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Hello dear followers!
It’s been a little while since I’ve flung a comment piece your way, so I thought I should update you a little.
I have been working - a lot. My responsibilities in my current role have evolved steadily, and I am proud to say (and hopefully, with some due humility) that I have achieved more in the last 8 months in my professional life than ever before. The biggie was when I held the head role of organising our stakeholder event, Water Innovation Europe, which drew in 150 delegates from around Europe, and the world. It was a success - but don’t let me blow my own trumpet too much. You can check out the website here (content and website built by yours truly). And below this little boast is a picture of me engrossed by the fantastic Wim Van Vierssen, one of the two pictures I had captured of me during the event. (On an unrelated note now is probably a good point to say that my opinions in this blog are my own and do not represent the Platform I work for.)
Following this, I was lucky enough to attend the European Commission’s Green Week, an eye-opening and truly thrilling experience. The theme this year was “The Water Challenge: Every Drop Counts”, and it was interesting to see the struggle between depth and breadth in creating productive results. Sometimes I worry about the money involved in these matters, but I think on the whole, the Commission did a good job in encouraging active collaboration - which is actually an incredibly difficult thing to do. So many people in Brussels talk about collaboration, that actually making it happen turns into quite a feat.
I’ll be in my current role till September, rocketing back and forth between England and Brussels, but am opening my doors to any prospective employers for the autumn (contain yourselves, please). But seriously, you can access my CV on this page, or see my website for my portfolio in full.
I’m pretty angry about a few political matters which revolve around an assortment of, but not limited to: George Galloway, Cote D’Ivoire, Kony 2012 (was there anything ever as terrible as this?) and Syria. Soon, my friends!
This is the best “communications” film of the last two years I reckon. Excellent, wonderful, epic. I respect George Clooney more and more.
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I haven’t updated with an opinion piece in a while - quite frankly because I’m not sure where to start! Since beginning my job in the heart of the European Parliament in September, my political opinions have evolved massively. There’s nothing like reality to get a real grip on the world. I’m enjoying my job, and putting all I have into it, and in my spare time, I’ve taken more to a bit of Bukowski and countryside walks to clear my head. I’ll write a more detailed update on this soon.
Today, however, is an important day. While I sit here in Brussels thinking of back home, people are thinly flocking to vote. In my constituency, George Galloway is pitted to win. I absolutely believe that people are voting for him because he is, on the whole, very sympathetic to the South Asian population of Bradford. His manifesto is vague, probably because he knows he doesn’t have to bother much. I don’t deny that Respect is a party I respect (ha), because I like the idea of putting people first, and its voice is relatively progressive for a left wing party.
However, anyone who says they want to completely abolish tuition fees loses my vote in an instant. I have far too much debt to pay back following university - and I fully support manifesto’s that call for a lowering of fees or a freezing of them at the current state. But even if it were 500pounds, I feel that any person who goes to university should spend part of their working life paying back that institution, and contributing towards incoming students. Its a matter of principle, and when we live in a country like England, one we can absolutely afford.
Local elections are important, and they can reverse apathy towards politics and motivate people into hope. The important thing to remember is that its the results that are important, and not the hype. I hope you can vote for who matters to you today, and not feel like you have to be strategic or fickle with your choice.
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The irony of the “meat market” that Gaddaffi’s death has turned into. So much suffering by his hands, and so much more will follow because the meat market has, I believe, been entrenched (as a human events occur) into our very beings from the beginning of time. Spectatorship of suffering at its “best” on both sides, I think you’ll (perhaps) agree.
I’ve been away, but now I’m back. It all being very new to me, I fully enjoyed my week in European Parliament and learnt a lot.
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Following my brief examination period, I took a couple of weeks off, relaxed, went to Paris and applied for jobs. All in a rush July passed me by, and I was suddenly spending my first week of August, and Ramadan, at the Yorkshire Post. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed my time here. I see the paper as distinctly right wing and for a very niche (read: older) age group in the county, which would imply it to be the opposite of my own preferences. The writers at the paper were very kind to me, helped me work on my writing skills a great deal and by the end of the week I had managed to get a story printed four days out of five, including one front page one and a couple of stories ready to run into the next week. You can see them all here (link to be uploaded shortly) if you please – only one falls directly into the cliché of local news. I’m quite pleased to say that I got the opportunity to work on articles on life expectancy to transport budgets, both relevant and exciting.
I also had the fortune of being able to talk about journalism comfortably with those who had been in the industry long enough to have been disillusioned but not long enough to be tired of it. I think the best conversation I had all week revolved around the statement: “There are two kinds of people in the world – the kind that goes round making fires, and the kind that goes round dousing them out.” I certainly hope I’m the latter.
