WHO WOULD be a historian? The very fact that current events appear unable to be accurately covered, despite 24-hour rolling news coverage and constant internet analysis, must make even the most qualified academic question the validity of making confident statements about what the Tudors really thought or how the Aztecs wore their pants. But then that surely is the art of the competent historian; being able to sift through lies and propaganda to come up with an approximation of reality.
What then, would they make of the coverage this week of protesters railing against a homecoming parade for a regiment recently deployed in Basra, waving provocative placards at them as they marched through the streets of Luton? What truth can we extract?
First let's turn to the voice of reason, the BBC. It reported online that "war protesters" had staged a small demonstration and were protected by a large police presence. Anyone reading the text without looking at the photo would have been forgiven for thinking that "war protesters" might comprise a cross-section of society, since that's who turned out in their hundreds of thousands to voice anger against the Iraq war. We might reasonably expect to see an old lady or two perhaps, or maybe some scruffy students and families with small children.
The picture, however, showed only a dozen or so youngish men, all with comedy beards, dressed in Islamic clothing and frothing with the familiar rage and dead-eyed hatred. Ah! You mean pantomime Muslim extremists. Why didn't you say so?
The Sun said so. In fact it went much, much further. These were not war protesters but Muslim hate preachers, hell bent on bringing down society and threatening Our Boys. It included a photo of attendant but segregated pantomime women extremists, (at least we can only guess they were women) clad in jilbabs and veils, although the odd glimpse of a Satanic Western Adidas tracksuit was still visible. One of these ridiculous figures was photographing the parade in a "sinister" manner, and much was made of this by the panic-stricken reporting.
In between the BBC's ridiculously PC, anodyne reporting, and The Sun's string 'em up hysterics, all manner of furious commentators commented furiously and the government's usual tax-funded Muslim Uncle Toms were wheeled out to denounce the demonstration as "un-Islamic". Job well done, it seems, for the handful of oafs and losers with the placards, but another black day for journalism and community cohesion.
It turns out that the dozen protesters were members of the Monty Pythonesque banned group al-Muhajiroun, and that unsurprisingly not a single other Luton Muslim saw fit to join them and their mediaeval slave women despite being leafleted extensively in advance. In other words this was not a protest from "British Muslims" against the West, but a group of idiots held in contempt as much by their fellow Muslims as by the great unholy kuffar.
So why did the broad spectrum from The Sun to the BBC report this so inaccurately? Whatever their reasons, the result is ghastly. Demonstrable resentment has been stoked among the educated middle-class consumer of BBC online, judging by their forum responses, resentful that Muslim extremists seem to be getting an easier ride than any other protesters.
Worse still, the largely uneducated working-class readers of The Sun are being shamelessly incited to hate and fear all Muslims, regardless of the fact that the protest was tiny, wholly unrepresentative, and delivered by a group of inadequate men and women with the intellectual capacity of bath sealant.
The Sun goes further still. It has embarked on a mission hounding the individual protesters, door-stepping them and revealing their homes and places of work. One protester has been outed as a baggage handler at an airport. Wow! We're sure this is news to MI5. Golly, Ponsonby. Did you know that extremist fellow from the banned group of Islamic activists has airside access? Good heavens no, Smithers! I had absolutely no idea until The Sun cleverly uncovered it. Best get someone down there undercover right away to keep an eye on the chap.
There is, of course, nothing remotely funny about the atrocities carried out by insane extremists in this country and elsewhere in the name of Islam, but since these particular halfwits are so visible and ridiculous, and presumably have been under such intense surveillance that they will never have the chance to do so much as double park, it seems that all this rage over their actions would be better replaced with out and out mockery.
Does no-one else think it's faintly amusing seeing a silly young British-born man, who has doubtless never left Luton, dressed as a 10th-century Arab while wearing a Bluetooth earpiece? Can we not enjoy the satirical irony of people so terminally stupid that they rightly enjoy the freedom to protest, under police protection, to bring about a society that would not tolerate their dissent on the slightest matter? They are, in short, a joke.
Perhaps a huge crowd, consisting of a cross-section of Muslim society, shouting abuse and inciting hatred would have been genuine cause for alarm. But since that didn't happen, nor is ever likely to, we should eschew both the BBC's damaging political correctness and The Sun's vile hate-mongering, and instead start pointing and laughing. Like toddlers, these fanatics thrive on the fact that their actions attract a disproportionate fury to their provocation.
Some comfort to the non-Muslim bereaved families of fallen servicemen and women who were present in the crowd during the protest, is that beside them to welcome back the troops were many Muslim residents of Luton.
Since they joined together to show appreciation of the ghastly and largely thankless job done by our military, wouldn't it be even healthier if they could unite in either ignoring or laughing at the puerile antics of these divisive and revolting fanatics? After all, these hopeless fools are not messiahs of a new caliphate. To borrow phrase from the Monty Python crew in The Life Of Brian, they're just very naughty boys.