Q1: Use the source below to explore the attitudes of people in 2015 towards their fellow human beings. What do you think the artist was trying to say? Is their interpretation of the situation fair? What does this source say about society in 2015?
A1: In 2015 thousands of people fled war zones, famine and persecution in countries from all around the world. Many made their way to countries where they hoped people would help them, like France, Italy and Great Britain. Unfortunately people in those countries were more often than not led, not by their own morality and basic human kindness, but by the twisted logic and cruel ideologies of right wing ‘media moguls’ who, together with the government of the day, had vested interests in skewing discussion of the humanitarian crisis to best fit a profitable agenda.
Often, despite pockets of vocal opposition, the myths these newspapers – of which the Daily Mail was one of the worst – peddled were believed without question by a public all too ready to take the situation at face value and to take the easy option. ‘Why question or research anything for ourselves,’ they thought, ‘when the papers will do it for us? All we have to do then is read and repeat’. This is exactly what the establishment of newspapermen and politicians wanted, as not only did the outrage people were helped to feel sell papers and thus make the newspapermen money in an ailing media landscape so quickly digitalising, but it also fostered an echo-chamber of vitriolic public opinion that fitted the cruel ideology of the Conservative government of the day.
Of the source itself, there is little to say that isn’t very clear from simply looking at it. Clearly the so-called artist wanted readers of the Daily Mail to be afraid and frustrated that their places in upmarket hotels across Europe were being ‘stolen’ by ‘immigrants’ who were being housed there for free. Why should they get free accommodation, the belief went, when decent hard-working people had to pay through the nose? This was one of many half-truths given life of its own during this period. And this wasn’t an isolated mindset at the time as successive governments of all colours had been encouraging distrust and animosity toward what then Prime Minister, David Cameron, called in a TV interview “a swarm of migrants” who were perceived to be willing to do anything to “break into our country”. The truth is that, even if all of the people trying to “break in” at the French border were granted refuge in the UK, it would have raised our population by less than 1% – an easily manageable number. Sadly, our government decided to use a more forceful approach, rather than offering a welcome, to solve the ‘crisis’. It failed as public opinion turned.
Obviously history now shows that this manufactured animosity towards our fellow man was absolutely and unequivocally unfair. People like ‘Mac’ and others of a similar mindset are now thought of as ‘on the wrong side of history’ and hindsight has judged the media of the day and the governments also as being no more credible than those who opposed equal rights for women, LGBT people and black people. Unfortunately, too many have suffered at the hands of these powerful men and women to allow the shameful treatment and dehumanisation of people desperately seeking assistance to be seen as blind acts of stupidity by ignorant dinosaurs. Our fellow men and women at Calais and other French ports, those many hundreds (if not thousands) who so sadly lost their lives crossing the Mediterranean and even the poorest and most vulnerable of the UK’s very own citizens at the time were vilified by the very institutions that should exist, first and foremost, to help them.
The saddest thing is this: All of the bad feeling, the distrust, the shameless animosity and the clever, oft-unnoticeable ‘politics of envy’ at play during the years before and after 2015’s Conservative government went largely unquestioned at the time. Yes, there were very vocal groups doing all they could to neutralise the untruths so carelessly propagated, but the majority of the UK – and Europe generally – simply swallowed the lies written in their morning papers along with their toast and tea. You don’t need me to tell you that things got much, much worse for the most-vulnerable before it got better.
I think it’s more than fair to say that, as we look back at the behaviour of the media, the governments and the people of the mid-to-late 2010s, we must do so with a sense of shame at the fact that previous generations were so flagrantly quick to put themselves before their fellow man, no matter now needy he may be. I hope, as time passes, we continue to recognise how badly our parents and grandparents acted and press on with our attempts to right their wrongs. Humanity needs us to.