The British Metro newspaper – issued free throughout London’s rail and tube network, is published by Associated Newspapers Ltd, the Publishers of the rightwing newspapers The Daily Mail, and The Mail on Sunday. These publishers follow a staunch conservative approach in their paid newspapers, but have to tone down the more obvious xenophobic and racist rhetoric in the London Metro, asLondonis an acknowledged multicultural city. The Metro is a ‘free’ newspaper that covers its costs through the extensive use of advertising, the effectiveness of which is achieved only through a large number of commuters being inclined to pick up a copy whilst on their journeys. This approach tends to work, because the Metro format is designed for the ‘quick read’. More than this, however, but copies of the newspaper are left on trains, buses and tubes that are picked-up by other travellers, so the advertisement and the news content is spread even further afield. The news may be presented in a brief manner, but it is far from being impartial. Every news outlet carries with it a political agenda. All news is gathered and interpreted through an ideological filter that appears as misleadingly ‘fair’ and ‘impartial’ as the journalists and editors can make their articles appear, whilst at the same time propagating a political bias. This means that the subtle and underlying ideological content is obscured by the superficial presentation of information relating to an incident, a happening or an event. The ‘news’, that is the reporting of the news, is used as a means to inform the audience not only of events that have occurred, but in so doing, also influence the audience to view (and interpret) those events in a certain political light, so that the presentation of random ‘facts’ becomes automatically associated with a particular view.
The concept of ‘race’, and ‘racism’, are considered dirty words in the UK’s polite society. Although a certain type of racism is deemed ‘incorrect’, it is true that a fundamental racist interpretation is accepted as ‘valid’, and viewed as ‘common sense’, or being a legitimate product of ‘freedom of speech’. Officially accepted racism is not allowed to be called ‘racist’ as such a description automatically judges the perpetuators as peddlers of ‘race-hate’. Instead, these kind of racist views are presented as the legitimate grievances of a population ‘forced’ by the uncaring governments they continuously elect, to live with policies that allow ‘foreigners’ into the country, and whose presence is a threat to the moral and cultural fabric of the nation. There is acceptable racism, and unacceptable racism, with the former ‘denying’ it’s racial content and motivation. The rightwing press walks a thin line between vaguely condemning the most blatant acts of racial violence, whilst simultaneously perpetuating racist viewpoints and interpretations, that are often the basis and motivation for racially motivated criminality. The British Daily Mail, for instance, whilst campaigning for the murderers of Stephen Lawrence to be brought to justice, routinely print and endorse news articles of an intolerant, xenophobic and deeply discriminatory manner, the ideological rhetoric of which, serves as the basis of rightwing, racist thought. Historically speaking, of course, this should not be surprising, as The Daily Mail openly supported the political stance of Adolf Hitler, just prior to the outbreak of WWII, and it continues, as a product of an historical process, to be wedded to rightwing rhetoric and the British Conservative Party.
Due to its relative mainstream popularity, and the fact that it has to keep an eye on the electoral process, it lacks the expressive freedom of the far-right publications associated with fringe political parties and extremists. However, despite these practical limitations, it manages quite well to perpetuate a clearly racist rhetoric through its reporting methods. The page from the London Metro below is an interesting case in point, and serves to demonstrate that even when market forces influence the shape and feel of a newspaper, racist rhetoric can still be created through the use of subtle imagery and deliberate placement. This page features three articles. One is about a local British council (Plymouth) exploring the possibility of ‘banning’ foreign students from a shopping mall in the area, the next features a ‘gorilla’, and the other carries comments from the British prime minister, David Cameron:
LondonMetro Newspaper 10.1.12 – Page 7.
