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The Real Project Fear: Fake News and ‘Johnny Foreigner’

James Melville highlights the paradox of our xenophobic media driven by press proprietors who are non-domiciled for tax reasons or based overseas.

Fake News and ‘Johnny Foreigner’

James Melville highlights the paradox of our xenophobic media driven by press proprietors who are non-domiciled for tax reasons or based overseas.

Where does all the hatred come from? Well, pop down to your local newsagents and you can buy some of it on a daily basis.

Our tabloids have, for decades, focused their dog-whistle, xenophobic propaganda against the EU, immigrants and – more recently – the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle.

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance has previously criticised certain British media outlets, particularly tabloid newspapers, for “offensive, discriminatory and provocative terminology” against immigrants.

Sadly, it appears that many people have lost sight of the root cause of who is to blame for a decline in wages, public services and the standard of living. Millions of people have been manipulated by politicians and the media into mistakenly believing that their loss of hope was somehow the fault of the EU and immigrants. 

These messages have been hammered home by right-wing media outlets for more than 20 years. And it seems to have worked. That because of foreign incomers or foreign interference, the country and its people have lost control. Through Brexit, they are told to “take back control”, but are instead are giving control to bad actor messengers in our media – much of which is owned by a handful of rich men, mainly based overseas for tax purposes.

It is psychological projection and a giant con trick. Tragically, it has worked.

The fake news scaremongering stories about the EU and immigrants can be traced back to a certain scruffy, wild-haired, blonde, ex-Etonian who became a chief architect of Brexit and who is now our Prime Minister.

Boris Johnson may have thrown his weight behind the Leave campaign prior to the EU referendum in 2016, but his contribution to Brexit goes back more than two decades.

As a correspondent in Brussels for the Daily Telegraph in the early 1990s, Johnson was a pioneer in cultivating disingenuous, Eurosceptic stories. With little regard for the truth, he wrote about the “unelected bureaucrats in Brussels”, scheming up directives to impose standard condom sizes and regulations on bendy bananas. He invented Euro-bashing fake news and turned it into a dark art form that is now used on a daily basis by many of our tabloids.

The EU Referendum campaign itself was a constant drip-feed of anti-EU and anti-immigration stories that were disingenuous at best and downright lying at worst, such as the claims that leaving the EU would free up £350 million a week for the NHS and that millions of Turkish people would soon be arriving in the UK.

Our tabloids constantly screamed about immigration, with at least 30 negative front-page splashes in the Daily Mail in the six months leading up to the EU Referendum, and 15 in the Sun. This was the real Project Fear.

The Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express are united in their distrust and negativity towards the EU. To them, the EU exists to threaten the British way of life. They portay Britain as a plucky island nation separated physically and culturally from a ‘Johnny Foreigner’ Europe that threatens to dilute and destroy our proud traditions. For the tabloids, immigration and the opening up of our borders to Poles, Romanians and Bulgarians is simply a ruse designed by the EU to infiltrate and threaten British identity. 

This 20-year tabloid tactic of fear and loathing of foreigners is an appalling form of xenophobic propaganda that is based on lies, deceptions and playing upon misplaced identity insecurities – more often than not from media owners who are not even based in the UK.

Britain should be looking outwards but, instead, certain sections of our media continually persist with trying to trap Britain into looking inwards. Until this cycle of fear is broken, Britain itself will remain broken and fearful.

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