Media Favourites

media bias and the issues that surround it

Jonathon Davies, Going Postal

You have probably noticed by now that the media likes to play favourites. Certain groups get far more attention, and praise is lavished upon them. Indeed, in some cases it seems that they can do no wrong. The media likes to create a narrative, whereby these “good guys” or “deserving poor” are pitted against the “bad guys.” They seek to implant a very clear cut picture of right and wrong in the minds of the public. Those of you that follow the media closely will already know that there are certain themes that are pursued almost relentlessly. But sometimes that narrative comes unstuck.

The mainstream media has an undoubted agenda it wants to push. Globalism is great. The EU is eulogised. Immigration is incredible (it certainly is, but not in the way they’re thinking). Islam is awesome. And of course, diversity is our strength and brings enrichment and absolutely no problems why are you complaining about it you far right racist. Recently the media have heavily reported on the plight of the Rohingyas in Myanmar.

The latest Rohingya crisis first hit the headlines in last year. It gaine a lot of coverage until around May 2018. The Rohingya had become definite media favourites. Why was this? (Before anyone asks, I am not for a moment suggesting all Muslims are responsible, complicit or approving. These are a list of factual events.) Since the twin towers attacks on September 11th, 2001, there have been numerous terror attacks by militant Islamists across the world. In fact the modern wave began before this with the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. But Bill Clinton was President, another media favourite, so they have to pretend nothing bad happened during this time. Later there was the Madrid train bombings, the 2004 Beslan school siege in Russia, the 2005 7th July London bombings, the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the 2013 murder of Lee Ribgy, Boko Haram in Nigeria kidnapping school girls, the Tiananmen Square attack in China, thirty Britons killed on a beach in Tunisia along with the Bardo museum massacre, London Bridge, Westminster, Manchester Arena, and Parsons Green.

We’ve also seen a Russian jet bombed over Egypt along with Coptic Christians being killed, Charlie Hebdo, the Paris Bataclan attacks, shootings at the Jewish Museum of Belgium, Brussels Airport, a priest killed in a Normandy church, truck attacks in Nice and Berlin Market, the Fort Hood shooting, the battle of Basilan in the Phillipines, the Kampala attacks in Uganda, the Westgate shopping centre attack in Kenya, The Boston Marathon bombing, the shooting at the Canadian Parliament, Glasgow Airport, the Barcelona truck attack, the Bamako hotel attack in Mali, the Sweden truck attack, the murder of Theo Van Gogh, the Ansbach bomb, the Wurzburg train attack, the Sydney hostage crisis, shootings in Copenhagen, ISIS recruiting fighters in Europe to fight in Syria and Iraq, the Yazidi genocide and enslavement, a Phillipines city being taken over by ISIS, the list goes on. There are many, many more. The Rotherham and Rochdale abuse was also uncovered. The Jay Report was damning. It stated most (not all) offenders were Asian Muslim men, and some in the police and council were accused of turning a blind eye for the sake of diversity. Last year MI5 revealed it had 23,000 people on a jihadi watch list.

For some reason, anti-Islam sentiment started to grow in society. Add to this the EU referendum result and Donald Trump being elected, who banned travel from a number of (not all) majority Muslim countries and called the likes of CNN “fake news.” The narrative was on the back foot. The media were worried. In response it seemed the media decided to champion the cause of Islam in every way it could. Muslim bakers and long distance runners were held up as icons. Diversity could not be challenged. The narrative could not be allowed to fail. The media sought ways to present Muslims as the victims, and ways to show false equivalence between Islamic terror and others. Huge amounts of whataboutery were put on display, such as Darren Osborne, (who is rightly in jail) as if it cancelled out everything else. Dire warnings of the phantom “far right” were given despite only one far right organisation appearing on the government’s proscribed terror group list, but around sixty Islamist groups. One does not excuse, justify or nullify the other, or mean that legitimate criticism cannot be voiced.

