The right-wing and tabloid media reaction to the ongoing refugee situation in Europe has been predictable enough. In July of this year, the breakfast TV cockalorum Eamonn Holmes bemoaned how 'everybody' is 'pussy-footing' around the migrant issue, suggesting that electric fences be used to keep them away. Holmes was not a lone voice. Back in April, Sun columnist Katie Hopkins boldly recommended using gunships to stop the migrants, whom she described as 'cockroaches'. This turns an entry from Winston Smith's diary in Orwell's 1984 ('Last night to the flicks. All war films. One very good one of a ship full of refugees being bombed somewhere in the Mediterranean') into a policy suggestion. And Hopkins is seemingly valued for her controversialism: she is currently enjoying more public exposure - and no doubt financial remuneration - than ever, and now hosts phone-in programmes on LBC radio.
That Hopkins can be allowed to continue as a high-profile media commentator indicates the astonishing callousness of public attitudes to the most desperate global others. Something of this callousness is reflected in the recent British zombie film The Rezort, in which it is discovered that a corporation, with the help of a humanitarian organization, is deliberately turning refugees into zombies to be shot at and abused in a kind of undead theme park.
Day after day throughout this summer, meanwhile, the Daily Mail has been wailing about the 'tides' and 'swarms' of immigrants entering Europe. Even the BBC is getting in on the act. In recent weeks I have heard BBC radio journalists refer to the 'flooding' of migrants into Europe. One Radio 4 journalist, on the very same day that David Cameron was criticized for talking of migrant 'hordes', referred to an 'influx'. Well, here is a picture - one of several banned by Facebook - showing what an influx looks like when it hits the beach. This girl was one of several Middle Eastern children washed up on a Libyan shore, seemingly after a failed attempt to reach Europe via the Mediterranean.
Yet the priorities of the capitalist media are fundamentally unchanged. Although The Sun has of late adopted a more sympathetic tone, a recent editorial nonetheless calls, absurdly, for the closure of borders and the (further) bombing of the Middle East as 'solutions' to the refugee crisis. And by failing - or perhaps we should say refusing - to articulate the structural causes of this tragedy, the news media demonstrate what the sociologist Chris Rojek calls 'event consciousness', separating event from process and framing humanitarian emergencies as singular happenings unconnected with wider social and economic processes.
This de-contextualization should be resisted and the origins of these horrific events should be made clear. The roots of today's refugee crises lie in the crisis of capitalism, with its increasingly militarized borders, refugee-creating wars and socio-economic chaos. Capitalism is a deadly and inhuman system: according to its logic, only employees (who can be exploited) and consumers (who can raise profits) exist. Any project aimed at ending capitalism, by contrast, must embrace all of humanity, recognizing and empowering those who, from the point of view of the current social order, do not exist.