Bristol Post’s unhelpful response to Berlin terrorist attack

This headline, directly above a photograph of mounted police officers, and the accompanying story, attracted a good deal of outrage yesterday:

​Bristol police step up patrols to combat Islamophobia after Berlin Christmas market attack

One often hears complaints when commentators’ first concern after such atrocities seems to be for the potential victims of anti-Muslim prejudice rather than those who have been killed.  To read about the police force’s apparent misplaced priorities was even more galling.  But was everything quite as it seemed? Were the mounted police really just on the lookout for bigots?

The final paragraphs of the article implied otherwise – this quote from Chief Superintendent Jon Reilly,  for example, was clearly a response to fears about terrorism:

“We’d also like to reassure everyone that we, along with the security and intelligence services, are tirelessly working together to keep you safe.

It’s interesting to compare the report with a similar story published earlier yesterday.  This had a less startling headline

​Security stepped up at Christmas markets after Berlin terror attack

and attracted far fewer comments.  There was no mention of any special concern about Islamophobia.  It seems that this issue was given an unearned prominence in the later more souped up story.  Here are some further quoted comments from Reilly:

He said: “Following previous terror attacks across mainland Europe we have seen an increase in the number of reported Islamophobic hate crimes in the Avon and Somerset area.

“We have subsequently increased patrols in areas of Bristol which have high footfall in order to provide additional reassurance and to act as a visible deterrent. We also hope it will aid and encourage reporting of any hate crimes or incidents should they occur.

It’s hard to judge the precise force of these comments without knowing the full context of Reilly’s remarks. But it seems inconceivable that the primary concern of the local police was not a terrorist threat. However there *are* spikes in hate crime following such incidents (just as conflicts involving Israel lead to an increase in antisemitic incidents) and it’s not unreasonable for the police to articulate their support for victims of hate crime. The worst case scenario seems to be that he was putting a PC gloss on the situation. Given that the Bristol Post chose to make this aspect of the story so prominent, they might at the very least have included some comment criticising Reilly’s priorities – put their cards on the table, rather than just insinuating a point and letting their readers do the rest of the work. Here’s an example of the kind of comments the article attracted:

Murderous jihadist attacks across Europe but don’t worry, the police are on the case. They have stepped up patrols to combat Islamophobia (the irrational fear of being run down by a truck) and hate crimes (generally made up to gain points in the victimhood game). Google TellMama and Andrew Gilligan if you don’t know what I mean.

The report has been shared by counterjihadist campaigners including Anne Marie Waters and Robert Spencer, and further circulated by their many readers – who will probably stick around to catch up with this vital local news item.