Saturday, January 28, 2006

Murder pt1

Late one night a few days I caught a movie called Londinium on the tele. It has the smell of one the many films made four or five years ago when a generous government tax break meant that wealthy private investors could make a tidy return on putting money into films even if they weren’t very good, or even released. The films just had to be completed. A mini bonanza took place. Dozens and dozens of really awful movies were made with all the craftsmanship and care of a hastily prepared ham sandwich.

Many of them copied the successful Richard Curtis Four Weddings and a Notting Hill format. Take one foppish upper middle class leading man, add one American actress, leave to bake in a fantasy London where struggling young cellists with no visible means of financial support, live in a huge flats in Notting Hill or Highgate and are searching for bittersweet love with the support of various quirky posh friends who work in media and the arts.

All of these films are shit.

On every conceivable level

Londinium was no exception. At one point, the foppish, Hampshire born, leading man Colin Firth says something like

People never see the ugly side of London. I was born here and have spent my entire life here and I cannot understand why people who come to this city only see a romanticised view of the place

Whilst delivering this heartfelt dialogue Firth was sitting on a blanket, having a picnic in Hampstead Heath on a sunny day with a glass of wine in his hands. Hampstead Heath was probably the most gritty location used in the entire film.

I mention this because whilst I was watching this old toss I couldn’t help thinking about the murder of city lawyer Tom ap Rhys Price a couple of weeks ago. The papers were full of it. My girlfriend works in the same firm as he did and they held a minute’s silence for him. He was, by all accounts, a decent guy. But I confess to having been baffled at the time at the amount of coverage the murder was given. It wasn’t particularly different to dozens of other recent London murders I could name.

And, at the back of my head, the cynic in me was thinking ‘there’s a guy who probably watched Notting Hill once too often’. Much of London, including Kensal Green / Willesden where he lived, is nasty, and shit happens. Quite a lot of shit actually.

London can be a wonderful city particularly if, maybe only if, you are loaded or willing to spend money you don't have. London also eats people. As it has done for centuries.

And some of its residents take a fairly scornful approach to wide-eyed innocents new in town who labour under the bizarre misapprehension that everything is just peachy.

I remember a couple of years ago listening to a talk radio programme and an American student called in. She was very excited about moving into East London and was asking for an ‘insider’ tips on getting the most out of such a fabulous city. The first person to respond and call in suggested Don’t go jogging in Victoria Park.


It seems that I wasn’t the only person surprised by the amount of coverage given to the Kensal Green stabbing. The Head of the Met, Ian Blair hit the papers yesterday, again, after commenting that

I believe that the media are guilty of institutional racism in the way they report deaths

This was in the context of making a serious point that the police do not concentrate resources on a case just because the newspapers elevate it above equally deserving cases but, come again? institutional racism?

I have no love for the news media but they are between a rock and a hard place on this one and the problem boils down to the treatment of race.

One of the golden rules of murder reporting in the UK is that, by implication, only White people are capable of race crimes. Which is itself a pretty racist suggestion

Accounts suggest that the guy killed in Kensal Green was stabbed to death after he had given his possessions up. So, what was that all about? Off the top of my head, and without having to resort to Google, I can think of many, very many, recent murders in London and the UK where White people were murdered by non Whites and where robbery was not the motive

No doubt, other people could come up with a list of personal favourites

None of these cases have received anything like the coverage given to the racist murders of Stephen Lawrence and Anthony Walker, who both happened to be Black. Extremists like the British National Party are making much capital about the asymmetry of the coverage.

Even the never ending Damilola Taylor case may involve an element of racism. But, because it involved West Indian kids killing a Nigerian kid that element has been either played done or, fuck me, even excused

But whoever murdered Damilola Taylor presumably did it by mistake - the murderers are probably horrified and terrified by what they have done. They slashed him and ran off, leaving him to hobble a few steps for help, in the sudden fountain of his own blood. If they hadn't happened to have hit a major artery, it might have been one brief paragraph in the local newspaper; or not even that.

I wonder if anyone would have had the cheek to write something like that about Stephen Lawrence’s murderers.

And no I’m not suggesting that there are hordes of non Whites marching around the place looking to commit racist murders, any more than I believe that there are hordes of Whites at it either. What I am suggesting is that the media is leery of stories that don’t correspond to a certain agenda. In that respect, ‘Institutional Racism’ can cut both ways.

So, does the national press and television over-represent Whites in their coverage of murders? Yes, sometimes. But does the media also take liberties at the expense of Whites in its coverage? That would be a yes, sometimes also


greatwhitebear said...

Great post.. It appears the problems of London are not so much different than New York, Chicago, Toronto, or any other cosmopolitan city in the western world!

de said...

Possibly class is more relevent than race in reporting.

Daniel said...


When I lived in Kings Cross, there was very much a live and let live attitude, probably helped by the near by police presence. Obviously, you had to have your wits about you.

In fact one of my cynical American housemates loved London because as he saw it in Chicago, his home town if anyone was going to mug you 90% of the time they'd have a gun. Whereas in London depending on the area, not say Hackney or Willesden Green, the chances of somebody packing a piece would be much lower. He was mugged in Kings Cross at knifepoint btw when he first moved there...

Wolfie said...

Its simpler than that even I think. The press want something unusual, dramatic or salacious. Pretty young girls in gruesome (sex-related) murder is favourite along with celebrity or wealthy victims. Your average crime is quite boring, especially when its some social plankton killing another of its kind for drugs/money/fun. The press are scum so philosophising about their motives seems quite pointless.