Ongoing riots in English cities mean tourist campaign is pulled, highlighting two very different images of Britain circulating in the media
Tourist chiefs in Britain have temporarily withdrawn a promotional video in the face of the ongoing riots across the country. As Londoners left work early on Tuesday across the capital to avoid another night of violence, which didn’t materialise on the scale of previous nights, riots erupted across other English cities. But the promo highlights the current contrast between two faces of Britain – the reassuringly recognisable faces of celebrities featured in the promo contrast with the anonymous looters shot on CCTV and cellphones, the faces of a brutal new class of “late night shoppers” as some commentators have suggested.
The Guardian in London reports that VisitBritain, the UK’s tourism body, believed the video out of sync with the images of Britain transmitted across the world. “We have taken the videos down,” said a spokesman, “they are not appropriate at this time.”
Indeed, the promo which enlists the support of celebrities such as Oscar-winning actor Dame Judi Dench, and TV Superchef Jamie Oliver, doesn’t match the current image of a country whose cities are being looted by gangs. The video voiceover intones “you’re intrigued, you’re invigorated, you’re invited.” over a backdrop of backdrop of images castles, lakes, concert halls. As Britain counts down to the Olympic games “you’re in a riot” is not the message tourist chiefs wanted. The smartphone camera in the hands of the tourist in the promo would be capturing quite different pictures at the moment.
London’s Metropolitan Police have set up a Flickr site so the general public can try and help identify suspects. And while Amy Weston’s dramatic photo of a woman jumping from a burning house captured the mood early on, these later images collected by Police and by the public of looters leaving shops have changed the tone of any debates.
As much as live TV coverage has stunned viewers, it’s the still images of people walking away with arms full of consumer goods they’ve stripped from shops magnify the profound public incomprehension. “Who are these people?” isn’t just a police procedural question, it’s a philosophical question being asked by many people in Britain.