"POLICE HUNT laughing thugs who kicked young woman unconscious," screams the hysterical headline in the Evening Standard. It's a typically cynical piece of manipulation by London's free tabloid, in which people of colour only appear in stories about crime. The story is accompanied by a still of the CCTV footage which shows five young black men on a bus. They say a picture is worth a thousand words - except in this case, it isn't. Yes, they are laughing. Yes, the woman is attacked by two of them.
What we don't know is what the clearly fraught exchange is about. What, exactly, prompted the boy to lash out at the girl? We're expected to believe it was completely unprovoked, that she was perfectly innocent, and that the boys were merely out of control thugs. Five young black males versus one white girl: for the Evening Standard, the story writes itself. Never mind the fact she isn't alone, and has at least one friend with her.
What the pictures do tell us is that these were five young gay boys. We can tell from the skinny jeans, the way one carries his bag in the crook of his arm, and how another drapes himself over two of his friends. This is a pretty boy crew, and you can bet your bottom dollar they're bitches. We all know boys like this, and some of us might have been them.
However, it's a massive jump from bitch to thug, and I don't believe for a minute they're roaming around London looking for delicate English roses to assail. Do you?
Something happened on that bus, and my instinct tells me the "victim" - this female sitting at the back of a bus - got into it with our gay band of brothers. My instinct tells me she said something deeply offensive, and paid the price for it. What was it - battyman, faggot, pervert?
This isn't to say they're perfect angels. They haven't acted in the best interests of their brothers - black and/or gay - or in their own best interests. Few will applaud physical violence, particularly when it's enacted by a man against a woman. But I'm not prepared to accept the convenient picture painted by the media, complete with loaded language like "girl" in contrast to "five thugs".
I believe the true victims here are the five friends who have had their images disseminated across the web, tagged as a gang (why - because they're black? Would five white boys be called a "gang"?) and branded thugs. So much for innocent until proven guilty.