Experiment in fear

This sounds brilliant. A tv show based on exposing the mental influence of the tabloids Not just tabloids in general, with their z-list celebs and soap opera stars, but the most mind-sapping terror-inducing tabloid – the Daily Mail.

The film Supersize Me showed you are what you eat, but is it true that you are what you read?
New documentary The Daily Mail Diet aims to find out as it follows film maker Nick Angel giving up all TV, radio, print and online news sources for 28 days – except for the Daily Mail.

Mr Angel said: “It’s important to know what the Mail thinks, because it’s a lightning rod (or so it claims) to ‘Middle England’ – that ill-defined and slightly scary mass of people whose various incarnations include the ‘Moral Majority’ and ‘All Right Thinking People’.
“And in a sense, there’s a little bit of Daily Mail in all of us – who hasn’t felt their cheeks flush and blood boil when snapped by a speed camera or confronted with some maddening example of NHS bureaucracy?
“That’s what makes the Mail such a potent force – because while it’s loathsome, it’s also weirdly attuned to the dark heart of the British psyche.”

If you can get to see this programme, it sounds really worth watching.

By coincidence, it’s particularly relevant today. Following on from yesterday’s post here and Xanderg’s (of badnewsbible’s) excellent comments, the Daily Mail seems intent on lowering the bar below its even its own usual ant-limboing level.

The Tory leader is calling for the repeal of the Human Rights Act and the government is doing its best to pull the despotism rug from under the Tories by itself challenging the operation of the courts. Scenting success for its worldview, the Daily Mail has redoubled its attack, over the Chindamo case.

Here are three headlines from pages linking to today’s main Stephen Lawrence storyMail’s pages which carries the title ‘He’s no risk’: why jail boss backed Lawrence killer (I’m selflessly ploughing through this rubbish so you don’t have to. You can get the flavour of it from the headlines. But if you want to try an experimental diet of the Daily Mail, the link will take you to enough pages to undermine your will to live):
The quangocrats who let Chindamo stay (They are referring to the Immigration Appeals Tribunal, not previously known as liberal trailblazers.)
Chindamo’s Mafia gangster father awaiting trial for murder in Spain (Guilt by association, even though it seems the boy has barely seen his father since he was three.)
COMMENTARY: Has the law deprived Frances Lawrence of justice?

The Commentary refers to an editorial piece which tugs at the reader’s sympathy and emotions but signally fails to make any logical connection between sympathy for Frances Lawrence and their case for overriding EC law to deport Chindamo.

Why does justice for Frances Lawrence require that her husband’s killer doesn’t live in Britain? I know that Great Britain is a small island (compared to the land mass of Canada, say) but there are still about 65 million of us living here. The chance of accidentally bumping into him in Tesco’s is statistically pretty slim.

Just in case you think we are all certifiably mad in the UK, there’s a reasoned piece by Katie Ghose in the Guardian. This human rights hysteria threatens every one of us.

Once again we are in the grip of human rights hysteria. Variously blamed for allowing prisoners access to porn and preventing police forces from publishing photographs of suspects, the latest attack on the Human Rights Act relates to the decision not to deport Learco Chindamo, who is serving a life sentence for the murder of head-teacher Philip Lawrence in 1995.
Human rights have never been a passport to porn – nor were they an obstacle to the conviction or sentence of Chindamo, who is serving a minimum of 12 years for his brutal attack. But the truth takes a back seat when there are juicy headlines to be made out of human rights “lunacy”.

A criminal deportation

The UK media is mightily concerned about a court ruling that the murderer of teacher Stephen Lawrence shouldn’t be deported after he’s served his sentence.

The dead man’s wife is reportedly angry about the ruling that he should stay in the UK. She blames the Human Rights Act for the fear in which she claims she will live. The tabloid press are doing their best to stir up all the crime hysteria they manage out of this story. Surprise, surprise, when the tabloids are such devoted supporters of the Human Rights Act… (not.)

