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The London Blasts

 

The London Blasts: Urgent Comment

DAY TWELVE: Tuesday 19 July 2005 Part One

MAJORITY REALISM: THE GUARDIAN POLL

On to Media Review Part 2

Part One - Urgent Comment

1) Urgent Comment

2) Background Note For 19 July

3) The Guardian Poll

Part Two - Media Review

The Alleged Pakistani Connection

The Chatham House Report - Reactions

 

URGENT COMMENT

 

There is an extraordinary poll result in today's Guardian, which dramatically changes the context for our work against war, injustice and prejudice here in the UK.

 

According to this poll, which should have been a front-page story, we are the overwhelming majority.

 

Nearly two out of three people believe that the policies of the Prime Minister have contributed to the tragedy in London.

 

Only three people in ten give credence to the government's desperate attempts to shift the blame.

 

Realism about the link to Iraq is very nearly the national consensus.

 

We must fight the media's efforts to bury these results. We must give the quiet majority the courage of its convictions.

 

 

BACKGROUND NOTE FOR 19 JULY

 

For those visiting for the first time, the background to the comments that follow lie in our priority page, and in our first Media Review. The facts contained in those pages are assumed in what follows.

 

Today, 19 July, there are three big topics, it seems to us: one big story, one big non-story, and one big question.

The big question is what has happened to the Chatham House report linking the "war on terror" in general (and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in particular) to terrorist attacks in Britain. The big non-story is the media focus on Pakistan as the 'source' of the plot to bomb London. The big story is the Guardian/ICM poll on public attitudes to the bombings. (There is also another big story, which is the drive to pass repressive legislation on an accelerated schedule, but that will have to be for another day, and probably a Policy Review rather than a Media Review.)

 

 

The Guardian Poll

 

TOWARDS A NATIONAL CONSENSUS

 

The headline says it all: 'Two-thirds believe London bombings are linked to Iraq war'. It is time to end the defensiveness of the anti-war movement.

 

1,005 adults were interviewed by ICM between 15 and 17 July - before the Chatham House report was released. The key results reported in the Guardian:

 

'33% of Britons think the prime minister bears "a lot" of responsibility for the London bombings and a further 31% "a little".'

'Only 28% of voters agree with the government that Iraq and the London bombings are not connected.'

 

We noted recently ministers' relief that the bombings have not so far proved too costly politically. Despite the fact that a majority of people - nearly two-thirds of the population - think the Prime Minister has some responsibility for the bombings, and despite the fact that three out of four people think there will be more suicide bombings, Labour continues to hold the support of 39 per cent of the population!

 

PREACHERS OR PLACEBOS?

 

How can this be so? Because the government and the media are channelling people's anger towards the 'preachers of hatred' who are blamed for the 'radicalisation' of Muslim youth. Despite the government's own assessment that it is British foreign policy, as well as society's Islamophobia, the operation of counter-terrorism laws against Muslims, material deprivation, lack of representation, lack of effective political channels - as well as identity issues - that is the cause of increasing 'extremism'.

 

This emphasis on the 'preachers of hatred' is not a tabloid initiative. It comes from the top. On 13 July, Tony Blair came to the House of Commons and gave his policy response to the atrocities. First would come repressive legislation, and then,

 

'Secondly, we will look urgently at how we strengthen the procedures to exclude people from entering the United Kingdom who may incite hatred or act contrary to the public good, and at how we deport such people, if they have come here, more easily...

'We are dealing not with an isolated criminal act but with an extreme and evil ideology, the roots of which lie in a perverted and poisonous misinterpretation of the religion of Islam.'

 

The emphasis on 'extremist preachers' is an entirely cynical move. Downing Street does not believe that these kinds of measures will actually make Britain safer. The Sunday Times reported two days ago (page 13):

 

'Downing Street officials admit that it is difficult to legislate against suicide bombers with no previous connection to terrorist groups or those unknown extremists who seem to pose no threat.'

' “How can you legislate against this kind of thing?” asked one official. “We have set out what you can do — ejecting the religious fundamentalists who preach hate and tackling criminality associated with terrorism, but what more can we do?"'

' “You have to announce these legislative measures because otherwise people will be afraid and say we’re not doing anything, but to a certain extent they are placebos.” '

 

Placebos which just happen to have the coincidental effect of channelling public anger away from the government's foreign policy and towards demonized elements of a feared minority.

 

According to the Guardian/ICM poll, 'A clear majority - 71% - want the government to exclude or deport from the UK foreign Muslims who incite hatred with only 22% believing such people should be allowed to live in the UK.'

 

This is not 'foreign Muslims plotting to carry out terrorist attacks', or 'foreign Muslims who provide logistical support or conspire in other ways with groups plotting to carry out terrorist attacks', or even 'foreign Muslims who do not provide the authorities with information or suspicions about possible terrorist activity'. This is 'foreign Muslims who incite hatred'.

 

In other words, with the leadership of the Prime Minister, the British public has now decided it is time to criminalize certain kinds of speech. This intent to criminalize speech amounts, for asylum seekers, to an intent to dispatch for torture and/or execution by repressive regimes which are themselves a major factor in producing anti-Western 'hatred'.

 

AN END TO DEFENSIVENESS

 

The anti-war movement in Britain has been reeling from the effect of the bombings.

 

The meaning of this Guardian poll, which should have been a front-page story, is that we are the overwhelming majority.

 

Nearly two out of three people believe that the policies of the Prime Minister have contributed to the tragedy in London.

 

Only three people in ten give credence to the government's desperate attempts to shift the blame.

 

Realism about the link to Iraq is very nearly the national consensus.

 

We can make some predictions at this point.

 

Firstly, this poll will have almost no follow-up in the media and no impact on the public mind - unless we, the anti-war movement, force it to people's attention. (Note that the Guardian itself has buried the poll on page 5, makes no other reference to it in commentary, and puts it well down a list of articles in the online edition of the newspaper. The top story on the bombings - on the front page - focuses on Pakistan as the 'source' of the plot.)

 

Secondly, public anger about the bombings will be channelled into Islamophobia (disguised as a 'confrontation with extremists') - unless we, the anti-war movement, mobilize majority opinion into majority action.

 

Thirdly, how the movements for peace and justice react to this crisis will affect the life of this country, and much else, for many years to come.

 

On to Media Review Part 2

 

JNV welcomes feedback.

 

This page last updated 19 July 2005

 

 

 

   

 


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