Tony Thompson, a propagandist at the Observer
Gun crime is a label police propagandists use to make a false distinction between black and white firearms violence.
On Boxing Day 2003, David Bieber shot dead Ian Blakehurst, a traffic cop, in east Leeds, northern England. Bieber is, Blakehurst was, white. On December 2 2004, Bieber began a life sentence for Blakehurst’s murder. Was his murder a gun crime?
The Observer crime correspondent, Tony Thompson, is a police propagandist. A look at Thompson’s articles should tell us what gun crime is.
In May 2003, in a “special investigation”, Thompson tells readers about a feature of gun crime: “the ethnic connection”. Ethnicity is central to what police say gun crime is. Jamaicans, specifically, “have few qualms about shooting police officers” (1). More than any other ethnic group, they have had a “far greater …impact” on UK organised crime.
What makes Jamaicans killers? Thompson hints at two sides to the Jamaican personality which makes him likely to kill (2). First, “having been brought up in a society where violent death [is] commonplace”, he kills easily. Second, his love of guns makes him willing to use them against anyone, including the police (3).
Along with ethnicity and violence, the trade in crack-cocaine is another feature of gun crime. Crack epidemics grip British inner city black communities. Thompson says, “Brixton has long held the reputation for being the drugs capital of London” (5).
Thompson makes a deliberate, albeit false, link between crack-cocaine and black people. This chimes well with police propaganda. Since the 1980s, the Metropolitan police force has tried to fool the public into believing crack-cocaine, unlike powered cocaine, is a black drug.
What’s more, the danger to society from crack-cocaine is far greater than for any other drugs such as heroin and ecstasy. This false distinction underpins uneven police resource, Operation Trident - a squad of armed officers, aimed at containing the black threat.
The recognition of police need to contain the so-called black threat is central to any understanding of what gun crime is. It has an “ethnic connection”, Jamaicans and their British-born offspring are to blame for “the completely unprecedented … new era of gun violence” in Britain (2).
Thompson says, “Street crack dealers are a major problem, chiefly because of the violence associated with them” (6). Therefore police “total onslaught” against black communities is justified because it is from them threats to society come.
Leaving aside its clear fallacy, how Thompson describes gun crime still has it uses. By comparing his description with the facts of the Bieber case, it is possible to judge whether Blakehurst’s murder is a gun crime.
Gun crime’s “ethnic connection” features in Blakehurst’s murder. He was killed by a foreigner, Bieber is an American citizen. He arrived in Britain on a false passport on March 27 1997 (7). He was only able to stay in the country because he bigamously married a British citizen.
The trade in illegal drugs, linked to violence, is another feature of Blakehurst’s murder and gun crime. Bieber supplied anabolic steroid to body builders illegally. Like crack-cocaine, anabolic steroids make bodybuilders aggressive. They are likely to commit violent acts. The Guardian says: “A relatively high number of bodybuilders have been involved in murders” (7).
Bieber’s love of gun is in line with Thompson’s description of the black psyche. When police arrested Bieber he was found to have a gun and 2,000 rounds (8). Later police discovered he also had equipment and parts to make bullets.
The “brutality, cold-bloodedness” Bieber showed Blakehurst when he shot him matches the ruthlessness Thompson attributes to black gunmen. Does the similarity end there? In other words, is Bieber killing of Blakehurst a gun crime?
A glance at the Observer’s reports of the murder would suggest it was not. Gun crime is a black phenomenon. Bieber is not black, neither British-born nor Jamaican. Even if he were black, he was not involved in the illegal supply of crack-cocaine. Nor did he murder Blakehurst in a black community such as Brixton, Harlesden or Brent. Nor is his violence pathological.
Although Bieber was said to have shown “‘no remorse or understanding of the brutality’ of his crime” (9), Thompson’s description of black gunmen would seem to suggest Bieber’s violent tendency is, unlike British-born blacks’, the result of the society in which he was brought up.
Thompson’s suggestion that society is to blame for making its citizens violent is truer for Bieber than it is British-born blacks. America is a violent society. Each year, gun violence claims almost 30,000 American lives (10). A further 100,000 are gunshot victims. In 2004, no fewer than 54 police officers died as a result of gunfire (11). By contrast fewer than 50 British Bobbies have been killed in the last twenty-five years (12).
Since Britain is less violent than Jamaica, the fact that Thompson says British-born blacks are “ruthless” would suggests he is saying biology rather than upbringing makes blacks more likely to kill than whites. For example, he says even British-born Jamaican offspring “have proved themselves to be capable of just as much violence” as their parents. This reinforces his point about Jamaicans being natural-born killers. Although their offspring are British-born, they match their parents “in brutality, cold-bloodedness” (13).
Such racist nonsense would be laughable were it not the basis of policing in Britain: Operation Trident, an anti-black police squad.
1. Thompson, Tony (25/05/03) “They’ll shoot anyone – even the police” The Observer
2. Thompson, Tony (21/09/03) “Without a gun, you’re dead” The Observer
3. Thompson, Tony (13/10/02) “Jamaica’s poll bloodbath” The Observer
4. Thompson, Tony (24/02/02) “The dealers think they’re untouchable now…” The Observer
5. Thompson, Tony (23/06/02) “‘Brixton? Right now it’s a 24-hr crack supermarket’” The Observer
6. Oliver, Mark (02/12/04) “From sports fanatic to murderer” The Guardian
7. Sears, Neil (03/12/04) “Pumped up and ready to murder” The Daily Mail
8. Herbert, Ian (03/12/04) “‘Steroids were the beginning of the end for my son. He was a quiet boy’” The Independent
9. The Guardian (02/12/04) “Life sentence for policeman’s murder”
10. Legal Community Against Violence
11. The Officer Down Memorial Page
12. BBC News (27/12/03) “Force ‘shocked’ at fatal shooting”
13. Thompson, Tony (26/08/01) “Homegrown gangs shoot to power on our street” The Observer