Why we're asking Marks & Spencer to stop funding hate
27 February 2017
Today we're launching a new campaign, inspired by, and with the blessing of Stop Funding Hate. Here's why we decided to take action, and how you can get involved to stop the climate of hate towards migrant and refugees.
“How many more can we take?” “4 out of 5 migrants aren’t Syrians” “The ‘swarm’ on our streets”
The British tabloids are a constant source of scare-mongering headlines about the so-called “migrant crisis” in the UK and Europe. Our newspapers and many other media outlets have whipped up a frenzy around the movement of people. Despite the hardships, oppression and often the horrors of war faced by those forced to move, the media too often focuses on the “problems” faced by Brits in light of new arrivals.
The Daily Mail, then and now.
Words that fuel hate
Stories about migrants are very seldom positive or empathetic. A study by The Migration Observatory at Oxford University found that in 58,000 news stories from 2010-2012, the word “illegal” was the most common word used to describe immigrants and most labels were negative. And it’s not just in the media that hate-filled language has become rife, it is increasingly becoming the norm across society. Even the former prime minister, David Cameron, saw fit to refer to the people forced from their homes to seek refuge in the UK as a “swarm” - more like insects or vermin; an undeserving mass from whom worthy UK citizens need to be protected.
Apart from the lack of humanity, the constant stream of negative stories is not a valid reflection of the experience of most Brits. While there are certainly areas where immigration has had an impact, an Ipsos Mori poll reports that 75% of Britons say immigration has had a positive or no impact on their own area. It seems that the harshly negative portrayal of migrants and issues around migration are inflaming negative sentiments, rather than reflecting them.
But, crisis sells newspapers. People act (and more importantly, buy) with their hearts.
Tabloids like the Daily Mail have used their platform to strike fear into the heart of our nation. In a world where profit is king and many newspapers are struggling to maintain sales, the dreadful impact of peddling panic and hate comes secondary to the sales this approach can generate.
Rather than tackling the actual issues facing hard-up Brits - from harsh government cuts to tax dodging corporations - papers like the Daily Mail instead choose to focus on the scapegoating of immigrants. This national blame game is having a worrying effect on our society. There’s a palpable division, a tense and awful “othering” of immigrants, refugees, Muslims and people of color. There’s an actual, and dramatic, increase in hate crimes. Experts have said that the “toxic climate’ promoted by politicians and the media around the EU referendum debate has helped to ‘embolden’ people to target those they regard as ‘different’ or ‘foreign’. A report by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) specifically called out the UK tabloids for their “offensive, discriminatory and provocative terminology” as a contributing factor to the hate speech and racist violence we are experiencing.
And it’s not just outright racism and violence that’s the problem. Psychological studies show that our brains respond with less empathy when dealing with people we perceive as “other”. We fail to see their problems as equal to ours, their suffering doesn’t seem as painful as ours, their pleas for help not so genuine. There’s evidence that negatively-framed stories about migration can lead us to “dehumanise” migrants - to subconsciously see those people as somehow less human than oneself. This “dehumanisation” is not just an unhealthy social condition, it’s also one of the first stages of genocide.
So why do we let our press get away with it? At Global Justice Now we’re saying enough is enough. We want to see an end to the hateful, dehumanising and biased reporting of migrants and migration. Big newspapers like the Daily Mail hold far too much power in their ability to influence. They have a responsibility to the public and our society to report truthfully and stop the dehumanising of migrants.
How we can end the climate of hate
At Global Justice Now we’ve said over and over again “this is not a migrant crisis”. Instead of “how many more can we take”, let’s report on the violent conflict in Syria causing people to flee for their lives. Rather than worrying about the next “flood” of migrants from African countries, let’s talk about the impacts of climate change or the injustices caused by exploitative trade deals forcing people to search of a better life. It’s time our newspapers stopped turning the crises facing millions around the world into a “migrant crisis” faced by Brits.
We’ve already asked the Daily Mail to reign in their biased, dehumanising reporting, now we’re ramping up the pressure. Selling papers is an important source of income for The Mail, but another is their advertising contracts with highstreet brands like Marsks and Spencer.
Marks and Spencer is a company which prides itself on its values, of “innovation, inspiration and integrity”. So we’re asking M&S to stick to their values, to “strive to do the right thing” and provide and inspiration to others. We’re asking M&S to help us call out and hold to account the Daily Mail for their divisive and derogatory reporting of migrants. We’re asking the company to cease their advertising deals with the Daily Mail and take a stand against the spread of anti-migrant hate.