The latest, heart-warming, yuletide news from the city of Charles Dickens’s Xmas Carol concerns the slashing of a policeman’s throat in broad daylight in front of Xmas shoppers. I say “heart-warming” because once again the establishment is showing its usual charity to the criminal underclass by refusing to mention or even hint at the race, appearance, or even general demeanour of the attacker. We do get age (30) and gender (male).
Of course, we can fully understand their logic as it would be a heartbreaking tragedy if London’s cowed and jittery population were to be given this information and then take evasive action on seeing people who resembled the killer. My, what would that do for race relations in this throbbing, vibrant, Olympian Cosmopolis? Yes, the myth of racial harmony and the non-ethnic nature of crime must be enforced at all costs, and make no mistake about it, the editors of papers like the Daily Mail, where I first saw this story, have had their orders about such “sensitive topics.”
But, aren’t I assuming too much? Possibly. But then there is little alternative when there are glaring omissions from many crime stories.
The first thing that any normally wired person wants to know when they hear of a violent incident like this is what the attacker looks like. We want our dramatis personae, both for reasons of curiosity and caution. By not telling people this information, the media is effectively damping down the story. This is like Dracula without the vampire, MacBeth without the regicide, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre without the growling woodcutting implement. With “nothing to see here,” the audience is supposed to have a quick look, find a vacuum, and pass on its way, head down.
But, in the absence of knowledge, people will make assumptions. Despite the efforts of the media to avoid the ethnic dimension of crime in UK, certain “secrets” have got out. For example, we know that the sort of thug who packs a knife in London is overwhelmingly from our still unassimilated West Indian community. (By the way, isn’t “community” a lovely word? It makes the inability to assimilate and stop stabbing people sound like a warm, cosy evening by the fireside.)
However, this is still just the loosest kind of circumstantial evidence, and the fact that the assailant used a Stanley knife also makes him sound like a workman or ex-workman, rather than the typical West Indian gangsta wannabe. But having a controlled media, whether the Soviet propaganda machine of the 1970s or the multiculti Mr. Happy variety of today, invariably encourages reading between the lines, and in this case those intervening spaces point to a West Indian assailant.
Even where the media plays ball, the establishment knows that information leaks out, so they often prepare little pre-emptive responses just for those who stumble on the racial dimension. Usually, these are remarkably easy to spot, because subtlety is never a virtue in dealing with the masses.
The rule seems to be that if an “ethnic” criminal is involved, the editors will get the nod to use pictures of an ‘ethnic’ policeman investigating the crime. For example, if there is a Muslim-inspired terrorist attack, you can be sure that the Met will shove up a serious and concerned brown face at some point to make the appropriate concerned announcements; just to let us know that the terrorists are a “tiny, unrepresentative minority.”
In the case of the Xmas slasher, what caught my eye was the prominent picture used at the top of the story. This shows members of the forensics team surveying the scene, dressed in their masked finery: two white ladies and, yes, you guessed it, an incongruous Black man.
I say incongruous because, although there may well be Black individuals who are brilliant at forensics, this is not usually a speciality that most people would associate with this particular demographic—unless some TV crime drama had recently made strenuous efforts to overturn such terribly racist preconceptions.
Seeing the Black Quincy standing there rather awkwardly, like an extra at the front of the stage, in a photograph that had obviously been blue pencilled to the top of the pile, triggered all my suspicions. I found myself thinking, “So, the slasher’s a West Indian.”
Of course, I could be wrong. The Home Office might have been too busy throwing Xmas office parties to pull the usual strings. Also, the Black forensics guy might just have been there because even “affirmative action” drones have to go somewhere. And as for the photo, maybe the editor really did think that was the best photo available. Who knows? But until the government, police, and media are more open about the ethnic dimension of crime in the UK, I, like many other people, will continue to draw my own conclusions.
[Editor's note: In Sweeden, the press is less subtle. As I blogged last April, Sweedish newspapers often blanche pixelated crime photos in newspapers in order to make a Black criminal suspect seem White.]