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Moulding our minds, the media emotivators


LIBERAL attitudes to the Islamic headscarf are confusing. This is highly topical, because noisy protests have broken out after the death of a young Iranian woman who police arrested for wearing her hijab too loosely.   

Mahsa Amini, aged 22, was allegedly tortured, but the Iranian authorities deny this, claiming that she died of a heart attack while in custody.  

It’s a tragic case, but the outrage in progressive Western media is somewhat selective. The likes of the Guardian promote International Hijab Day, and fashion houses have been praised for introducing Muslim headdress on the catwalk.  

To be fair, it could be argued that there is a difference between choice and coercion (although the same media did not afford British women the liberty on face masks for Covid-19, and the NHS continues to force its mainly female clinical workforce to wear them).  

But double standards are plain to see. Last Sunday, news headlines were dominated by a boisterous demonstration at the Iranian embassy in London, where a counter-protest by Iranian loyalists led to fighting on the streets.  

On the same day, video footage appeared on social media of the Pakistani government’s minister for information as she walked in Oxford Street. Marriyum Aurangzeb was harassed and threatened by Muslims who were appalled by her uncovered hair. The abuse continued in a branch of Pret a Manger, where other customers looked on in silence. Journalists see what’s trending on Twitter, so why no coverage on mainstream media?  

The reason is the ascent of narrative in contemporary culture. Causes are enlivened by chosen cases which then become a rallying cry.   

For decades, the BBC and other news broadcasters have used personal stories to make an event more real to the audience than can be achieved with generalised statistics or analysis. They would claim, like many in journalism, that they are merely looking for the ‘human angle’ on these stories, but it often goes further.  

The plight of a single but supposedly representative person may be used to arouse sympathy for one group and opprobrium for another. This polarising tactic has become more prevalent of late, as Alan Kurdi, George Floyd and Mahsi Amini show.  

In 2015, Europe’s shores were under a tidal wave of immigration, sparked by war in Syria. After weeks of controversy, with the Left arguing for open borders and the Right urging stronger controls, a young boy appeared on the front pages of newspapers from the Guardian to the Sun.  

The lifeless body of Alan Kurdi, held by his father, humanised the mass movement of people from the Middle East and Africa. The boy drowned off the coast of Turkey, among others attempting a dangerous sea crossing to a Greek island in a small boat.   

How could anyone not feel for this two-year-old child? Arguably, this real incident was exploited to shift public opinion towards tolerance for immigration. Yet it is our already liberal approach to illegal immigration and lack of will to restrict and deport which makes the UK a magnet. 

 Governments may talk about curbing the influx, but their actions suggest otherwise. Poorer countries are an endless source of cheap labour, and incomers are likely to be more compliant, lacking the Western heritage of fundamental freedoms and rights.  

The most celebrated case of media personalisation is George Floyd. This man was one of a multitude who die at the hands of aggressive policing every year (dozens in the US alone).   

He was not a particularly attractive victim, a Fentanyl addict with a history of violent crime including pointing a gun at a pregnant woman, but his killing touched on a collective nerve.  

Globally, media went into overdrive. The Black Lives Matter campaign drew large rallies across the world, with enthusiastic participation of middle-class students and graduates (the ‘woke’ generation), while celebrities, universities and big brands virtue-signalled and footballers ‘took the knee’ before matches. Floyd was sanctified by a secular society.  

How did one man’s death provoke such overwhelming sentiment? Importantly, this could not have happened without a sustained media campaign. Perhaps this was a diversionary tactic during the Covid-19 lockdown, when people were beginning to get restless.  

Rallies were not only permitted, but encouraged by authorities, even in cities such as Melbourne and Montreal, where citizens were normally arrested for leaving their homes (thereby breaching emergency public health regulations). The hypocrisy in promoting these protests while curbing rallies against the Covid-19 regime with brutal riot policing was staggering. 

Mahsa Amini has become the latest posthumouscause célèbre.  Iran has been targeted by the West since the Islamist revolution in 1979, with the ayatollahs characterised as regressive and belligerent theocrats.   

Undoubtedly Washington and its Nato partners see the Iranian regime as an enemy, as shown by heavy and enduring sanctions. The rhetoric is increasingly provocative towards Iran, portrayed as a pariah state. The West appears to be fomenting revolution, instrumentalising the media. Reporting by the BBC World Service is unashamedly biased, and tweets by its reporter Shayan Sardarizadeh could be perceived as incitement.   

Sadly, none of these deaths was unique. The myriad media do not concentrate on apparently random cases coincidentally.  There are underlying motives at work, whether workforce demographics, the divide-and-rule of racial politics, or regime change.  

Such themes, though, are not discussed too blatantly. The narrative is cleverly tuned to the emotional traits of ordinary people, most of whom are unaware that they are being manipulated for an ideological agenda. 

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Professor Roger Watson and Dr Niall McCrae
Professor Roger Watson and Dr Niall McCrae
Both Professor Roger Watson and Dr Niall McCrae are Registered Nurses.

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