Perhaps the most bizarre placement on this page is the speech by the prime minister of the UK, which is given a tiny section at the bottom left hand corner, below a picture of an ‘ape, and a story about a local council. Why would an utterance by a rightwing Tory prime minister be treated with such disdain and apparent indifference, by a newspaper that deliberately prints racist material, and which ardently works to secure the election of the Conservative Party? The only logical conclusion is that the prime minister’s opinion is at odds with the editorial approach of The Daily Mail and the London Metro. Cameron admits that the UK has ‘a lot more to do’ to end racial discrimination, and such an opinion does not sit well with a newspaper that peddles such discrimination as a means to keep circulation up. The question must be asked ‘why?’ such a potentially news worthy story is not on the front page of the London Metro. The prime minister of the UK, after all, is condemning racism as it currently is perceived to exist within UK society. Instead, the editors of the London Metro – a newspaper provided ‘free’ to the multicultural population of the capital city – decided to relegate this story to the bottom of page 7. Placed above, in large letters, is the headline about banning foreign students from a shopping mall in the county of Devon. This crackpot scheme has been deemed more news worthy than the prime minister condemning racism in the UK. The point of the story – and one suspects the ‘point’ the editing staff intended to make – is that ‘foreigners’ routinely break the law, and should be banned. The story is about the prposed banning of foreign students from a shopping mall – but of course, the real message for the metro reader – the underlying message – is that ‘all foreigners’ should be banned from British institutions, and of course fromBritain. The fact that the local council was clearly advised that such a plan is ‘against the law’, did not effect the Metro editors, went ahead with the story because they felt that some kind of higher (political) truth is being served by doing so. Further more, this kind of story is used by the rightwing press because they feel that it represents a deep uneasiness that exists throughout the land, whereby the ‘true’ opinion of the British people is being stifled by ‘political correctness’. The Daily Mail and the London Metro, of course, also view themselves as the ‘true’ representatives of the British people, and by reporting the council’s potentially illegal action – they feel that a greater good is being served.
It is exactly this apparent ‘good’ that provides the ideological underpinning for the arrangement of this page. On the surface it appears merely a random selection of news stories placed according to space availability, indeed it is exactly this deception that editors repeat throughout the newspaper, as and when stories of this nature happen to coincide. The presentation of the ‘news’ may be brief, but the implicit psychological effects are long lasting. So subtle is this kind of prejudicial placement that any one who perceives its true nature are branded paranoid and deliberately misleading others into misreading the newspaper, and in so doing, misrepresenting the real motive – which is always the alleged unbiased reporting of the news. The above page clearly shows an ulterior motive at work that is far less subtle nature than usual. It is clear that the Metro does not agree with the labelling of the banning of foreign students from a Devon shopping mall as ‘racist’, because it chooses to begin the report with the very first word being placed in ‘quotes’ – that word is of course ‘racist’. The paper, whilst reporting the story is at pains to distance itself from the interpretation that banning a person from a shop due to their non-British nationality is considered ‘racist’. It is clear that this interpretation is not the opinion the paper, but rather the quoted opinion of another source. This implies that the editorial staff of the paper would actually be in favour of the banning of foreigners from various British establishments, as part of a far broader policy that would see foreigners prevented from entering the UK altogether. The paper, as a collective of individuals, agrees that foreigners are law breakers and serve no valuable purpose. Of course, the quandary for this bourgeois mind-set is that it not only discriminates against foreigners, but in this instance, openly prevents the exploitation of naked capitalism from functioning – banning foreign student from a shopping mall is preventing the gaining of capital by the shopkeepers, from the students themselves. Students, foreign or otherwise, have access to a disposable wealth, which they are willing to spend. Foreign students are actually bringing a ‘new’ wealth into the area from abroad, and therefore valuably contributing vital (non-local) funds, to local industry and commerce. As for students breaking the law – there are many examples of British young people, (students or otherwise), misbehaving across the UK and occasionally breaking the law. It is interesting that the institution of ‘studenthood’ has not been questioned, and its abolishment suggested by the Metro or Daily Mail. This would be self-defeating, as such a suggestion completely misses the point that ‘racism’ strives to make, namely that we are all different on the outside of our bodies, because we are all different on the inside of our minds, and that these supposed ‘differences’ quite naturally separates humanity into geographical, culturally distinct nations.
