journalism

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Video footage shows violence of assault on Palestinian journalist, courage of Jewish colleague

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 10/06/2024 - 9:03pm in

Far-right Zionist mob’s racist assault on Saif Al Qawasmi exposed

Video released of a far-right Zionist mob’s assault on a Palestinian journalist in East Jerusalem reveals the viciousness of the assault. Saif al-Qawasmi was attacked last week by a crowd of racist thugs as they chanted bigoted slogans in East Jerusalem for Israel’s ‘flag day’, with pictures circulating of the moment of the attack.

And now video footage broadcast on Al Jazeera – ignored so far by the UK ‘mainstream’ media – shows just how much danger Qawasmi was in as the mob attacked in what is Palestinian territory that the white supremacist colonists say belongs to them:

The footage also shows the courage of a Jewish fellow journalist from Israeli paper Haaretz, who tried to defend al-Qawasmi from his fascist attackers.

If you wish to republish this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.

Pictures: Zionist mob assaults Palestinian journalist

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/06/2024 - 6:51am in

Far-right thugs ‘celebrate’ Israeli ‘flag day’ by viciously attacking Saif Al Qawasami – who was then arrested by occupation police for getting beaten up

As a huge mob of racist extremists flooded occupied Jerusalem – which belongs to Palestine and is administered by Jordan – for Israel’s ‘flag day’, a mob of thugs jumped Palestinian journalist Saif Al Qawasmi in the Old City:

After he was jumped and beaten, Al Qawasmi was arrested by occupation police. Elsewhere, Palestinian old people were beaten by roving gangs chanting racist slogans and police ordered Palestinian shopkeepers to close as mobs rampaged through.

Around the same time, far-right Israeli minister Itamar ben-Gvir and a gang of thugs and bodyguards was forcing his way into the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, which he has said belongs to Israel and only Israel. Israel continues to murder civilians, mostly women and children, in its genocide in Gaza.

If you wish to republish this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.

They Can’t Control The Gaza Narrative Because Too Much Has Been Seen

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 02/06/2024 - 10:25pm in

Listen to a reading of this article (reading by Tim Foley):

https://medium.com/media/600e98d8b8fedc6b4840f3e8d18baea9/href

A lot of mainstream-adjacent progressives act like Gaza is some radical deviation from normal US behavior, which is infantile nonsense. The US inflicts similar horrors on the world all the time; the only major difference is (A) this one’s being live-streamed and (B) there was a pro-Palestine movement in place before it began.

With regard to (B), Gaza is really illustrating how much the US empire benefits from moving through its foreign military violence relatively quickly. When it can move from propagandizing the population about Evil Dictatorship X to destroying the country in question to moving on to its next war in the span of a few short years, there’s not enough time for public awareness to grow of exactly how evil the empire is being. It was years before a mainstream consensus developed that the invasion of Iraq was wrong, and it will probably be decades before there’s mainstream consensus about the evil shit the empire did in Syria from 2011 onwards.

With Gaza, people saw this one coming and were calling it what it is from the moment it began, because there was already a widespread political understanding — at least on the left — that Israel is a murderous settler-colonialist project and that the Palestinians are a colonized people. This widespread understanding occurred because the Israel-Palestine debate has been raging for generations, so the collective has had enough time to really examine the facts and circulate its arguments through public consciousness. Those facts and arguments were there ready to be picked up and understood and used — even by young people who are new to the situation — after October 7.

So what’s really hurting the empire’s information interests today is the fact that there was widespread social consciousness about Palestine already in place before the Gaza assault began, combined with the consciousness-expanding effects of social media and the ease with which ordinary people can now circulate raw video footage. Which really goes to illustrate the fact that consciousness and dysfunction cannot coexist, whether you’re talking about humans as individuals or as a collective. If we can really see something and deeply understand it, it’s much harder for depravity to function.

The light of awareness makes it very difficult for an empire which is fueled by human blood to operate, which is why so much effort has been going into shutting off the lights. Shutting off the lights here looks like circulating lies and propaganda, killing Palestinian journalists in record numbers, blocking western journalists from entering Gaza, banning TikTok, stomping out student protests, and smearing everyone who tries to spread awareness of Gaza as an anti-semite.

In that sense we actually kind of are seeing a struggle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness here — not in the sense the Zionist ideologues mean it, but in the sense that there are people who are trying to spread the light of awareness coming into direct conflict with people who are trying to shut that light down.

And that’s how humanity will eventually move into health: by the light of awareness spreading throughout our collective consciousness to all the various ways our species is still dysfunctional. This spreading of awareness happens in ways that are as diverse as investigative journalism, teaching, research, tweeting, making videos, writing blogs, informing others in interpersonal conversations, and expanding your own personal consciousness with inner disciplines like meditation and self-inquiry.

We can each participate in this unfolding of human consciousness in our own way throughout our lives, and every contribution we make toward that end makes a difference. Anything you do to make the unseen seen and cast the light of awareness on areas of dysfunction helps move humanity into a higher level of functionality, whether you’re spreading awareness of dysfunction out there in the world, or in yourself by bringing more consciousness to your own inner processes.

We can each do many things every single day to help move humanity into the light, so that we may one day become a fully conscious species. We can each cultivate a practice of constantly looking for opportunities to expand consciousness in this way from moment to moment.

In 2024, Gaza is very, very fertile ground for such expansion.

________________

My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece here are some options where you can toss some money into my tip jar if you want to. Go here to find video versions of my articles. Go here to buy paperback editions of my writings from month to month. All my work is free to bootleg and use in any way, shape or form; republish it, translate it, use it on merchandise; whatever you want. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. All works co-authored with my husband Tim Foley.

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Featured image via Adobe Stock.

Special Investigation: Society’s Reluctance to Acknowledge the Scale of Child Sexual Abuse and a Lack of Political Support for Its Survivors is Keeping the Vulnerable At Risk

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 01/06/2024 - 10:14pm in

This investigation was first published in the May 2024 print edition of Byline Times

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The lack of support for survivors of child sexual exploitation is a major reason why vulnerable women are susceptible to far-right groups offering support, experts told Byline Times.

