On Wednesday came the first bit of news on the killing of Mohamoud Muse Hassan in weeks.
The Avin It Somewhere Constantly meejah flacks put out a puff piece about how “A number of community leaders met…to urge local people to support the murder investigation at The Criterion Pub last month.”
The press release was – one might suggest – somewhat misleadingly headed “Community united in supporting police investigation”.
Misleadingly headed? In what way?
In that the substance and the tone of the appeal both indicate the opposite of the title – that rather there is not one, single, discrete community in St. Paul’s, and that the people of St. Paul’s are neither united, nor supporting the police investigation to the degree that the title might have you initially think. Indeed, it appears that for these very reasons this appeal is being framed in such desperately blinkered and hopeful terms. Even the first line of the police press release – “A number of community leaders met in St Paul’s this afternoon to urge local people to support the murder investigation at The Criterion Pub last month” – fails to chime with the few facts subsequently detailed; we later learn that the number of ‘community leaders’ is, um, apparently two. Two is, of course, a number, but it is a rather small number. When we hear someone mention ‘a number’ of something, we generally think of more than two. ‘A number of people’ has the ring of a crowd, does it not? An anxious, interested huddle of people, offering different viewpoints, with different concerns perhaps, raising different points. Two, on the other hand, is not a crowd; two is company.
But of course it is the phrase ‘community leaders’ which rings the loudest alarm bells. When this phrase is wheeled out – and by the police! – one naturally starts to wonder who these ‘leaders’ are, whom they ‘lead’, and what right they have to speak up for others. This is not to say that the label ‘community leader’ is always a self-attached one; invariably it is assigned by the real power brokers, who wish to lacquer their own efforts with a sense of (oh, the irony) ‘realness’, or else employed by the reductionist meejah as a snappy shorthand, one which means both nothing and everything, and so is, ultimately, meaningless. It is often transparently employed as a code word, in the same fashion that the like of Nick Griffin might use the word ‘muslim’. The defining of an individual or an organisation as ‘leading a community’ is an attempt to control a situation on one’s own terms, to neutralise dissenting voices, to try to manage opposition. It assumes first the right to herald this person or that group as a legitimate viewpoint, and by implication to define all else as less legitimate or even entirely illegitimate. It is an exercise in marginalisation and crowd control – and one which in a murder investigation is all too likely to cloud the waters.
Given the history in St. Paul’s which the police have for racial profiling, dishonest public pronouncements, collusion with sensationalist local news media, failure to protect local people from violent crime, abandonment of entire streets to organised criminal combines, blackmailing of neighbourhoods and other such tainted practices, the casual use of a few signal words – backed up by no substance – rings not entirely true.
As with much in this sad case – a man was killed, lest we forget – there is as much which is unspoken but firmly implied, as there is actually being openly discussed. Only with candour and self-confidence can we in St. Paul’s resolve the problems which the police are doing their best to ignore.
(A&S press release, 10th October)
PS Please also see Bristol Blogger‘s article on this, ‘U-turning & U-turning in the widening mire’