News Brief
Disinformation

UK official concerned with far-right views hitting the mainstream

The deadly consequences of far-right viewpoints — many adhering to false historic facts — getting more mainstream airing have become a serious concern for security officials.

In the UK, the most senior official on counter terrorism warned that mainstream media is serving as a powerful conductor for far-right messaging, in comments delivered in the wake of the terror attack at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Britain’s counter-terrorism chief Neil Basu said the media should not “hide behind the mantra” of free speech and urged more accountability for coverage that radicalizes the far right.

Basu’s comment appears to be a rebuke of news outlets like the Mail Online which published the complete 74-page manifesto written by the New Zealand gunman who killed 50 people in the country’s worst terrorist attack.

Images, gifs and even full videos of the attacks were prominently featured in reports across the UK and Australia, and according to Basu, served in amplifying terrorist messages.

The statement from Basu follows a parallel wave of outrage in the international media over a viral story published in the Polish weekly newspaper Only Poland about “How to spot a Jew.”

The front-page story listed markers such as physical appearance, character traits and even “disinformation activities” as possible identifiers for a Jewish person.

Poland’s media became particularly polarized after the election of a right-wing government in 2015 which then took over public television programming and tried to pass a law that would jail those who say Poles participated in Nazi-era crimes.

A small, but innovative, media project has sprouted in response to deepening divisions within Polish society. Projekt Spiecie, meaning “short circuit,” brings together media outlets with radically different political perspectives to re-print each other’s articles on a particular story. The goal is to spur discussion among readers and journalists who are otherwise unexposed to other points of view.

 

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