Meanwhile, subtle changes in language were introduced. Attackers were now described as “Asian,” a very broad term considering the size of Asia. Suspects were described as being from areas of Britain, when in fact they were not. For example, the Parsons Green train bomber was described as a “Surrey teenager,” when he was an Iraqi asylum seeker. Names were quietly left off reports of terror attacks, terror arrests and child abuse cases. Then reports began coming in from Myanmar. For the media, the Rohingya crisis was a gift. Or so it seemed.

The Crisis

Now, I am not belittling any suffering anyone involved in the crisis has been through. Much of it is clearly very real. I unequivocally condemn the use of violence against civilians. I am not in any way taking sides. What I am seeking to do is to examine the crisis, provide a more rounded picture and expose the media bias and reasons for it, and explain the issues it causes. First reports of the current crisis began appearing in August 2017. They were sketchy, and stated that the Myanmar military were carrying out clearance operations after an attack by the  Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army against military posts. Mention of this attack makes it in to early reports and videos, but later references to it are dropped or hard to come by. Quickly the Myanmar government and military became the “bad guys” and the Rohingya the “good guys.”

The Myanmar military continued to drive out the Rohingya. By early September news of the crisis was all across the media. By the end of the month it was estimated that 600,000 Rohingya had crossed the border in to Bangladesh. They were being housed in refugee camps and conditions were poor. Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi came under pressure from the UN and others to condemn the violence and act to stop it. She had previously been a media favourite after a long pro-democracy campaign and period under house arrest, gaining attention and support around the world, for example from the singer Bono. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. The same UN that had called for her release now criticised her. Predictably the media then turned against her. As so often happens the person they had previously championed didn’t turn out to be the saint they had portrayed them to be.

When they follow the media narrative they are in, if the depart from it they are very quickly out (see Morrissey and Kanye West for further details). As journalist Fergal Keane wrote, “we knew too little of Aung San Suu Kyi herself.” In other words the media hadn’t done much research, they only looked at a shallow amount of detail on one issue. This is a running theme. They assumed that because she agreed with them on one thing, she would agree with them on all others. Here is the first example of the dangers of portraying the world in black and white terms, as “good” versus “evil” and projecting your own ideals. The real world is a lot more complex and complicated. Her father was a Myanmar General who founded the military and fought for independence. Did no one think this was relevant? Here she is being interviewed before the 2017 crisis, about previous incidents (more on those later).

In November 2017, the government of Bangladesh signed a pact with their Myanmar counterparts to return the Rohingya refugees to their homes in the Rakhine territory. The deal arose following a diplomatic meeting on the matter between Aung San Suu Kyi and Abul Hassan Mahmud Ali, the foreign minister of Bangladesh. The accord was viewed by international commentators as a conscious effort by the Myanmar leader to address criticism over her lack of action in the conflict.“-Wikipedia

By now the Rohingya were in the media on an almost daily basis. Despite an agreement on repatriation the refugees continued to arrive. Bangladesh revealed plans to sterilise the Rohingya using birth control. Many in the media complained, which was strange as usually they are in favour of abortions. An example is the recent abortion referendum in Ireland, where the Yes result was cheered as a triumph. Why was it different this time?

The United Nations’ human rights chief Zeid bin Ra’ad described the persecution as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. Later, on 5 December 2017, he announced that the Rohingya persecution may constitute genocide under international human rights laws. In November, Theresa May and United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson described the situation as “ethnic cleansing” while Emanuel Macron called it genocide. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) estimated in December 2017 that during the persecution, the military and the local Buddhists killed at least 10,000 Rohingya people. 354 Rohingya villages in Rakhine state were reported as burned down and destroyed, as well as the looting of many Rohingya houses, and widespread gang rapes and other forms of sexual violence against the Rohingya Muslim women and girls.

The crisis rumbled on in to 2018. Respected human rights group Amnesty International reported evidence of mass graves, alongside summary executions by the military. Worldwide condemnation was growing and there were numerous charity appeals. There was talk of economic sanctions from organisations such as the EU. Celebrities were joining campaigns to highlight the condition of the Rohingya. Medecins Sans Frontieres reported in February 2018 that refugees continued to arrive, though not in the large numbers that had previously been seen. Numbers were now estimated at around 700,000-800,000.

