Worst Opinion of the Week: Let's Vox-Pop Migrants in the English Channel

The same week we learned that Britain has the highest excess death rate and worst economic recession in the G7 due to COVID-19, Sky News and BBC Breakfast took to the seas to interview people seeking asylum.
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by NEO
August 14, 2020, 12:48pm
Sky News and BBC Breakfast reporting migrants crossing English Channel
Photo: Sky News & BBC Breakfast
Welcome to Worst Hot Take of the Week – a column in which @MULLET_FAN_NEO crowns the wildest hot take of the week.

Story: Large numbers of migrants are travelling from war-torn countries like Syria to the UK, as has been the case for many years now.
Reasonable take: It would be beneficial for the British public to glean an insight into why so many people are being forced to seek asylum in the UK, through accurate and humane reporting from places the government voted to bomb.
Brain rot: Every news crew should hop in a boat and give refugees a thumbs up as they struggle to cross the English Channel. To not do this is racism.

Say you live in a country that has the highest excess COVID-19 death rate on the continent. The Office for National Statistics has just said you’re now in the deepest recession in its history, with the worst recession of any G7 country. Your government has spent most of the pandemic obfuscating, lying and back-tracking on any course of action that has resulted in a spectacular failure (which is pretty much every course of action). Your government has also revealed that it has given out hundreds of millions of pounds worth of PPE contracts to private equity firms with no experience in supplying medical equipment, for services they unsurprisingly fucked up and failed to deliver. Your government even managed to create an algorithm for A-Level results that operates on class-based discrimination.

I’m talking, of course, about the UK – a place nobody in their right mind would volunteer to relocate to unless they absolutely had to. And yet, on the same week it was made official that the British economy is in an unprecedented recession, the press decided to pivot their time and resources towards trawling the English Channel for overcrowded rafts of asylum seekers.

Sky News and BBC Breakfast ran live broadcasts from the Channel this week, in which reporters shouted across the water to vox-pop people in rubber dinghies while giving them a thumbs up. The broadcasts prompted widespread criticism of “voyeurism” online, with Labour MP Zarah Sultana saying: “We should ensure people don’t drown crossing the Channel, not film them as if it were some grotesque reality TV show.”

Alex Thomson, Chief Correspondent and Presenter for Channel 4 News, responded to critics by suggesting that not covering the crisis is actually racist (presumably not stopping to consider that perhaps the issue could be covered in a way that isn’t completely dehumanising and dystopian).

“Appalling deluge of racism on here this morning by those who think the plight of people risking their lives to get to UK should just be ignored by the media,” he wrote on Twitter. “I think these black and brown lives matter and their situation deserves some of our attention.”

Remember when gonzo journalism used to involve shit like trying to befriend Boko Haram, or Ross Kemp holding an AK-47 to his dome and haranguing some cunt for being too “scared” to pull the trigger? Now it’s this completely sinister bollocks about everyone needing to “bear witness” to someone’s life or death struggle in real time in order to comprehend the gravity of the situation.

Asylum seekers regularly cross the Channel. This sort of “illegal crossing” isn’t exactly a recently discovered news item, so why is it all of a sudden being treated as an explosive story?

It’s literally impossible to be unaware of the hostile climate of migrant discourse in Britain, especially if you work in the media. In our present-day, right-wing-forged value system of human worth, the only time migrants are ever portrayed as having any eminence in British society is if they happen to be a virtuoso heart surgeon or a world class central midfielder in the Premier League – and even then, they’re expected to maintain a saintly, moral and professional standard beyond anything expected of an average white British person.

It’s hard to consider all this and for me not come to the conclusion that, in a moment of economic and societal turmoil, the press is purposefully burying the lede of our massive failures – in terms of both public health and capitalism – by pointing elsewhere and saying, “LOOK, ASYLUM SEEKERS!”

Their Truman Show surveillance of struggling migrants would hold more professional and moral weight if you felt they were at least trying to attain some sort insight into the reasons why so many people are being forced to risk their lives to reach the UK.

If our press really wanted to conduct some humanitarian reporting, they could properly broadcast details from the fucking countries we're bombing. Surely that would give some much needed insight and context beyond shouting between two vessels at sea?

For all the horrors of the Iraq war, at least there seemed to be some cohesive coverage highlighting the cause and effect of the so-called war on terror. The US coalition, of which the UK is a member, say they conducted a total of 33,921 strikes between August of 2014 and the end of January, 2019, and yet this refugee crisis is being treated like some random coincidence.

When our elected MPs vote to bomb Syria or arm Saudi Arabia, an expected consequence of those actions is that innocent civilians probably aren’t going to sit around and wait for one of our “liberating” bombs to murder their entire family.

If this is the media “doing their job”, you have to ask yourself: what exactly is that job, and who is it for?

@MULLETFANNEO