Tales of abuse in recent days have been poorly reported
On Sunday Lewis Hamilton won the British Grand Prix. It was a dramatic victory, achieved by some superb driving after the British driver had incurred a ten-second “stop-go penalty”, a punishment imposed by race stewards when a driver has driven dangerously.
The main story on the BBC Sport website on Monday, however, did not focus on Hamilton’s skill or the drama of the race. Instead it centred on the fact that he had apparently been the target of racial abuse on Twitter. The first fourteen paragraphs of the story were given over to related lamentations. Not until paragraph fifteen did we discover that Hamilton’s dangerous driving had resulted in one of his main opponents, Max Verstappen, being admitted to hospital after a 51G impact into a tyre wall, the type of accident that routinely killed or seriously injured drivers in previous eras.
This burying of the real details of a story, in order to mould it more easily into an essentially political narrative, seems to have become rather common recently.
In the aftermath of England’s defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 final much of the media reported the story they wanted to report: one about a huge bigoted “outpouring” against black players. This approach was dominant well into the second half of last week, despite it being revealed that the racially abusive Tweets sent to some of the players made up a tiny fraction of all the social media comment on England’s performance, and that much of that tiny fraction originated not in this country at all, but overseas.
An important component of the “racist backlash” framing was the graffiti left on a mural of the Manchester United and England forward Marcus Rashford. Strikingly, none of the prestige media — the BBC, ITV, Sky, the quality newspapers — would tell us what had been written. Then on Friday Greater Manchester Police (GMP) confirmed that the graffiti “was not believed to be of a racial nature”, denting the factual basis but not the sentimental and ideological appeal of the original story.
The most plausible explanation for the graffiti I have heard is that a tired and emotional Manchester City fan scrawled some incoherent obscenity as he meandered home from the pub. But of course this simple and politically useless explanation would be a threat to what you might call the “upper normie” mindset, in which Britain is a seething cauldron of racial prejudice, which can only be addressed by the nice, good people in the media carefully passing over any inconvenient details with a studied vagueness.