With the current prime minister relegated to a small corner at the bottom of the page, one would be forgiven for thinking that he had just made an outrageous speech, bordering upon the insane, when in fact, following the media attention surrounding the conviction of the (White) killers of (the Black) Stephen Lawrence, Cameron was expressing the opinions of many right minded people in suggesting that ‘racism’ is still a problem in the UK. This is correct, but it is delivered here from the privileged position of bourgeois social elitism. Cameron, and others of his class can afford to live in social bubbles relatively free from the concerns of the ordinary people. He says these things because he thinks ‘middleEngland’ is listening to him and generally agreeing with his views. Obviously The Daily Mail and the London Metro are not agreeing with his expressed sentiments. If they agreed, then Cameron’s comments would be over the front pages and not consigned to the bottom corner of page 7. It is interesting to note how a rightwing news publication feels so confident in its bigoted stance, that it is willing to treat a prime minister of a rightwing party it helped to elect, with such indifference and disrespect. Perhaps the paper is of the opinion that ‘their’ prime minister is out of touch with the real people ofBritain, or that they feel that Cameron’s speech was in fact insincere, and that he was being compelled to make it through pressure applied to him by the ‘politically correct’ establishment.
Either since the misuse of Darwinism by the establishment as a means to scientifically support prejudice and ignorance, non-Europeans have been depicted as inhabiting a lesser stage of human evolutionary development, and that this is the real reason that body shape and skin colour vary around the world. These distinctions have been further refined to explain cultural differences as the outer manifestations of the less evolved inner brains of the people concerned. Different cultural norms, dress, language and perceptions of the world were interpreted as the various child-like creations of lesser mentally and physically developed sub-humans. In this distorted and thoroughly discredited view of the world, Black, Asian and Indigenous peoples have been extensively misrepresented as being ‘ape-like’ in their appearance and psychological make-up. This page from the Metro of 2012 shows clearly that this kind of 19th century ignorance is still alive and well in contemporaryBritain. Next to two articles regarding the notion of ‘race’, the editors place a picture of a gorilla apparently mimicking human behaviour. The picture and story is out of place, unless of course, the underlying message is that foreigners are not welcome in theUK, and that they are physically and psychologically ‘ape-like’ in their existence and demeanour. The design of this page occurs daily throughout the rightwing press in theUK. It is designed to a ‘code’ that fellow rightwingers understand and appreciate. This apparent ‘secret code’ is enhanced by its success in not being recognised for what it is by those who do not subscribe to its implicit, racist message. Ironically, David Cameron’s point that there is still a long way to go to tackle racism in the UK, is proved by the way the The Daily Mail’s London Metro has chosen to report his opinion, alongside the bizarre implicit depiction of foreigners as ‘apes’.
The post-Marxian philosopher Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) coined the term ‘deconstruction’, which describes a method of written text analysis, whereby the apparent thrust of the work, that is the most obvious to the reader at first inspection, is in fact a thin veneer hiding a number of other ‘implicit’ meanings contained within the text itself. In this view, a written text is never ‘neutral’ regardless of subject or content, but manages instead to convey a multiplicity of meaning, conditioned by the mind and life experience of the author(s). In other words, meaning is conditional and not of a free standing nature. Texts have a history, and this history is locked deep in the words and sentence structures as representatives of conscious mind processes. When comprising a text with a particular message, a number of realities must be taken into account. If racism is deemed generally ‘bad’ within a society, then an implicitly racist texts must appear as being ‘critical’ of racist attitudes on the surface, whilst actually perpetuating racism in essence. The media, which depends upon ordinary people purchasing its presentation of the news, is well versed in often presenting more than one viewpoint at a time in a single text – a socially accepted view, alongside the ‘real’ intention of the author(s) – these viewpoints do not even have to be in accordance with one another, but can consist of diametrically opposed positions upon a single issue, such as the above example demonstrates. The purpose for this system-wide deceit is that by passively reading and accepting articles of this type, a slow ‘drip, drip’ effect is in operation, whereby racist attitudes are continuously fed to an unsuspecting readership, who might put these attitudes into practice during local and national elections. The point of racism is to continue to keep the ordinary peoples of the world apart, by perpetuating the myth of nation states, and innate racial differences. This arbitrary division of identity mirrors the division of labour, which ensures that the capitalist system continues unchecked and unquestioned.