Meanwhile, Rohingya repatriation was slow to nonexistent. Many did want want to return out of fear for what would happen to them. Rohingya leaders presented a list of demands before returning. These included being recognised as an official ethnic minority (more on this later), as well as  Myanmar officials being held to account, compensation and being accompanied by UN security forces.. At the same time the Myanmar government was allegedly bulldozing Rohingya villages. Some repatriation applications were taken, but only a few hundred were verified. The near nightly news coverage continued. Then on the 22nd May 2018 Amnesty International dropped a bombshell.

Amnesty has determined that the ARSA has massacred ethnic minority Hindus inside Myanmar’s Rakhine province, which they claimed as their own. Cue thousands of screaming liberals and lefties denouncing Amnesty for daring to publish it. The same Amnesty they were quoting when lobbying in favour of the Rohingya. The same Amnesty that the media were using as a source previously. The Rohingya stories have now gone very, very quiet. They are still there, but few and far between. Certainly they are not pursued with the same zeal as previously. This is what is known as a narrative fail. The picture the media had built up carefully over months, and constantly fed to the public, was shattered in a day by the stark reality on the ground. Other notable recent examples include the “child migrants” who weren’t children, the alleged Russian poisoning of the Skripals and the dead journalist who wasn’t dead.

As I have said, an atrocity by one side does not diminish, cancel out, nullify, excuse or justify crimes committed by the other. What it does do is highlight the dangers of attributing one side with virtual sainthood. It shows the perils of not telling the whole story, or only one side of it. It exposes the media to allegations of ideological bias. It shows why research is needed first, before jumping on a story because it suits your narrative. The media complain about being called “fake news.” Sometimes they only have themselves to blame. Incidents like this show why what little trust there is for the mainstream media in parts of society is evaporating.

So why did they do it? It comes back to the agenda. In appears they wanted to generate sympathy for Muslims and for Islam in the wake of the horrendous 2017 terror attacks. In their minds, they wanted to balance things up by reporting bad things happening to them. They wanted to generate feelings of guilt via a constant deluge of coverage. They needed a diversion, and the Rohingya were it. Support had drained away for their pro-immigration and refugee goals. Populist governments were talking about strong borders and cutting immigration. This was a way to get the narrative back on track. Part of me thinks that if the coverage had gone on then the media would be pushing for the Rohingya to be given asylum in the EU, namely Britain, or in the USA.

Trump had attacked the media, accusing them of being fake news. The vast majority of the media had been anti-Trump, and continued to be so after the election. They positioned themselves as the counter to Trump, saying he had been the liar. Trump had used an executive order to implement a travel ban from some majority Muslim countries, which the media termed a “Muslim ban.” Trump needed to be portrayed as the evil, hateful Nazi. The media wanted to appear as virtuous “white knights.” What better way than to show cruelty to the Rohingya and using it as an example of why Trump should let them in. The same was previously tried with refugees from Syria. These were the media’s “deserving poor,” their tool to highlight his supposed cruelty.

In the UK Brexit was the big issue, many having voted leave because they wanted to cut immigration. Again this went against most of the mainstream press. The media wanted to position itself in opposition, against the so called “racist” leave voters and politicians such as Nigel Farage. There was much talk of what conditions were like in “Post Brexit Britain.” So a softening up operation went in to effect to try and garner support for migrants.

The Untold Story

History teaches us to put aside personal feelings and look at things dispassionately. There is a need to critically examine evidence for reliability. There is a need to do background research and to look at things in context. In almost every conflict or historical issue I have looked at there at least two sides to the story. Sometimes more. One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist, and vice versa. In their own mind, everyone is the hero of their own story. This is useful to remember. The media clearly didn’t.

Remember those attacks on Myanmar military posts I mentioned earlier?

