Cosying up to the Far Right Fascists
There have been several programmes aired that have been similar to the ‘EDL Girls’ documentary recently produced for BBC 3. The Far Right seems to be a constant ‘go to’ for TV networks. Channel 4 ran their ‘Proud and Prejudiced’ documentary on the EDL (English Defence League) and their ‘Young Angry and White’ documentary on the BNP (British National Party). Then there was the ‘BNP Wives‘ on Sky 1 and since their formation, the BNP have had six documentaries made about the Group and their activities.
In these documentaries Muslims are always talked about but rarely allowed to speak for themselves and EDL Girls was no exception. The programme followed three female members of the EDL, whilst mostly focusing on Gail, the founder of the EDL “Angels”. It also included a new 18-year-old recruit and a young woman brought up in a family of EDL supporters.
When I first started watching the documentary I was bracing myself for the usual rants about “the Muslim threat” since this seems to be the favourite topic of the Far Right today, just as antisemitism was the favourite topic and weapon of the Blackshirts in the 1930s. What I wasn’t expecting was the biased nature of the documentary itself.
The Fashionistas of Fascism
I first noticed it when EDL marches were accompanied by Indie rock music which attempts to plaster a fashionable image on what, after all, was a bunch of white supremacists swearing and abusing a section of the British public. So much for the fashionista veneer of cool whilst barking abuse at law-abiding and peaceful members of the public going about their daily activities.
The sub-header to the show, “Don’t Call Me Racist,” was disturbingly similar to a documentary on mental illnesses which BBC 3 ran recently called “Don’t Call Me Crazy.” However, there were no similarities that I could see in being stigmatised because of an illness you didn’t choose and being criticised for joining a movement which promotes racism, intolerance, bigotry and hatred.
Furthermore, the choice of words the voice-over used were uncomfortably biased too. Describing the EDL’s motives, the voice-over spoke of the rise in the Muslim population and explained that the EDL “taps into the concern of what they see on their streets,” and has “fair concerns over Muslim extremism.”
The emphasis on the number of Muslims and the use of language around demographics was probably chilling to the listener and helped to erase the much understated fact that these streets are OUR streets too.
The Far Right is a favourite topic of documentary makers. What is less documented are the anti-fascist groups across Britain that stand up to them. Anti-fascists made a brief appearance in this documentary but only in shots of them being held back by police to somber music or when anti-fascist campaigners were escorted out of a pub the EDL were meeting in before a march. “It’s clear,” the voice-over commented, “that they don’t belong (here).”
Whilst some may disagree with the actions of anti-fascist campaigners, vilifying them and making them out to be individuals without motives, morals or backgrounds, but merely an aggressive throng of people, also showed a certain bias in the documentary.
EDL ‘Angels’ – Fallen from the Heavens
A good portion of the documentary was focused on EDL Angels founder Gail and her court case against two Asian men she accused of beating her up. The jury subsequently went on to find them not guilty. This was the only violence that the show connected to EDL sympathisers albeit as a victim of a crime, yet no mention was made of the damage to property, places of worship, community relations, local economies affected by EDL marches and the hate and intolerance stirred up by sympathisers of this group. The perception given to the viewer was that it was EDL members who were targeted by Asians, which is far from the truth, even though violence and intimidation has taken place against small numbers of EDL members. The reality is that EDL marches and ‘get-togethers’ have been arenas in which some of the worst neolithic and basal types of behaviour, prejudice and intolerance have been shown by EDL sympathisers.
The documentary therefore did not say a single word about the effects the EDL has had on local communities by holding marches which promoted virulent anti-Muslim hate and racism leading to EDL graffiti being daubed on the properties of Asian and ‘Muslim looking’ residents. The documentary also did not mention documented footage of the EDL chanting “burn a mosque down,” or the many violent attacks against Black and Asian people by EDL supporters and the vandalism of their houses, shops, cars, mosques and temples. It also failed to interview a single Person of Colour for their views on EDL demonstrations or the enormous local fear they generated. Despite a great deal of the program being dedicated to the “threat” of British Muslims, only one Muslim voice was heard talking to an EDL demonstrator.
The documentary left many people like me feeling that it was a cheap shot at confirming extremist views promoted by people who were clearly radicalised. It also may have confirmed a ‘them and us’ mentality where Asians were framed in a pathological fashion, as people who may have been involved in violent actions against women. In effect, the documentary pressed all the wrong buttons.
We have given enough oxygen to those who incite racial and religious hatred in Britain. EDL Girls brought nothing new to the table. Judging by this documentary, news of the demise of BBC 3 will not bring a tear to my eye. If the Channel cannot catch the curve of the viewing habits of the British public, then the last thing they should resort to is sensationalist and biased reporting. It wasn’t so much EDL Girls as angry radicalised women with few opportunities. Get it right BBC 3!