Sensationalist Spectacles on Bonfire Night

The burning of an effigy of Grenfell in a Norwood backyard this Guy Fawkes’ Night looks set to garner febrile attention for a few days, following some fairly well worn social and broadcast media templates.

Obviously, there is justified outrage against the warped perpetrators. They handed themselves in to the police within 18 hours, in contrast to the 18 months that have drifted by since the actual event, when scores of people chocked and burned to death.

This piece of satire covers some of the discrepancies.

It is curious that some quarters of the political and establishment media are quite so angry about the effigy burning. Theresa May managed to tweet about it far more quickly and robustly than she managed to turn up to the tragedy itself. Perhaps her PR team were more on the ball this time.

We can ask how people could make such a callous display, and the answer is that it doesn’t emerge from a vacuum.

Politicians and corporate media created a hostile environment for immigrants and spent years spreading vicious propaganda against the working class of all colours.

Rapper Lowkey, who lives near Grenfell and has been hugely active in the local campaign, tweeted:

You know why those people in that hideous video felt burning an effigy of Grenfell tower was a good idea? Because the corporate media which is run by billionaire tax exiles led them to believe the people in that building were undeserving.  

The same “leaders” and “journalists” pushed social Darwinism and a profit culture that is routinely allowed to ignore the law.

Many of them were quick to smear the Grenfell victims, quite possibly as part of a behind-the-scenes PR effort instigated by corporations with a lot to lose.

In many ways, the effigy is just an extension of the culture the elite created, though it was not burned by those nice respectable types who frame our political, economic and media culture.

Though many people are pointing out the difference between the treatment of the effigy burners and those responsible for the tragedy itself, the chances are that the former will be set up as hate figures for a public shaming across media for a few days. Then there could well be some form of backlash led by the usual authoritarian/reactionary “free speech” suspects. This will probably be in time for the Sunday papers, penned by the same people who said we shouldn’t “politicise” the tragedy for mentioning the obvious political contexts.

The dynamics of this kind of event have become wearily predictable. Our independent media should aim to retain some perspective and distance, rather than get caught up in the short-termist and sensationalist spectacles that traditional and social media are perpetually sucked in to.

Stephen Durrant

The Media Fund