Cuts to council budgets have impacted child social care services provided by local authorities – even as demand has increased. Byline Times has previously reported on the crisis in children’s homes that has seen private equity firms, and even the Qatari Government, make hundreds of millions of pounds from putting vulnerable children in unsafe accommodation. In at least one case, staff failed to stop at-risk children from being sexually abused by men in the area.

Mental health support is another area under huge pressure. 

The risk of CSE survivors attempting suicide can be as much as six times greater than in the general population, but no ring-fenced, long-term, specialist support is provided by government or the NHS. To access even general mental health support, CSE survivors face a waiting list with nearly two million others.

Most survivors, or children at risk of abuse, are forced to rely on a patchwork of charities – some government-funded, some not – to help deal with their trauma. But these charities are themselves struggling. 

A number of those Byline Times spoke to for this investigation said charities are struggling to meet the record levels of need from a growing number of survivors while operating on shoestring budgets. Although the Government recently announced that it is doubling its funding for child abuse charities to £2.4 million, this amounts to just £22 for each of the 107,000 child sexual abuse cases logged by the police in 2022.

These problems help explain why the far-right is able to present itself as ‘filling the gap’ left by this lack of services with its own range of support for survivors. 

But it is often not just about financial support. According to several of the experts Byline Times spoke to, survivors of child sexual exploitation, and their experiences, have too often been disregarded by the Government, media, and police.

In many of the high-profile cases of on-street grooming – such as Rochdale and Rotherham, but also less well-known examples across the country – there have been systemic issues with how authorities have reacted to reports of abuse.

One report into the mass grooming of underage girls in Rochdale found that police had repeatedly failed to record evidence and testimonies of those who came forward begging for help. Authorities across the region then repeatedly failed to investigate for years after victims first came forward. Dozens of children had been sexually exploited at the hands of a gang of perpetrators operating in the area.  

Despite the press attention the issue has received in the years since, these systemic failings continue. One academic Byline Times spoke to said they had recently attended a meeting where police dismissed the testimonies of a CSE survivor as they were deemed to not be acting as upset as they should have been if they were actually a victim (despite lack of emotion being a common response to shock). 

“It is important to understand and address the reasons why some survivors and their loved ones might be susceptible to approaches from the far-right, which means thinking carefully about what they offer,” University College London’s Dr Ella Cockbain said.

Perhaps at the core of the problem is the fact that society still struggles to get to grips with the scale of child sexual abuse being perpetrated. One in 10 children – and one in six girls – are estimated to experience sexual abuse before the age of 16. Even that figure, authorities believe, is likely to be an underestimate.

Nazir Afzal, the Crown Prosecution Service’s former lead on child sexual abuse, said: “It’s far too common. I always say that it’s the pandemic that will outlive the pandemic we’ve just been through. By focusing on the exploitation of it, we mustn’t minimise the fact that it occurs and its impact.”

Diverting Focus From Survivors To Perpetrators

For some experts, this cuts to the core of why the narrative of ‘Muslim grooming gang’ persists, even as the evidence calling into question its credibility has become clear.

“We can’t cope as individuals by accepting that, actually, this can happen to my child, my niece or nephew, or could be perpetrated by someone we know,” Helen Beckett, Professor of Social Policy and Social Work at the University of Central Lancashire, told Byline Times.

“It’s much easier to think of it as a problem ‘out there’ that affects ‘other people’. So the ‘grooming gangs’ idea fits into this othering narrative – that it’s other people over there doing this who are not like us.”

The “societal stigma and silencing” around child sexual abuse, she said, leaves us unable to contemplate, let alone discuss, its existence and scale, unless we are able to project it elsewhere, as something alien or imported.

This can have serious repercussions for society as a whole. But, more than anything, the biggest victims of that failure are sexual abuse survivors themselves. 

The experts Byline Times spoke to warned that, by solely focusing on Asian grooming gangs, thereby ignoring the scale of abuse elsewhere in society, a “hierarchy of abuse” is created. When everyone, from the media to the police, begin to place greater focus on ‘cracking down on Muslim grooming gangs’, it fails other survivors – “whose abuse is overlooked because it doesn’t fit that narrative”.

Afzal said that he has been contacted by lawyers who have struggled to get the police to open criminal cases into perpetrators of child sexual exploitation who are not from Muslim or south Asian backgrounds. He said he has also been told of social services training programmes in which at-risk children are solely told to avoid getting into cars with south Asian men. 

“You’re almost giving them a false sense of reassurance that, if they don’t hang around with certain people they won’t be abused, even when eight out of 10 sex abusers in prison are British white men,” Afzal told Byline Times.

Following Suella Braverman’s comments last year about the threat of Muslim groomers, a coalition of charities and experts in child protection – including the NSPCC and Victim Support – wrote an open letter, stating that narratives based on “misinformation, racism and division” were putting children at risk by drawing attention away from other sources of sexual abuse.

Better funding and serious reforms to the policing of sexual abuse, statutory requirements to offer prolonged psychological support to survivors, and a huge uptick in government funding for charities and support services were all floated as potential solutions to the crisis.  

But doing any of that would also require coming to terms with how, as a society, we have enabled this – through our refusal to acknowledge the scale of child sexual abuse and address it with the funding and support people need.

One of the biggest tragedies of the ‘Muslim grooming gangs’ narrative, according to survivors Byline Times spoke to, is that it redirects the focus from survivors onto the race or religion of the perpetrator – and reinforces the very stereotypes that survivors face as a barrier to being heard in the first place. 

“I was abused by all men and the police didn’t give a f**k about any of them,” Lara (not her real name) said. “Because it’s not about how the police saw those men – it’s about how the police saw me. That’s what it was about: how the police see young women from working-class backgrounds.”

Special Investigation: ‘Muslim Grooming Gangs’ – An Old Conspiracy Mainstreamed by Today’s Politicians and Press

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 01/06/2024 - 10:13pm in

This investigation was first published in the May 2024 print edition of Byline Times

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The narrative of ‘Muslim grooming gangs’ entered the mainstream in 2011, when The Times published an exposé on a “conspiracy of silence on UK sex gangs”. According to experts, the story contained the two key planks that became central to the narrative: that Pakistani-heritage men were preying on white British girls, and that the authorities failed to intervene for fear of being branded racist.