Following this week of valuable experience, I began to work hard and fast on completing my dissertation, a process I’m still in the throes of. I keep dropping mentions of this in, so I felt it necessary to go into a bit more detail.
The title of my dissertation is: “The evolution of the coverage of genocide in The Times over the last century, and how this may have changed the social and legal understanding of the term itself.” Suffice to say I have found this topic incredibly taxing and emotionally up heaving. I set out with this topic with a certain blueprint of what I was going to say – predictably something about hegemony and media corporate and improving the contra-flow. I think it’s fair to say that my views on politics, and life in general, have changed dramatically through studying genocide. I also think it’s fair to say that, while The Times’ coverage of genocide is far from perfect, it is certainly commendable in certain areas, something I was expecting to sniff at, but which restored my confidence in humanity to some extent.
One particular statement has stuck with me:
“Genocide is an authentic by product of the dominant political and economic forces which – whether we like it or not – determine and shape our lives. It is not the exclusive prerogative of evil men, however often one will have to confront the clearly pathological in the human condition when studying it.”
This is simultaneously terrifying and comforting to me, and definitely makes me rethink the “solutions” I have for the world around me today. I have so much more to learn, and am glad that I can keep my views and strategies open for now, however much that scares me. Doing content analysis over the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, the Bosnian genocide of 1992 and the Rwandan genocide of 1994 has had a profound impact on how I see the media and the seemingly inescapable conversion of life into good and bad by it.
Occasionally I read statements such as “Is Humanity doomed to repeat the atrocities of the past in an endless cycle?” or do interviews with those campaigning for awareness, and I cannot help but shed many tears over this tragedy that never seems to fade. I can only hope that this has made me stronger and that I can help in genocide studies as I continue my professional life.
Which brings me to the next progression. I have recently had the fortune of gaining a place on an internship scheme with WssTP – a sustainable water initiative run by the EU. I will be working for 6 months in Brussels on their Media and Communications team, which hopefully will help me in my aim towards working for the media department of an international NGO, and will give me a valuable insight into the workings of the European Parliament. Any advice or tips on the city would be much appreciated.
This has been an incredibly rocky and interesting summer for me, personally and politically. I have learn a lot, and in the last two weeks of my dissertation hope to make my new thoughts clear in my head. I have watched as Pakistan has been crippled, as the Middle East is beaten and massacred, and as England, a country I have always loved, but taken for granted, erupted in chaos (not nearly matched to anything happening around the world, but affective all the same). I’ve had my views challenged, I have learnt to think empathetically, and, most importantly, I have learnt not to ever do any assignment that requires more than an hour’s work with a microfilm machine.
I hope to be fully settled in Brussels by the end of September, and my blogging will continue there – though it will centre round my experiences in the EU and, as always, my reflections on news and current affairs that effect my small sphere of thinking.
Goodnight and good luck, for now.
Let’s be absolutely clear about this – politics may not be dead, but the concepts of left and right in England are getting there.
I have a lot of friends whose political persuasions are mildly to dramatically different to my own. And whether we are left wing or right wing, we all have a pretty similar outlook on how we want to see our country. Policy is policy, and ideology is ideology, but I rest comfortably at night knowing that we count our freedom of speech and our position as active citizens’ precious things we would not throw away. People trying to cut a clear line between Conservatism and Liberal Democracy against the backdrop of the riots will inevitably fail to make much of a point.
Neither is it making much of a point against the police – while the injustice of 1000s of people dying in police custody without any officers being charged is an important factor to consider, I despair that it’s come to such measures where the statement of protest has turned into a statement of violence that undoes this original central message, and if anything, will only make the police come off looking better.
Let’s be clear about something else as well – policy is not always constructed in a whirlpool of toffish laughter and ignorance, or by Boris Johnson. For all those people screaming that they could have run the country better – you didn’t and I am genuinely sorry about that. There is a clear reasoning behind why there is social unrest – there is always a reason. At this point it stems from years of inequality, a sharp stab of funding cuts and a group of people who have nothing left to lose.
Those who argue that there is nothing political about the intentions of a group of thugs jumping on a band wagon to steal nice gear – I’d agree. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t stem from or contribute towards politics, and this is a fact we simply cannot ignore. Last night, Manchester youths announced openly that they’d carry on looting because the cells were full and the worst they’d probably get was an ASBO. In the same vein – London youths who ransacked a small business explained their action to a protesting bystander:
Why would you gut his shop –it’s all he has. He’s one man, what good has this done?
