A little while ago, in Halal, is it meat you're looking for? I wrote about how the Mail (among others) had got itself into a tizzy about some bloke who wanted to have a chicken & bacon burger in his local KFC, only to discover it was a franchise that was trialling a Halal policy, and that it was all a big shame for the poor crybaby who couldn't get the exact fried chicken product that he wanted, a boo hoo hoo.
If there's a point to this blog - and god knows I wonder sometimes if there really is - then it's this: a lot of people might say that it's not doing anyone any harm, simply churning around these stories, but I do. It allows there to be a culture of acceptability surrounding bigoted and prejudiced opinions, where they are not only allowed to exist but also in a sense encouraged, particularly through the 'user generated content' catflap of reader comments which repeat particular views over and over again.
You might say, well it's not as if anyone's done a picture of the KFC Colonel with a turban-bomb, conflating all Muslims with terrorists, then surrounded it with some sophistry about animal rights and discrimination, but:
Yes, there it is, from our friends at the English Defence League. Now I should point out that they're perfectly capable of being completely prejudiced without the Mail's help, and indeed on this occasion they don't refer to the Mail story, preferring a News of the World link. And I'm not saying that turban-bomb cartoons are the result of things like the Mail story. Nor (before some idiot bothers) am I saying that these people shouldn't have the 'freedom of speech' to be offensive towards KFC, or Muslims, or whoever they want - just so we're clear on that.
But. A lot of times you'll find that where the mainstream media leads, the ultras follow - and sometimes it's the other way around. When you see someone protesting against Halal meat you think to yourself, why is he doing that?
What's that little symbol in the corner of the sandwich board there... is that a clue as to what the real motivation is - perhaps nothing to do with animal welfare concerns? (Interestingly this 'cruelty' protester has the same name as a former BNP organiser in Burnley, though I cannot say if it's the same person or not - the local papers who reported his protest didn't seem to make the connection).
The original Mail article, though, is eagerly discussed on many ultra-nationalist forums, with one commenter on a forum I looked at adding the caveat "The Jews are just as bad" and another complaining that at KFC "our Indian friends wipe their arse with their left hand, run it over a tap then touch our food". And there's something else: these folk seem pleased and delighted when a story about something like this makes it into a national paper like the Mail, as if that's verification of the story, and verification of their views. That's something really worth bearing in mind - while a lot of people might have given up on national papers, they still give off a certain legitimisation.
All the more reason, maybe, for national newspapers when they do cover these stories to make sure they do so responsibly, rather than just ramping up the outrage and fear. Well all the more reason if they gave a shit about the consequences of what they do.
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