In the years since, thousands of articles on ‘grooming gangs’ have been published by The Times and other newspapers – helped by endorsements from mainstream politicians. 

The issue was also given supposed scientific support through a ‘study’ by the controversial Quilliam Foundation. The now defunct group, once headed by conspiracy theorist Maajid Nawaz, claimed that it had found that “84% of grooming gang offenders are Asian”, in a piece of work dismissed as “shoddy pseudoscience” by academics for its failure to use complete data in its analysis.

In the narrative as told by groups such as Quilliam, the perpetrators of child sexual exploitation from Muslim backgrounds commit these crimes because of problematic beliefs in their culture and faith (while those from a white British background are individual deviants).

By extension, police failures in the cases of abusers from Muslim backgrounds are due to political correctness (while failures to deal with historic sex abuse by the likes of Jimmy Savile, for instance, are of a different order).

In 2020, a two-year study of crime data and academic research by the Home Office concluded that “group-based offenders are most commonly white” and that there was no credible evidence that one ethnic group is overrepresented in the perpetrators of child sexual exploitation.

Despite these findings, politicians have continued to discuss ‘Muslim grooming gangs’. One prominent example of this has been former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who has repeatedly and baselessly claimed that south Asian Muslims account for a significant number of paedophile rings operating in the UK.

In September last year, the press regulator IPSO told the Mail on Sunday to amend an op-ed in which she claimed that “almost all” child grooming gangs are British-Pakistani.

When Byline Times asked the Home Office about the impact of Braverman’s comments, a spokesperson said that “child sex abusers can come from any walk of life” and insisted that her claims only related to the specific cases in Rotherham, Telford, and Rochdale.

But Nazir Afzal, the Crown Prosecution Service’s former lead on child sexual abuse, believes that Braverman’s intervention on the issue had a significant impact. 

“The far-right have got traction because of Braverman and others like her,” he told Byline Times. “When you have ministers, and the former Home Secretary, talking about this issue as being a ‘dividing line’ in our communities, that provides encouragement to those who are already exploiting it to continue.”

Dr Ella Cockbain, a University College London professor specialising in research on trafficking and child sexual abuse, agrees. She said there is “growing evidence” of the far-right actively seeking out survivors of child sexual exploitation, and their families, to exploit their trauma for its own gains.

“The deliberate spread of racialised stereotypes around child sexual abuse has been a gift to the far-right helping to mainstream and normalise what used to be fringe positions,” she told Byline Times.

When far-right terrorist Brenton Tarrant killed 51 people in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019 the words “for Rotherham” were painted on his gun. 

Eighty-one-year-old grandfather Mushin Ahmed was murdered as he walked to prayers at a mosque in a racially-motivated attack in Rotherham seemingly in response to the child sexual exploitation scandal in the town in 2015. 

Darren Osborne, who killed one person and injured nine others when he drove his van into a group outside London’s Finsbury Park Mosque, described a film about the Rochdale scandal as a “trigger”. He vowed to “kill all the Muslims” before committing his attack.

An Old Trope

Inaccurate stories about people from certain ethnic groups being more likely to rape white girls are the manifestation of a long-running trope masquerading as a ‘call to arms’ used by the far-right.

The high-profile scandals of on-street grooming in recent years, and the subsequent investigations into why such abuse went uncovered by authorities for so long – including claims of concerns about ‘political correctness’ – have seen it channelled into its modern form through concrete examples of perpetrators of colour and injustice.

“The far-right have long sought to capitalise on the issue of on-street grooming by gangs,” Hope Not Hate’s Nick Lowles told Byline Times

“In 2004, the British National Party (BNP) gained several seats on Bradford Council by exploiting local anger that accompanied revelations that as many as 65 girls had been abused in Keighley. 

“The following year, BNP Leader Nick Griffin made the issue the focus of his campaign to win the parliamentary seat of Keighley. Fortunately, he failed miserably, largely because Hope Not Hate was able to enlist the support of the woman leading the campaign to tighten up the law to protect survivors. 

“Through a Hope not Hate tabloid, which was distributed to all 35,000 homes in the constituency, she explained how Griffin and the BNP were exploiting her daughter’s story for its racist aims, whilst offering no practical solutions to the issue. Her intervention made all the difference and Griffin came a distant third in the election with just 9% of the vote.

“Over the next 15 years, we have seen the English Defence League, Britain First, and other far-right groups try to exploit the issue with repeated demonstrations and protests in towns like Rotherham, Rochdale, and Telford. They use the issue to whip up racism, disregarding the needs and wishes of the young women who have been abused. 

“They have, however, forced police and councils to spend millions in ensuring the protests pass off peacefully, and in doing so diverting money and resources from the services that would actually help the survivors of abuse.”

Each crime of child sexual exploitation is horrific, and it is a fact that there are paedophiles from Muslim backgrounds perpetrating abuse. But to focus on the issue solely as a ‘Muslim’ issue, leaves a significant swathe of cases – at the hands of non-Muslim abusers – insufficiently recognised as symptoms of a much wider national crisis.

While this investigation has uncovered how a new, more organised, far-right is, once again, leaving survivors of child sexual exploitation at risk, the fact is that a growing number of survivors are choosing to engage with such groups. 

To understand why, experts believe that, as a society, we must confront our continued unwillingness to acknowledge the complexity and scale of child sexual abuse in Britain – and the lack of support services in place to help those who have been through the most traumatic experiences to come to terms with their pasts.

Special Investigation: The Network of Far-Right Groups Exploiting the Survivors of Child Sexual Exploitation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 01/06/2024 - 10:13pm in

This investigation was first published in the May 2024 print edition of Byline Times

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United Hull’s support of survivors of child sexual exploitation seems, on the surface, to have been a strange course for the group to take.

According to this newspaper’s research, United Hull was founded by several former football hooligans linked to Hull City FC. It was originally set up as a street protest group, aiming to force the local police to reopen an investigation – Operation Marksman – into an alleged paedophile ring operating in the area that had not been fully addressed by the force. It was a story similar to the systemic policing failures to tackle paedophile gangs in Rochdale, Telford, and Rotherham. 

Over the years, the extreme politics of United Hull’s leadership and members became increasingly apparent.

