Which story do you think is more worthy of attention in a local newspaper:
a) three members of a local Muslim gang in court on charges of grooming and raping children?
b) protestors outside the court condemned by left-wing activists?
Yes, me too. But the rules are different, apparently, if you work for the Chelmsford Weekly News.
Muslim rape gangs sexually abusing underage white girls? Off you go, boys. Help yourselves! We at the Chelmsford Weekly News are most certainly not in the business of sullying your reputations by naming your names or going into unseemly detail about the nature of the charges being brought against you.
Protestors from the English Defence League waving placards outside the courtroom and complaining that not enough is being done to deal with these gangs? Outrageous! A scandal! The people of Chelmsford and its environs will be united in their condemnation of this disgraceful behaviour.
I was worrying for a moment that maybe I was behind the times: you know, one of those fuddy duddies who just doesn’t realise that the rules have changed and that actually child rape is OK so long as it’s practised by an approved religious minority group.
But no, it seems the author of this eloquent, must-read essay on the subject is similarly old-fashioned.
Below is the full story from the Chelmsford Weekly News with as usual for this blog, the original report in italics and this blog’s comments in plain text.
The English Defence League staged a protest outside of Chelmsford Crown Court.
The far-right group were waved banners and flags in protest against “grooming gangs”.
Many would argue with the description of ‘far right’ to describe the EDL after all there are not many traditional ‘far right’ entities that have Black, Sikh Jewish and Gay supporters. I would most certainly in this section take issue with the fact that the reporter has put the words grooming gangs in quotes. It gives the false impression (well I hope that it is false) that the reporter doesn’t believe that the phenomenon of grooming gangs actually exists. Such an opinion may have been a tenable one to have 10 – 15 years ago, when there were only rumours about the existence of Islamic Rape Gangs but in the light of the Jay and Casey inquiries and reports in the Times newspaper such an opinion is grossly wrong. Grooming gangs do indeed exist and putting the words in quotes was in my view, a mistake.
The protest came as three men were due to appear in court on child sexual exploitation charges.
Why no names? If there were legal reasons, such as if the court was only engaged in pre-trial legal argument or the defendants are minors, or there is a linked case and there is the need to keep the other cases free from contamination, or there was the risk that naming the alleged perpetrators would assist in the jigsaw identification of the alleged victims, then why did not the reporter say so? Some explanation of why there were no names of defendants given would give clarity to this story and also assist in shutting down any speculation as to whether or the reporter or the newspaper has an agenda which is served by not giving defendants names.
There’s more fascinating commentary in this vein. The newspaper article, notes the author, goes on to cite the opinions of an outfit called United Chelmsford. This, he suggests, is no more than an ad hoc front group for local left wing activists:
Steve Collins, of United Chelmsford, said: “The purpose of their protest was to spread their message of hatred and racism to any who would listen.
Some background on this ‘United Chelmsford’ group would have been helpful as well. My own very limited research shows that a websearch for United Chelmsford only brings up one entry in the first six pages of Google, and that is from the story above but from the Essex Chronicle. Nothing else. A search for Steve Collins, if indeed that is the person’s real name, also appears to show someone who has as if by magic appeared from nowhere. However, I suspect that the ‘United Chelmsford’ group might well be a product of the local authorities diversity officers or it could either an SWP or UAF or HNH front group. We see these ‘United wherever’ groups set up with remarkable swiftness and with very little concrete history behind them. The one in Newcastle for example seemed to be made up of socialist activists, a few trade union leaders and ‘religious leaders’, probably mostly Muslim religious leaders and naïve interfaith wallahs.
The bit that most struck a chord with me, though, was the author’s lament for the old school values that used to obtain when he was a news reporter.
Now many years ago I worked as a court reporter for a news agency, and I was trained by a couple of senior reporters who were obsessive fact checkers. I can still recall, with a shudder, years on, the rollockings I got as a junior employee covering Magistrates Courts, if I was either unsure about a fact, or had missed something out. This story (hat tip Joe Long on Twitter @long46927755 ) is a classic example of a story where there has been loads left out and the journalists seem to have not bothered to fact check and may even be showing overt bias in their writing.
I don’t think this is nostalgia speaking. There really was a time, not so long ago, when newspaper editors could tell the difference between a news story and a political agenda. If you read the article you’ll see the author has helpfully provided the newspaper editor’s contact email.
Just in case, you know, you were tempted to ask the questions I asked at the beginning:
As editor of the Chelmsford Weekly News please can you tell us why protesting against the rape of underage girls is worse and more newsworthy than actually raping underage girls.