During the early hours of 25 August 2017, up to 150 insurgents launched coordinated attacks on 24 police posts and the 552nd Light Infantry Battalion army base in Rakhine State, leaving 71 dead (12 security personnel and 59 insurgents).The Tatmadaw (Myanmar Armed Forces) stated on 1 September 2017 that the death toll had risen to 370 insurgents, 13 security personnel, two government officials and 14 civilians.” –Wikipedia

Previous to this:

The Myanmar Army announced on 15 November 2016 that 69 Rohingya insurgents and 17 security forces (10 policemen, 7 soldiers) had been killed in recent clashes in northern Rakhine State, bringing the death toll to 134 (102 insurgents and 32 security forces).”-Wikipedia


On 9 October 2016, hundreds of unidentified insurgents attacked three Burmese border posts along Myanmar’s border with Bangladesh.According to government officials in the mainly Rohingya border town of Maungdaw, the attackers brandished knives, machetes and homemade slingshots that fired metal bolts. Nine border officers were killed in the attack.“-Wikipedia

As you can see from the source, this is information that is readily available in the public domain. So why was it left out of reports? Did those in the media fail to do even basic research? Or did they feel that revealing this information would diminish their narrative and perhaps reduce public sympathy for the Rohingya?

Cast you mind back to 2015. There was another Rohingya crisis back then. Do you remember it? I imagine not. This was the one where they took to the sea trying to get to Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Australia, the so called boat people. You may remember Australia’s asylum policy of stopping boats and sending them to Papua New Guinea. However, at this time the media had some other favourites.

The 2015 migration crisis was big news, and threatening to tear Europe and the EU (the two are separate) apart. The media were using the Syrian migrants as their current favourites, trying to argue that they should be let in and allowed to stay. This hit its peak with the photo of Aylan Kurdi dead on a beach. This photo was successful in generating mass sympathy, including from then Prime Minister David Cameron, and many were allowed in. For a few days this photo dictated migration policy. This was despite warnings that there were potentially terrorists in their midst, as well as migrants claiming to be Syrian to assure entry, along with men pretending to be children. Europe is still living with the consequences to this day.

Back to the Rohingya. Looking further in to the past we see that in 1982 the Myanmar government did not include them in the eight categories of indigenous peoples. Some Muslim groups were included, but the Rohingya were not. This effectively left them stateless. In 1978 an estimated 200,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh. Rohingya claim that they can trace their roots back to the Arakan province for hundreds of years. They say there is evidence of Arab traders who settled there. There are Bengali mosques in the area that date from the 1400s. The Rakhine have been there since at least the 9th Century. Myanmar claims they have been there for thousand of years. Under British rule Muslim migration from Bengal to Arakan was encouraged. This is when Myanmar claims most of the Rohingya arrived. This enraged Burmese nationalists, as they were then. It is fair to say that large scale demographic change often brings conflict. There is a lesson here for those that will listen.

There were anti-Muslim riots in 1938. During World War II the Japanese invaded. The British armed the Muslims, including the Rohingya. The local Rakhines favoured the Japanese. In general there was violence between pro-British groups and Burmese nationalists. The Japanese invasion saw Burmas, as it was then, become the front line of the conflict. Muslim and Buddhist groups attacked each other as law and order broke down, as it quickly does in most conflicts. Nationalist Buddhists attacked Rohingyas, A number of Rohingyas attacked Arakan villages instead of the Japanese. The British had armed Rohingya volunteers, known as the V force. The V force reportedly attacked monasteries, houses and committed atrocities. After the war separatist groups arose, with armed Mujahideen fighters.  Separatism continued in to the 21st Century, with different groups with different names. These events should perhaps have been a warning that some of the militant Rohingya groups were capable of things like the Hindu massacre. Whichever side you favour, this is clearly a messy conflict that stretches back over at least a century, if not longer. Both sides have done terrible things to each other, non of which are excusable. As usual, civilians are caught in the middle and suffer the most.

The media often present information and reports which lack nuance and background, and are designed for the age of social media and sound bites. The often complicated situations don’t provide catchy headlines and often muddy the waters on who the “good guys” are meant to be. However, they are often vitally important as we have seen in Syria and with the Rohingya. Without them people are not receiving the whole story and the media fails in its primary mission of informing the public and exposing issues across the world. The faith people have in the media will continue to crumble unless they change their ways. But can they change? I know what I think.

© Jonathon Davies 2018

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