The far-right Patriotic Alternative rally, which multiple United Hull members and a leader attended, was a turning point. 

Dubbed “Britain’s largest far-right white supremacist movement” by The Times last year, Patriotic Alternative has become one of the most prominent neo-Nazi groups in the country.

Earlier this year, Byline Times revealed that the Equality and Human Rights Commission threatened the group with legal action after one of its campaigns – ‘Operation White Christmas’ – asked people to donate only to white families in need.

In the aftermath of the Patriotic Alternative rally, a United Hull leader who eventually stepped down said that he was “first and foremost a street protestor and a patriotic campaigner”. But he was not a singular example of far-right tendencies within the group.

In Facebook posts, United Hull members discuss patrolling night clubs to hunt predators, protesting and “guarding” proposed sites for migrant accommodation, and the need to “form an army like the IRA and defend our country”.

One United Hull member, Sam Melia, was jailed for two years in March this year on charges of stirring up racial hatred. A fan of Oswald Mosley and Adolf Hitler, and an organiser for Patriotic Alternative, the judge said he was an antisemite with Nazi sympathies. 

Another United Hull member, Alek Yerbury – who has been subject to a slew of negative press for his resemblance to Hitler – has posted multiple times in United Hull’s Facebook group, including organising details for multiple protests at asylum seeker accommodation. Yerbury was also a leading member of Patriotic Alternative, before leaving in February last year to ally himself with a new group of hardened far-right activists in Yorkshire with hopes to form a “new EDL”, according to Hope Not Hate.

United Hull has also taken part in livestreams with Sharon Binks, an organiser for a group called Justice for Women and Children. It also has links to the far-right, with Binks’ praise for far-right figurehead Stephen Yaxley-Lennon previously the subject of a BBC Newsnight investigation.

Yaxley-Lennon, known as ‘Tommy Robinson’, is one of the most prominent far-right campaigners in Britain, even being appointed as a ‘grooming gangs’ advisor in 2018 to the then UKIP Leader Gerald Batten.

Yaxley-Lennon and other UKIP leaders were the original founders of another far-right group, Hearts of Oak. With the help of UKIP’s Lord Malcom Pearson, it recently funded a landmark civil case by a Rochdale abuse survivor against her abuser, as a result of which she was awarded £425,000 in damages.

In 2019, a Rochdale-based abuse support group, Shatter Boys, said it was approached by Lord Pearson and other UKIP figures with promises to introduce them to millionaire donors and to fund an open-top bus that could raise the alarm about ‘grooming gangs’ in the area. At the time, the charity’s founder, who refused the request, said “I think their fight is about Islam”.

The interconnectedness of the network of these far-right groups reflects the extent to which those holding extreme beliefs have used the issue of child sexual exploitation in recent years to further their own ends.

Sexual Abuse and the Far-Right

Holly Archer, one of the most prominent survivors of the Telford sex ring, who has written a biography of her experiences I Never Gave My Consent, last year revealed how she returned to Telford to see the far-right Britain First group campaigning about child sexual abuse.

She said the group’s then Acting Leader, Jayda Fransen, “handed me a leaflet with a picture of my book on it, and quotes that had been twisted and misconstrued to make me say the most racist things… They’d made it about immigration. About all these migrants ‘coming over here to rape our girls’. I felt a rage inside me that I didn’t know what to do with”.

Another prominent survivor of child sexual exploitation, Caitlin Spencer, has said she was pressured to say that Muslims were to blame for widespread child abuse. When she later challenged far-right narratives, she said she received virulent personal insults and was even lectured about her experiences of abuse online.

The experts Byline Times spoke to raised the same concerns about the furthering of a far-right anti-Islam agenda. 

For Waqas Tufail, a Reader in Criminology at Leeds Beckett University and an expert on child sexual exploitation, the problem is clear: “The far-right don’t care about these survivors, they want to exploit them for political ends.”

This is given further weight by the track record on child sexual exploitation of individuals in the far-right movement. 

Stephen Yaxley-Lennon was sentenced to six months in prison after he filmed outside, and shared restricted details of, a CSE case being heard at Leeds Crown Court in 2018, risking undermining the entire legal process. 

He defended close friend and ally Richard Price when Price was convicted of making four indecent images of children in 2010, claiming that he had been “stitched up” and calling for his release.

A previous investigation by Hope Not Hate uncovered at least 20 cases of members and supporters of the English Defence League (EDL) being convicted of child sexual exploitation offences. This included Robert Ewing, who murdered schoolgirl Paige Chivers in 2007 after developing an “inappropriate sexual interest” in her.

The failure to deal with sexual abusers in its own midst, however, has not hampered the far-right’s focus on the ‘Muslim grooming gangs’ narrative.

Special Investigation: ‘The Far-Right Is Cynically Taking Advantage of Child Sexual Exploitation Survivors’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 01/06/2024 - 10:12pm in

This investigation was first published in the May 2024 print edition of Byline Times

Subscribe now to stay ahead of the curve

Survivors of child sexual exploitation are being exploited by groups linked to the far-right, taking advantage of a lack of support for these vulnerable individuals, to further an anti-Muslim agenda around grooming gangs, a five-month special investigation by Byline Times has found.

This newspaper has spoken to survivors of CSE who were promised paid-for therapy, and were aware of others offered food, televisions and new clothes, by groups with links to the far-right, which then pushed survivors to speak out about their experiences of abuse at rallies.

The practice was described as “grooming” by both survivors themselves and several leading academics Byline Times spoke to.

Members of one group in Hull, with links to multiple neo-Nazi organisations and campaigners, told one survivor that child sexual exploitation was being carried out by “p***s”. After leaving the group, she faced a litany of violent threats and intimidation from its members.

Despite evidence, produced by the Home Office itself, showing that individuals from no single background or religion are more likely than another to commit child sexual exploitation crimes each year, narratives around ‘Muslim grooming gangs’ have become normalised among politicians and media outlets on the right.

Nazir Afzal, a former Crown Prosecution Service lead on child sexual exploitation and the prosecutor in the Rochdale paedophile gang case, told Byline Times that this is part of a wider pattern of the far-right weaponising the issue of ‘grooming gangs’ to further its own aims – with the narrative being used to recruit growing numbers of members and justify anti-migrant and anti-Muslim protests.

