Response to Kelvin Mackenzie’s odious comments on Fatima Manji display the hypocrisy and inconsistency of the mainstream media

fatima_manji

There has been something of an outcry regarding Fatima Manji reporting the recent attacks in Nice on Channel 4 News in a hijab. I say outcry, I really mean one man campaign waged by the ever-odious Kelvin Mackenzie. The same man who, whilst editor of the Sun Newspaper, printed outrageous lies about the victims of the Hillsborough disaster, and who for decades refused to so much as say sorry, now uses his regular column in that same obnoxious rag to rail against a Muslim woman, looking like a Muslim woman, for reporting on an issue concerning a Muslim man. It is entirely unclear whether Mackenzie believes all people of faith are entirely incapable of offering any balanced reports, just unable to offer balance if issues that (potentially) concern their particular faith beliefs are involved, or whether he specifically believes Muslims alone are incapable of balance.

Outrage can be clocked at The Guardian and the BBC. Manji herself complained to IPSO and Mackenzie’s comments have been condemned by Channel 4, ITN and the National Union of Journalists. Tim Farron added his two penneth here, claiming the comments were ‘beyond belief’. The Conservative Sayeeda Warsi and Labour MP Diane Abbott have both condemned Mackenzie’s views here. Outside of the Sun Newspaper itself, condemnation has been pretty widespread and relatively consistent. I can only echo the sentiments. Clearly a reporter’s personal views and faith do nothing of themselves to determine whether they are able to offer a balanced report. The NUJ’s General Secretary, Michelle Stanistreet, put it well in her statement:

To suggest that a journalist is incapable of reporting on a terrorist outrage because of the colour of her skin, her religion or the clothes that she wears says all you need to know about the contemptible views of Kelvin MacKenzie.

Likewise, Channel 4’s News Editor, Ben De Pear, rightly stated he ‘cannot accept … an employee being singled out on the basis of her religion [and] subject to acts of religious discrimination’. All quite right and entirely appropriate.

So why, pray tell, is condemnation for Kelvin Mackenzie’s repugnant comments about Fatima Manji almost universal in the mainstream media yet these same outlets, far from condemning similar suggestions, led the charge against my friend, Dan Walker, when he ascended to the BBC Breakfast sofa because he was an Evangelical Christian? I refer you, dear reader, to my earlier comments here and here.

If Ben De Pear, Channel 4 news editor, is correct that it is unacceptable for an employee to be ‘singled out on the basis of her religion [and] subject to acts of religious discrimination’, on what basis were the repeated reports that Dan Walker is an ‘Evangelical Christian’ and a ‘Creationist’, with no real explanation of what either of those things actually mean, deemed acceptable? If Kelvin Mackenzie’s views of Fatima Manji are rightly deemed ‘contemptible’ simply because she has a stated (or, at least, known) belief, why were Rupert Myers’ comments that Dan Walker ‘now has a stated opinion, he is no longer a dispassionate and objective journalist’ not similarly condemned? How can the same organisations who pilloried Walker for his Christian beliefs now condemn Kelvin Mackenzie for criticising Fatima Manji’s Islamic beliefs? Why do these outlets defend a Muslim as a dispassionate reporter (as, I am sure, Manji is) whilst condemning a Christian as a biased reporter (which, I have no doubt, Walker is not)? What is it about Christian reporters that make them intrinsically untrustworthy and Muslim reporters inherently objective?

Could it be that the faith commitments of both Manji and Walker make them no more, or less, naturally inclined to bias than one another? Is it not possible that people of all faiths and none are entirely capable (so far as any of us are capable) to report objectively and provide balance as necessary? To listen to the views of the mainstream media outlets, the distinct impression is that a Muslim reporter reporting on a Muslim terrorist is entirely capable of being dispassionate whilst a Christian reporter, seemingly reporting on anything factual at all, is utterly biased and categorically unable to present basic fact. If Walker’s ability to present the news as a Christian is in question, then Manji’s ability to present the news as a Muslim must also be questioned. If Manji’s Islamic belief is irrelevant to her presentation of the news, then so must be Walker’s Christianity.

The mainstream media contradiction and hypocrisy on this issue is telling. The irony is that in accusing Walker of lacking objectivity because of his religious beliefs, whilst defending Manji in hers, it is the mainstream media outlets themselves who show their fundamental lack of objectivity on the issue of faith. One must note the BBC, who employ Walker and also reported on Mackenzie’s comments with some sympathy toward Manji, giving them some semblance of credibility and consistency. The same can hardly be said of Manji’s employers, Channel 4, who (rightly) defend her position but failed to offer Walker the same courtesy. Others were clearly sympathetic to Manji despite having made highly critical comments about Walker’s appointment.

