RIVER OUT OF LUTON: NOTES ON THE MAKING OF A NEWSPRINT MONSTER
Abstract: In August 2005, just a month after the announcement that London had succeeded in its bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games, the UK national press witnessed a brief rash of stories alleging the presence of a crocodile or similar water monster lurking beneath the surface of the River Lea – the river that runs from the town of Luton in Bedfordshire down to join the Thames adjacent to the Olympic site. This story re-emerged in November 2011 when a campaigner against the environmental impact of the Olympics on the river area claimed to have seen further evidence of crocodilian activity. This paper will explore the reasons for the proliferation of this story, in terms both of its function as a metonymic news-hook (it opened up directly related concerns as to the impact, organization and security of the Games) and of its metaphorical significance (its incarnation of a superstructure’s fears of an emerging threat of a monstrous underclass – one which might at once comprise terrorists, rioters and anti-establishment campaigners). It will conclude by suggesting that this monstrous myth might hold within it the possibility of the convergence of populist news media and popular democracy.