The far right has become emboldened. This year, we have seen coverage of refugees and migrants – already extremely negative – stoop to new lows amid the hateful rhetoric and misinformation during the Brexit media campaign. With the executive chairman of the so-called ‘alt-right’ website Breitbart Newsnow in the White House as Donald Trump’s chief strategist, extreme narratives are likely to gain even greater power and legitimacy.
Hateful propaganda has led many to question whether we have suddenly plunged into a ‘post-truth’ world. Sadly, this overlooks the reality that fact-free news, selective and misleading coverage, and fearmongering are not new. We have already seen its dangerous consequences: the increase in hate crimes in the UK since the EU referendum and Nazi graffiti in the US following Trump’s election.
It is therefore vital that the media also tell stories of generosity and compassion, and highlight the positive narrative of successful refugee journeys and how they contribute to the communities that host them. Reporting of integration difficulties should be accompanied by integration successes, and questions to policy-makers on how to replicate them.
Social media campaigns can force mainstream outlets to cover absent issues (see #SomeoneTellCNN and #LetAymanReport). But these platforms have also been exploited. Marine Le Pen was quick to cheer Trump’s victory on Twitter, and the press quick to report on it, inflating her voice. She was then given a platform to speak on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Remembrance Sunday. The normalisation of marginal and extreme views becoming all too familiar. We urgently need to campaign for more balanced coverage or extremists will hijack the debate.
Originally published here in United Nations Association Magazine in December 2016