The article paints a sympathetic picture of vigilantes who take it upon themselves to act as border force.
Five days after an Iranian family of asylum seekers drowned in the Channel, the BBC ran a piece uncritically profiling vigilantes trying to stop migrant dinghies — including some with far-right links. Rather quaintly titled ‘The wedding DJ who wants to stop migrant boats’, the article leads with Jeremy Davis, who after becoming ‘incensed’ by reports of increased migrant crossing opted to take matters into his own hands.
Launching a group called Littleboats2020 (which, perhaps predictably, he says is inspired by Dunkirk) Mr Davis, alongside other activists, ‘patrols’ the sea trying to spot dinghies of refugees and migrants reaching the UK.
“When Covid lockdowns put an end to his work as a wedding DJ, Jeremy Davis was free to launch himself into his other passion – trying to stop migrant boats heading from France to the shores of the UK,” writes Sue Mitchell, clearly appreciating to colour the DJ angle brings to the piece.
“Before Covid, Davis spent some nights blasting out ABBA tracks on a crowded dance floor. Now he’s on patrol, searching for migrants and possibly even the smugglers.”
It is worth noting that, aside from a concerning ‘passion’ for stopping migrant boats, Mr Davis expresses no explicitly bigoted views in his interview, even being as gracious as to say he would be willing to help a boat in distress. He claims to ‘understand’ the channel crossers and says he is not against immigration when done ‘the right way’.
The official Littleboats2020 account strikes a somewhat different tone, raging against ‘illegals’, ‘diversity’ and Muslims in particular.
Also described as a ‘campaigner’ in the piece is Alan Legett, a far-right YouTuber also known as Active Patriot UK. Leggett, whose Twitter account was locked as of Monday morning, is regularly retweeted by far-right Stephen Yaxley Lennon, also known as Tommy Robinson, who calls him ‘our man on the ground’.
In August Leggett was arrested for breaching the peace for filming asylum seekers boarding a bus in Dover.
Another sympathetic portrayal is of Steve Laws, described as a ‘well-established protester’ and ‘father of three’. Citing his own fatherly instincts, Laws expresses disbelief that anyone would risk taking their child on this journey. He further claims that seeing a two-month baby brought over is what motivated his ‘obsession’.
Laws’ Twitter is a predictable mixture of raging against ‘jihadis’ and lockdown, as well as him openly sharing being charged with taking an inflatable boat without the owner’s consent, but he stops short of explicitly far-right content. No such restraint is shown on his Telegram channel, where he shares anti-diversity, pro-Trump and anti-BLM content and promotes the ethno-nationalist Great Replacement Theory.
It is possible that when writing the piece, investigative journalist Mitchell took her subjects at their word and didn’t probe deeper into their activity. But Twitter users reported that she both tagged their accounts to promote her story and liked their tweets, evidence of which has now been removed.
This raises more questions about the overall future direction of the broadcaster, who is often accused of ‘left-wing bias’. New director general Tim Davie has already taken a bold stance against ‘left-wing comedy’, and just last week, certain BBC journalists were advised against ‘virtue signalling’ by supporting even worthy causes or attending Pride if the ever-so political ‘trans issue’ was a factor. But fear not, poppies are exempt!
Sophia Dourou is a freelance journalist
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