I remember being small and refusing to watch the news because it scared me. Fast forward to now, click and I can’t shake the realisation that these stories are only told from one point of view – white, upper middle class – and used to placate the masses because we believe them to be the final story. This is even more so the case as these tragedies occur closer to home, the latest being the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
Aside from the obviously heart wrenching horror I have felt in response to this fire, I have also been extremely angry and disgusted by what I believe to be the authorities poor response to the event and the medias tactless, detached and strategic coverage of it. I never thought I’d see the day when I would say thank God for social media, but it has allowed me to see first hand accounts of people close to the event. This means that through the myriad of stories emerging I feel more informed than I would’ve done by just watching the news. It has allowed me to fill in the gaps left by media reports.
The sheer spectatorship of the coverage is compassionless. I read a tweet from someone living in a neighbouring tower who said that they saw a news crew fly in to film victims waving for help and then fly away. Imagine, we live in a world where the lives of the most disadvantaged in our society are considered so invaluable to some that the media see’s no problem in filming them burn to death.
The more information that emerges the more obvious it is that this event could have been avoided and that the authorities are to blame. Media coverage seems to be an attempt to cover up the true extent of the situation. There were countless just concerns put forward by residents, which were ignored. The Chancellor has even suggested that the controversial cladding used was illegal. Clearly these residents were members of the society whose lives meant nothing to those who make decisions that inform their lives. This tragedy highlights the crippling powerlessness of the marginalised in our supposedly noble and democratic country.
The death toll given on the news and in the papers does not stand against the amount of people who lived in the tower and the amount of families still “missing”. First person accounts alone account for more deaths than the media reports. Consider this, a Syrian refugee said that he was on the phone to his brother as he died. The last thing his brother told him was that he couldn’t escape because there were too many bodies in the way. In another video some friends of one of the fireman said that he had counted over 50 dead bodies on one floor.
In yet another interview a man puts posters at a missing people board and tells the news reporter he is doing so in hope to which the reporter asks “what do you think has happened to them?” Every interview with locals I have seen on the news has been equally patronising. Reporters are asking insensitive questions and trying to silence these disenfranchised people and force-feed them more comfortable narratives. No, these people are rightfully angry! Let them speak their truth, and listen to them for once!
In addition to this, the only authoritative response I have seen is the fire brigade (who I cannot help but admire). Where are the police to organise the ‘missing’ persons list and run it against an official list of residents? People shouldn’t have to walk around pinning up posters themselves. Where are the housing authorities to rehouse the survivors? People are being rehoused outside of London against their wishes. Of all the charity I have seen, it has been organised by the public. Our country is so good at handing out Aid to these third world countries that it deems inferior but cannot organise itself to support its own people. I don’t want to hear politicians say they are sorry or are praying. I want to see policies. I want to see the distribution of adequate resources. I want to know what they’re going to do to rectify a fire that they could’ve prevented if they’d recognised the sanctity of these peoples lives. I want them to take responsibility.
Written by Amara Lawrence