The widow of murdered teacher Philip Lawrence has said she was “utterly devastated” by the decision not to deport her husband’s killer.
Frances Lawrence said she had been told Learco Chindamo would be deported to Italy, where his father was from.
The government said it would challenge “robustly” the decision to allow Chindamo, who stabbed Mr Lawrence in 1995 when he was 15, to stay in the UK. (From the BBC)

It’s a really sad story. However,it just reinforces the point in TW’s posts that victims and their families are not always the best judges of how an offender should be treated. That’s supposed to be the job of the law, although the combined efforts of the media and the government are doing their best to present the courts as pampering murderers.

A few facts about this case suggest the issue is rather more complex than the calls to deport him would allow.

The killer is indeed marginally more “Italian” than the average Italian-American but that’s about the extent of his supposed Italianess. His father was Italian. He lived in Italy until he was 3, came to the UK at the age of 6 and committed the crime when he was 15. It is a fair bet that he doesn’t speak Italian.

He didn’t deliberately come to the UK to commit murder. He was brought here by his mother and was raised in the UK, as an English person. Like a lot of English teenagers, he did badly at school, joined a gang and carried a weapon.

The crime appears to have been one of those senseless spur-of-the-moment adolescent-in-a-gang crimes that would be seen as a child’s cry for attention, if their outcome wasn’t so devastating.

He didn’t stalk Lawrence and deliberately choose him as a victim. There is absolutely no reason to believe that he represents any ongoing threat to Stephen Lawrence’s widow or their child.

Although you can usually take prisoners’ remorse with a kilogram packet of salt, he expresses remorse and tries to talk other youths out of throwing their lives away according to his lawyer.

You can certainly understand why Stephen Lawrence’s widow doesn’t want to think of him being free and alive. She has had a horrific experience that will always be with her. I’m sure that she wants to tear the killer limb from limb, as anyone in her position would. All the same, her views on what should now happen to the killer are no more relevant than anyone else’s.

The whole topic becomes murkier when you think about why it has become a bandwagon that the government chooses to jump on.

Extradition to another EC country is almost unheard of. Surely, under EC free movement laws, once dumped in Italy, Chindamo could just jump on a train and come straight back to the UK?

Extradition of someone, who committed a crime as a child, to a country in which he would be a complete stranger is just absurd.

There is pretty strong evidence of racism at work here. The killer looks “foreign” – half Phillipino, half-Italian. Ergo, the assumption is that he can get deported at the drop of a hat. Are we going to start shipping off all released murderers who can’t claim four British-born grandparents? Is there still room in Australia?

There is a clear bias in what crimes become causes celebres. Stephen Lawrence was a headmaster so people paid much more attention, thanks to the media. Murdered manual workers don’t make high profile cases, otherwise the government would be shipping off released murders every week.

All the same, the murderer was sentenced for his crime by a court of law. It wasn’t a particularly light sentence. A judge weighed up the circumstances and applied the appropriate penalty. If anyone felt that the sentence was wrong, that was the time to appeal. The court saw no reason to call for his deportation when he was sentenced. What has changed?

(Even the lawyers opposing his staying in this country argued that media attention was the “threat” that could result from his staying in the UK. No one has suggested that he is likely to kill another person, although rehabilitation seems to be the last of anyone’s concerns.)

There is constant media and political pressure – fitting so well into an increasingly authoritarian general climate – to present any human rights legislation as tying the hands of the police and giving free rein to criminals and terrorists.

The more we treat any constitutional guarantees of fair treatment by the law as an unnecessary luxury, the more we throw aside liberal democracy’s claim to the moral high ground.

This case has become a test of the British government’s capacity to do silly things in defiance of European Human Rights law. Oh, these burdensome 20th century international standards.

Wasn’t the lack of non-oppressive systems of justice and law why the EC started to get sniffy about some Eastern European countries joining? Or keeps foiling Turkey’s attempts to join the EC?