Daily Mail’s 5 step guide to demonising migrants

Today's story provides a handy guide to the dark arts of the press


It is a truth universally acknowledged that migrants get a rough ride in the British press. But how do they do it?

Today’s Daily Mail provides a crash course in the dark arts of demonising migrants. Here are some of the basics:

1. Do not refer to migrants as people.

It is of the first importance that these people not be seen as human. Instead, use words like ‘figures’, ‘numbers’, ‘influx’ – or indeed, ‘migrant’, which simply means a person who moves from one place to another.

2. Use numbers instead of words where possible. 

Words can be slippery. To avoid breaking step 1, use numbers like 18,000, as in today’s story. This helps creates the idea of migration as a pest control problem, or a force of nature, rather than a man-made crisis that involves human lives.

3. Use the language of crime. 

Discuss migrants as you would criminals. Some examples from today’s story are ‘sneak’, ‘evade’, ‘targeting’ and ‘caught’. These are bad people doing a bad thing. They deserve to be punished. (Add a scary picture of dark-skinned people if you can.)

4. Do not quote people who care about migrants.

Pick your sources with care. Organisations which worry about the safety of migrants should not be quoted if possible (as they are not in today’s story). This might cause readers to see another side of the story, learn about its context and the causes of migration, hear ideas for solutions, and even empathise with the migrants themselves. Instead, seek quotes from police, tough-guy politicians, truck drivers, British tourists, and so on.

5. Do not speak to migrants. 

This may be the most important step. Under no circumstances should you interview the people trying to reach Britain. Asking about their experiences and motivations, or just about their family or their favourite food, could risk readers seeing them as human, and should be avoided at all costs. This includes the cost of good stories or honest journalism.

There are other steps, and not all of these are kept all the time. Reports of migrants drowning in the Mediterranean has broken through the usual filters as a regrettable anomaly. Generally though, some adherence to the above will ensure you write about migrants correctly.

Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter

Read more: 

Daily Mail says Syrian refugees turn Greek holiday town into ‘disgusting hellhole’

Daily Express blames Greek economic crisis on EU and immigration

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39 Responses to “Daily Mail’s 5 step guide to demonising migrants”

  1. GhostofJimMorisson

    This helps creates the idea of migration as a pest control problem, or a force of nature, rather than a man-made crisis that involves human lives.

    Man made crisis? You’re assuming all migrants are poor, desperate refugees fleeing persecution. The vast majority are merely people seeking the chance of a better life and higher wages. You’ve made the schoolboy error of confusing economic migrants with refugees. We have no obligation to help the former, unless they have skills we desperately need, and every obligation to help the latter. And as for the language of crime, entering a country without permission or documentation is a crime, pure and simple. And when it comes to numbers, the left is just as guilty, chucking economic figures and statistics to defend mass immigration.

  2. GhostofJimMorisson

    As far as I can make out, many immigrants are low skilled and in low waged jobs, and their wages are topped up with benefits. We are, then, subsidising people to come and work here, when we have over a million unemployed. Bonkers!

  3. GhostofJimMorisson

    (Add a scary picture of dark-skinned people if you can.)

    Translation: If you have ANY concern about mass, uncontrolled immigration, you’re a massive racist. Pathetic, ignorant, self-righteous bien-pensant guff! This is why the Left was so routinely drubbed at the last election.

  4. Torybushhug

    The left always self portray as ‘thinking people’, how infantile and inaccurate. Many of us had Owen Jones style naïve thinking patterns in our teens but then we think a bit deeper and beyond the distorted populism the liberal left feels so comfortable with.
    Being of the left is the easy more rewarding state of being. You get to underline your supposed compassion and virtue, you simply tell people what they want to hear (‘I believe in decent pensions for all’, ‘I believe every child must have an equal chance’).
    Lefties are charlatans. I know plenty that virtue signal and underline their semi Saintly status, yet their actions are the same as mine. For example they detest capitalism and profiteering and yet they eagerly keep an eye on their ISA / pension all derived by way of corporate profits off the backs of workers. They bemoan low incomes whilst choosing the Polish gardener because he is happy to work for a lower sum (my Brother is a capable gardener but many liberal lefty types instead choose cheap immigrant gardeners).
    As I say, charlatans the lot of them, including Tony Ben who distributed the bulk of his mass wealth only to his own children or Coogan that relentlessly virtue signals whilst CHOOSING to hoard gigantic wealth.

  5. stevep

    Yes, of course we on the left are hypocrites and charlatans like you describe. We represent the vast majority of people who haven`t got inherited wealth, land or other means of sustaining ourselves, so we have to hire ourselves out to those who have, to “earn” a living. We represent the hope that one day, everyone will be able to sustain themselves and enjoy life as a given right without having to offer the begging bowl to the wealthy power elite.
    Yes, we do employ abstract language like decency, fairness, equality etc. because they sound nicer than terms like GDP, corporate assets, arbitraging etc.
    Yes, there are those among us who are wealthy themselves and could choose to accept that and even flaunt it, instead they choose to align themselves with us and use their wealth to support us and our politics.
    As I said at the start, we are hypocrites. We are people with Socialism in our hearts having to use our brains to scrape a living from Capitalism. We have a vision of how things should be, not a shoddy acceptance of things as they are and that is a million miles better position to be in than far-right commentators seeking to glorify greed, promote division, encourage racism and generally indulge in all the tired old “leftie” bashing that was old hat 30 years ago.
    So let`s celebrate our “hypocrisy” and laugh at those who despise us and would wish us harm. We will have the last laugh.

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