In November 1952 a policeman was shot dead and another left wounded in what the Daily Mail called a ‘gun battle’ when Christopher Craig and Derek Bentley broke into the Barlow and Parker warehouse in Croydon. I have looked at two media sources of information regarding this event. A newspaper article taken from the Daily Mail 3rd November 1952 and Peter Medak’s film ‘Let him have it! ‘. Using these sources I intend to illustrate how they manipulate the audience and if they are biased types of media.
The headline for the Daily Mail’s article regarding the events of the night 2nd November 1952, state that ‘Gangsters with machine guns on roof kill detective, wound another’. However only two people, Christopher Craig and Derek Bentley, were on the roof. Neither of them armed with a machine gun. The article consistently describes the pair as ‘the raiders’ ‘the bandits’ or ‘the gangsters’. This approach suggests that there were more than two people, although it never actually says how many.
This is using hyperbole, a deliberate exaggeration in language for a more dramatic effect. ‘Gangsters’ sounds more threatening and gives a more serious and dangerous impression of the situation. The article leads people to believe that the ‘the gangsters’ were armed. Although Christopher Craig was carrying a gun, it wasn’t a machine gun like the article states it was but a Firearm and Derek Bentley didn’t carry a gun but a knuckle-duster which was unused.
Craig began shooting randomly when he realised he was surrounded but only to scare off the police.
What it evolved into wasn’t a ‘second battle of Sidney Street’ as the Daily Mail claims because Craig was the only one shooting, until a police officer fired three warning shots into the air. Leaving out bits of information such as how Craig jumped from the building after shooting the police officer stops people from feeling sorry for ‘the bandits’ and making up excuses for them like saying that if he jumped he can’t have meant it.
By writing about ‘the gangsters’ as if they were shooting at everyone and not just to scare the police away, the media have created an interesting story that people will want to read and find out how the case progresses and what verdict it will get in court, which is the effect that they would have anticipated. The opening paragraph that declares that the ‘London crime wave reached a new peak’ the night of 2nd November 1952 is someone’s opinion presented as a fact, as is the shootings on the roof being associated with the ‘Battle of Sidney Street’.
These are presented as facts so that people read them as facts and believe them, whatever their own individual opinion is. Opinions will be argued with because they are just someone’s point of view whereas facts are solid, believable piece of information, which reinforce the importance of a situation. The article has words that play on peoples emotions that intend to touch its readers’ hearts making them feel sadness towards the dead policeman’s family and the other officers involved but also to increase hatred and anger towards ‘the gangsters’.
The policeman being ‘shot dead’ is quite blunt and sounds harsher than if it had just been phased as “shot”. It shocks the reader more because the language isn’t soft and kind but contains hatred which proposed for Craig and Bentley. The fact that ‘a married man with two children with 12 years of service’ was killed should instantly make people feel angry that such a tragic incident left two children fatherless and lost a police force its loyal Detective Constable. After I read the article I thought that the boys deserved to be given heavy sentences which they would have both deserved.
I felt sorry for the policemen who were there when their colleague got killed and for his family and also the policemen who was wounded. I felt angry towards both boys and hoped they wouldn’t get away with it. I think this was the intended response, which was to help make the article more gripping and interesting to read. The article has manipulated me and it has shown bias because it doesn’t give the boys side of the story and doesn’t give a complete list of events, just the most shocking details.
After watching the film I felt sorry for Derek Bentley for being with Christopher Craig on the night of 2nd November 1952, sorry for the Bentley family who had to put up with lots of distress, worry and anger that they must have felt when they heard Derek’s sentence, although they believed it wasn’t his fault. I wanted Derek to be found innocent and for Christopher Craig to be found the only guilty one. This was much different from my response when I first read the newspaper article which left me outraged at the situation and hoping that both the boys would get the worse punishment they could.
I am going to explore how the film manipulated my response. The opening credits of ‘Let him have it’ are introduced on a black background. The credits appear in simple white text. The white on black is probably a symbol of how serious the film is and is already indicating death. Gentle piano music is played softly in the background which gives a sinister atmosphere. Derek is first introduced breaking into a hut with two other boys, then seven years later he is reintroduced, as the main character, just coming out of a young offender’s institute.
He is branded as a petty criminal but his family argue that he isn’t a real criminal. They believe him to be a victim of an illness that wasn’t tolerated then. Derek is portrayed as shy and vulnerable and sympathy is already directed towards him. Even after coming out of the young offender’s institute, Derek shuts himself in his room for ages indicating that he still feels trapped and imprisoned, he seems more comfortable developing relationships with animals than with people. He gets confused easily and is an easy target to be manipulated.
One of the camera angles is directly above him, looking down which suggests that he is victim and his fate is already determined. The camera zooms in on Derek, showing a physiological shot of him thinking and absorbing things around him. This implies that he is receptive to what goes on and possibly that he’s impressible to people’s actions and thoughts. There are a lot of close up shots showing the mental anguish he’s feeling. Christopher Craig is first introduced standing against a lamp-post in a relaxed, arrogant manor. He appears to be very sure of himself.