But he’s one rich man, and we’re going to show all these rich people that we can take back what we don’t have.
Whatever you might think of these statements, they cannot be ignored. Of course, this is not how people “should” be thinking. When I think about the basic freedoms those in other countries riot for, I feel ashamed that its trainers and television the youth of England believe will satiate them.
But I disagree with the statement that this has come from no-where. The handkerchiefed youth who said the main thing he’d achieved was having his voice heard epitomises the issue here. As Just WY rightly outline, education, integration and economic standards in Britain are worsening and have been doing so for the past ten years. The reason people are rioting is because they can. Let me map it out like this – do you honestly believe that if those rioting now weren’t doing so, they wouldn’t have as tough a time finding employment as those coming out of prison? They have absolutely nothing to lose, and plenty of material to gain.
If you do want to be left or right about it, they are the group of people the Big Society has to chew up and spit out to actually function properly and achieve the nuclear family perfection it desires. Whether they realise it or not, their uprising signals how much these people have been put on the backburner, that their moral compassing is so askew to not even realise the damage they are doing to themselves, their cities and their country.
The black police officer standing guard behind Cameron as he gave his first press conference on the riots, and the agreeing black guy nodding his head next to Miliband were PR packages that especially made my skin crawl. If the government weren’t so concerned to be seeming to do something, they might actually be doing something far more constructive, and listening to those voices that are speaking in a non-violent way from the hearts of communities.
I can only assume that Bradford hasn’t fallen into the trap yet because it still carries the scars of extreme rioting, and works cohesively to keep the city that is loved by its inhabitants together. As soon as the EDL rile up enough hate to want to purge the blacks and Asians from “our” streets however, the picture may well change, though I hope it does not with all my heart.
And that’s another thing I wouldn’t want to deny. While you can sweep over and narrow down the potential causes for the riots: money, race, class and police treatment, there are plenty of people who operate in any society under a large degree of hate. The spirit of those marching up to rioters and prodding them in their chests, those cleaning up the streets patiently and making tea to help out – these are the people who contribute above and beyond what the Big Society ever wanted, and I hope their selflessness will be the reason it fails.
When confronted with a problem, it is easy to apply an aggressive hindsight, or “I told you so” attitude, but I for one, hope I can contribute more than this analysis to making Britain, and the world, a better, less selfish place.
While the 7th of July brings the sad recall of the London terrorist attacks, it also represents the birthday of a completely separate tragedy that seems to be more easily forgotten: the tenth anniversary of the Bradford Disturbances, or so-called “Riots”.
It seems strange to most Bradfordians that such a date is so easily disregarded – after all, the disturbances have shaped patterns not only in Asian youth culture, but have also had a massive impact on how Muslims and Asians as two subgroups are treated in Britain – and how some people have chosen to act on the back of such treatment.
Here’s a summary: a large group of National Front supporters come to protest against cultural festival in Bradford; get drunk during the day, beat the odd Pakistani kid up here and there in town; night falls and the Asian youth of Bradford (one of the biggest in the country) emerges to fight their ground.
While the behaviour of anyone involved in the disturbances should not be condoned, it is no wonder that the police, the courts and the media in Bradford are regarded with little respect: while 191 people were given a combined custodial sentence of 510 years, the harshest and most widespread sentences for public disorder since the Second World War, few NF supporters were charged. Any Bradfordian – white or brown – could tell you that this is a serious miscarriage of justice which many officials simply shrugged at.
Even now the city wears the scars of the notorious weekend – there are still pubs burnt out and boarded up, still piles of rubble to moved, and the Mela, the festival the NF so strongly opposes, was cut down to one day this year for the first time since its induction.
The aesthetic of Bradford, however, is very different to its atmosphere. The BNP, the EDL and National Front have all been to Bradford repeatedly since the disturbances, and the public has waved an airy hand and gotten on with its day. The number of socially aware projects and organisations that have sprung up indicate more than the wish to be progressive – they embrace the spirit of healing a city that wants to be, and be itself at that.
This, sadly, is not how the national media sees it. The coverage of a recent set of gruesome murders that marred the streets of Bradford illustrates this profoundly. Print, web and broadcast alike all intonated something that echoes the coverage of Africa in the international news: a hopeless, dark basket case where violence is expected. This may seem like a harsh criticism, but as Arturo Escobar marks “it is difficult not to look at the Third World through the signifiers set for us: famine, poverty, illiteracy, violence…these images do not seem to go away.” So too, in the context of the UK, is it difficult to see a city like Bradford outside of such terms.
