Students at City, University of London have approved a motion to ban newspapers that, “fuel fascism, racial tension and hatred in society.”
Titled: ‘Opposing Facism & Social Divisiveness in the UK Media’, the policy names The Sun, The Express and The Daily Mail as the three British papers most culpable for denigrating minority communities through hateful narrative.
The proposal also accused the papers of scapegoating working class communities and publishing sexist content, but focused predominantly on the perceived racially divisive nature of many article and headlines.
The decision was met with opposition from students within the university, who suggested that boycotting newspapers might in fact be a regressive way of tackling fascism, particularly at a university with an esteemed reputation for journalism.
Writing for The Guardian, City University student Tom Bennet fervently disagreed with the decision:
“If 2016 has taught us one thing, it’s that the UK is far more divided than we ever thought. The blame for that lies, in some part, with these tabloids and their rhetoric. I detest the sexism, xenophobia and Islamophobia they have spouted as much as the next left-leaning 21-year-old.
But these are issues that need to be debated, contested, argued. Shooing them away simply doesn’t work. If the 3.6 million daily readers of the Sun, Mail and Express don’t deserve to be part of the conversation, then I’ll never know who does.”
City University, who have a high proportion of Islamic students, have expressed concern not only in mainstream media behaviour, but also in governmental anti-terrorism strategy. Alluding directly to the Prevent agenda – introduced by Labour after the ‘7/7’ bombings of 2005 – the CU Union argue that: “The prevent strategy has been used to create an expansive surveillance architecture to spy on the public and to police dissent, systematically targeting Black people and Muslims.”
City University’s lambasting of the Prevent framework aligns with widespread calls for the strategy to be reformed by authoritative bodies such as the National Union of Teachers, as well as current Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
Whether right or wrong, by calling to eradicate fascism both in the media and in public policy, the intentions of those students who voted for the motion reflect a wider ambition to soothe racial tensions that have been agitated since Brexit.