This investigation has uncovered that the far-right has been able to exploit a lack of prolonged support for often ignored survivors of child sexual exploitation by government and charities – which helps to explain why survivors are susceptible to any support such groups claim to offer.

Grooming and Threats

Lara (not her real name) did not know what to expect when she was told to attend a meeting by United Hull. 

Having attempted to access NHS mental health support for “years and years”, a friend and another survivor of child sexual exploitation had told her that the group would be able to get her “long-term therapy and justice”. 

She was desperately in need of support to combat the depression and suicidal feelings that were the result of the trauma of her abuse – abuse she said was never properly addressed by the police or other local authorities.

Despite not knowing much about the group, Lara decided to go along. 

“I remember when I was getting in the taxi, I was literally praying, because I was finally going to get some help,” she told Byline Times. “I got to this pub, went in, and there were just lots and lots of men. They were there with a big banner.”

One of the men eventually approached Lara, telling her how “brave” she was for attending the meeting. He said the group would be able to organise psychological support for her. 

But the reality of United Hull’s political beliefs quickly became more apparent. 

Lara said: “They were saying abuse by Asian men was an Islamic thing, and that it was an attack on our country and our British values.” As she had been abused repeatedly by men from a number of different backgrounds and ethnicities, the narrative did not sit well with her.

“I remember going out for a cigarette and texting my mate to say ‘I don’t know about this’. And this guy came out and said ‘you’re a survivor aren’t you?’ and I said ‘yes’. And he said ‘we all know it’s the p***s doing this’.”

Lara decided to cut ties with the group. But, in the months and years since, she told this newspaper that she has seen a growing number of child sexual exploitation survivors in the area join it in search of support, justice and validation. These women have had therapy sessions paid for, received financial support, and been gifted televisions, trainers, new tracksuits, and more. Several eventually spoke out about their experiences of abuse at rallies.

Since CSE survivors are afforded lifelong anonymity by the courts, in order to give them complete control over whether they speak out or not, several experts expressed serious concerns about the potential re-traumatising impact of survivors speaking out at these rallies.

Byline Times understands that some of the women left the group after becoming aware of its political leanings.

Last year, multiple members and a leader of United Hull attended a rally held in Hull by the far-right group Patriotic Alternative. 

Videos of the event show United Hull members standing on the other side of a police cordon chanting about refugees being “invaders”. They also screamed abuse at a CSE survivor who attended a counter-protest. Videos show that she is called a “c***” and a “bitch” repeatedly, and subject to thinly-veiled threats about the men knowing who she is and telling her to step away from the protection of the police.

Despite being a survivor of child sexual exploitation, Lara said she was called a “paedophile sympathiser” by far-right organisers of the rally for vocally opposing the idea of paedophile rings being a Muslim-specific problem. 

“I’m scared in the house, these men know where I live,” she said. “Every time I think I’m going to do something about it, I think ‘they know where I live’.”

United Hull did not respond to Byline Times’ questions. The group has previously denied having far-right leanings. This newspaper understands that at least one leader of the group who was at the Patriotic Alternative rally left after his attendance was revealed.  

A Wider Pattern

The story of United Hull is not the only one Byline Times was told.

Nick Lowles, founder and director of anti-extremism charity Hope Not Hate, said this type of targeting is a pattern he had encountered all too frequently as the “far-right have repeatedly exploited survivors for their political and personal gain”. 

“In Telford, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, better known as ‘Tommy Robinson’, has made a small fortune recounting the stories of young women sexually abused in the town,” he told Byline Times, citing findings from the biography he wrote on Yaxley-Lennon, Tommy.

“No convictions have resulted from his exposés and several of the women have experienced severe trauma resulting from his films, with little or no support offered. Worse still, at least two of Lennon’s aides have had sexual relations with survivors in Telford, one becoming involved in a violent and abusive relationship.”

Representatives for Tommy Robinson did not respond to Byline Times.

Last year, Nigel Bromage, founder of far-right deradicalisation charity Exit Hate and a former neo-Nazi, said that many of the more than 600 people the charity had worked with had a history of being victims of abuse. 

“A lot of these really young girls have gone to the far-right for protection – which they have got – but then they've simply been misused and abused themselves,” he told the Media Storm podcast.

Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, known as 'Tommy Robinson'. Photo: PA/Alamy

John North, another former member of the far-right, told the podcast that it targeted people perceived as having “vulnerabilities that they can exploit” when trying to recruit members. That could go beyond survivors of sexual abuse to include those with neurodiversity, people who are socially outcast, come from broken homes, or have just been through a divorce. 

“As much as you don’t want to give these guys credit, it is very, very, very dangerous to just stereotype [the far-right] as being a bunch of drunken idiots. They’ve looked into, researched, and studied ways of radicalising people,” he said.

Anti-fascist protestor Dr Louise Raw, a victim of childhood abuse, was called “a n*nce and rape apologist” and sent death threats by the far-right, for speaking out against its rallies.

When Yaxley-Lennon held a rally in Telford on grooming gangs, Raw was one of the counter-protestors. In a speech, she shared her experiences of abuse with the crowd. “I was just so angry about the far-right claiming to be the ones who care about victims and anti-fascists being labelled ‘paedophile protectors’,” she said.

Dr Raw told Byline Times that a friend who had been subject to “years of grooming” was contacted by several prominent far-right figures with promises to raise money for her to receive therapy. When their political persuasions became apparent, she tried to cut ties. 

“At this point, these ‘caring’ and ‘victim-supporting’ people began to threaten her and say she should kill herself and that her children should be drowned,” Dr Raw recalled. “The far-right is cynically taking advantage of child sexual exploitation survivors. They are using victims to further their racist agendas.”

South Africa 2024 Elections: UK Media ‘Makes No Effort to Understand Why the Country Views the World So Differently From the West’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 31/05/2024 - 11:38pm in

As we write, South African votes are being counted, punching one more notch in the belt of 2024 elections, in which two billion people across 50 countries will head to the polls.

You can speak to South Africans for unexpected insights into a fascinating democracy, as Media Storm did this week.

