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Friday, January 27, 2006 

Sir Ian Blair: "Media is institutionally racist".



It hurts to defend Sir Ian Blair, when he has spent most of his time as head of the Met either scaremongering or spreading lies/misinformation, but I'm going to do it.

He is entirely right to highlight that the media is in some cases incredibly selective in the stories they choose to highlight and get angry about. Notably, there have been a few exceptions. Stephen Lawrence, Damilola Taylor, Anthony Walker and the girls who were shot on New Year's Eve in Birmingham a couple of years ago come to mind, but compared to the number of white middle class victims of crime that have been obsessed over, they're hardly a blip on the radar. Ian Blair's main comparison, that of the white middle class city lawyer who was murdered on his way home, compared to that of the death of an Asian man, Balbir Matharu who was dragged to his death trying to shop thieves from stealing his van's stereo, shows up the tabloid press especially. The difference between the amount of words that the cases prompted in the press was just less than 1,000, but the real difference was when just examining the tabloids. According to the Guardian, the ap Rhys Price story was mentioned 98 times, while that of Matharu was mentioned just 18 times. The difference could be put down to the fact that ap Rhys Price's attackers have apparently been arrested, while Matharu's are still at large, but even then it's quite a huge gap.

Unfortunately, Sir Ian Blair commented about the case of the Soham school girls, which is what the media who should be embarrassed about the above have focused on to take the glare off them. He said:
"If you look at the murders in Soham, almost nobody can understand why that dreadful story became the biggest story in Britain,"


Well, it's quite obvious why it did. It happened during the silly season in August, it involved two pretty young white middle class girls, and the media was provided with a photo of them taken just that day in their Manchester United football shirts. The rolling news channels came into their own, with constant coverage of every little detail reported. It highlighted one of the main parental worries; their children either going missing or being abducted by strangers. As it turned out, they were murdered by someone they knew, which is much more likely than the above. Can the media honestly say that if it had been two boys, say from up in Newcastle or Scotland rather than Cambridgeshire, that they would have given it the same amount of coverage? It seems doubtful. Nevertheless, Soham has become a sacred cow in the media world, much like the killing of James Bulger or Diana, and any criticism or outspokenness about it is dealt with severely, as Ian Blair has found out today. It's worth pointing out however that www.sohamtragedy.org.uk now points to the Cambridgeshire police website.

Veronica Wadley, editor of the Evening Standard doesn't seem to think that the media is institutionally racist, and she also doesn't find it somewhat odd that she's set-up an appeal for Mr ap Rhys Price's family, even though he was a city lawyer and most likely making a decent wage. Then again, she knows which way her bread's buttered, and it was the Daily Mail (sister paper of the Evening Standard) which led the outrage towards Blair's remarks about Soham with a front page splash. They know that they and the Express are the papers that Blair was really commenting on, and they weren't going to take it lying down.

I've commented many times here on the front pages of news papers and made fun of their lack of news values, so it's nice to see that some in the upper echelons of life feel the same way. If "Sir" Ian Blair now would only stop the scaremongering about terrorism and tell the truth about what happened to Jean Charles de Menezes, I'm sure he would instantly rise back up a lot of people's estimations.

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