Media adds insult to injury for disabled protester

// 14 December 2010

My Facebook feed is full of people up in arms about this BBC interview with Jody McIntyre, a political activist with cerebral palsy who was pulled from his wheelchair and attacked by the police during last week’s student protests in London:

Interviewer Ben Brown spends the full eight minutes trying to get McIntyre to admit to provoking the police, suggesting he was “rolling towards the police in his wheelchair”, that he is a “revolutionary” (presumably this would justify police violence) and repeatedly asking him if he threw anything at the police or shouted insults at them. McIntyre does fantastically well to keep his composure and point out the inherent ridiculousness of this line of questioning. Please see FWD for a full transcript.

The interrogation interview displays a bias towards those in power and against those theatened by that power. The media portrayal of the protests and protesters looks like a desperate attempt by the former – who count media moguls and top journalists among their numbers – to convince the rest of us that the protesters are not people like us. They know the government has launched a huge attack on the vast majority of the UK population – of which they will be the beneficiaries – and they therefore have a massively vested interest in preventing any kind of solidarity and empathy building up between us. Hence the ludicrous and offensive accusations thrown at Jody McIntyre in the place of any attempt to get a balanced picture of what actually happened.

So hoorah for social media and the internet: you can read Jody’s blog here, join a Facebook page supporting him here and make a complaint direct to the BBC here.

While you’re at it, you could also complain about the latest bit of vile, ignorant commentary from the Daily Mail’s finest columnist, Richard Littlejohn, who compares Jody to Andy from Little Britain, making him out to be a petulant imbecile who “put himself on offer” to the police (scroll down to second article).

Comments From You

Laurel Dearing // Posted 14 December 2010 at 11:45 pm

at my occupation we collectively felt ill today about all this

Sarah Kate // Posted 15 December 2010 at 1:04 am

Thanks for this. I’d also like to point people towards the BBC’s ‘Editor’s’ blog page on the subject here:, where Kevin Bakhurst’s response to the complaints attempts to dismiss them as a result of an ‘internet campaign’… There are a lot of fantastically well argued, articulate posts proving him wrong though!

Mica // Posted 15 December 2010 at 4:01 am

Yeah I have noticed the anti- student bias. David Cameron is obviously hoping that the students will hang themselves if given enough rope since he can’t prevent them from protesting. It’s disgusting that a person, especially a disabled one, is fair game because they are expressing their right to oppose a government who is letting people down.

starsandscars // Posted 15 December 2010 at 1:25 pm

Great to see this being highlighted here. The way Mr McIntyre is being treated by the media is despicable!

A new low even for Littlejohn..

spiralsheep // Posted 15 December 2010 at 5:10 pm

Great post.

polly // Posted 15 December 2010 at 5:43 pm

That littlejohn column is unbelievable. Even from Littlejohn. The patronising assumption that any wheelchair user should ‘keep themself safe’, and that if they don’t they deserve to be assaulted by the police.

Oh and even if the police were ‘provoked’, they’re the police, and shouldn’t respond with violence. If one of us did the same to someone who was aggressive towards us, we’d probably be arrested!

Philippa Willitts // Posted 15 December 2010 at 5:58 pm

Mark Steel wrote a nice piece about it in today’s Independent too.

Sarah Kate // Posted 15 December 2010 at 7:33 pm

@Polly –

Exactly! The victim-blaming implication of Brown’s questions is what really upset me about it – as if the fact that someone was ‘rolling towards police’ would somehow justify their actions! That kind of violent assault is inexcusable, regardless of whether the police were ‘provoked’, which clearly isn’t what happened here. McIntyre should not have had to justify (repeatedly) why he felt wronged by the assault, and it is a great shame that the vast majority of the interview was focused on this rather than the real story ie. police violence towards protestors.

Kevin Bakhurst’s response also really riled me:

‘I am aware that there is a web campaign encouraging people to complain to the BBC about the interview, the broad charge being that Ben Brown was too challenging in it… Mr McIntyre says during the interview that “personally he sees himself equal to anyone else” and we interviewed Mr McIntyre as we would interview anyone else in his position.’

NO Mr Bakhurst, it has nothing to do with how ‘challenging’ Brown was, and it is patronising to both McIntyre and the people who complained to suggest this. McIntyre showed himself to to be more than capable of dealing with Brown’s questions (and actually made him look pretty stupid). Is the fact that you would interview anyone else in his position in the same way supposed to reasure me? It would be victim-blaming, biased reporting whether the person is question has a disability or not.

Jennifer Drew // Posted 16 December 2010 at 12:01 am

Proves yet again the police are not ‘politically neutral’ but rather act on instructions from the Tories in power.

The police know very well that if their violent attacks on peaceful protestors would be subjected to prosecution they would not commit such acts. However, police have clearly been awarded ‘imunity from prosecution’ so can commit whatever violence they wish in the name of suppressing peaceful resistance to the Tory government and their minions the Lib/Dems.

Malestream media too are literally falling over themselves pandering to the Tory government which is why yet another BBC male reporter twisted the facts so that the male victim became the perpetrator and the male police officers became the ‘victims.’ Media is not politically neutral and certainly this latest incident of what is now routine police violence being committed against peaceful protestors, proves my point.

Littlejohn will twist any facts to suit his purpose because he too is another minion of the right-wing autocracy.

Kit // Posted 16 December 2010 at 11:39 am

@Jennifer Drew – I remember the Met’ being just as appalling as these current protests when Labour were in power and G20 was on. I used to think they were there to serve us, the people, but I guess as a whole they’re not, huh :/

I don’t even know what to say about the BBC, or that interview. There isn’t much that isn’t expletive, to express it.

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