At what point does “getting an angle” on a story start to become deliberate misrepresentation? At what point does media “spin” become a criminal offense?
On June 11th “The Independent” presented a 27 second video with the title “Tommy Robinson supporters perform Nazi salutes at violent London protest, amid warnings of return to racist street movements”.
Whilst the video does indeed show an individual at the demonstration performing a number of Nazi salutes, closer inspection reveals that this video is actually a single 13 second segment played twice back-to-back.
The brevity of the clip and the fact the “The Independent” found this editing necessary raises some questions.
It is not clear exactly how many Tommy Robinson supporters were at the protest, but the figure was almost certainly in the thousands – probably more than 10,000 and possibly as high as 20,000. The event continued for several hours, and was emulated in different locations around the UK. Anyone wishing to document Tommy Robinson supporters in action could easily have gathered hundreds of hours of video footage. In fact, many hours of video material were recorded by citizens attending the event, and are available online. A 2 hour long example is provided at the bottom of this article.
So why such a short clip, and why the need to double it up? If the Tommy Robinson protests really were the swarming nest of Nazi extremists that “The Independent” is portraying, then surely they would have been spoilt for choice of clips to present. Indeed one wonders whether readers of “The Independent” don’t feel their intelligence is being insulted; contrary to making Nazi salutes seem more prevalent, doesn’t the fact the clip was repeated imply it was the only such material “The Independent” could dig up?
In a crowd of several thousand people over several hours, it’s no doubt possible to find a 13 second segment of someone doing pretty much anything you desire. 13 seconds certainly doesn’t allow much room for context.
But there is further very obvious evidence that this was a case of deliberate misrepresentation by Lizzie Dearden of the Independent. Her subtitle reads “Protesters chanting ‘scum’ attack police after EDL founder jailed for contempt of court”. The implication is that it was the Tommy Robinson protesters who were chanting “scum”, and that they were the ones attacking the police. Yet the audio goes clearly along the lines of “Nazi scum, off our streets,” and furthermore does not appear to be emanating from anyone in the vicinity of the saluting Tommy Robinson supporter. Indeed it would be strange (though not impossible) for someone performing a Nazi salute to be simultaneously chanting “Nazi scum, off our streets”.
A discussion between youtube commenters on another video (see here and scroll down to the video comments) reads:
Dragon Energy: “That Nazi salute guy was just trolling the Antifa who were shouting “Nazi” at him. It was a drunken troll. Nothing else.”
J.R.: “Exactly, they were chanting “Nazi scum, get off our streets” and he was mocking and trolling them back. Sadly though he should have thought first, as the left were bound to grab that and use it out of context. He was stupid to do it, as a photo or muted video doesn’t show”
This alternative explanation does seem to fit the facts more closely. However, there is simply no way to be sure either way. With just 13 seconds of video, we couldn’t even prove absolutely he wasn’t just demonstrating a dance move.
What is clear from the several hours of footage taken by citizens participating in the rally is that “Nazi salutes” simply aren’t representative of the Tommy Robinson supporter population. I challenge anyone to find any other Nazi salute incidents occurring in Tommy Robinson rally video footage. You are going to need a lot of popcorn.
Should the likes of Lizzie Dearden and “The Independent” be held to account for this kind of misrepresentation? Whether or not Tommy Robinson supporters have their faults, to smear them as Nazi supporters when they clearly are no such thing is surely defamatory and dangerously misleading. Given the smear attempt looks to be deliberate, aren’t there any laws Ms Dearden is breaking in doing this – and if there aren’t, should there be?