Take Khayalethu, whose mother sacrificed work and income to clear the ruling ANC party's path to power and who didn’t get so much as a tombstone from the party she lost it all for. Her son now lives in destitution, traumatised and impoverished from his rebel childhood, furious at the comrades who sold the rainbow vision for riches. Yet, she still insists the ANC is worth “one last chance”.

Or Gerard, a Congolese asylum seeker who leans towards the Democratic Alliance (despite its nickname being the ‘white privilege party’), in the hope its perceived bureaucratic competence could reduce the nation’s tortuous asylum waiting times.

Or Ndivhuwo, a young black property owner who is voting for the Marxist-subscribing Economic Freedom Fighters because most of the land is “still owned by colonisers”.

But it's not just South African democracy that people on the ground can provide their thoughts on.

“British newspapers are incredibly condescending when they write about the 88% of the world’s population who live outside the West,” former President of the UN Security Council, Kishore Mahbubani, once told Media Storm. They “make absolutely no effort to understand why they view the world so differently from the West”.

On the two biggest geopolitical issues of our time, South Africa – like much of the Global South – stands at odds with the narratives insisted by our mainstream.

It uses the term ‘genocide’ in relation to Israel – while we use ‘conflict’ and ‘war’ – and it is ‘non-aligned’ on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – while we call Russia’s attacks ‘illegal’. 

With South Africa in the news this week, we ask why the world beyond the West sees things so differently: what are South Africans reading that we are not – and vice versa?

Russia is a tricky one. The South African President’s apparent cosiness with Vladimir Putin is a source of controversy internally. Yet Putin can still book a column in South Africa's national press because the people reading it broadly agree with the notion that “the expansionism of European influence towards Ukraine is unreasonable”, according to Dr Mpumelelo Mkhabela, a South African political analyst.

“The relationship with Russia is very sentimental,” he told Media Storm. For one thing, the USSR trained and armed anti-apartheid fighters when the West “frowned upon” Nelson Mandela’s call for help.

But, it’s a conflicting alliance., because “South Africa is on the West’s [side] in terms of value systems, outlook, individual rights, constitution, democracy, property rights”. But principles only go so far: “South Africa is dismayed when the West doesn’t apply those values in international affairs.”

On Gaza, foreign rejection of Western media is stark and unnegotiable. “South Africa has got a very high sensitivity towards racial and ethnic segregation,” said Dr Mkhabela – ending the sentence with a synonym: “apartheid”.  “We need you to pick a side and we don’t have time for the in-between”.

Tats Nkonzo, a South African comedian who joined Dr Mkhabela on the latest Media Storm podcast, was less diplomatic. He quoted the famous statement attributed to Mandela, that “our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians”. For Nkonzo, the language his compatriots use about Gaza today is reminiscent of their own anti-apartheid struggle: “Anybody who's fought the struggle is speaking the same language and anybody who hasn’t is not.”

In the same way our media uses unprecedentedly emotive terms to describe Russian aggression in Ukraine in factual reporting – 'illegal war’, 'invading force’, 'resistance’ – South African journalists apply terms such as 'apartheid’ and 'genocide’ to Israel’s actions in Gaza.

In step with this, the ANC Government has brought a case against Israel, accusing it of genocide, at the International Court of Justice. Perhaps the starkest difference between South Africa's narrative of the war and the West's is that it doesn’t begin with the 7 October Hamas attacks. The lawsuit cites Israel’s “75-year apartheid, 56-year occupation, and 16-year blockade of the [Gaza] Strip”.

By contrast, South Africans look upon Western media as not merely biased, but 'gagged’. Such is the term used by Dr Mkhabela to describe the West's coverage of the ICJ case (or lack thereof). He is not alone.

Canadian journalist Davide Mastracci called out his country’s front pages for their “minimal to zero coverage of South Africa’s case against Israel”. The communications chief for the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor made a long list of Western mainstream channels not showing the ICJ hearing, describing it a “campaign of disinformation by omission”. 

To South Africans, this was a damning failure of a deliberate test: “In this particular case, we are going against Israel,” Nkonzo told Media Storm, “but we are also putting the world on trial.”

The issue is not merely symbolic for South Africans, whose scars of apartheid are still healing.

“When I look at the situation in Gaza, it’s first and foremost from the perspective of somebody who has seen a situation of settler colonialism,” Andrew Feinstein, a former ANC revolutionary-turned-South African MP (who is also standing as an independent parliamentary candidate in Labour Leader Keir Starmer's constituency in the UK 2024 General Election) told Media Storm. But it’s also as someone whose “life and political education were steeped in the Holocaust”. Because Feinstein is a white, Jewish ANC revolutionary-turned-MP.

His mother married a South African after surviving the Holocaust hidden in a coal cellar. When her sanctuary turned out to be a white supremacist apartheid, she realised ‘never again’ didn’t apply to black people in her new homeland. So the Feinsteins joined the fight. In doing so, they were among a huge and honoured movement of Jewish South Africans who bridged the nation’s racial gulfs, in solidarity for fellow victims of ethnic segregation and abuse.

“Yes, it’s sometimes a difficult position to take,” Feinstein said, recalling his mother’s cousin and uncle who found sanctuary in Israel. “But, given my own personal life experience, it would be far more difficult to take any other position.”

South African testimonies exhibit the complex layers of worldview that shape the voters of our globalised world. And while they expose the geopolitical biases unadmitted by our media, they also reveal a simple fix – all we need to do is talk to each other.

Media Storm’s ‘South Africa Elections – Worldviews in ‘the West’ vs ‘the Rest’ is out now

‘BBC Hopes to Remind Viewers of its Tradition of Authoritative Journalism By Having Clive Myrie Join Laura Kuenssberg for its Election Night Coverage’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 29/05/2024 - 8:38pm in

The BBC’s announcement of its team that will be hosting its election night coverage predictably ticks many boxes.

Well-known faces will be dispatched to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with Jeremy Vine doing his graphic sequences from Cardiff, Kirsty Wark in Edinburgh, and Andrea Catherwood providing updates from Belfast. So far, so normal, from a BBC very keen to show that it gets about the UK.

There will also be input at other locations from Fiona Bruce, Victoria Derbyshire, Naga Munchetty, Nick Watt, and Alex Forsyth. Professor Sir John Curtice will also be in the studio in London to offer his expert insight into the exit polls and results.

