that's when Anton made the original post.

Today's tabloids express mock outrage at the appearance of N*ck Gr*ff*n on the BBC Question Time programme. But they have short memories.

Here's today's Star:

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Hang on, though. Isn't that the same newspaper that did this?

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And this?

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The Express, meanwhile, is also clutching its pearl necklace, claiming that the party is going to get taxpayer-funded broadcasts at the next election. Not a big lead on Griffin, because there's apparently another twist in the Diana saga (and as ever the stock image of her wearing a seat belt, which would have saved her life in the crash, nutjob neenaw whoop-whoop conspiracy or no conspiracy).

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But it's got those because it's gained votes. I wonder why? I wonder which newspapers are read by BNP supporters? Maybe ones that say stuff like this

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Or this?

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Or even this?

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And not forgetting the all-time classic:

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Not some. Not five hundred. Not even a thousand. Not half. Not three-quarters. No. ALL. IN BIG RED LETTERS SO YOU'RE MADE CLEARLY AWARE THAT IT'S ALL.

Hey, and please let's not forget this:

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I almost didn't include this!

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Which is almost the same as this!

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But no. The Express doesn't like the BNP. They just happen to share entirely the same views on immigration, but Griffin is bad, because . . . well. I haven't quite worked out why he's bad. Maybe he doesn't hate Muslims enough for their tastes?

The Mail have also had a bash, but as ever they're more concerned with attacking their nemesis the BBC than they are about hand-wringing over Griffin:

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Having said which, I still think

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it's worth making the point

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that the Mail doesn't always steer so far away

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from using content

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which the BNP and "bigot" N*ck Gr*ff*n

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might completely agree with

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and it's not long

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before you might start thinking to yourself

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are they really protesting a bit too much? And what's the difference, really, between the BNP bigots and the supposedly mainstream newspaper which claims to distance itself from them so much?

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And you have to start thinking: do these newspapers which select certain types of images of ethnic minorities and use them again and again

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really have such different views or agendas from the likes of the BNP?

It's all very well people blaming Labour, or the BBC, or whoever, for the "rise" of the BNP. But if there has been a significant increase in BNP support -- and it hasn't translated into votes yet, despite a severe recession and growing unemployment -- perhaps that might have more to do with the legitimisation and absorption of their extreme views by newspapers creating scare story after scare story concerning race and immigration, often baseless stories created simply to scare? It's one thing going to a BNP meeting but it's quite another to hear exactly the same thing over the breakfast table from a publication which purports to report the facts.

But no. It's all the BBC's fault. Let's blame them.

 

Daniel Trilling is the Editor of New Humanist magazine. He was formerly an Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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The End We Start From imagines London underwater

Megan Hunter's fictional apocalypse is a tender one. 

It is six months after the flood. The nameless narrator of The End We Start From is a new mother and a refugee, and by the midpoint of the novel we have followed her and her baby from the “Gulp Zone”, where their London flat was swallowed, to a safe house that proved to be not safe enough, and then refugee camps, every move stripping life a little closer to the essentials. First what can be fitted in a car as you flee to safety, then what can be carried in your arms; first porridge, then only gruel.

Halfway through, the narrator and her baby make it to an island under the guidance of another new mother she befriended in the camps. Here, a family has established a small life of plenty. The narrator has left behind a “place of not-enough”, but here there is food to spare. Seeds grow into vegetables. The baby “likes to eat butter in chunks”. But where has the butter come from? There’s no mention of cattle on the island, no bucolic descriptions of churning. We’re told there is no electricity. So how do they have butter and why is it not rancid?

It’s a small thing, but an outsize irritant in a book whose prose is pared back to match the minimal existence it describes. Every detail feels weighted with significance because it was chosen over something else. Megan Hunter is a poet (this is her first novel), and her poetic instincts are underlined by the TS Eliot-referencing title, borrowed from Four Quartets: “What we call the beginning is often the end / And to make an end is to make a beginning. / The end is where we start from.”

Apocalypse and rebirth are central to Hunter’s story. Butter aside, it invokes a thoroughly plausible end of the world. Like Emily St John Mandel’s luminous Station Eleven, or Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy, you read it with the conviction that this is what it would be like. (These stories are told from the perspective of the resourceful fortunates who make it through. Apocalypse literature kindly dodges the reality that, if it came to it, most of us would die whimpering in a dirt hole.)

But realism is not the only dictate here. The End We Start From is also deeply invested with symbolism. It begins with the narrator going into labour: “Finally I am waterless, the pool of myself spreading slowly past my toes.” Maternity is a kind of apocalypse, an end to being one kind of self who lives one kind of life, and the beginning of another. Names, like everything else here, are cut back to the barest essentials, becoming just initials. The narrator’s husband is R, her in-laws are N and G, and her baby Z – an alphabetical end who is at the beginning of his life. Anyone who has welcomed the catastrophe of a newborn into their lives is likely to feel sympathy for this parallelbetween infant and Armageddon.

There is a cost to the allegory, though, and it comes through in moments when Hunter sacrifices the merciless logic of calculating survival in favour of giving play to her metaphor. Milk is, as it would be for a new mother, a theme. The milk in the narrator’s breasts that keeps her baby alive becomes an analogue for all sustenance: “As for food, I have started to think of it all as milk,” she says. “I wonder how long we would survive, how quickly human milk runs out in famine.” Perhaps it’s inevitable, then, that the unexpected gift of security and nourishment the narrator and Z find on the island should be represented through dairy; but it also punctures a world you could otherwise believe in utterly.

Hunter’s apocalypse is a tender one. There is violence and disorder at the start: one of the most affecting uses of Hunter’s spare style is when the narrator’s mother-in-law fails to return from a brutal trip to gather provisions, and the narrator simply announces: “No G.” But while R chooses isolation and suspicion of others, leaving his wife and child to make his own way, the narrator chooses humanity. She tells us how she “falls in love”, deep and quick, with those with whom she forms alliances. To borrow again from Four Quartets, “The houses are all gone under the sea” – but The End We Start From promises the possibility of life afterwards. 

The End We Start From
Megan Hunter
Picador, 127pp, £9.99

Sarah Ditum is a journalist who writes regularly for the Guardian, New Statesman and others. Her website is here.

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear