A curious thing happened on December 1st 2015 at the Chichester Observer. They published and then removed two articles about the modest parish of Earnley in Sussex.
Specifically, these pieces focused on the fact that Earnley was due to receive 200 “asylum seekers” seeking refuge. They of course followed the modern refugee profile consisting of males between the ages of 18-40. Best of all, these cultural enrichers would be sourced from our dear friends in Calais.
Locals in the area, with a population of just over 400, were naturally
delighted horrified at the prospect. The Observer published a piece quoting a number of Earnley residents on their fears. I would give you a link to the piece, but the Chichester Observer kindly removed it the very same day it went up. Even the Google cache of the page is no longer available.
Fortunately I saved a copy.
Here is what the locals had to say for themselves:
“I walk with my mum and two young children in the village weekly. It has a population of less than 400 across three hamlets.
“It has no street lights, no pavements, no transport links, no shops, no police station. And they want to leave us with 200 male asylum seekers with nothing to do.
“I feel sick. Just one poorly screened individual and I am walking alone in a tiny village with two young children.
“I feel so vulnerable, my parents and the rest of the village are terrified.”
The asylum seekers would be security cleared so Earnley Concourse ‘would not be a detention centre’, the parish council has said.
Bracklesham Bay resident Graham Bray added: “This is a totally inappropriate location for this purpose and must be rejected completely.
“This would ruin the ambience of this lovely village.”
‘Would not be a detention centre’? Oh what a relief for the residents! This would mean of course minimal security, if any, and they would have the run of the town. As you may have guessed, this mass dumping of human trash was (surprise!) nothing to do with Earnley’s residents or its nearest local council. It was “a Home Office project independent of either Chichester District Council or West Sussex County Council.” Yet again, residents were simply told what was going to happen, not asked. The only thing that stood in the way of ‘the project’ was planning permission. I’m pleased to report that since then, Stone Harbour Ltd, owners of the building that was earmarked for the Gimmegrants, have withdrawn their application for planning permission in view of the opinions presented to them by Earnley Parish Council.
There is more to note on this story however, if nothing else for posterity and as a warning for the future of similar developments that are even now popping up all over the country.
Shortly after the “Earnley residents ‘terrified’ by asylum seeker plans” story quoted above was removed, another piece went up for a few hours before also being pulled, entitled “Chichester community ‘need to welcome asylum seekers'”. I also saved this one. It presented the polar opposite perspective to the now memory-holed article prior. In it, we find out that residents in Earnley and surrounds actually can’t wait for the human deluge:
Sarah Nunn helped organise a candle-lit vigil for Syria’s stricken refugees in Chichester in September.
Bracklesham resident Mrs Nunn said: “We need to welcome asylum seekers into our community because they are people in desperate need.
“We have all seen the photos. Who would put themselves, let alone their families into such danger if they were not fleeing for their lives?
“We, in Sussex, have so much in comparison, the least we can do is be welcoming.
“Is that not what we would want for our family if we were in their shoes?”
Commenting on the Observer Facebook page, Scarlett Lee Silvester said: “I look forward to their arrival.
“It’s nice to have a cultural diversity. Perhaps when they do arrive they could provide better transportation links if the residents are so worried.”
That last sentence was one of only two to give any indication at all that something was amiss. The second one stated only, “The news has divided opinion locally.”
No sh*t! Really?
Now depending on at what time you happened to read the Chichester Observer, you would have received a very different picture of the local sentiments. Anyone living in the area though is probably painfully aware of the kind of travelling clown show that purports to represent ‘local views’ but does anything but.
The only reason I picked up these two stories at all before they both went down the memory hole is that I have written a suite of web scrapers that I launch occasionally (they tie up the computer for a while even with multiple threads) to scan the front pages of local media for certain keywords/terms – which currently include ‘refugee’, ‘Syria’, ‘asylum seeker’ among others.
I’ve started doing this every couple of weeks to see what important stories are being reported locally, but fail to reach the national media and therefore national consciousness. I previously did this with keyword searches on fuel poverty and have been absolutely stunned by some of the stories that would be of national but that just end up buried or otherwise ignored. I suspect many don’t make it to the print editions either, so even less people see them whilst the hacks in question can pretend they’ve carried out some kind of due diligence.
Given neither of the two stories above lasted 24 hours, I was curious to find out what was going on. The Chichester Observer don’t like to pick up the phone it seems, but they *did* respond to email after a few days. Here is what they said:
“There were people making some legally problematic comments across social media relating to the story where the residents raised their concerns so we felt it was the best course of action in the circumstances to take that story down. Had we left the more positive story there it would have been unbalanced so we took that down too, leaving the one that was purely factual.”
Now, credit to them for pulling the other piece too. I do wonder if some kind of editorial battle was going on behind the scenes over this. Someone (I hope) genuinely wanted to accurately report the sentiments of local residents even if another member of staff thought it more important to present the usual activist regressive left talking points. The ‘factual story’ in question that was left up is here. Without researching it, you would have no idea there was any contention, never mind that 2000+ people signed a petition against the asylum seeker centre, with many leaving hostile comments against ‘the project’.
None of this detracts from the general feeling of unease at the prospect that they just don’t want to air certain opinions. “Problematic comments across social media” in response to the first story is just pure bullsh*t. People are livid about this being forced on them *and* being told to ‘shut up, racist’ too. The paper is not liable for how people react to this on social media.
Yet the only reaction I ever see from people who should know better and who should learn from it, is to double down. What is wrong with these people?