But, unlike in previous elections, the studio in London will have not one main presenter, but two.

For decades, the BBC's flagship presenting on election night was the undisputed domain of David Dimbleby, whose smooth class embodied the corporation’s Reithian ideals with apparently effortless authority. More recently, of course, Huw Edwards performed the same role. His sad but inevitable departure from the BBC in April left the broadcaster with a huge hole to fill – and a dilemma.

In some ways, the obvious person to fill this gap would have been Laura Kuenssberg.

With the authority that comes from being a former BBC Political Editor, and the current presenter of its Sunday morning political discussion show, she might have been expected to be brought in as the main face of the corporation's election night coverage.

She will feature. But the fact that she will be sharing the role with Clive Myrie is interesting – for the high-level unease it arguably suggests about her performance in recent years.

I have written extensively in these pages previously about Kuenssberg’s shortcomings as a political journalist through election campaigns, the EU Referendum and its aftermath, and the Coronavirus pandemic

She was too close to power. Too reliant on access to the people in power. And often too unwilling to check what she was being told by them was true before she jumped on air and amplified it – a real problem when the people feeding her lines were the likes of Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings.

Senior figures within the BBC, including former Director-General Tony Hall and the current incumbent Tim Davie, were keen to have a figure like Kuenssberg in the role because, I have argued, they wished to appease successive Conservative Governments antithetical to the very idea of public service broadcasting.

Kuenssberg still has her supporters within the BBC hierarchy, including, of course, Sir Robbie Gibb, a former director of communications for Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May, who sits on the BBC's Board and has questionably been given a role ensuring impartiality. For him, I suspect, Kuenssberg would have been a shoo-in to be the face of the BBC’s election night coverage.

But the BBC has felt the need to temper her presence on the set with Myrie, a journalist who has earned respect and admiration for his reporting from international hotspots including, of course, Ukraine.

I worked with Clive Myrie in Iraq in the mid-2000s. We were there together when the BBC’s bureau in Baghdad was struck by a rocket. He comes from the school of reporters who check facts, on the ground, even when that is hard or dangerous. He doesn't see his job as parroting a line given to him by a mendacious government quicker than ITN could.

He is, of course, a well-known and trusted presenter of the 10 O’ Clock News , and has also fronted other high-profile programmes including Mastermind, and Have I Got News For You. He’s good at his job, and people like him. But there appears to be more to his selection for the role than that.

At some level, I believe that in selecting Myrie as joint presenter of its election night coverage, the BBC is hoping to remind its viewers that it has a fine tradition of truthful and authoritative journalism, something that Kuenssberg alone – I suggest, based on my considerable observation of her work – would not have been able to deliver.

Having a figure such as Laura Kuenssberg in such a prominent position during the chaos and upheavals of the past 14 years of Tory rule helped the BBC appease its implacable Conservative enemies. The question remains: what role will she be given if and when that Government is consigned to history – and how much damage will have been done in the meantime?

How Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code Revisions Are Anything But – And Why Allowing GB News to Cover the General Election is ‘Terrifying’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/05/2024 - 6:00pm in

Last March, amid a growing barrage of criticism about politicians – overwhelmingly Conservative ones on GB News – presenting television programmes, Kevin Bakhurst, group director for broadcasting and online content at broadcast regulator Ofcom, said: "In general, serving politicians cannot be a newsreader, interviewer or reporter in any news programme. They are allowed to present other kinds of shows, however, including current affairs. Sometimes those programmes may be on channels that also broadcast news; what matters here is the format of the particular show."

He listed characteristics that could lead Ofcom to classify a programme as news as: 

  • a newsreader presenting directly to the audience;
  • a running order or list of stories, often in short form;
  • the use of reporters or correspondents to deliver packages or live reports; and/or
  • a mix of video and reporter items.
  • a newsreader presenting directly to the audience;
  • a running order or list of stories, often in short form;
  • the use of reporters or correspondents to deliver packages or live reports; and/or
  • a mix of video and reporter items.
  • And current affairs traits included: 

  • a more long-form programme;
  • extensive discussion, analysis or interviews with guests, often live; and
  • long-form video reports.
  • a more long-form programme;
  • extensive discussion, analysis or interviews with guests, often live; and
  • long-form video reports.
  • With complaints continuing unabated and a general election in the wings, last month Ofcom released revised guidance notes for section five of its Broadcasting Code, which concerns due impartiality, due accuracy and undue prominence of views and opinions.

    It also published a research report which it had commissioned from Ipsos UK, which used focus groups in order “to help us understand audience attitudes towards these programmes”. 

    Much has been written about Ofcom's approach to GB News, including in the Guardian, above. The watchdog is said to have carried out 23 formal investigations amid 13 breaches of broadcast rules by GB News. Photo: Kathy deWitt/Alamy

    However, all of this activity resulted in no substantive changes to the way in which Ofcom regulates which politicians are used as presenters on GB News. This augurs badly for the manner in which Ofcom is going to allow the channel to behave during the general election campaign.   

    Firstly, rules 5.3 and 6.6 of its Broadcasting Code remain unaltered. The former states: “No politician may be used as a newsreader, interviewer or reporter in any news programmes unless, exceptionally, it is editorially justified. In that case, the political allegiance of that person must be made clear to the audience."

    And the latter: “Candidates in UK elections, and representatives of permitted participants in UK referendums, must not act as news presenters, interviewers or presenters of any type of programme during the election period."

    By defining politicians only as electoral candidates and preventing them only from acting as newsreaders, as opposed to current affairs presenters, Ofcom will permit Nigel Farage – one of the most influential British politicians of this century, given his role in Brexit, and in the Conservatives’ ever-rightward shift in response to the threat from the party he led, UKIP, then the Brexit Party, which he also led, and now Reform UK, of which he is Honorary President – to carry on presenting his weeknight prime-time programme on GB News throughout the election period.

    And this is spite of the fact that Reform states that it will put up around 600 candidates and that Farage is both a co-owner and a director of Reform, which is a limited company. In the Companies House register, Farage is listed as a ‘director of a political party’. 

