Monday, 20 June 2016

Jo Cox: Something Needs To Change

by Charlotte Phillips

I was half way through writing an article about the childish way the EU referendum has been played out (by both sides) when I heard of the tragic news of Jo Cox's death.

I have not had such anger evoked in me for a long time. This event symbolises for me so much of what is wrong with not just our politics but our society at the moment.

I was already convinced that politics and the media were doing a disservice to the country and its people; this incident has only served to disgust me and deepen my feelings that we need significant change. I can't help but feel that this murder and the EU debate are inextricably linked: when strong political feelings are expressed as infantile shouting across a TV studio, there is an issue. When a strong, inspirational woman is murdered in what is essentially an extreme right-wing, politically-motivated attack, this should be a blatant signal that a change in the very way we conceive of politics is necessary.

The media coverage of this event has also fuelled the fire of the public reaction to this event. I can't help but point out that perhaps if the killer, Thomas Mair, had not been a white man, the media response would have been quite different: I propose that, if he was anything other than white, there would be much less speculation about his mental health and far more claims that he was a politically indoctrinated terrorist. Claims from his neighbours that he was quiet and polite would pale into insignificance if, for example, he was black or Muslim; in that case, the media would focus on how "radical" Islam had caused the death of yet another innocent woman.

To illustrate this point, I call a comparison between the Daily Mail (an alarmingly widely read publication) has presented Jo Cox's murder and how they presented the murder of Lee Rigby in 2013. Both of these horrendously tragic events were committed by terrorists. Both had political motives. One killer was white, the other black.

If "Islamic fanatics" are waging "a war on the West", why isn't the "timid gardener" accused of doing the same? If the religion of Lee Rigby's killers is brought to the forefront of the reasons for their "hatred", why are the "Far-Right causes" of Thomas Mair not outlined with the same severity.

This is not just hypocrisy: this sort of processed bias and Islamophobia fuels a culture of racism and hatred. However, it is this very culture of racism and hatred that is causing these tragic acts of terrorism in the first place. The so-called political party, Britain First, has been associated with this attack, but in my opinion not nearly enough. The party is essentially an extreme Right-Wing Islamophobic hate group well known for its vitriol and its acts of extreme disrespect and (in some cases) violence towards the Islamic communities in Britain. Thomas Mair supposedly shouted something along the lines of "Britain First" or "Put Britain First" as he carried out his attack. Although this claim has been disputed, the fact that Nazi and Far-Right literature has been found in his house really adds leverage to the argument that the influence of extreme parties such as Britain First has a lot to answer for. Furthermore, consider the fact that, when asked his name in court, Thomas Mair answered "My name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain". This is alarmingly similar to a quote from the leader of Britain First recorded a few months ago: "They (the Muslim community) think they can get away with ruining our country . . . we will not rest until every traitor is punished for their crimes against our country . . . good old-fashioned justice at the end of a rope." It is not hard to imagine Thomas Mair taking a step from the "end of a rope" to a gun - and taking the order to punish "traitors" campaigning to remain within the EU.

Britain First has released a statement condemning the attack, stating that it is clearly unfair to blame an entire political party for the actions of one man. It is infuriating, but mostly deeply sad, that they fail to see the irony of this stance: in their campaign against Muslims, Britain First consistently blame the entire Muslim population for acts of terrorism carried out by a tiny minority. Clearly, their views can constantly be warped to benefit the white Extreme Right population.

It is parties such as Britain First, and to an extent UKIP and the BNP, who spread these messages of hate and racism. If this continues, there will be more acts of terrorism, more murders and more violence. This seems like a depressing outlook; of course there are political movements that spread hope and unity among our people. However, the extreme Right Wing culture of the few must stop having such an influence on the many and the media must start to present a less biased view before any real change can, or will, happen.

I will finish by paying tribute to the inspirational Jo Cox. She was a wonderful woman and MP, who spent her life fighting for the very politics of hope that we need. May she rest in peace and always be remembered with the respect and admiration she so deserves.

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