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Angry about that RNLI story? Spread the word: Don't buy the Times

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Brian CathcartLondon
Angry about that RNLI story? Spread the word: Don't buy the Times
This vile story wasn't journalism, and yet Times journalists wrote, edited and published it. Like the Sun in Liverpool, their paper should be boycotted

If you are a subscriber to the Times or if you regularly buy the paper please reconsider what you are doing, because you are supporting a paper which openly promotes racial hatred.

There are too many examples to list, though several are described here, but the latest, involving the lifeboat service RNLI,  is breathtakingly reckless and vile even by Times standards. The lifeboat service has replied here.

RNLI funding burkinis for Africans while cutting jobs’, written by David Brown, appeared in Saturday’s Times (£) and was sufficiently hate-filled to merit a follow-up on MailOnline. It is an appalling piece of journalism as well as an affront to civilised values. 

It begins: ‘The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has been accused of diverting donations to give burkinis to Muslim women in Africa while laying off staff in the UK.’

Nowhere in the article’s repellent 650 words is any evidence produced showing anyone accusing the RNLI of doing this, though in the 14th paragraph (of 16) a rightwing Tory MP, Andrew Bridgen, is quoted as saying of RNLI’s overseas work: ‘While these causes are no doubt worthy they are more suitable for support from our international aid budget than the RNLI.’ The organisation, he goes on, ‘should be sticking to its core values’.

Bridgen’s quoted words do not provide anything like justification for the Times’s opening paragraph. If the RNLI ‘has been accused’, as Brown’s article declares at the outset, then on this evidence the accusation emanates only from the Times itself. Brown gives the impression he is reporting something but he's not; he and his paper, on their own accounts, are engaged in an attack. 

And what an attack it is. Of all the many activities undertaken by the RNLI abroad, the Times focuses on ‘giving burkinis to Muslim women in Africa’. Why is that?

Because, in my view, on the basis of the paper’s record of reporting, the editorial stance of the Times is consistently hostile to Muslims. It does not like them and it rarely passes up an opportunity to mock or denigrate them or to present them as threatening. 

Revealingly, the only other overseas RNLI project mentioned by Brown is this one: 'It also funds crèches in Bangladesh, which it claims will prevent children from swimming in the sea.' Those children, we may assume, are also Muslim.

On the evidence of this article, therefore, the Times would rather see Muslim women in Zanzibar drown than learn to swim in the costumes they require if they are to be taught. And it would rather see Muslim children in Bangladesh drown than attend a crèche supported from RNLI funds.

Not unusually for the Times, the article itself actually destroys the premise of its opening lines – but only if you read to the end. Not only do you discover that Bridgen's words in the 14th paragraph supply the only apparent support for the claim in the opening paragraph (and again, those words are nothing like sufficient), but the quoted comments of the RNLI make very clear that its overseas activities are modest, in line with its historic mission and not remotely secret.

This is not a news story. In journalistic terms it does not ‘stand up’. So why are we talking about it? Because it is an act of provocation, a gratuitous piece of hate speech. And yet a Times reporter wrote it, Times sub-editors crafted a headline for it and Times editors ensured it was published. These were all knowing, deliberate and (we have to assume) voluntary acts.

It is a vivid reminder that the modern Times, under its editor John Witherow, is not just content but eager to publish eye-catching material of no journalistic merit where it can be made derogatory to Muslims. And it is ready do so, recklessly,  even where it will place lives at risk.

For one of the aims of publishing this non-story, clearly, is to have RNLI funds withdrawn from that scheme in Zanzibar, so that young women there may not receive swimming lessons. Other overseas projects may be threatened too, and RNLI funding more generally may well be affected. Twitter came alive at the weekend with calls for people to cease donating, meaning that the core activity of the organisation, saving lives around the coast of the UK, could be affected.

And then there are the other lives that are always threatened by Islamophobic content – the lives of Muslims in Britain who feel the consequences of hate speech. Many, many more people suffer, week in, week out, as the sentiments embodied in such articles are translated into words and actions on our streets.

So if you are angry about the slur on the RNLI and want to show support for the lifeboat service, by all means make a donation. They need it. But remember your donation only treats the symptom. You can also tackle the cause. The Times did this and it does similar things all the time, so make a resolution: get your news somewhere else and urge everyone you know to do the same.

#Times, #London Times, #RNLI, #Royal National Lifeboat Institution, #journalism, #Andrew Bridgen, #Muslim, #John Witherow