The future of modern Britain looks set to be an unusually complicated affair. Take just one piece of news that came out of the trial of Darren Osborne over recent days.
According to relatives of the Finsbury Park attacker, the first trigger towards his radicalisation was watching the BBC drama Three Girls about the Rochdale grooming gangs. Evidence suggests that this drama put him on the path to deciding to hire a van and drive it into a group of Muslims in Finsbury Park a few weeks later, murdering 51-year old Makram Ali.
Now of course the BBC’s drama department should not be held responsible for the death of Mr Ali. Though I would love to see a real debate on Newsnight or the like in which the BBC questioned its own apparent role in this terrible business. But just how much more complicated can things get?
For the best part of a decade the BBC – like most other mainstream media – chose to ignore the issue of the northern Muslim grooming gangs. When Operation Bullfinch uncovered similar crimes being carried out in leafy Oxfordshire there was a little more attention. But with the exception of some extraordinary reporting from one journalist at the Times, most media just wanted to keep a million miles away from the story. They didn’t know any of the victims, didn’t know the towns and somewhere along the way (subliminally or otherwise) made the decision that all this was just too horrible and delicate a story to wade into.
For more than a decade the story of these crimes bubbled away under the surface in Britain, causing an anger in portions of the public which was only exacerbated by the correct perception that a blind-eye had been turned to these crimes at the highest levels of the state, including the local councils and police. A number of official inquiries proved this fact. Finally the dear old BBC gets around to commissioning a serious drama about all this which airs in May 2017. Three Girls is by most people’s reckoning a careful and necessary drama about a terrible aspect of modern British life. Far from sensationalist. Far from untrue.
Yet what does the BBC’s tentative step in the direction of covering such a relevant news story lead to? After a few weeks an evil maniac in Wales hires a van and causes mayhem on the streets of London.
I know what people at the BBC and elsewhere will be thinking. Perhaps this vindicates the silence of all those years. Perhaps the public cannot be trusted. Perhaps they are indeed the sort of people who have in their midst people on a hair-trigger who are willing to hire trucks and drive them into crowds of people at a moment’s notice. Perhaps the censorship and silence were after all a good idea? Personally I happen to think not. But nobody should be surprised if the BBC reverts to ignoring crimes like Rochdale in the future.