We need real answers, not screaming redtops and ranting broadsheets

(c) hozinja

Georgia Lewis

Coverage of the past week’s riots has made armchair tutters of most of us. It has been a week where a lot of us have had our values and beliefs challenged, a week where people of all political persuasions have qualified comments with prefaces such as “At the risk of sounding like a Daily Mail reader…”

But amongst the predictable screaming headlines of the remaining redtops, the coverage has been peppered with incidents that have been truly bizarre. By the second day, one Sky News reporter was talking about extensive damage in Enfield while standing over what looked like a spilled strawberry milkshake.

But this truly has been the news story that Twitter has owned. When the trouble first kicked off in Tottenham, it took ages for either the BBC or Sky News to get cameras on the scene and they kept running the same early pictures we’d all seen on Twitter already.

Twitter’s role in events soon became a double-edged sword – on one hand, we were getting plenty of information faster than the TV channels or newspapers could manage, yet it was also being used to spread false rumours and mobilise rioters all over London and ultimately across England.

Twitter, along with Facebook and YouTube, made an overnight celebrity of Pauline Pearce with the footage of her screaming angrily and passionately at rioters in Hackney whose acts had nothing to do with any kind of justice or closure for Mark Duggan’s family and everything to do with opportunistic destruction. She gave voice to what so many frustrated people were thinking yet the traditional media was much slower on the uptake.

Instead, the TV stations were giving extended airplay to assorted community leaders talking mostly about disenfranchised youth while being surrounded by nodding acolytes. One of the few saving graces was that the hateful views of the EDL weren’t given any real attention in the mass media and their bitter Twitter feeds and absurd Facebook postings blaming everyone from Muslims to vegans got lost in the melee.

Then there was the downright irresponsible reporting – reporters telling the world about locations where there were hardly any police present and one gobsmacking incident where a Sky News reporter wandered into a looted branch of Boots, setting off an alarm and disturbing a crime scene.

But just as endless footage of buildings ablaze and people making off with ill-gotten trainers and televisions endlessly filled the screens, the heart of the story – the death of Mark Duggan and the subsequent release of information by the IPCC – was rapidly becoming lost. And, at the risk of sounding like a Daily Mail reader, the people who were mindlessly vandalising for no good reason got way too much attention without any real or brave commentary on how the situation got so badly out of hand.

As a result, plenty of real issues fell by the wayside. Transparency in the police force, anyone? Gun control discussion, anyone? Actually finding out the facts about what happened the day Mark Duggan died, anyone? No, sensationalism, lame live crosses and predictable rants in print and broadcast were what we got instead. We deserve better.


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