Xenophobia in the UK press

Documenting anti-foreign rhetoric in the papers.

While on holiday last year, my mates and I befriended a couple from Andalusia. As we chatted, they told me that they were considering booking a long weekend in England as they'd never visited the country and thought it would be an interesting travelling experience.

But then the chap changed his tack: "We're not sure though. We hear that English people are turning more and more hostile towards foreigners and that we're not welcome, even as visitors, so we may go elsewhere, somewhere where we don't get into trouble", he added.

My heart sank. I tried to tell them that it wasn't true and that loads of Brits are open-minded and welcoming and, probably, also less racist than in many other countries.

Yet from that point on I started paying more attention to how the words "foreign" and "migrant" are looked at in the press. Soon I was able to see where the two Andalusians were coming from.

I came to the conclusion that Britain is the only western democracy where hostility towards "the foreigners" is so routinely displayed by the mainstream media. It's a daily bombardment, obsessive and relentless.

Often, the stories that circulate are either based on myths or are given a certain angle with the specific aim to discredit 'foreigners' and 'immigrants', creating an absurd concoction between asylum seekers, the EU, foreign students and economic migrants. It all contributes to the growing atmosphere of suspicion as well as fear that Britain is under some sort of 'alien' threat.

Is this really how Great Britain wants to portray herself abroad? Has she really started to shrink into a hostile nasty Little England that views anything "not local" with suspicion and disdain?

Which is a crying shame.

Because Britain has a stunning tradition of tolerance and integration. Compared to many other countries with similar levels of wealth, the UK has probably managed to be a lot more outward-looking, open-minded, cosmopolitan and respectful of other cultures and ethnicities.

Just look at the way Britain's popular culture has evolved. Think of the entertainment industry, music or fashion, but also food, sport and much more. Alas, what used to be a positive approach now seems to have given way to a more negative, totally different discourse.

In this new section of Hagley Road to Ladywood, we'll simply keep a record of how British tabloids and newspapers refer to people who were not born on British soil, "the foreigners".

Consider the long-term effect and then decide for yourself whether the narrative that comes across is indeed a toxic one or not.

Click here to access Press Xenophobia.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A few years ago I visited my sister's family in Canada. Whilst there they told me they buy an English newspaper, would I like to read it? This turned out to be the international edition of the Daily Express. I then realised why they have such a jaundiced view of the UK. The paper consists of page after page of, You can't walk the streets without being mugged. All of the hospitals are filthy, the waiting lists for treatment are enormous. Teenagers all leave school unable to read and write. We are the highest taxed nation on earth, inflation unemployment etc are all out of control. And it's all Gordon Brown's fault. I started thinking that actually they were being pretty unpatriotic doing our country down in this way. What they are really doing is appealing to ex pats, i.e people who have left the UK and want to think they've made the right decision. And here's the Daily Express to confirm it, Oh and sell copies along the way.