Not Front Page News

Last week in The New Statesman, its petulant new political editor, Mehdi Hasan made the following prediction: He said that if would-be bomber Neil Lewington “was a British Muslim”, then “the story would be splashed across the front page of every newspaper in Britain, and Sky News would be rolling a loop of images of his scowling, bearded, dark face.”

Well, since I exposed the fact that the media certainly did not “turn a blind eye” to Neil Lewington, and David T pointed out some basic Media 101 reasons for what makes a story fly, including how complicated the conspiracy is and how much public debate about the motives for the crime there is, Mehdi seems to have simply put his fingers in his ears and sung ‘la-la-la’. He repeated his thesis on C4 News and rehashed it over at Comment Is Free (where I’m glad to say the majority of commenters made short shrift of it.)

And now Sunny over at Pickled Politics has got on board:

Potential terrorist makes front-page

by Sunny on 17th July, 2009 at 4:21 pm

Oh wait, it’s not the white guy. It’s a Muslim guy again.

A former public schoolboy who converted to Islam was convicted today of planning a major suicide bombing in Britain. Andrew Ibrahim, 20, who changed his first name to Isa, made his own bombs and constructed a suicide vest to carry them to his intended target, the Broadmead shopping centre in Bristol in April last year.

Let’s see – nutjob wants to take out other Britons. Is working alone. Gets caught. But one story makes the front page of the Evening Standard. Another story involving a white guy who was in a more advanced stage of bomb-making barely rates a mention in the back pages.

Well, let’s leave aside for the moment Sunny’s unintentionally hilarious and revealing mistake – both of the bombers were in fact “white guys” – and that he’s thumb-sucking facts  – the Nazi  “white guy” was not “further along”; the Muslim “white guy” had actually made the suicide belt and obtained the explosives, so suffice it to say, they were both pretty far along – and make a more interesting point: Both Hasan and Sunny make the mistake of focusing on quantitative rather than qualitative reporting. It is not enough to simply tot up the number of articles without taking some time to review what the articles are saying. This is their major methodological mistake. And obviously taking a closer look at what the stories say as well as the story arc should unravel for them some of the mystery they seem to think is there.

The ingredient that put the Muslim story marginally ahead was in fact the positive aspect. What made the headlines was the fact that the Muslim community turned in the lunatic to the police. It showed that this nutter converted to Islam and embraced a radical strand so unrepresentative that the Muslim community itself rejected him. The local Muslim community identified his dangerous ideas and called in the police, as any good citizens would. Far from promoting ‘Islamophobia’, this is precisely the type of story that combats it. This is the sort of story that should be on the front pages more often. In contrast, lest it needs to be pointed out, the Nazi case was reported entirely negatively. Yet Sunny – and presumably Hasan – whine and complain nonetheless.

It is this desperate clutching at straws that undermines their case entirely.

Another example to punch ozone-size holes in their bubble of nonsense is that of Nicholas Roddis, a Muslim, convicted of planting a fake nail bomb on a bus and accumulating the ingredients of a real bomb. Nicholas Roddis? Well, you might ask that. The case received very little coverage this time last year. Why? Well, for the very reasons we explained to cub-reporter Mehdi: he was a lone nutter, there was no evidence of conspiracy, or an international link, or a debate over his motives. In other words, nothing to give the story wings.

Needless to say, while complaining about the coverage of these cases in other media, neither The New Statesman or Pickled Politics covered any of these people either. You will search in vain at Pickled Politics for mention of Andrew Ibrahim, Neil Lewington or Nicholas Roddis. At The News Statesman, only Roddis gets a single hit. What’s the story? White converts to Islam turning into bombers! So, not much political will from the political editorial desk to address the important political issues that other political media outlets seem to politically ignoring and hiding from our body politic.

But Sunny has a knipchen when the Evening Standard runs a story is about how a vigilant Muslim community turned these dangerous cranks in. Almost simultaneously, while Sunny is doing his sneering twitters on Friday, the people of Jakarta suffered two deady terror attacks. And the man wonders why terrorism stories involving Muslims linked to international conspiracies make headlines. Remarkable.