Bradfords local media’s coverage echoed a similar sentiment, with little discussion about the victims, little blame placed on extremist right wing groups, and an overemphasis on the police’s role that conveniently disregarded the tales of those who suffered brain damage from truncheon battering.
The media play a central part in establishing such pigeonholes and images. I would hate to have to speculate that the fact that the murder victims were young, Asian Muslim men were sound reasons for the lack of newsworthiness of their coverage. But when considering how much time and energy was spent covering, all be it in a slightly voyeuristic manner, the death of Joanna Yates, it should be expected that such a series of murders are seen as an atrocity of a far greater size. But Bradford is a city with a troubled past, and if the country and its media doesn’t join in with helping it heal itself, it could become a city with a troubled future.
The close timeline between the Bradford Disturbances and the 9/11 terrorist attacks resonates – as a young Bradfordian at that time I remember that being the summer that I realised how much my race and religion was about to delineate me from those I went to school with, those that I would one day work with. The impact on treatment of Pakistani youths and Muslims in Britain finds a representative crux in Bradford, and it is an illustrative picture that shouldn’t be ignored.
Linking terrorism to Asian youth run amok would seem an easy link to make – various newspapers, The Daily Mail and the Mirror in particular, have worked tirelessly to make such connections seamless. I hope at the 10 year anniversary of the Bradford Disturbances the media will look to the strength the city has shown, and avoid clouding it with too much doubt, or, far worse – neglect.
Just had a read over the T&As coverage of the Bradford disturbances, and there are a few glaring omissions:
Not one mention of the National Front or the BNP. Much like the lack of rain that apparently causes famine in the horn of East Africa, race issues and rioting are framed as inherent to the Asian population of Bradford.
No mention or investigation into the impact of the longest prison sentences for public unrest since the second world war.
No questioning of the police.
They do, however, do an indepth analysis of how Youth culture has been improving which is good. There’s a T&A journalist here so I might try and hunt her down.
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Today is the 10th year anniversary of the 7/7 Bradford Disturbances.
I’ll updating here and on twitter during the day.
So far there’s been very little coverage - which is understandable give the phone hacking scandal and other international news. The focus will be on local news and whether it extrapolates any of those very harmful patterns some members of the mainstream national press are guilty of perpetrating.
Look North’s (BBCs Yorkshire and Humberside TV news programme) relayed a pretty shocking and biased coverage of the anniversary last night, which resulted in some outraged tweets.
I’ve written a piece on this which I’m hoping to get published today, though I shall post it on here either way.
I’ll be attending Just West Yorkshires conference on the disturbances, which promises to be illuminating and highly interesting. If you’re interested, it’s running most of the day at Carlisle Business centre in Manningham, and there will be some really good speakers.
As the coalition governments debate rages on as to how far involvement in Libya should go, and as the situation begins to cripple itself into stagnancy, I had a muse and decided to ask whether Muammar Al-Gaddafi is actually a target.
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In May 2010, the aid flotilla the Mavi Marmara was stormed by Israeli Defence Forces, resulting in the deaths of 19 unarmed passengers and the injury of many others. In January 2011, Israel’s self-appointed board to review the incident announced it as legal. The invasion has been hushed down into silence a year on. In the context of growing injustice against innocent Palestinians and Israelis, the aniversary of the Mavi Marmara should not be forgotten. Hasan Nowarah, of Glasgow-based charity Justice For Palestine was aboard the flotilla and left relatively scot-free, with five broken bones in his leg. Here, he discusses how initial reporting by the mainstream British media has led to an unravelling of justice.
It’s a generally acknowledged fact that the American media, balanced in the Right direction by a little something called the Israel Lobby, have a very distinct approach to coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is becoming more evident that this viewpoint has filtered, in a more discreet form, through the British media.
When Nowarah was released by Israeli forces, he spent several days relaying his account of events to the mainstream media. The end result left him feeling “disgusted”.
Lets recap: The base matter of the fact is that international law was defied on the part of the IDF by storming the Mavi Marmara. The flotilla was boarded with little warning in international waters – which is categorically, according to some treaty written by the UN, not on. A year on, there has been no punishment for this crime. Neither has it been confirmed that their reasons for storming the flotilla in the first place gave them qualification (it was because of those general troublemakers, that’s why they did it! Oh – and obviously terrorists. Connected to Hamas and Al Qaeda. Shit.).
