How shocking it was the other evening to hear during a discussion on the post-Brexit upsurge in racist attacks and abuse, a presenter on Channel 4 News saying bluntly: “But it’s only anecdotal evidence.”
What proof did she need – a government report, a think tank report, an opinion poll survey, a court judgment? The media has been awash with the most foul and abhorrent anecdotes about this unleashing of racist instincts.
Are we supposed to ignore these until we have a couple of volumes of an academic report and its tables of statistics? Do television executives no longer believe their own reporters who have been reporting anecdotal evidence for…ever? Is not that television standby the ‘vox pop’ nothing more than anecdotal opinion?
Chanel 4 News had shown video of the sickening verbal abuse from a young white man against an African American on a Manchester tram. Pictures have appeared widely of the aftermath of the fire-bombing of a halal butcher’s shop in Walsall. Even in Brexit-voting Wiltshire police had said they were investigating an incident in Salisbury.
It seems that faced by ‘the will of the people’ – and may be even feeling slightly queasy that they did not challenge more robustly the referendum campaign lies (from both sides) – some journalists will now only believe official (government?) reports or academic research.
We must remember too that on top of the volume of anecdotes about this new current of racism and abuse, we know only too well that many of the victims never report these attacks – to the police or to journalists.
Then a week after the vote result was announced, a BBC Radio 4 presenter on Today questioning an ‘expert’ (poor chap!) on the economic turmoil Brexit was causing asked whether the turmoil was real – there was “only anecdotal evidence for it”, he said. Had he been awake over the previous few days?
The Brexit decision is – or should be – about people and how the change in Britain’s status will impact on individuals. After all our elected representatives in our so-called ‘sovereign’ Parliament, passed this far-reaching decision to millions of individuals. So here are a few anecdotes that I have heard from reliable people – individuals:
- the father who told his family they might have to move to Germany as his firm could not stay in non-EU London.
- the grand-daughter whose application to read international law at a German university is on hold because of doubts about how high her fees will now rise.
- two British holiday makers in Brittany looking so miserable that the owner of the quayside cafe they were sitting in gave them free drinks: “To cheer you up”.
- two ladies sitting on a bench chuckling over the result: “How wonderful, no more immigrants.” “And we’ll get our blue passports back.”
- one local non-party person admitting they voted Leave as a poke in the eye to Cameron.
- several British people living in Europe very worried not just about their finances and health care, but about their future nationality status. • someone present at the local referendum count reporting that the pile of Marlborough votes look to be split 50-50.
- a friend, in Vienna last week, asked by the waiter in a restaurant if they were now refugees?
LATE NEWS: Wiltshire’s Chief Constable has announced: “There have been reports nationally of an increase in hate crime since the referendum, with a small minority of people seemingly feeling that the results of the vote has given them an opportunity to behave in a bigoted, racist way. Luckily, here in Wiltshire we have not seen a significant spike in these types of incidents, and I hope it remains that way. We continue to be one of the safest counties in the country, where our diverse communities are able to live, socialise and work in relative harmony. I want to reassure you all now. We do not tolerate any type of hate crime.”
Does that mean the county has seen a spike – but it’s not significant…to whom? The victims? Individuals, individuals, individuals…