Thursday, 11 June 2009

Terror arrests you might have missed

A week ago a father and son were arrested in County Durham under the Terrorism Act. Police said that 'suspected ricin was found in a jam jar' in the home of a 'suspected white supremacist'; the son was arrested on suspicion of inciting racial hatred and later re-arrested under the Terrorism Act.

The Mail stated that they were involved in a plot 'poisoning ethnic minorities' but this is based on a much vaguer statement by the police that this was 'one of our lines of inquiry'. (The Sun and Star don't mention a possible target, as the Mail and Express do.)

As with any terror arrests, these claims should be treated with some caution. But what is so noticeable about this story is how un-noticeable it was. The Mail's coverage is here, the Sun's here, the Star's here and the Express' here and here.

But compare that with the coverage with that two months ago when there were arrests in Manchester of a group of young Muslims under the Terror Act. That was on the front pages and full of lurid details of a plot to blow up football stadia and shopping centres. None of which, of course, was true. But the difference in the level of coverage is striking. And maybe the 'ricin' plot will also turn out to be no such thing.

But if the police had arrested a Muslim father and son, with ricin in a jam jar, who wanted to kill whites, imagine the coverage that would have received. Why should there be this difference?

As if to prove the point, the Mail gave undue prominence yesterday to the story that two men on the missing Air France flight apparently shared names with suspected terrorists. One day later, the paper reports that the two men have been 'cleared' (the original story has been modified so no longer exists, but a version from the Evening Standard site remains).

But 'cleared'? Cleared of what? Surely these two dead men should never have had their names and reputations dragged through the mud before the truth was discovered. And given their exoneration came only a day later, it proves it wasn't exactly difficult to disprove the slur.

Yet once again the Islamophobic agenda of the media takes precedence over such things as fact checking.

(Thanks to Enemies of Reason for writing a post which reminded me to write about the ricin arrests!)

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