Media incites hatred towards Muslims. Again
A classic 'look what those dastardly Muslims are up to now' front page from the Express from Tuesday 6th July.
It's also one of those classic examples of churnalism. It's a story that starts life in the regional press and then gets picked up by the nationals because it covers one of their favourite issues - one they know will push the buttons of their readers.
On Saturday, the local Express and Star explained it had been contacted by a few users of Darlaston swimming pool in Walsall who were critical of a new film that had been placed on windows for privacy reasons.
That wouldn't be newsworthy, but for the fact that some - although, according to the Council, not all - of the requests for the change had come from the Muslim community.
And suddenly, the tabloids are full of headlines about Muslims 'forcing' their views on 'us'.
The churnalism was obvious - the same people, saying the same things, appeared in every article. Some of them were locals, but inevitably the TaxPayers' Alliance popped up as well.
Matthew Elliott, the TPA's chief executive went so far as to say:
|It is bizarre to spoil a swimming pool like this just because of the demands of a very small group...it makes a big difference to the experience of using the pool.|
An attempt to find out if Elliott had been to the pool to see if it was actually 'spoiled' and what the 'big difference' was went unanswered, unsurprisingly. But they got their name in the paper again so they're happy.
By yesterday, the BBC, Mail and Sun had run the story and today the Mirror, Star and the Express followed.
None of them had gone to the centre, or done any actual journalism (copying and pasting quotes and phoning the TPA is not journalism, although you wouldn't know it from many papers today).
Every headline suggested that this happened solely because of Muslims. The Star and Mirror didn't bother to include the quote which pointed out:
|"We received a request from the Muslim Community to protect the modesty of swimmers. There were also requests made by some non-Muslim users as well."|
Most of the others left this until the end of their article. It's not convenient to their narrative to reveal that non-Muslims would be involved, so they try their best to ignore it, hoping their readers do the same.
The Express' online article carried a headline which talked of 'appeasing Muslims' - a word that seems to have been deliberately chosen.
The Mail and Sun both hugely over-exaggerated the extent of the changes. Swimmers plunged into dark after council covers swimming pool windows 'to protect Muslim women's modesty' claimed the Mail. Pool blacked out for Muslim swim ranted the Sun.
'Blacked out'? Really?
The Sun said:
|the local council has covered all 250 windows at the centre in Darlaston...the move has plunged the pool into permanent darkness|
|council staff have covered 250 windows with dark-tinted film|
The Mirror agreed that:
|All 250 windows at the pool have been covered|
This claim about the gloominess was boosted by one of the (apparently) furious leisure centre users who claimed the pool looked no different now as it did to her when she had cataracts.
But it wasn't true. The Mail (and the print edition of the Express) included pictures which clearly showed it wasn't 'all' the windows that were now covered:
So, this afternoon, Walsall Council issued a statement, attacking the:
|inaccurate and misleading media coverage of work carried out at Darlaston Leisure Centre.|
Have all 250 windows been blacked out? Not quite:
|The council has come under fire for applying a translucent film to 58 window panels|
Ah. But that still means it's pitch black inside, no?
|Anyone who will now use the pool will see that it's not in darkness at all. It’s like cling film, which allows in natural light; so this suggestion that its windows are blacked out are misleading and inaccurate.|
What about the Express' claim that the Muslims 'forced' this to happen?
|The funding for this work comes from Area Based Grant from the Government. We asked local people how public services could be more responsive to the needs of different cultural groups...
Adjustments are made to facilities from time to time in response to suggestions from people in the community.
We agreed it was a good idea and all users will benefit from these improvements.
So the Council responds to suggestions from local people and this is a reason to splash it on the front page and pour scorn on it.
As Councillor Anthony Harris says:
|"The same measures were taken at Bloxwich Leisure Centre around 10 years ago, in response to requests from the community there. It's a shame that such minor adjustments, aimed at encouraging more people to enjoy a healthy pastime, have provoked such a negative response."|
In essence, a leisure centre has added a few privacy measures to a swimming pool after suggestions from Muslims and non-Muslims.
The tabloids turn this into: Muslims force Council to black out all windows in a swimming pool so they can swim while ruining it for everyone else.
The backlash against Muslims on the newspaper comment pages has been as vicious, intolerant and ignorant as you might expect.