    Given that programmes on GB News are presented solely by those on the right (and, in some cases, far-right) wing of the political divide, it is safe to assume that its schedules throughout the election campaign will be dominated by the usual Conservative and Reform presenters – as long as they’re not actually parliamentary candidates.

    No doubt on their programmes there will be a smattering of interviewees with alternative views, just to keep within the letter of the Code, but, going by past form, safely ignoring the guideline which states that such views must not be included in a way that they are merely dismissed by the presenter and used as a further opportunity to put forward the presenter’s own views.

    For example, a presenter should not use alternative viewpoints, contrary to the presenter’s own, only in a dismissive way, and only as a means of punctuating the presenter’s own viewpoint.

    Step forward Jacob Rees-Mogg

    Second, Ofcom has decided to maintain a distinction between news programmes (which cannot be presented by politicians at any time) and current affairs programmes (which can, even during elections).

    But, as Stewart Purvis, a former Ofcom partner for content and standards has pointed out, this distinction is “not set out in the law that created Ofcom, the regulations Ofcom enforce or the guidance it has provided to broadcasters”. Indeed, its only ‘official’ statement appears to be Bakhurst’s note from last March.

    The Code, in line with section 320 of the Communications Act 2003, does not differentiate news from other kinds of content, but specifically states that in “matters of political or industrial controversy and matters relating to current public policy” there are “special impartiality requirements” and these apply to “news and other programmes”.

    This is particularly important, as controversial subjects are GB News’ stock-in-trade, not least during its opinion-driven evening programmes.

    Thus, as Purvis and Chris Banatvala (the founding director of standards and former content board member at Ofcom) conclude, Ofcom’s distinction between the two genres – news and current affairs – and, on the basis of this, allowing politicians to present programmes dealing with controversial matters, is simply "self-created".  

    In its revised section five guidelines, Ofcom notes that it considers that a programme can be both news and current affairs in that it can contain a mix of both types of content. So, for example, news bulletins are commonly included within a current affairs or magazine programme, and sometimes a breaking news story may be included in a non-news programme. In which case it won’t necessarily be clearly demarcated from the rest of the programme, as in the case of a news bulletin, but it will typically be classified as news content and have to abide by the relevant rules in the Code. 

    Ofcom is at pains to stress that whether it considers a programme, or a section of a programme, to be news or current affairs (or both) depends on a number of factors, including its content and format.

    It notes that “every programme is different” but then goes on to list “some typical factors that could lead us to classify content as being news content”. These are, in fact, simply a verbatim restatement of Bakhurst's comment. So much for revision, then.

    Participants in the Ipsos focus groups generally associated news with shorter, factual and live reporting, often involving breaking stories which cut to a reporter on the ground, while current affairs was perceived to consist of long-form discussions of a single topic, which might include questions from guests or audiences.

    In formal terms, news was associated with rolling banners, presenters sitting behind a desk, a branded backdrop and a ticker across the bottom of the screen giving information about breaking news stories, whereas current affairs was seen as having a more relaxed presentational style, which could include an audience, a panel or guests sitting on sofas. 

    Ipsos noted that “participants thought they could easily distinguish between news and current affairs programmes in principle but struggled to consistently do so in practice”. This was particularly the case “when they felt a single programme contained both news and current affairs content”, as in breakfast programmes.

    However, the problem of definition has been neatly illustrated by Stewart Purvis, who noted that Farage’s programme displays four of the characteristics that participants associated with news – studio backdrop, presenter sitting behind a desk, rolling banner, ticker – whereas the last two don’t actually feature in the BBC’s Six O’ Clock News and ITV’s News at Ten.  

    As far as politicians acting as presenters was concerned, the press release for the report stated that “people expressed a range of views about politicians presenting current affairs programmes, but although there were concerns, there’s no clear consensus for an outright ban”. And on BBC Radio 4’s Media Show on 24 April, Ofcom group director for broadcasting and media, Cristina Nicolloti Squires, vouchsafed that “when it came to current affairs they didn’t particularly like politicians presenting it”. 

    However, what the report itself actually said was that “the most prevalent opinion was feeling uncomfortable with politicians presenting current affairs content”. But whether or not there was an overall majority of focus group members who thought that politicians shouldn’t present current affairs programmes, neither Ipsos nor Ofcom lets on.

    The report itself also revealed that participants wanted greater clarity about what kind of people counted as politicians and generally felt that this category should include non-elected politicians and party employees.

    It should also be pointed out that, of the 29 online focus groups, 11 consisted of audiences of channels on which politicians present current affairs programmes. These included four groups of GB News viewers. Thus it was perhaps unsurprising that there was “no clear consensus for an outright ban” on politician presenters.

    No doubt Ofcom would argue, rightly, that the thoughts of these viewers should be taken into account, as they provide a valuable insight into why they watch GB News. But what does Ofcom do with such insights? Well, seemingly one of the things it does is use them to justify how it applies its due impartiality rules to the channel. 

    This is the only conclusion that can be drawn by Ofcom CEO Dame Melanie Dawes telling the Lords Communication and Digital Committee’s Inquiry into the Future of News, last May, that: "Impartiality and trust is very much in the eye of the beholder, and so, for example, GB News’ audience, which is about 4%, of the viewing public, rates it highly for trust accuracy and impartiality... It's enjoyed by its audience and I think that is quite important. Our primary focus is individual broadcasters and how they’re viewed by the public."

    Now, either Dame Melanie was mis-speaking, as she did in Oxford in March this year, or Ofcom has totally disappeared down the relativist, post-truth rabbit hole. Either way, the spectre of GB News being permitted to join the ever-more right-wing national press in poisoning the wells of political debate during the election is one that should terrify anyone seriously concerned with the state of our democracy. 

    On Monday, Ofcom said that it is considering a statutory sanction against GB News over “serious and repeated” breaches of British television laws relating to the channel’s lack of impartiality. The regulator said the channel breached regulations by allowing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to be interviewed on air without sufficient challenge to his views.

    A report of the development by the Guardian noted that Ofcom had carried out 23 formal investigations amid 13 breaches of broadcast rules by GB News.

    Julian Petley is a Honorary Professor of Social and Political Sciences at Brunel University London. This is an extract from the forthcoming book, 'General Election 2024: The Media and the Messengers’, edited by John Mair

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