Who, dear reader, do you detect lacks objectivity?

6 comments

  1. To be fair to Mr. Mackenzie, it could just be possible that there is in fact some justification for his remarks, which regrettably Mr. Mackenzie has neither the knowledge or the eloquence to express. For example, it could be argued (as the learned Reverend Canon Gavin Ashenden has argued) that there are rather a lot of incitements to hatred and violence in the Koran. From this knowledge it could then be argued, for all that we may wish to look the other way, that these incitements may have had SOME small thing to do with the actions of the people who carried out the Nice, Paris, Brussels, 7/7, 9/11 etc. etc. etc. etc. atrocities.

    Possibly Ms. Manji is completely unaware of these incitements, perhaps she has never read the Koran, but she lives in a country where she is free to learn, and free to NOT wear the hijab, if she so desires. Perhaps she should be reminded of all these things by somebody, although no doubt if anyone tries they will be attacked left right and centre by the mainstream media and possibly arrested for a hate crime and thrown in the Tower of London. No doubt the writer will also express his outrage at such suggestions, I have little doubt.

    Those are all the presumptions that I bring to the table. These are the reasons I salute Mr. Mackenzie’s “repugnant comments” on this particular matter (not on others necessarily), and I salute the (hopefully still) United Kingdom’s commitment to FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Long may our proud nation continue to be a FREE COUNTRY.

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  2. I don’t think I have ever denied that some who commit atrocities in the name of Islam have done so based upon their convictions drawn from their reading of the Qur’an. What I fail to see is how Fatima Manji’s beliefs, nor her wearing a hijab, make her incapable of reporting on such issues. I have no problem with a Christian reporting on supposedly Christian terror activities, so I see no reason why a Muslim reporting on supposedly Muslim terrorism ought to be an issue of itself.

    Perhaps Ms Manji is perfectly aware of the claims of the Qur’an and chooses to interpret them, as do the overwhelming majority of British Muslims, in such a way that does not demand suicide bombings and terror activities. Or, maybe, you are right and she is ignorant. Or, maybe, she is totally aware of those things and sympathises with them. But all of that is complete conjecture and utterly irrelevant to whether she can report factual information about a Muslim man driving a truck down Nice promenade to kill as many as possible. Her wearing of a hijab does absolutely nothing to take away from her ability to report that news.

    Nor was that primarily my point. I have no concerns about Ms Manji’s ability to report the news, and I think the news outlets were quite right to defend her, I was just staggered by the MSM hypocrisy in standing behind her having pilloried Dan Walker for his Christian faith a short while ago.

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    1. I understood your point about the Dan Walker incident. As far as your point about MSM bias is concerned, I agree with you wholeheartedly. What I was reacting to was your use of the phrase “repugnant comments” in describing McKenzie’s particular column article on this. I didn’t find them repugnant, and they were not aimed at Manji, but at the producers. Assuming you are referring to this article:

      https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/1459893/why-did-channel-4-have-a-presenter-in-a-hijab-to-front-coverage-of-muslim-terror-in-nice/#comments

      I think he reacted like that because he felt that her appearance on this particular night was a deliberately provocative move by the channel, to make a “point” about Islam. If she had been a more regular presenter then possibly he might not have made those comments. Quotes from the above article:

      “The presenter was not one of the regulars”

      “Ms Manji, left, who I don’t blame as she is just a pawn in this TV news game”

      I also think there is a much larger issue than channel 4 bias at stake in this incident, namely the threats to freedom of speech. Channel 4 have apparently issued this statement:

      “The comments published in The Sun by Mr MacKenzie are offensive, completely unacceptable, and arguably tantamount to inciting religious and even racial hatred,”

      That would suggest that they want the law against racial and religious hatred to be used to silence MacKenzie. However much you may dislike MacKenzie’s column, would we want to see it silenced by that law? What a ridiculous situation when people start resorting to lawfare to silence opinions such as these. The suggestion there was any racial motivation in MacKenzie’s article is totally false. There was no mention whatsoever of race in his article. These laws are a real danger to freedom of speech.

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      1. Whilst I don’t think the law should be used to shut down Mackenzie’s column nor to impede him from voicing his opinion, I still find his comments deeply unpleasant. I maintain that there is no reason why a Muslim ought not to present the news on a day a Muslim terrorist has committed some heinous act. I personally don’t care about the personal beliefs and views of the person who presents the news, so long as the presentation they offer is as balanced as one can expect it to be (balance being in the eye of the beholder and all that). The strong inference, whether being suggested at an editorial level or not, is that a Muslim could not credibly or fairly report news that a Muslim terrorist had carried out an attack. That was the thing with which most people took issue.

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