Yesterday morning, the lead story on BBC Breakfast and on the BBC website was about the terrible incident at the Tate Modern Gallery in 2019.
We have no intention of commenting on the actual story because there is clearly a lot of information that is not yet in the public domain and any commentary on limited information would be inappropriate.
However, we would like to make some observations about today’s reporting of the story.
Both the written and verbal reports by the BBC have made repeated mentions of the fact that the man who has been charged with attempted murder “has autism”. This has led to several responses on social media that are harmful and potentially dangerous. One tweet made a direct link between this story and an autistic woman who has been in the public eye when there is no connection at all between the two people. There have been some other tweets that have generalised pronouns like “they” and “them” whilst commenting on an individual story. For example, one distasteful tweet read: “They should never be allowed to walk our streets”. That old catch all phrase of “complex needs” was also used in the report and paints a particularly unfair picture of a large section of our society.
Our other unease about today’s reports is about the timing of their release. Why now? There is nothing new in today’s story that wouldn’t have been known to the authorities back in 2019.
It is regrettable that what could have been an opportunity for empathic education has been used to demonise a whole group of people.