Writing in The Guardian, august journalism commentator Roy Greenslade writes about a crisis that never existed: the supposed immigration crisis facing the UK.
“It never was news. It was a wholly media-manufactured ‘crisis’,” he writes. Editors “readily published evidence of individual misbehaviour as if it was a universal problem”, published “dodgy figures, as if plucked from mid-air” and ignored facts “in favour of appealing to public prejudice.” They published endless streams of thinly-veiled bigotry from their columnists. They were guilty of “ignoring rational arguments that exposed their distorted agenda” to inflame their readers against a group that in reality is a persecuted minority.
And it worked, because these papers also drive the wider news agenda: what they print is then picked up by the likes of the Today Programme and discussed on Question Time. It gets circulated on social media and regurgitated on talk radio.
At the peak of the anti-immigrant newspaper scare, 60% of people thought immigration was the most important issue affecting the country. Now the papers have largely stopped their scaremongering, that figure has dropped to 20%.
As Greenslade put it, the newspapers manufactured the so-called crisis “through repetition, disinformation, misinformation… and the omission of any positive material.”
The papers stopped demonising immigrants because it no longer sold copies. That has created a vacuum – when your newspaper’s editorial policy is to scare your readers every day, you still need an enemy.
The papers haven’t stopped trying to scare their readers or abandoned their dirty tricks. They’ve just chosen a different minority to demonise.