Three members of UKIP have been suspended following a violent attack on Bookmarks, a socialist bookshop in Bloomsbury. The left-wing bookshop reported the attack by “around a dozen mask wearing fascists” on 4 August. But in its report on the UKIP suspensions, the BBC headline referred to this simply as a “protest”.
As the Bookseller reported, attackers abused Bookmarks staff. They threw books and trashed displays whilst “chanting racist and fascist slogans”. One “wore a Donald Trump mask” and several wore baseball hats with “Make Britain Great Again” slogans. Noel Halifax, who works at Bookmarks, told the Bookseller:
it was unnerving. They were saying things like, ‘We know where you are, I hope you burn down, we’re going to come back again.’ You think ‘oh my god…’ If you know the history of alt-right groups, the historical resonance is chilling.
But on 7 August, the BBC ran this headline:
Tottenham MP David Lammy called UKIP “BBC’s Frankenstein’s monster”:
UKIP is the BBC's Frankenstein's monster. Far right extremism has always been at its core, barely concealed by a veneer of little Englandism. Can we start treating it appropriately?https://t.co/fzKtkvnu8j
— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) August 7, 2018
The BBC headline caused outrage:
A masked group of UKIP thugs storms a socialist bookshop, chanting about Muslims and paedophilia, they tear up books, threaten staff, and the @BBCNews call it a "PROTEST".
This country is in very, very big trouble.
— ben goldacre (@bengoldacre) August 7, 2018
Our parents and grandparents made Britain great by fighting against fascists and nazis to ensure we didn't have to experience this. #BBCNEWS
Socialist bookshop in London 'attacked by mask-wearing fascists' – BBC News https://t.co/ZnSYQmlpPV
— John (@redjohnnw) August 6, 2018
— Helene Mattisson (@MusicGigsetc) August 8, 2018
The BBC headline downplays the severity of this attack. As Bookmarks manager David Gilchrist wrote in the Guardian:
This was a group of so-called alt-right protesters who decided that a socialist bookshop, which stocks radical literature and working-class history titles and provides stalls for national trade union conferences, was a legitimate target for violence.
Gilchrist has also pointed out:
The Nazis targeted books because they knew how important radical ideas are for challenging racism and fascism. The same is true today…
As shadow chancellor John McDonnell stated, the bookshop violence is part of a wider trend:
With the scale of Tommy Robinson demos, the storming of Bookmarks bookshop, & now Boris Johnson’s Islamophobic comments, we can no longer ignore the rise of far right politics in our society. Maybe it’s time for an AntiNazi League type cultural and political campaign to resist.
— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) August 6, 2018
But as far-right extremism grows, resistance is rising. And part of this resistance is to call out the BBC. The word ‘protest’ runs the risk of normalising what is, without doubt, a violent far-right attack. We need to challenge the way it reports on such vital issues.
Enough is enough.
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