Scary white supremacist Neil Lewington's conviction is getting a pretty good show in the papers and in the media. It's not surprising: he was caught with bomb-making equipment. There are a couple of court cases going on now, involving Muslims accused of similar crimes, so it will be interesting to compare the press reaction to those verdicts, whatever they might be, with Lewington's conviction.
As Septicisle points out, it's just the latest in a series of far-right extremist convictions, most of which have received far less media attention than the trials of Muslim extremists for similar offences. There is of course the justification that links have been claimed with the spectral Al-Qaeda network and overseas training of terrorists, thereby creating a much bigger story in those instances; but that's only part of the story. It might also be worth asking where these far-right loners, often with a cruel streak for minorities, whom they blame for their own failures, get the fuel for the fire - who, for example, keeps telling them that foreigners are taking their jobs and council houses? In which newspapers might they find that kind of justification for their hatred?
On this occasion you can't fault the Mail's reporting as regards the seriousness of the offences: Lewington is labelled as a 'white supremacist' embarking on a 'terror' campaign; he's called a 'fanatic' on a 'murderous mission' - and he was discovered just by chance before he had a chance to put his horrific fantasies into reality.
No, it's not the Mail's reportage which is the issue here. It's the readers' comments. Remember, these are comments which are actively moderated and approved for publication, with many comments failing to make it through the filtering system. The comments you read here, then, have been selected for publication, just as newspapers might choose which letters go on a letters page. Remember that when you read this:
Evil pigs like him muddy the waters for any reasonable debate over immigration. Very few native Britons like the unprecedented levels of foreigners in their midst but most resist the urge to kill or maim. Disgraceful man.....certainly not a patriot.
- Kay Jones, England, 15/7/2009 15:15
It's a comment which is ostensibly critical of Lewington for his failed bombing campaign, but it's critical because the commenter is saying he's let the (far right) side down. Not just that, though: the commenter says it's perfectly understandable that 'native Britons' would have an 'urge to kill or maim' foreigners. That is the kind of view the Mail regards as being acceptable to publish: that immigration makes people have the urge to murder or commit violence against foreigners, but that they should resist it.
As I write this, that's the fifth best rated comment on the story, out of 38.
Yes, there are comments slamming Lewington and Kay Jones's view, but they are less well rated. Also in there in this:
There are no excuses for engaging in voilence for political ends. I understand this guy's frustrations with immigration but there are now legitimate electorial alternatives.
People like Lewington blacken the name of British patriotism.
- Paul, Isleworth, UK, 15/7/2009 15:40
Again, that word 'patriotism', just as in the Jones post. Again, the idea that people are frustrated with immigration, and it's understandable, but there's a political solution - which I assume to mean the BNP and their hateful extremist policies.
Yet again, it's an example of pretty sickening views being voted well up in a Daily Mail story. I can't help thinking this is a news story, not a blog or other platform. What is really added by those comments? What would be lost if they weren't there - if all comments weren't there, apart from a few clicks on the website?
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