Nowarah’s main frustration has been the omission of this as a crime in the mainstream British press. “There is no such thing as balance – they should provide the truth. When we were attacked, we were 18 miles deep into international waters. The media has twisted whatever was wrong to right, and whatever was right to wrong. I have no respect and no trust for such kind of media.”
His anger at this is understandable from several viewpoints – if not most from the fact that Somalian pirates who have operated in a similar manner in international waters are widely condemned, while the behaviour of Israeli forces is largely condoned by the media. The real problem with media representation was (and is still) of course, the lack of context which has been reflected historically in reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Nowarah noted the ambiguous shroud around what Chris Hedges, former New York Times journalist, has marked as the “slow-motion ethnic cleansing” of the Palestinian people. “The newspapers, they came up with general information, just vague information, about the blockade. Why nearly 1000 people from all around the world got on that flotilla and put their lives on the line to enter is never mentioned.”
The push for a certain kind of back drop echoed through the questioning: “The mainstream journalists were asking me things like ‘do you think Israel has any right to exist?’ I said I will answer your question: does Palestine have any right to exist? All the Palestinian refugees around the world have no right to go back to their homeland. They were driven out. Palestine has every right to exist as well. That’s what I answered them with.”
The cloudy and unspecific reporting has damaged, significantly, the plight of the Palestinian people. Even British counter-culture movements such as Channel 4’s “The Promise” and Louis Theroux’s ‘Ultra-Zionism’ documentary (though I can only fault Louis least of any British journalist, to be honest) relay a shocking lack of context. It takes very little to vocalise the importance of why Israel and Palestine are fighting in the first place (granted, I’ve taken it as a given anyone reading this article understands the conflict already – if you don’t just Wiki it). When Palestinian Christians aren’t allowed with any kind of ease into Bethlehem during Christmas, the conflict becomes almost sickeningly postcard perfect in its injustice. Making the excuse of indigestible journalism is a poor one. People will eat what you feed them, so why not feed them the truth?
And then, of course, there are the far more sinister undertones to Nowarah’s account of the Mavi Marmara incident.
The fact that the Israeli soldiers on board had every passenger’s details to hand: “they even had photocopies of our passports”; the fact that all video, mobile, photo and paper evidence was confiscated from all of those on board (including journalists) and destroyed; the fact that the Turkish police were actively involved in checking the loading of the flotilla, with the Norwegian and Swedish media looking on; the fact that, if such logs were made, a complete lack of weapons was evident; and the fact that Nowarah suffered 5 broken bones in his foot for trying to defend an 83-year-old American diplomat who was punched to the floor (“I’ve seen my mother, my two brother killed by Israeli soldiers. When I saw them hit an old man, I could not stand it”, he explains simply).
And most sinister of all is the communication between the Mavi Marmara crew and Israeli forces before the flotilla even left the dock. The Israeli forces contacted the IHH, the main Turkish charity in charge of the flotilla to ask for help. “They wanted us to talk to Hamas, to gain access for the Red Cross to two Israeli soldiers being held as prisoners. Our answer was to them: We are sorry, but we are not intermediaries for the government, terrorists or other such bodies. We are carrying humanitarian aid, we are activists. We are not here to help Hamas or to support Hamas. We are here to help the innocent civilian people of Gaza.”
It’s important to note that, in some ways, that which leads to mass ignorance isn’t even an out-rightly engineered evil by the press – it has just progressed into having a much more negative impact than was ever anticipated in the past. It’s reflected in our everyday, in everything we do, in the institutions we chose to trust, be it the Metropolitan Police, The Guardian, the BBC or Al Jazeera English.
Though I will always count the community spirit in Sheffield as its beautifully beating heart (and as an English Literature graduate see the drive behind this cause fully), I was sickened to see hundreds of people protesting last month against the closing of a library in the town centre, and only about 50 people the week before protesting about 50mm bullets ripping through the skin of Libyan protestors.
But who can blame any of us when the British media has perverted its own discourse to continue a pattern that suits or government and their foreign policy (which may not, in the long run, help the British public at all)?
And isn’t it just as worrying on the same card, that thousands of people in the UK who might consider themselves more aware, to be celebrating the tenure of the rebellion of Egyptian and Libyan people, when hundreds of people are dropping like flies every week in the Sudan and Cote D’Ivoire for trying to do the same, without as much as an eyelid bat from our media?
The actions carried out by Israel in their boarding of the Mavi Marmara were illegal, and the lack of recognition of this by the media is symptomatic of many other international issues that are brewing to danger point under a shield of repetitive hypocrisy. If there’s anything that Nowarah taught me during our interview, it is that it’s not the place where it’s all happening that is important – it’s the principle behind it.
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