In the background bells start ringing which along with him being dressed in black signifies death. Christopher and Derek first meet, Christopher has lots of power over Derek and is very much in control of the situation. When he leaves the camera pans across the screen following the direction in which Christopher Craig left. This gives the impression that although Derek felt intimidated by Christopher, he was interested by where he came from and who he was. Christopher Craig is represented as coming from a ‘bad’ background because his gang is under the American gangster influence, they dress like hoodlums and he is obsessed by guns.
Craig seems to be on a course for self-destruction he’s growing up in a community where there’s a gun culture and the under privileged turn to crime. Craig’s brother has already been caught up in crime and got a twelve year sentence for an armed robbery which he was involved. The friendship between Christopher and Derek is negative and one sided this is shown by the lack of enthusiasm between the two. Craig seems bored and only wants to use Derek because none of his gang wants to do the raid. Derek doesn’t seem keen to be part of Craig’s gang, he’s just tags along to impress Stella, Craig’s brothers girlfriend.
When Craig’s brother is put away Derek makes the effort to be friends but this time its Craig who doesn’t want to know so Derek tries to fit in by stealing the butchers keys. Derek has unwittingly drifted into the wrong crowd. This is made significant by the obleak camera angles, the non-direct lighting, shadows on the wall and the dangerous music that plays while Derek is out with Craig, which are all quite threatening. The video uses impressionism and remission of American film Noir movies to the extent of the characters wearing hats and long coats.
A lot of realism is involved with most of the filming taking places in streets, close areas and other real situations. Through out the film, his sister shows loyalty towards Derek and sticks up for him. Different levels are shown when people have more control over the situation and in one scene, Derek and his family are all shown shifting levels on the stairs, when Derek walks up them and is above everybody it shows him as being more powerful over the situation and the others are left standing around helplessly.
Derek’s illness makes him more vulnerable, he over hears his parents talk about him being a ‘social outcast’. Even when he’s out with Craig he falls on glass which is indicating that he’s a victim. Craig gives Derek a knuckle-duster to use on the roof on the night of the raid. When the police do get there, Derek gives himself up quite quickly. However he shouts ‘Let him have it’, shortly afterwards, Christopher Craig shoots a police officer, later this is used against him and said to be morally supporting Craig to shoot.
When Craig fired the shot, the action changed to slow motion and the silence that followed was quite eerie. Everyone, including Christopher Craig looked shocked and scared. In the courtroom, the camera pans across the room showing the different people and a mixture of expressions and feelings that people are feeling. The camera looks down on Derek seeming to secure his fate as a victim. The judge and the jury all seem to already have their minds made up already and show no tolerance. The sentence hinges around ‘Let him have it’. Did it mean let him have the gun or a bullet from the gun?
The judge insists that it was a bullet from the gun and that Derek was mentally supporting Craig at the time, which can’t be proved. The judge was wearing white gloves and a black hat which again, like the beginning opening credits is symbolising death and the seriousness of the situation. When the jury have made their decision and both Derek and Christopher have been found guilty and told their sentences, Derek is walking down the steps and you hear the judge’s voice echoing, which is probably an indication of how Derek is hearing the voice in his head at the time.
The lighting is dark and dark orange which is a symbol of how angry and upset Bentley is at Craig. The music is soft which represents Derek as being innocent. Derek and his family are supported across the country by people who believe that Derek is innocent. They receive letter of support from people and some people even make their own petitions. The Bentley’s show a lot of distress when they go to see Derek, the worried looks and fear that they show is noticeable and slow motion and sad music is used in every scene between the family.
At the sentence it is quite misty, I think this is quite appropriate for the day it is because some people have unclear feelings and people who know Derek Bentley well such as his family will be upset and the type of day adds to the mood. On the day of his death sentence, Bentley’s family are shown silently sitting in their house with the camera panning across from them to the clock. This builds tension as the minutes count down to his death. The camera shot taken from the place of execution, leaves the scene and goes to Derek’s house where we see the family still sitting there but showing their emotions.
The camera looks down on the family like it did on Derek earlier, now the Bentley’s are victims of social injustice. At the end of the film I placed the blame on Christopher Craig for initiating Derek to be part of the gang and encouraging him to d the raid, knowing that Bentley had the mental age of an eleven year old. I think I have been manipulated and that the film did show bias because every time we saw Christopher Craig it was implied that he was a bad influence, Craig wasn’t given an opportunity to show that he was innocent or that he too was being misled, possibly by his brother or just by trying to keep up with his brother.
Out of the two media forms I preferred the film because it was more interesting, providing more information about both the event and the boys, especially Derek. This made the actual incident more interesting because you could see what happened and because you have already got to know Derek you want to know what happened to him. Seeing him as a victim of the judges in the court is biased to how we feel when we see him get hanged which makes you feel angry towards Craig and upset that his family went through so much distress. The audience response in both media forms have been manipulated to create an interesting and informative news source.
Both show biased by using emotive and formal language, they use the present tense and link phrases together. Both show bias towards the boys and in particular Christopher Craig. Portraying Derek as a victim in the film is biased and influences how we think, it makes us see him as innocent and misled. The newspaper article emphasises on the shooting of the police officer and makes out that the raid was made by ‘gangsters’. Neither media sources say what happened without using hyperbole, generalising information or leaving certain information out to produce the information source that they want to.